AFSA HQ Newsletter – April 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.

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LEGISLATIVE & OTHER NEWS

113th Congress; 2nd Session; April 13-19

  • Senate: In Recess – contact lawmakers via State offices
  • House: In Recess – contact legislators via District offices
  • Capwiz: Open 24/7/365 – communicate with Congress at any time on any subject

HASC Hears From TMC & NMVA

On April 9, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel listened to the concerns of The Military Coalition and National Military & Veterans Alliance.  While much of TMC’s oral testimony focused on the impact of sequestration and DoD’s proposed changes in pay and benefits, the written testimony covers a wide-range of issues affecting the entire military community.  As expected, both presentations were well received and it is clear that House lawmakers are concerned that changes in benefits may adversely affect the military’s recruiting & retention efforts.  Like their Senate counterparts, they appear less inclined to act now, and more willing to wait until the Military Compensation & Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) has an opportunity to finish their work.  Two quick observations about the event, as Rep Joe Heck (R-AZ) correctly noted during the hearing, DoD is touting their proposed TRICARE changes as a way to decrease costs but in truth, “nothing is being decreased we are just changing who pays for it.”  Those costs are simply being shifted to those who have worn or are wearing the uniform which is something AFSA has said all along.  Additionally, as Congress considers the cost of sustaining our military they must also consider the cost to America if we have a less effective one.  An excellent point raised during the hearing.

NDAA Markups by HASC @ End of Month

Despite the late budget submission by the Administration and the lack of a single, agreed-upon budget resolution by Congress, at least one major Committee appears on track to complete its work on time.  On Monday, House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon released his committees’ markup schedule for the Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  Six HASC subcommittees plan to mark up their portions of the annual defense policy bill on April 30 and May 1 and the full Committee is scheduled to consider their portions along with other parts of the bill on May 7.  Chairman McKeon’s press release also says markups will be streamed live online in their entirety and the archive video will be available to watch within 24 hours of completion of the markup, if not sooner.  As in past years, their NDAA Home Page http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/ndaa will serve as a hub for all information pertaining to this important legislation.  The Senate Armed Services Committee scheduled its subcommittee markups on the FY15 for May 20 and the morning of the 21st with action by the full committee slated to begin in the afternoon of the second day.  Some of their hearings are closed to the public, and it’s unclear which ones may be available for viewing over the web.

House OK’s Spending Blueprint

Speaking of annual Budget Resolutions, the House approved theirs on Thursday morning with voting taking place primarily mostly along party lines.  Viewed primarily as a political statement, this agreement has no chance of being approved by the Senate.  It cleared chamber by a vote of 219 to 205 and consumed virtually the entire week of legislative activity.

FY 2015 MILCON/VA Bill Advances

The House Appropriations Committee approved its $165 billion FY2015 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (MILCON/VA) funding bill on Wednesday.  Their plan provides $158.2 billion in discretionary and mandatory funds for the Department of Veterans Affairs—$10.3 billion more than this year.  The remaining $6.56 billion goes to DoD for military construction projects and military family housing which reflects a $3.25 billion reduction in spending compared to current year levels.  As part of their deliberations, the Committee also projected 58.7 billion in advance appropriations for VA medical services for fiscal year 2016.

New Caucus Will Work to Increase the Number of Veterans on Capitol Hill

Military experience in Washington has declined in recent years and a group of House lawmakers hope to turn that trend around.  AFSA was with Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA), Don Young (R-AK), Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Mike Michaud (D-ME) and Bill Enyart (D-I) this week as they announced the creation of the bipartisan Veterans Congressional Fellowship Caucus.  The mission of the new Caucus is to increase the number of veterans working on Capitol Hill, and to do this, the group will host a new fellowship program beginning this summer.  “Our veterans are some of the most skilled workers our country has to offer,” said Thompson. “They are leaders who have been tested under pressure, and they will be tremendous assets to Congressional offices.”  AFSA strongly agrees with his observations and Young, Michaud and Enyart echoed similar sentiments in comments of their own.  According to a recent survey by HillVets, an organization for Veterans in politics and government, the latest confirmed count of Veterans working on Capitol Hill is 98 out of approximately 6,060 Capitol Hill employees.  55 percent of Congressional offices responded to HillVets’ recent survey, so by extrapolating a similar proportion of Veteran hires to the non-responsive offices they determined no more than 178 veterans are working in personal offices on Capitol Hill.  We are looking forward to working with Veteran Caucus which initially will start out with a small number of fellows.  Those who are interested in applying for the fellowship program can do so here.  Individuals who are accepted into the program will be placed in participating offices, participate in an educational curriculum where they will learn the legislative process and how to assist constituents dealing with federal agencies.  A certificate will be presented at the end of their fellowship, highlighting their completion of the program.

We Can Smell the Jet Fuel from Here

Once Congress adjourns on Thursday, it’s in recess until April 28, giving members’ time to work in their districts and for those running for reelection, an opportunity to work on their campaigns.  Looking at their respective calendars, we note the House has just 55 more days of legislating scheduled through the end of the fiscal year.  The Senate calendar reflects a little more time, but neither chamber appears to have enough work days to complete a robust “to do” list that includes 12 annual appropriation bills and the annual defense policy bill.   The consensus here in Washington is that Congress will complete some, but not all of the annual funding bills by September 30th, making another continuing resolution necessary prior to the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.  It also means a lame duck session is likely, after the General Election on November 4.

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

The Drug Enforcement Agency has scheduled another “National Prescription Drug Take Back Day” on Saturday, April 26, 2014, from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.  “Take-Back” days provide a setting for individuals to dispose of unwanted and unused prescription drugs anonymously with no questions asked.  Collection sites include most law enforcement agencies and military installations; click here to identify sites near you.  In seven previous events, more than 3.4 million pounds (1,733 tons) of medications were removed from circulation.

LEADERSHIP THOUGHTS

President John F. Kennedy speech known as “Cap over the Wall speech” given at the Dedication Ceremony, Brooks AFB, Texas on November 21, 1963 certainly has an appropriate message for all America and his final paragraph is quoted herein:

“Frank O’Connor, the Irish writer, tells in one of his books how, as a boy, he and his friends would make their way across the countryside, and when they came to an orchard wall that seemed too difficult to permit their voyage to continue, they took off their hats and tossed them over the wall – and then they had no choice but to follow them.

This nation has tossed its cap over the wall of space-and we have no choice but to follow it.  Whatever the difficulties, they will be overcome; whatever the hazards, they must be guarded against.  With the vital help of this Aerospace Medical Center, with the help of all those who labor in the space endeavor, with the help and support of all Americans, we will climb this wall with safety and with speed-and we shall then explore the wonders on the other side.”


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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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