Report: Fewer Veterans in the U.S. Congress

Fewer than 100 veterans could be serving in Congress when a new House and Senate are seated in January. An analysis by the group Veterans Campaign found only 183 of the 865 major-party candidates on ballots next month have served in the armed forces. Forty-six of them served in Afghanistan or Iraq.

If the number does fall below 100, it will be the first time since the 1950s that veteran representation has been that low, according to a story on the report in Military Times. Back then, World War II veterans were on the ballots across the country.

Currently, 106 veterans are among the 535 House and Senate members in the nation’s capital.

According to the National Guard Association of the U.S., more than 30 current and former National Guard members are on ballots next month seeking re-election or election for the first time.

The nonpartisan Veterans Campaign says it is the first time in recent memory that fewer than 200 veterans are running for Congress.

“We’re used to seeing this steady decrease every two years, but this could be an even steeper drop than we normally expect,” Seth Lynn, the executive director of Veterans Campaign, told Military Times. “This is going to be the election that puts us below earlier levels.”

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Proposal to Freeze Military Pay

The Administration’s contention that military pay has drastically increased is accurate, but there is much more to the story.   Throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, military pay was capped by Congress below private-sector wage growth which resulted in a 13.5% gap between military and civilian pay and was a serious retention and recruiting crisis by the early 2000s.  Why would good soldiers remain in uniform if they were earning less that comparable jobs in the civilian sector?  Over the last decade, Congress has worked hard to fix the pay gap, ensuring it kept pace with the private sector. But now, history is repeating itself. The Fiscal Year 2015 administration budget submission keeps pay caps in place for not just a second straight year, but for six straight years!  Therefore pay would remain stagnant for military jobs that often require, long hours, hazardous duty, and overseas deployment.

It has taken Congress 10 years to make military pay competitive with the civilian sector again. It would be a travesty to undo that.

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**Fourth of July **

On July 4, 1776, not even a month after the U.S. Army was formed, the thirteen colonies proclaimed their independence from England, an event which eventually led to the formation of the United States. Conflict between the colonies and England was already a year old when the colonies convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776. In a June 7 session in the Pennsylvania State House (later Independence Hall), Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented a resolution with the famous words: “Resolved: That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.” Lee’s words were the impetus for the drafting of a formal Declaration of Independence. On June 11, consideration of the resolution was postponed, but a Committee of Five was appointed to draft a statement presenting t o the world the colonies’ case for independence. Members of the Committee included John Adams of Massachusetts, Roger Sherman of Connecticut, Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, Robert R. Livingston of New York and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia. The task of drafting the actual document fell on Jefferson.
On July 1, 1776, the Continental Congress reconvened, and on the following day, the ‘Lee Resolution’ for independence was adopted by 12 of the 13 colonies, New York not voting. Discussions of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence followed, but the spirit of the document was unchanged. John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that he signed his name “with a great flourish” so England’s “King George can read that without spectacles!”
Happy Independence Day!

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Our Community Salutes 2014

The Delaware Chapter (AUSA) again teamed with Wilmington University (WU) to conduct the Third Annual “Our Community Salutes” (OCS) event at Wilmington University’s New Castle, DE campus on May 6th from 6-8pm. This event recognizes and honors the Delaware high school seniors (and their parents) who have chosen to enlist into the military after graduation this spring.

Over 160 people participated in the event, including local celebrities, area college officials, and support agencies such as Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), Red Cross, Military OneSource, and the USO. Sponsors included Summit Aviation Navy Federal Credit Union, USAA, Calvert Comfort Heating and Cooling, and the Delaware City Refining Company.

Forty-four high school seniors and their families attended the event and Tim Furlong, the Delaware Correspondent for NBC News Philadelphia, returned as the emcee. Our speakers included Major General Frank Vavala, the Adjutant General of the Delaware National Guard, and Lieutenant Colonel Donald Moor, Executive Officer of the 4th Marine Corps District. The Junior ROTC cadets from William Penn High School handled the colors and provided an exhibition rifle drill team. Each attending enlistee received Letters of Appreciation from both U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative Carney. Also, student enlistees received a letter of commendation from the Delaware General Assembly signed by the Chairmen of both the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees. Photos will be posted to http://www.ocsde.org.

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Sequestration is Choking our Military

At the heart of many of the budget challenges facing the Defense Department is the devastating effect of the sequestration (across the board spending cuts) provision. Our government’s approach to deficit reduction has become rigid and unresponsive to the ever changing security needs of our nation. Sequestration, though eased somewhat this year, specifically targets the defense budget for the next five years.
In August 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) to resolve the debt ceiling mess. Lawmakers in both chambers passed this act with bipartisan support and President Obama signed it into law. The legislation included $1.2 trillion in cuts and directed that a joint House and Senate super-committee be created to find another $1.2 trillion by Nov. 23, 2011. The super-committee failed in its mission and sequestration went into effect in 2013.
Each year, budget cuts are split evenly between non-war defense spending and discretionary domestic spending. Sounds fair until you realize that the overall Defense portion of the Federal Budget is only 17 percent! Therefore, the BCA was skewed against Defense programs from the start with disproportionate sequestration cuts coming from America’s military.
DoD’s portion of sequestration is $52 billion per year through 2021 on top of the $487 billion already agreed to with the Army absorbing the lion’s share of the cut. Over the past two years sequestration has managed to set America on a path to reduced military readiness and security. Sequestered budgets are rapidly shrinking the nation’s military force to unprecedented levels thereby creating units less able to accomplish their mission, particularly in a world that is increasingly uncertain and dangerous (Ukraine).
With sequestration, Congress has driven a wedge between our active military forces and our reserve and National Guard forces, most notably in the United States Army. It has created unnecessary divisiveness, and acrimony within the U.S. military between servicemembers and leaders who just months ago were serving side by side in combat.

