AUSA urges Congress to increase support to the Reserve Component

Update from Gary Dawson

The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) has joined six other organizations to get congressional support for the Reserve Component, including expanded health care coverage, eliminating equipment shortfalls, and an increase in full-time personnel support.

Along with the Adjutants General Association of the U.S., Air Force Association, Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the U.S., National Governors Association, National Guard Association of the United States and Reserve Officers Association, AUSA wrote to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees seeking support for legislative priorities that “directly correspond with the National Defense Strategy to restore readiness and build a more lethal force” and “will enhance Reserve Component operational readiness while continuing to promote the goals of the Total Force.”

The Associations are asking Congress to consider expanding the Tricare program to federal employees, who are now excluded and study the feasibility of eliminating premiums.

Additionally, the associations ask for an increase in authorized full-time National Guard and Reserve personnel that keeps pace with increases in the size and optempo of the Reserve Component. They also ask for continued congressional support for “robust funding” of equipment and platforms to ensure the reserve component keeps pace with active forces and funding to address equipment shortfalls and compatibility issues.

Force is about to get bigger

16th20sustainment20brigade20in20a20convoy20during20exercise20vanguard20proof-20army20photo[From AUSA National]  March 22, 2017

By the end of September, the Army’s end strength will receive a boost of 28,000 soldiers above the original troop levels authorized for the current fiscal year.

The increase was authorized as part of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and leaders say it is expected to markedly improve readiness. Leaders were informed of the increase in December.

“The No. 1 problem we have right now is that formations are manned at 95 percent,” Lt. Gen. Joe Anderson, deputy chief of staff for operations, told the House Armed Services Committee. Compounding that problem, he explained, are other variables in soldiers’ availability such as those who are nondeployable, retired, on permanent change of station or attending school, which bring formation levels down as low as 78 percent.

Across the force, the Regular Army will grow by 16,000 soldiers to an end strength of 476,000; National Guard levels will jump by 8,000 to 343,000 soldiers; and the Army Reserve will end the fiscal year with 199,000 soldiers, a bump of 4,000 troops.

To achieve the higher end strength by Sept. 30, the Army will raise its accession mission to 68,500 and boost training resources. Enlisted retention is set to increase with incentives, and officer accessions and retention is expected to increase officer strength by 1,000.

Soldiers will go to undermanned tactical units and fill other gaps following recommendations of ongoing Army analysis.

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.

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.

Army Announces Restructure of the Force

After the Army announced that it is reducing end-strength and reorganizing brigade combat teams, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said, “As damaging as they are, these cuts don’t begin to reflect the crippling damage sequestration will do to our Armed Forces and National Security.  The Committee will carefully examine the implications of this initial restructuring, but we all must understand that this is only the tip of the iceberg, much deeper cuts are still to come.  America learned the hard way that our pre- 9/11 military was too small.  Now, even before sequestration, we are reducing the force to that same size and foolishly expecting history to teach us a different lesson.  What lessons will we learn when sequester doubles these cuts in just a few months’ time?”

The Army plans to reduce the authorized end-strength of the Active Army from 570,000 to 490,000 and the Army National Guard from 358,000 to 350,000 and will inactivate a total of 12 BCTs.  In a press conference last week, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno said, “The reduction of 80,000 Soldiers or 14% from the Active Component will be completed by the end of fiscal year 2017.  Let me be clear, we are taking these actions as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011.  This end-strength and force structure reduction predates sequestration.  If sequestration continues into Fiscal Year 2014, Army reductions to end-strength, force structure and basing announced today will be only the first step.”  Later in the press conference, Odierno reiterated, “I want to emphasize that these reductions do not reflect reductions due to sequestration.  Full sequestration could require another significant reduction in Active, Guard, and Reserve force structure as much as 100,000 combined.”

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan said that “Congress must quickly find an alternative to sequestration.  Everyone needs to be reminded of history’s lessons, of the dangers of a hollow Army that is called to fight the first battle of the next war – but without enough manpower, training or weaponry to do the job – of an Army which then pays the price in the blood of too many Soldiers killed or wounded while they train the hard way – during war, not before it.”