Bringing the benefits National Guardsmen and Reservists receive under 12304b in line with other mobilization authorities tops the NGAUS priorities for the formulation of the fiscal 2018 defense bills.
Congress created 12304b in fiscal 2012 to provide the services with easy access to the Guard and Reserve, but failed to include education benefits, predeployment and transitional health care, and credit toward early retirement.
The Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017 signed by President Donald Trump in August extends the Post-9/11 GI Bill to 12304b. It also eliminates the expiration date on benefits for anyone who left the military after Jan. 1, 2013.
And the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) provides predeployment and transitional TRICARE health coverage to those on 12304b orders.
In addition, the fiscal 2018 defense budget finalized last month includes dollars beyond the president’s budget request for modernization of standard Humvees and Humvee ambulances, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters for the Army Guard, and to modernize Air Guard C-130H cargo planes and A-10, F-15 and F-16 fighters.
Among the association’s victories is a change in the federal definition of veteran to include all Guard and Reserve retirees. The old definition limited veteran status to those who served more than 179 days on federal active duty for other than training.
Veteran status conveys no new benefits, only the honor of being a veteran in the eyes of the federal government, which is what retired NGAUS members requested. It culminates a six-year effort by the association that failed the previous five due to a small group of lawmakers who thought the request was about additional benefits.
NGAUS also works with Congress to pass legislation recognizing the remotely pilot aircraft mission as aeronautical under the Federal Aviation Administration definition. The change enables Air Guard RPA units to remain eligible for low- or nocost leases at civilian airports.
In addition, the association convinces lawmakers to nix an Army request to cut Army Guard endstrength from 342,000 to 335,000 troops, and to treat deaths on drill weekends the same as those on active duty under the Survivors Benefit Plan (SBP).
NGAUS supports successful efforts in Congress to prohibit the retirement of the A-10, which it believes has no peers in close-air support.
The association joins with other veterans and military service organizations to win congressional passage of the military’s Blended Retirement System, which combines the traditional legacy retirement pension with a defined contribution to service members’ 401(k)-style Thrift Savings Plan account. BRS will provide benefits to roughly 85 percent of service members. Only 17 percent of service members benefited from the old 20-year, cliff-vested defined benefit annuity.
The association works with Congress to establish the National Commission on the Future of the Army. Evaluating the Army’s controversial plan to transfer all of the Army Guard’s AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to the active component is among the commission’s assignments.
In addition, lawmakers, at NGAUS urging, remove the requirement that the 90 days of active- duty service associated with the early retirement program be performed in a single fiscal year. However, it only applies to activations beginning in fiscal 2015 or later.
The fiscal 2014 NDAA also includes increased procurement of UH-72 Lakota helicopters, requires a Defense Department report on the Guard’s role in Cyber Command and cyber operations, and places limits on cancelling Guard deployments.
Spurred by NGAUS, Congress beats back most the personnel and aircraft cuts the Air Force wanted to take from the Air Guard. And to ensure more transparency and Guard input in the development of future budget requests, lawmakers, at the association’s urging, establish the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, which would study the appropriate force-structure mix—active, Guard and Reserve.
At the association’s request, the fiscal 2013 NDAA also authorizes the National Guard Bureau chief to provide transition-assistance advisors in each state, restores Post-Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence leave and approves automatic federal recognition of all Guard warrant officers promoted to chief warrant officer 2.
NGAUS also leads the charge against a recommendation by the 11th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation to cut drill pay in half. The proposal ends up being dead on arrival when it reaches Capitol Hill.
The association overcomes strenuous Pentagon opposition to score one of the Guard’s biggest legislative victories in a century—a seat for the NGB chief on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
In addition, NGAUS wins congressional approval of re-employment rights for extended Title 32 duty and expands access to health care for Guardsmen in rural areas.
Congress corrects an oversight in the Post-9/11 GI Bill to ensure Guardsmen who perform homeland security missions in a Title 32 (state) status would be eligible for the new education benefits.