Please write to Congress and urge them to apply deficit reduction measures more evenly across the federal budget, and stop sequestration. Go to AUSA.org, go to Legislative Agenda, click contact Congress.

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Happy Birthday, U.S. Army Reserve!

Today, the U.S. Army Reserve celebrates its 106th birthday. Generations of Reserve soldiers have followed in the footsteps of servicemembers before them who embraced the nation’s call to duty by volunteering to serve as Citizen-Soldiers in the Army’s Reserve force. The Army Reserve is an important element in The Army multi-component unit force, training with Active and National Guard units so that all three components work as a fully integrated team.

The Army Reserve performs a complementary role to the Active component, providing combat support and combat service support functions to enable the Army to ramp up its capabilities to protect combat forces and sustain mobilization. The Army Reserve makes up only 20 percent of the Army’s organized units, but it provides about half of the Army’s combat support and a quarter of the Army’s mobilization base expansion capability.

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Wilmington University Honors Those that Serve

Wilmington University has invited us to join in honoring our nation’s Heroes!

On March 26, 2014 from 11:00am-1:00pm, Wilmington University will host a Spring Military/Veteran Appreciation Day at the Pratt Student Center (New Castle Campus, 320 N. DuPont Hwy, New Castle DE 19720).

The event is designed to recognize and honor our Servicemembers, Veterans, and their families. It will include attendance by Government Officials/Representatives, Senior Leadership from Wilmington University, our Military/Veteran Student Organization, and Vendors from the community. Activities will be available including a massage table, acupuncture table and a special “Rifle Spinning” demonstration performed by the ROTC Drill Team from William Penn High School! A light lunch, cake, and prizes will also be provided for attendees.

Agenda

  • 1100 – Event Begins: Sign in, networking/vendor tables/activities
  • 1200 – Remarks/Recognition: Jim Webb, Military Affairs Coordinator
  • 1210 – Rifle Spinning Demo: William Penn ROTC
  • 1220 – Continue networking/vendor tables/activities
  • 1300 – Event Ends

Supporting military vendors include: DAFB Airman & Family Readiness Center, Employer Support for Guard & Reserve (ESGR), MyHealtheVet, United Service Organizations Inc. (USO), Vet Center: Wilmington,  Military One Source, DE Army National Guard, and the DE Air National Guard.

Posted in Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, ESGR, Events, Family, News, ROTC, Soldiers, USO, Veterans | Tagged , , , , ,

Do Not Cut Soldier Pay and Benefits

The former Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. Gordon Sullivan, wrote the following letter to the Washington Post last month.

I read with dismay the December 26 article, “For Military, Benefits and Reform are Challenge”, which demonizes our troops as unworthy of the benefits they receive while ignoring the challenges, sacrifices and hardships military personnel and their families face while providing the nation’s defense as volunteers. Military personnel costs, described as “burgeoning” and making up nearly half the Pentagon’s budget, are in fact approximately 30 percent of the budget as they have been for the past 30 years. The growth in those costs that “must be tamed” is in fact a ten-year catch up effort enacted by Congress to close a pay gap that had grown to 14 percent. Parity has been achieved and that growth will level off. Pay and benefits must be competitive because almost three of four recruitment-age Americans cannot qualify for military service, and those left have other career options. If military pay and benefits are the same as those of civilians, there is little incentive to join an organization with the inherent risks of military life. One of the world’s richest nations can afford a military compensation and benefits package that matches the dangers and hardships its defense personnel must endure.

Gordon R. Sullivan, Arlington

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Army and National Guard debate capabilities

The head of the National Guard Bureau and the top soldier in the Army shared different views on the capabilities of the National Guard during remarks to reporters last week in Washington, D.C.
Gen. Frank J. Grass, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, and Gen. Ray T. Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff, spoke two days apart during luncheons at the National Press Club. The set-up highlighted their contrasting views on the Guard’s role as defense officials move to restructure forces after a decade of war and with tight budget constraints.

Serving as a backdrop to their comments, the Army wants to cut the Army Guard to 315,000 soldiers, while also removing all combat helicopters and other aircraft from its arsenal. The Guard wants to maintain an end-strength of 345,000 and has pushed back against the aviation plan.

National Guard supporters argue that the Guard can provide combat troops at a fraction of the cost of the active-component Army. Gen. Odierno has stated that the active component has a higher state of readiness because of a greater amount of training. “They’re trained and ready to do things at a higher level because they spend every day focused on that,” he said. “Our National Guard, who’s done an incredible job in the last 10 years, trains 39 days a year.” That difference is why, he said, the two components aren’t interchangeable. He argued that their capabilities should be seen as complementary.

Speaking two days later at the same podium, Gen. Grass said he’s hard-pressed to find a member of the Guard who trains only 39 days a year. He emphasized that diligence in training is essential to success, particularly with reliance on rapidly changing technology. “And between drills, preparing for drills, professional development, course work, and more, National Guard members are putting in the necessary time needed to maintain their capabilities. The concept of the Guard and Reserve training just 39 days a year”, he said, “doesn’t exist anymore”

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No Return to Iraq?

The U.S. Army General who led U.S. forces through some of the most deadly years of the Iraq war says he opposes sending U.S. combat troops in response to the recent gains in that country by Islamic militants. General Ray Odierno, the current Army Chief of Staff, said Tuesday he is disappointed by the Iraqi government’s loss of control in key cities in the restive western province of Anbar. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, he said the proper U.S. approach now is to remain engaged diplomatically to help Iraqi government leaders get their political system back on track. Odierno said that despite Iraq’s recent setbacks, it still has the potential to become a strong U.S. partner, though that hopeful prospect now appears “a bit shaky.”

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