AFSA HQ Newsletter – July 11th

This newsletter is produced and released on a weekly basis by AFSA HQ. To read the full newsletter, as well as archived entries, visit the AFSA On Call Newsletter section of www.hqafsa.org.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND USAF RELATED NEWS 

112th Congress, 2nd Session

  • Senate: DC Work Week; contact lawmakers via Washington offices
  • House:  DC Work Week; contact lawmakers via Washington offices 

Finances: Failings & Fallout

National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passage.  Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) decisions.  Military Equipment and Sequestration Actions.  Each of these important issues warrants its own headline but all are impacted by a singular influence: money. 

BRAC 2005 was the fifth round of base closures and realignments undertaken by DoD since 1988 and it was the most complex round ever.    Parts of the plan incorporated joint-basing as a long term cost saving maneuver.  Originally forecasted to save the DoD (and the American taxpayer) almost $36 billion dollars over a 20 year period, it is failing on multiple fronts.  According to a recent Government and Accounting Office (GAO) report, theFortLewis and McChord Air Force Base merger is proving to be more costly than projected and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency consolidation atFort Belvoir,Virginia, is $1.5 billion more than forecast.  Overall BRAC-based savings will still occur through 2025, but a more realistic estimate shows it to be around $10 billion.  So what happens to the $26 billion not saved?  And what programs or budgets were counting on projected savings that may no longer exist? 

In other news, after several years of use the Army has decided to ditch its Universal Camouflage Pattern uniforms because they actually make troops easier to see.  A $5 billion investment from 2004, the current pixilated pattern is now being labeled by industry insiders as a “financial fiasco” and leaving many to wonder why it took the service 8 years to correct the problem.  This tremendous waste comes at a time comes when DoD suggests that healthcare and retirement reforms are critical to our future National Security.  One would hope the DoD finds a way to properly dress their people so as to avoid repeating these mistakes and further risking security over a wardrobe malfunction. 

Finally, as time wanes and the General Election approaches, the political maneuvering on Capitol Hill increases and the amount of real work accomplished decreases.  While lawmakers jockey for position on certain issues; those of greatest interest to our members could go unaddressed, i.e., the FY 2013 Defense Authorization Act and sequestration.  According to the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee whom we spoke with today, the upper chamber still hopes to complete its version of the FY 2013 NDAA before the August recess, but a start date for deliberations on this important legislation has not been set yet.  The House completed its bill in mid-May and has been waiting since then for the Senate to catch up.   Despite the urgings of the defense secretary and senior congressional leaders, lawmakers have yet to reach agreement on language to hedge off sequestration which would bring $500 billion in additional cuts to the national defense budget over the next 10 years.    In sum, BRAC is broke, the Army can’t blend in, and lawmakers can’t agree on how best to get its work done.  Unfortunately in the end it is you, the military affiliated American taxpayer who winds up paying for it one way or another.

Jobs Skills Act Passes the House

Yesterday the House approved legislation by Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN) which will make it easier for former service members to obtain their federal licenses.   H.R. 4155, the “Veteran Skills to Jobs Act,” requires federal agencies to treat relevant military training as sufficient to satisfy training or certification requirements for a federal license.  Veterans with the proper training would be eligible to receive a federal license and get back to work immediately. 

  “I personally have dealt with this problem as a crew chief in the Air Force,” said Rep. Denham. “Despite being trained to maintain some of the most complex aircraft in the world, when I left the military I was told I needed to go to school for three years in order to perform that same job in the private sector.  It’s unacceptable that the federal government has still not reformed its licensing process, especially at a time when so many veterans are out of work.” 

Rep. Walz agrees.  “Our goal as a nation is to provide those who serve with the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.  We must do all we can to ensure our veterans are finding careers that give them the opportunity to utilize their skills, support their families, and have passion for their work.  By streamlining the federal certification process, the Veteran Skills to Jobs Act will cut through the red tape and make it easier for our veterans to find employment. 

The Senate passed a similar bill last month (S. 2239) but another vote by that chamber is required before this bill can be sent to the President for his signature. 

Names Released of Wild Fire Deceased

In our last couple of editions of On Call we highlighted the efforts of Air Guardsmen who were fighting wild fires in the rocky mountain region.  Tragically last week, four members of the Air Force team lost their lives as part of that effort when their C-130 equipped with the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) crashed while fightingSouth Dakota’s White Draw Fire. 

According to a DoD the four members who were assigned to North Carolina ANG’s 145th Airlift Wing.  They are: Lt. Colonel Paul Mikael, Major Joseph McCormick, Major Ryan David, and Senior Master Sergeant Robert Cannon.    AFSA is saddened by their loss, and extends its deepest condolences to the families of these fallen Airmen. 

Multi-Media Access

When dealing with legislation in Congress there are times where it’s just a slow process and we have time to dissect every nuance of the issue.  Other times, things happen at such a rapid fire pace it’s hard to keep up.  Here at AFSA Headquarters we’re trying to get the word out on relevant issues as quickly as possible.  We have a number of means to do so and encourage our membership to use whatever works for them personally.  We also ask that our Division and Chapter leadership ensure their members are aware of these options so can stay informed and act or vote in an educated manner.  Like GI Joe says, “Knowing is half the battle.” 

