Retired CSM Elected to Congress

A retired Minnesota Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major, the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever elected to Congress, has become ranking Democrat on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  Rep. Tim Walz, first elected to Congress in 2006, also serves on the House Armed Services Committee and is co-chairman of the House National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus.

He was elected by fellow Democrats to be the senior member of their party on the veterans’ panel. Walz joins fellow Army veteran Rep. Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican and former military doctor, in leading the veterans’ committee in the 115th Congress that convened Jan. 3.

Among Walz’s legislative achievements is a provision of a 2016 bill changing the legal definition of “veteran” to include Guard and Reserve members who served 20 years of military service but were never called to federal active duty. “Guard and Reserve members make many of the same sacrifices as those in regular service, and their commitment should be recognized,” Walz said as the bill was signed into law in December.“Recognizing Guard-Reserve retirees as veterans is a small but important step we can take to honor their great service to our country.”

Army to lead Inaugural Parade

The U.S. Army Caisson Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) will be among the Army units leading the way in Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 presidential inaugural parade. Members of the regiment, based at Fort Myer, Va., have marched as the official “Escort to the President” in every procession since the 1953 inaugural parade of President Dwight D. Eisenhower after President Harry Truman officially bestowed that title on the unit in 1952.

Other Army units confirmed for the procession include the 1st Cavalry Division’s Horse Cavalry Detachment from Fort Hood, Texas, and the 1st Infantry Division Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard from Fort Riley, Kan.

The Army leads every inaugural parade procession for two reasons, said Maj. Brian Fiddermon, OIC of the Joint Team Parade. First, some Continental Army veterans of the Revolutionary War escorted George Washington up the steps of Federal Hall in New York City for his first inauguration in 1789. Also, as the nation’s oldest and largest service, the Army’s place at the head of the inaugural parade procession is “symbolic of the peaceful transition of power” from one presidential administration to the next, he said.

Army Pay Raise

The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law last week by President Barack Obama. The bill brings an end to the Army’s troop drawdown and provides soldiers with the first pay raise in five years that matches the average private sector increase.

The $619 billion policy bill represents just half of the annual legislation needed to keep the Army and Defense Department fully running. A separate defense appropriations bill that fully funds programs has not been enacted. Instead, Congress passed and the President has signed a temporary funding bill that mostly limited spending to 2016 levels through April 28; giving the new administration time to review service requests and establish priorities.

National Guard (and Army Reserve) Essential in Europe

[Editor’s Note: Excerpt below From AUSA National]

For those of us who served in the National Guard or Army Reserve on training or on deployment in Europe or Asia, we know the value of the partnership with active duty units. It helps them with training, alleviates burdens when there are personnel shortages, and provides a level of comfort to leadership when regular rotations include known National Guard and Army Reserve units. The National Guard and Army Reserve Soldiers often provide continuity on scheduled training exercises. –Editor.

To make the fewer than 30,000 soldiers assigned to Europe look more like 300,000, U.S. Army Europe needs the Army National Guard and Army Reserve to train in the theater on a regular basis, the command’s top Guard leader says.

To that end, Army commanders in Europe are creating every possible training opportunity for Guard and Reserve troops, said Maj. Gen. John M. Gronski, who became U.S. Army Europe’s deputy commanding general for the Army National Guard on May 1.

Read more here.

More Cyber Please

Delaware has a long tradition of signal readiness. With cyber and electronic warfare capabilities being a top priority for the Army’s new cyber directorate, this bodes well for our first state Soldiers.

To that end, BG (P) Patricia Frost who heads the new cyber directorate, spoke recently at the two-day symposium “Mad Scientist 2016: The 2050 Cyber Army” held at the U.S. Military Academy. Her charge is to oversee electronic warfare and cybersecurity and to optimize exploits in the two arenas. The Army has fielded 41 of the 133 defense-wide teams that Congress has mandated be established by 2018. Frost believes, however, there are offensive and defensive gaps that will need to be filled at a tactical level.