The association also convinces lawmakers to halt an Air Force attempt to reassign Air Guard C-130 cargo aircraft from several states to an active-component training unit. The congressional language requires the secretary of the Air Force to gain the written approval of all involved parties before moving aircraft from one component to another in the future.
Extending the availability of TRICARE medical coverage to gray-area retirees tops several NGAUS accomplishments. Others include an increase from 90 to 180 days the time a Guardsman or Reservist is eligible for TRICARE coverage prior to mobilization.
The association also wins an increase from 60 to 75 percent in the federal share of the Guard Youth Challenge program.
The association wins the largest increase in Army Guard Active Guard and Reserve positions (2,110) in 22 years. NGAUS also convinces Congress to increase controlled grades for the Army and Air Guard and expand Department of Veterans Affairs’ health care for rural veterans.
In addition, lawmakers enhance protections against deployment foreclosures and mortgage interest-rate hikes and pass a new GI Bill for recent veterans. The Post-9/11 GI Bill covers tuition, housing and books. It’s also the first GI Bill to allow service members to transfer benefits to family members.
Lawmakers, also at NGAUS behest, put the brakes on an Air Force scheme to consolidate aircraft maintenance, which would have cut hundreds of Air Guard positions.
The association convinces Congress to extend to 10 years the time limit for mobilized Guardsmen and Reservists to use their education benefits, and increase from 90 to 130 the amount of points per year that are applicable to a reserve retirement.
Lawmakers also reduce the age some Guardsmen and Reservists are eligible for retirement pay. For every 90 days of active duty, they will receive retirement three months earlier. However, early retirement covers service only from January 2008 forward.
Congress streamlines several different TRICARE programs for part-time Guardsmen and Reservists into TRICARE Reserve Select. For the first time, every traditional Guardsman and Reservist is eligible for low-cost health coverage. The victory culminates a seven-year NGAUS effort to improve the Guard’s medical readiness.
The association also leads the successful fight against an Army plan to cut more than 17,000 soldiers from the Army Guard’s personnel end-strength.
NGAUS becomes the focal point for opposition to the 2005 Pentagon’s Base Realignment and Closure recommendations to ground 29 Air Guard flying units. Most of the units survive. The association also helps win more than $1 billion in congressional add-ons. Included are funds for 15 C-17s, eight C-130Js and five KC-130Js.
Congress agrees to permanently provide Guardsmen and Reservists access to TRICARE 90 days prior to mobilization and 180 days after separation. In addition, lawmakers approve a measure that allows the defense secretary to provide states with funds to employ Guardsmen for domestic missions under Title 32 for up to 180 days.
NGAUS convinces Congress to overcome strenuous Pentagon objections and provide the first major expansion of TRICARE coverage to the Guard and Reserve. While only temporary, it provides access to coverage 60 days before mobilization and 180 days after separation. The measure also offers low-cost coverage to part-time Guardsmen and Reservists, who don’t have employer-provided coverage.
Lawmakers, at the association’s request, make Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) home loans for Guardsmen and Reservists with six years of service a permanent benefit. It had been temporary since 1992. They also approve unlimited use of commissary stores on military bases and concurrent receipt for those with disabilities of 50 percent or more.
Lawmakers expand the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act (now called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act) protections to Guardsmen mobilized under Title 32 for more than 30 days.
In addition, Congress, also at NGAUS urging, authorizes federal agencies to pay their Guard employees’ federal health-insurance premiums when activated for 30 or more days, and provides TRICARE Prime to activated Guardsmen without access to a military medical facility.
The association convinces Congress to give disability coverage to Guardsmen injured overnight within normal commuting distance to their homes.
Congress increases the maximum number of retirement points per year from 75 to 90 and extends several special pays, bonuses and benefits, all at NGAUS request.
