AFSA HQ Newsletter – August 2nd

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.

PROFESSIONAL AIRMAN’S CONFERENCE

On Call on Break

This week’s edition of “AFSA On Call” will be the last until after thePAC. We will return to our normal publication schedule the week of August 20-24.

Online PAC Registration Ending Soon

  • Wednesday, August 8, 2012, 12:00PM (EST) – last day to register via internet
  • Wednesday, August 8, 2012, 12:00PM (EST) – last day to register via telephone

Anyone needing to register after this deadline can register in Jacksonville in person on Saturday August 11, 2012.

Overflow Hotel Added

As indicated above, registration for the AFSA hosted PAC is still available on the web for about another week. While there’s still room to register for the PAC, the primary hotel (Hyatt Regency) is already at full capacity. AFSA contracted overflow hotel accommodations with the Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk, 1515 Prudential Drive, Jacksonville Florida. Overflow hotel accommodations can be made with the Wyndham Jacksonville Riverwalk by calling hotel reservations at 904-396-5100 (press “2” to speak with an on-site agent) Wyndham’s 800#: 866.845.8862

LEGISLATIVE UPDATES AND USAF RELATED NEWS

Senate Committee Approves Defense Funding Bill

Yesterday the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee agreed to a FY 2013 spending plan that sets DoD’s base budget at $511 billion and provides another $93 billion for the departments Overseas Contingency Operations. These amounts track closely with DoD’s FY13 budget request but are about $2.6 billion less than levels approved by the House on July 16. In addition to a 1.7 percent pay raise and extension of many special pays and bonuses, the approved draft rejects the Administration’s proposed premium and fee hikes for TRICARE Prime, Standard, Extra and TRICARE for Life users. The full Appropriations Committee is scheduled to mark up the legislation on Thursday, but the chamber as a whole is not expected to address the bill until later this year.

Temporary Funding Deal Announced

A few weeks ago we predicted Congress would again be relying on stopgap legislation to keep the government running through the first few months of the new fiscal year. Yesterday, lawmakers took a step toward making that forecast a reality when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced an “agreement in principle” to extend existing government funding through March of next year. The Administration has purportedly blessed the plan as well.

Once written, the 6 month continuing resolution would keep government funding at its current levels unless formal appropriations have been enacted prior to the start of the new fiscal year. If accepted by Congress as a whole, it would help clear an extremely limited congressional calendar in September, allowing lawmakers an opportunity to attend to a rather long list of major issues (e.g., the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act).

Welsh’s CSAF Job Blocked…Again

Invoking a prerogative available to any United States Senator, John Cornyn (R-TX) has placed a “legislative hold” on General Mark Welsh’s succession of current Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz. In an emailed statement, Senator Cornyn said “My hold will remain until I feel the Air Force is adequately addressing the unacceptable situation at Lackland and taking corrective steps to reform their training program to prevent this from happening again.”

General Welsh’s road to the USAF’s top military position has been anything but smooth. Earlier this year Alaskan Senator Mark Begich (R) exercised the same prerogative due to his dissatisfaction with planned moves of Air Force personnel and assets between Eielson AFB and Joint Base Elmendorf. These concerns were addressed by the current Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz, clearing what was thought to be the final hurdle in Welsh’s ascension. General Welsh represented well at the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing on July 26 and only needed a favorable vote by the full Senate to complete the process.

It is often said that the military is an arm of the government, a “political tool” if you will. It appears more obvious than ever that this axiom holds true. While there may be legitimate concern over the events at Lackland, AFSA fails to see what purpose this maneuver serves. In one fell swoop, Senator Cornyn has in effect filibustered the leadership of one of the Air Force’s largest Major Command’s and the service’s actual top position. We could find the USAF with a vacant CSAF which also leaves a vacancy on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon’s top military advisory body to…you guessed it…the Senate.

If there’s a fly on the kitchen table and you choose to swat it with a sledge hammer, you shouldn’t be surprised if you break the table. Most folks think that through before choosing a tool for the job. AFSA sincerely hopes the political maneuvers end soon so General Welsh and other Air Force leaders can get to important work of leading the Air Force through the pressing, current events that took place at Lackland as well as the uncertain budgetary concerns of the near future.

Congressional Recess

Each August, Congress takes a recess from Capitol Hill so lawmakers focus their time and attention within the district they represent. They well attend local events, host town hall discussions, and meet with constituents.

The annual break (officially known as “The Summer District Work Period) begins this weekend and runs through the Labor Day holiday. During this timeframe, AFSA members are strongly encouraged to meet with their elected representatives and discuss their concerns and wishes with them.