For more on the story, check out AUSA’s post “Giving Field Commanders More Cyber Muscle

Cyber Warriors
photo by: US Army

 

Defense Spending Stalled Again

[Editor’s Note: From AUSA National]

It’s a 99.9% probability that Congress will pass a continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running past the Oct. 1 deadline. How they reach their goal is the billion dollar question.

Any optimism the Senate had that they would be able to pass the defense spending bill was dashed Tuesday when the legislation failed to garner the 60 votes needed to proceed. This is the third time Democrats have blocked the measure.

Democrats are not necessarily opposed to the language in the bill, rather it is a tactical maneuver. They believe they will have more leverage over Republicans to secure additional domestic spending in the final FY17 spending package that presumably will be passed after the November elections.

There is nothing to suggest the path to passing a CR will be any easier.

The Senate leadership is in discussions with the minority leaders and the White House to move a continuing resolution to the floor next week. The stop-gap measure would expire Dec. 9.

There is some speculation that if the Senate can actually pass the measure next week, they would adjourn early, thus tying the House’s hands – either pass the Senate’s version or allow the government to shut-down, not a pleasing prospect any time much less in an election year.

House Republicans are divided on the duration of the measure with some agreeing to the shorter CR and, others, namely the House Freedom Caucus who do not favor lame-duck sessions and want the CR to last until March 2017.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus have indicated that they will support the short term continuing resolution if the leadership includes language dealing with Syrian refugees, an idea that will certainly be rejected by Democrats.

Round and round it goes!

AUSA prefers passage of routine spending bills in a timely manner. However, since that is unlikely, we strongly favor a short-term continuing resolution.

There hasn’t been a full year’s appropriation, adopted on time since 2007. While CRs are far better than government shut-downs, they are not a substitute for actual appropriations.

Under CR funding, the Army cannot move money around where it’s actually needed or start new contracts. Budget dollars are placed against needs and priorities of previous years, leaving the priorities and needs of the current year unfunded. The end result of all this is, at a minimum, things cost more and they take longer to get.

Congress is demanding that the Army spend less money but they are making it more difficult to achieve that goal. It’s no way to do business and unfortunately, we don’t see any return to regular order on the horizon.

Stay tuned.

Principles for Revitalizing American Leadership

The following article was published by AUSA.

A group of 29 distinguished defense and foreign policy experts gathered by the Association of the U.S. Army has produced a set of guiding principles intended to renew a sense of American identity in the United States, ensure a safe and prosperous future for its citizens, and provide focus for America’s role in the world.

Called “America’s Purpose: 21st Century Principles to Revitalize the American Identity,” the paper is the result of an effort launched last year by retired Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, the former Army chief of staff who was AUSA’s president and CEO. Sullivan, who stepped down on June 30 as AUSA’s leader, viewed the project as an effort to create a document that would shape American policy, both domestic and foreign. The principles envisioned by Sullivan are not part of an international agreement, but are aimed at a domestic audience.

Historians, academics, defense and foreign policy experts, former diplomats, retired generals, and high-ranking executive branch leaders took part in discussions over several months that led to the final set of principles.

A preamble explains how the end of the Cold War and the singular focus on the former Soviet Union led to a loss of American identity and global focus.

“Since the end of the Cold War, the United States seems to have lost the centering mechanism that unified the nation. Without a clearly identifiable foe—the Soviet Union—the United States is facing a global landscape of foggy uncertainty, with occasional outbursts of destabilizing violence and dangerous regional instability,” it says. “It should not take a war for the United States to revitalize its sense of purpose and once again embrace its role as a world leader.”

“When America unites, its people win and the world is safer. ‘America’s Purpose’ provides a unifying framework to overcome domestic and foreign challenges, resulting in a safer, stronger America and a more stable and secure world.”

Key principles include a commitment to promoting world peace, advancing freedom and human rights for all people, promoting access to education, supporting legal immigration, and fostering cooperative global security.

Here is a link to the paper:
https://www.ausa.org/sites/default/files/publications/Americas_Purpose_131400Jul16.pdf