The association is also among several military and veterans service organizations that convince lawmakers to provide TRICARE for Life eligibility to all Medicare-eligible retirees of the uniformed services and their family members.
At the association’s behest, Congress creates a Thrift Savings Plan for the Guard and Reserve, opens the TRICARE Dental Program to family members, and extends VA loans to the Guard and Reserves for eight years.
Congress provides imminent danger pay comparable to the active component.
Lawmakers, at NGAUS request, thwart cuts to Army Guard divisions and a proposal to reduce authorized aircraft from 15 to 12 in the Air Guard’s general-purpose flying units. Personnel successes include increases in available retirement points for all Guardsmen and retired credit for time served in the ROTC as part of the simultaneous membership program.
The association leads efforts to defeat Guard military technician cuts under President Bill Clinton’s Reinventing Government proposal. Congress directs that force structure dictate any future military technician cuts.
NGAUS turns away an attempt to apply across-the-board civilian cuts to the Guard’s full-time force as well as Pentagon proposals to reduce funding for new equipment and personnel benefits.
Congress also authorizes burial of retired Guardsmen and Reservists at any VA cemetery. It also approves the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, which overhauls, clarifies and improves the 1940 veteran’s re-employment rights law.
Congress expands the Montgomery GI Bill to include Active Guard and Reserve personnel and to provide benefits for graduate studies.
The association convinces Congress to halt Pentagon plans to cut 48,100 Army Guard troops. Lawmakers also fund a Guard pilot program to work with at-risk youth in 12 states called Youth Challenge, and authorizes a seven-year program to provide VA home loans to Guardsmen and Reservists with six years of service.
Operations Desert Shield/Storm move Congress to authorize several personnel benefits for Guardsmen, including a basic allowance for quarters for single members without dependents, payment of medical special pay at active-duty rates and a variable housing allowance upon mobilization.
NGAUS persuades Congress to make permanent the Montgomery GI Bill.
Lawmakers pass the Montgomery Amendment to protect the Guard’s overseas training program.
The Montgomery GI Bill provides, for the first time, federal financial support to Guardsmen going to college. It’s named after principal Capitol Hill sponsor, Rep. G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, a retired Mississippi National Guard major general.
Congress directs DoD to test year-round commissary access for the Guard and Reserve.
NGAUS wins passage of civil-service retirement disability pay to Guard technicians separated from their jobs due to a physical inability to maintain drilling membership. Congress also clarifies its intent to have the Guard AGR personnel under state control.
Lawmakers, at the association’s request, reject a proposal to cut military retirement pay for federal employees. In addition, the fiscal 1982 defense budget includes, for the first time, a separate congressionally directed account for Army Guard equipment. The National Guard and Reserves Equipment Account will eventually include funds every year for each of the reserve components.
NGAUS helps defeat a proposal to eliminate military leave pay for federal employees and win additional administrative assemblies to compensate for a loss of administrative pay. Congress also doubles to 100,000 the number of Guardsmen and Reservists the president can mobilize without the declaration of a national emergency.
Congress authorizes pay for simultaneous membership in ROTC and the Army Guard.
Lawmakers approve a test of full-time manning in AGR status in addition to military technicians. Other victories include passage of a Survivor Benefit Plan and re-enlistment bonuses.
Congress passes legislation to allow the presidential call-up of 50,000 Guardsmen and Reservists without declaration of a national emergency.
NGAUS focuses on bolstering Guard benefits to improve recruiting and retention in the new all-volunteer force. Among the victories are housing allowances for new Guardsmen under the Reserve Enlists Program, full-time group life insurance coverage, authority to withhold premiums from drill pay for state-sponsored insurance, burial flags and some access to space-available travel.
Congress passes and the president signs the National Guard Technician Act. This closes a 10-year NGAUS effort to bring more than 40,000 Guard fulltime technicians into civil-service status.