Guard Bureau Gets New Chief

On July 27, the Senate confirmed Army Lt. General Frank J. Grass as the next Chief of the National Guard Bureau. Air Force Maj. General Joseph J. Lengyel was also confirmed as the Bureau’s next Vice Chief. Both men will add a star to their sleeves with their new positions and Grass will become a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

AFSA Congratulates ANG’s Outstanding Airmen

The National Guard recently announced it will host its 2012 Outstanding Soldiers and Airmen of the Year banquet, August 24 at the Sheraton Pentagon City Hotel, in Arlington,Virginia. The Air National Guard honorees for this year are:

Air National Guard Senior Noncommissioned Officer of the Year:

  • SMSgt Luke W. Thompson, 125th Special Tactics Squadron, Oregon Air National Guard

Air National Guard Noncommissioned Officer of the Year:

  • TSgt Jacob S. Curtis, 126th Air Refueling Wing, Illinois Air National Guard

Air National Guard Airman of the Year:

  • SrA Michael D. McCaffrey, 116th Air Refueling Wing, Washington Air National Guard

Air National Guard First Sergeant of the Year:

  • MSgt Fred W. Hudgins Jr., 161st Air Refueling Wing, Arizona Air National Guard

Air National Guard Honor Guard Program Manager of the Year:

  • MSgt Jeffrey L. Lamarche, Eastern Air Defense Sector, New York Air National Guard

Air National Guard Honor Guard Member of the Year:

  • SSgt Carrie M. Kline, 122nd Fighter Wing, Indiana Air National Guard

Register to Vote

There are a number of ways to ensure you can cast your ballot. For our Active Duty folks it usually is easiest to hit up the Voting Assistance Officer for your base, especially for those members in forward locations. Another way might be to contact your Legislative Trustee for your local AFSA Chapter. if your Chapter doesn’t have a formal voting program, this person should be able to point you in the right direction. Of course you can also search the Internet but we would caution you to read everything you’re clicking on and to be cautious with regard to your personal information. In the end, regardless of method, registering to vote is one of the single most important things you can do as aUSCitizen. Don’t wait until the last minute to do so!

VETERANS NEWS

TAP Dance

Aside from a change in names, there will be a philosophical shift in how future veterans will transition back into the civilian sector. The Transition Assistance Program, or TAP as it’s commonly referred to, was given a new set of directions back in August of 2011. “Transition GPS” is the first major overhaul for TAP in nearly 20 years and it’s goal is to have service members “career ready” when they leave the military. This redesign was a collaborative effort from the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Labor, Education, and Homeland Security with inputs from the Office of Personnel & Management as well as the Small Business Administration.

In addition to being a more robust and detailed program in certain areas, it is supposed to allow each member the opportunity to personalize their transition. The needs of a veteran starting college are far different than those of a veteran starting a business. Likewise, future transitions are supposed to accommodate this diversity to help both individuals achieve their goals rather than feed them the same generic curriculum.

AFSA was in the room last week when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki appeared before Congress. It was the first time in history that both Secretaries appeared simultaneously before Congress and it was the first time that the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees held a joint hearing together. Both Secretary Panetta and Shinseki said all the right things in each of their opening statements as well as in response to the multitude of questions the bi-partisan joint committee posed. To those present, the theme of the hearing was obvious: how much longer do we have to wait before something is actually in place rather than talked about being put there?

Transition GPS is supposed to go into full effect by the end of 2013 but the Integrated Electronic Health Records (iEHR) system has been talked about for years. HASC Chairman, Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), commented that it had been discussed a decade ago. Back in 2009, President Obama had taken steps to jump start the joint venture, but DoD and VA still haven’t planned on a complete implementation until 2017. Representative Bill Johnson (R-OH) of the HVAC was very direct in his comments. Recognizing the politically correct statements of both secretaries earlier, he said, “I’m not sure that all members of your organizations share that commitment and will follow through.” And with regard to the Presidential Cabinet member’s statements on iEHR, Johnson commented “…another five years is unacceptable to me . . . fix it.” Well said!

HEALTHCARE

From TRICARE Facebook

TRICARE Online (TOL) users can now view prescription numbers in the TOL Blue Button Medications profile. This capability is extremely helpful to users as they no longer have to search for their prescription bottles or call their pharmacy to request the information. To view your prescription number(s) and or other medication data, follow these simple steps.

WORTH REPEATING

“The idea that our veterans can go from the front line to the unemployment lines is unacceptable.”

— Congressman “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, in his opening comments to SECDEF and SECVA on July 25, 2012.

AFSA MEMBER BENEFITS

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Free SAT & ACT Test Prep Software

In alliance with the DoD and supported by patriotic NFL and MLB players, eKnowledge is donating $200 SAT and ACT PowerPrep™ Programs to military service members and their extended families. To order the free software, click here There is a nominal charge of $13.94 for the cost of materials, processing, distribution and customer service.

Plan on Traveling? Announcing AFSA’s Trip Cancellation Plan!

Whether traveling to Cancun for vacation, participating in the

Air Force Sergeants Professional Airmen’s Conference, or just venturing away from home, you need 24-hour coverage and assistance. Travel Guard offers insurance plans designed to cover U.S.and international residents’ needs.

Plans can be purchased up to 24 hours prior to departure. Click here for a free quote.


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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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