House, Senate Bills Differ on Guard Issues

NGAUS Washington Report

(Dec. 11, 2012) The House and Senate will begin reconciling this week the differences in their respective versions of the National Defense Authorization Act. This will include some differences on issues of interest to National Guard members.

Both bills currently include language to address the force structure changes proposed in the Air Force budget in early February, prohibiting the divestment, retirement or transfer of any Air National Guard aircraft, including the C-27J.

However, there are a few key differences. The Senate bill makes an exception for the transfer of C-5A’s and establishes a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force. A letter from both the House and Senate National Guard Caucuses circulated in Congress last week to rally support for the commission and the freeze to the Air Guard fleet.

For the Army National Guard, the House bill prohibits the retirement of the C-23 Sherpa. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Sen. Mark Begich, D-Alaska, introduced an amendment to include a similar provision in the Senate bill, however, it was not included in the final package.

Last week, both senators circulated a letter to their colleagues asking that the C-23 be protected in the final bill.

The Senate would allow the defense secretary to establish a program to provide space-available travel to reserve-component members, retirees, dependents and unmarried widows. The Senate bill would also require the defense secretary to establish a transition assistance advisor program. Neither idea is found in the House version.

Both bills include State Partnership Program funds, basic allowances for housing for full-time Guardsmen, additional funding for Abrams tanks, authorization of additional behavioral health professionals to conduct pre-separation medical exams, Yellow Ribbon Program money, and extensions of TRICARE Standard and TRICARE Dental for members of selected reserve in cases of involuntary separation.

NGAUS is asking Congress to include language for space-available travel, the transition assistance advisor program, inclusion of the C-23 Sherpa and the establishment of a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, as well as a few other provisions.

Congressional staff has indicated that a vote on the reconciled NDAA could come this week.