The association neutralizes another Pentagon effort to reduce Army Guard personnel end-strength and eliminate four combat divisions. The association also helps defeat a DoD proposal to reduce defense spending by cutting Guard and Reserve pay tables to 75 percent of the active component’s.
Public Law 86-632 clarifies re-employment rights and job protection for Guardsmen performing an initial period of active duty for training for up to six months. In addition, NGAUS, with the help of supporters in Congress and the governors, beats back a Pentagon proposal to fold the Army Guard into the Army Reserve.
Lawmakers grant national cemetery burial rights to Guardsmen who die during training, during travel to and from training, or while under treatment for injuries and illnesses contracted while training or traveling.
Public law 845 authorizes female officers in the Guard. Public Law 881 generally increases benefits for survivors of deceased Guardsmen.
Public Law 477 culminates a long fight to obtain official active-duty status for U.S. Property and Fiscal Officers in every state.
Congress approves the first armory-construction bill. It provides federal funds amounting to 75 percent of the cost of new armories on state land and 100 percent if the facility is needed due to federal force-structure changes.
Public Law 810 provides Guardsmen and Reservists their first comprehensive retirement benefits. The action stems from efforts initiated by NGAUS at the 66th General Conference in Baltimore four years earlier.
Maj. Gen. Ellard A. Walsh, the NGAUS president, helps defeat Army and War Department plans to relegate the Guard to a state-only role after World War II with no part in plans for a separate air force. His speeches, articles and letters to major newspapers and magazines expose the effort, undertaken while 18 Guard divisions fight overseas.
A NGAUS-drafted amendment to the National Defense Act streamlines the Guard’s transition between state and federal status by creating the National Guard of the United States (NGUS). Guardsmen are now simultaneously members of two separate but overlapping organizations: their state Guard and NGUS. The same legislation also renames the Militia Bureau the National Guard Bureau.
The National Defense Act stipulates that Guardsmen discharged from active duty will automatically revert to their previous state status, something that didn’t occur after World War I. It also reaffirms, against War Department wishes, the Guard’s role as the nation’s principal combat reserve.
The National Defense Act guarantees the state militias’ status as the Army’s primary reserve force. It also mandates use of the term “National Guard.” In addition, the act gives the president authority, in the case of war or national emergency, to mobilize the Guard for the duration of the crisis. Drills increase from 24 to 48 each year, and annual training extends from five to 15 days.
Finally, the act authorizes drill pay for the first time, culminating NGAUS lobbying efforts that began in 1910.
Congress enacts the second Dick Act. It removes time and geographic limits to service and specifies that Guardsmen will go to war as units, not replacements. It also creates the Division of Militia Affairs (today the National Guard Bureau) within the War Department. In addition, Congress provides $4 million in appropriations—10 times the amount allotted just a decade earlier.
President Teddy Roosevelt signs the first of two Dick Acts. It replaces the Militia Act of 1792 and transforms all militia units into organized regiments of the National Guard. These units receive more funding and equipment, but in return must conform to federal standard for training and organization as the recognized reserve of the Regular Army. They are named for their architect, Maj. Gen. Charles Dick of Ohio, the NGAUS president and a member of the House of Representatives.
NGAUS convinces Congress to increase total militia appropriations from $400,000 to $1 million annually.
NGAUS efforts bear their initial fruit when Congress doubles total militia appropriations to $400,000. The figure had been $200,000 every year since 1808. But states, private donors (including corporations) and unit members still cover most militia costs.
The fledgling association holds its first convention in St. Louis. Two issues dominate the proceedings: low federal subsidies and the Militia Act of 1792, which hasn’t been updated to reflect the growing nation.
Concerned about antiquated federal laws and limited funding, militia leaders from the North and South meet for the first time in Richmond, Virginia, to develop collective solutions to their common problems. One outcome is the establishment of NGAUS.
Compiled from official reference materials available in the library of the National Guard Memorial, the NGAUS headquarters in Washington, D.C.