AFSA HQ Newsletter – February 28th

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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LEGISLATIVE & OTHER NEWS

113th Congress; 2nd Session; March 1-7

  • Senate: In Session – contact lawmakers via DC offices
  • House: In Session – contact legislators via DC offices
  • Capwiz: open 24/7/365 – communicate with Congress at any time on any subject

CMSAF Cody Testifies

Appearing with his Service counterparts before the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies (often referred to as Milcon-VA), the 17th Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force testified February 26 on quality-of-life (QOL) issues.  Aside from the obvious like military pay, he addressed: possible reductions in Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH); transportability of spouse’s professional certifications from state to state when Permanent Change of Station (PCS) occurs; the future of commissaries; Impact Aid to school districts serving military children; the relationship of military personnel to federal assistance programs such as Women-Infant-Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps); suicide prevention programs; recruiting and retention; as well as Transition Assistance Programs (TAP) for those separating.

The mantra “mission first, people always” is often repeated in the world of USAF First Sergeants as a loose guide to help prioritize the day’s tasks; but it can also explain the conundrum of today’s budgetary climate and the tough choices leadership must make.  For example, imagine if you owned a car that didn’t currently have seat belts and you were low on milk at home.  Is it more important to have safety features in your transportation, thereby enabling you to get to work, make more money and hopefully have enough to buy more milk?  Or is it more important to buy the milk thereby enabling your survival where you can walk to work, make more money and hopefully have enough to buy seat belts?   Ask these questions to 100 people and you’ll probably get 100 different answers, and that’s the tough task for CMSAF Cody; he has to recommend to CSAF General Welsh what’s best for 690,000 Total Air Force members and their families.

CMSAF Cody was accompanied by his wife Athena (a retired CMSgt herself), ANG Command Chief CMSgt Hotaling and AFRC Command Chief CMSgt Kirksey.  AFSA was present at the Milcon-VA hearing and from our perspective CMSAF Cody did a good job of addressing these difficult issues.

While Congress and others make reference to 12+ years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan with OEF and OIF, CMSAF Cody was quick to point out that the USAF has sustained operations in that theatre for over 20 years (remember Operations Northern and Southern Watch, etc).  Also, on the topic of pay, he  said “(they) are not overcompensated. Talking about reductions is fair, but they have earned everything they (currently) have.”  He expressed concern about keeping faith with those serving and that it’s not any one particular earned benefit, but rather the “collective impact” of multiple cuts or the vulnerability of multiple programs that shakes the confidence of those serving.  CMSAF Cody and his fellow senior enlisted leaders all made it clear that we don’t need folks in the line of fire worrying about funding or families back home, and AFSA couldn’t agree more.

Update on Senate Veterans Bill

Efforts to shepherd S.1982, the “Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014,” to passage were corralled yesterday when a crucial procedural vote failed to achieve the 60 votes needed to advance the bill.  The motion in question, to waive the Sessions Budget Act point of order with respect to S.1982, needed four additional votes.   The bill was returned to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee following Thursday’s action.  It is unclear when (or if) the chamber plans to take another stab at passing this bill.

House FY15 NDAA

The president’s budget submission may be late but that won’t deter the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) who still expects to complete their version of the annual defense policy bill by the end of May.  The HASC expects to hold its full Committee markup for this year’s National Defense Authorization Act on May 7, with action by the full House beginning a week later.  The Senate reportedly plans on having its bill completed in June.  Last year, the House completed its NDAA in June but the Senate measure only made it as far as that chambers’ Armed Services Committee.  Even though the Senate was unable to complete its initial work, provisions from both documents were used to compile the final FY2014 NDAA.

DoD POW/MIA Recovery Efforts led by Undersecretary Lumpkin

A week after he ordered a revamping of DoD’s POW/MIA recovery efforts, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has appointed a top deputy to oversee the safe return of an American service member known to be a current prisoner of the war in Afghanistan.  According to a DoD press release, former Navy SEAL and current acting Undersecretary of Defense for Michael Lumpkin will oversee both matters—in particular, efforts to secure safe return of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, America’s lone POW from the war in Afghanistan.  Bergdahl was captured in Paktika province, Afghanistan back in June 2009.  He is believed to be held by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network, in Pakistan.  The Secretary’s decision to appoint Lumpkin stems from growing criticism on Capitol Hill and elsewhere that renewed emphasis is needed on the POW/MIA recovery effort, focus is needed on POW/MIA recovery effort and Sergeant Bergdahl’s safe release.

Busy Week for Congress, AFSA

Described by one Hill staffer as the busiest week all year, the Halls of Congress reflected the hustle and bustle that often takes place the week prior to the president’s budget release.  AFSA was there as well, attending numerous hearings and conducting congressional visits.  Those seen include  Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, John Culberson (R-TX) and Sanford Bishop (D-GA), and Randy Forbes (R-VA) who is Chairman of the House Armed Services, Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.  This week’s outreach is part of our annual effort to ensure congressional members have a good understanding of Association objectives.

LEADERSHIP THOUGHTS

“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against that belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit with the core belief.”  – Frantz Fanon


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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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