  • AFSA Magazine – A bi-monthly periodical provided as part of your membership.  Stories can go into great detail and it comes right to your doorstep.
  • AFSA On Call – Our weekly newsletter that sometimes forecasts and sometimes summarizes; delivered via email, sign up by clicking on newsletter on web page.
    • AFSA Alert – Same day email for a hot issue.  Something that happened recently or something that requires your immediate attention or action.
  • Twitter – “As its happening” reports via Internet.  If we’re in the room on Capitol Hill and can use smart phones, we’ll report “live.”  Follow us @AFSAHQ
  • AFSA Web Page – Aside from all the tools and forms available to membership, it has features that combine all the above, including an info-bar at the bottom showing our most recent Tweets. 

“Citizen Airmen” Providing for Our National Defense

Members of the Air Guard teamed up with joint force counterparts from the Royal Thai Army and the Czech Republic Air Force for training recently.  Take a couple minutes to view these Minuteman Reports for more details. 

VETERANS NEWS 

VA Selects Site for Kentucky Hospital

Recently the Department of Veterans Affairs released plans for a new medical center to replace a 60 year old facility.  The new site is in JeffersonCountyclose to the current RobleyRexVAMedicalCenterand the downtown University of Louisville Hospital.  It is estimated to cost $883 million while opening in late 2017 or early 2018.   “This new hospital will provide state-of-the-art health care for the Veterans of Louisville and the surrounding 35-county region” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. 

Six-man Vietnam Aircrew ID’d

Last week DoD’s POW/Missing Personnel Office announced that the remains of six servicemen, missing in action from the Vietnam War, were recently identified and are being returned to their families for burial with full military honors.  On December 24, 1965, the missing crew was aboard an AC-47D aircraft nicknamed “Spooky” that failed to return from a combat strike mission in southernLaos.  After a “mayday” signal was sent, all contact was lost with the crew.  Following the crash, two days of search efforts for the aircraft and crew were unsuccessful.  A joint US-Lao People’s Democratic Republic first visited the suspected crash site in December of 1995 and several times in the years that followed.  Excavations of the site in 2010 and 2011 yielded the missing Airman’s remains which were identified using dental records and circumstantial evidence.  They will be buried as a group in a single casket representing the entire crew on July 9 inArlingtonNationalCemetery.  Members of the aircrew were: 

  • Colonel Joseph Christiano of Rochester, New York
  • Colonel Derrell B. Jeffords ofFlorence, South Carolina.
  • Lt. Colonel Dennis L. Eilers of Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Chief Master Sergeant William K. Colwell of Glen Cove, New York.
  • Chief Master Sergeant Arden K. Hassenger of Lebanon, Oregon
  • Chief Master Sergeant Larry C. Thornton of Idaho Falls, Idaho 

HEALTHCARE 

TRICARE Fee Raise Approved

As stated in previous forms of AFSA media, fees for TRICARE Prime users would rise as a result of provisions in the FY 2012 Defense Authorization Bill.  Congress in that bill approved language where TRICARE Prime would increase each October by the amount of the annual cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in military retired pay.   The most recent COLA was 3.6 percent. 

On July 2 the TRICARE Management Activity announced new rates for Prime enrollees.  Previously, beneficiaries who enrolled prior to or after October 1, 2011 had slightly different rates.  Regardless of enrollment date, the new annual rates effective October 1, 2012, are: 

  • $269.28 Individual
  • $538.56 Family 

Exempt from fee increases are survivors of active duty deceased sponsors or medically-retired uniformed service members and their dependents.  Fees will remain unchanged from the rate they originally enrolled into. 

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS 

Over 20 Items of Interest

For a complete and detailed listing of the many benefits to AFSA membership, go to the AFSA webpage and click on the left menu listing “Member Benefits” or just click here

PROFESSIONAL AIRMAN’S CONFERENCE 

Overflow Hotel Added

AFSA hosted PAC registration is now available on the web for theJacksonville,FLevents, August 11-15.  While there’s still room to register for the PAC itself it appears our primary hotel (Hyatt Regency) is nearing capacity.  AFSA has contracted overflow hotel accommodations with the Crowne Plaza Jacksonville Riverfront.  Overflow hotel accommodations can be made by calling hotel reservations at 904-398-8800. 

WORTH REPEATING 

“A budget tells us what we can’t afford, but it doesn’t keep us from buying it.” 

— William Feather 

THINK AFSA 

AFSA BIKERS

We want to recognize you and your travels regardless of make (Harley vs. Honda, etc.) Please send us an appropriate photo and identify yourself along with: 

  • Where you’ve travelled to over the years
  • Any significant events
  • How long you’ve been riding  
  • Etc., etc. 

We plan to include photos and a short article about our proud members in an upcoming magazine.  Also, if you bought one of our belt buckles, please wear it in your photo. 

Please share this with other AFSA bikers you know.  Click HERE to send your inputs


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This newsletter is produced and released on a weekly basis by AFSA HQ. To read the full newsletter, as well as archived entries, visit the AFSA On Call Newsletter section of www.hqafsa.org.

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