Friday, September 25, 2009

Reserve Components Stand to See Increase in NGREA Appropriation

The Senate convened this morning to resume consideration of H.R.3326, Defense appropriations.
The Senate Appropriation’s Committee recommendation for the bill is summarized by Clicking here. The bill is expected to come out of conference and pass before the beginning of the new Fiscal Year next week.
Certainly the SAC can boast about their support for the Reserve and Guard’s equipment needs to the tune of $1.5 billion marked for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation, an amount much higher than seen in recent years.
That number, broken down, stands to provide $135 million to the Army Reserve; $70 million each to the Air Force and Navy Reserve; $50 million to the Marine Corps Reserve; $1 billion to the Army National Guard and $175 million to the Air National Guard. These figures are over double last year’s numbers. The House version of the bill prior to conference did not increase these figures.
The Chief of the Air Force Reserve, Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner at the Heritage Foundation Sept. 24 said his focus for this money pot will be on precision engagement and defensive countermeasure equipment for the Air Force Reserve’s weapons systems.
The problem is that the money (for all of the services even at these higher levels) will barely reset the force, let alone allows them the flexibility to begin proactive procurement to modernize and improve their equipment like Gen Stenner would like to do.
Can you imagine C-130s flying into harm’s way without the appropriate defensive systems?
According to the watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense, there are 778 earmarks totaling $2.65 billion in the bill. While some marks are likely legit defense needs for various states, certainly the Congress could have come up with a few extra dollars for known requirements such as NGREA instead of adding more pork to the bill (like a World War II museum in New Orleans for $25 million).
NGREA has always been a critical resource to ensure adequate funding for new equipment for the Reserve Components. The much-needed items not funded by the respective service budget were frequently purchased through this appropriation. In some cases, it was used to bring unit equipment readiness to a needed state of state for mobilization. Frequently, the funds were used to purchase commercial off-the-shelf items that units were unable to obtain through traditional sources.
The Reserve and Guard are faced with mounting challenges on how to replace worn out equipment, equipment lost due to combat operations, legacy equipment that is becoming irrelevant or obsolete, and, in general, replacing that which is gone or aging through normal wear and tear. But today’s equipment is being used at a higher pace than planned for given the war efforts.
In the past, “cascading” equipment from the Active Component to the Reserve Component had been a reliable source of serviceable equipment. However, the changes in roles and missions that have placed a preponderance of combat support and combat service support in the Reserve Components has not left much to cascade. Also, funding levels, rising costs, lack of replacement parts for older equipment, etc. has made it difficult for the Reserve Components to maintain their aging equipment, not to mention modernizing and recapitalizing to support a viable legacy force.
The Reserve Components would benefit greatly from a National Military Resource Strategy that includes a National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation which could be used to proactively procure what is needed.
ROA urges Congress to continue to appropriate for a modern equipment account that will enable the Reserve Component to meet its mission and readiness requirements.
DAVID W. SMALL
Director, Communications and Air Force AffairsReserve Officers AssociationOne Constitution Ave Washington DC 20002
(202) 646-7719, dsmall@roa.org
twitter: @ReserveOfficer

"Serving Citizen Warriors Through Advocacy and Education Since 1922"

U.S. Senate Updates Reserve Officers Association of the United States Charter

WASHINGTON – The Senate passed the Reserve Officers Association Modernization Act of 2009 (S.1599) yesterday updating ROA’s congressional charter for the 21st century.

The bill, introduced in August by Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and cosponsored by co-chairs of the United States Senate Reserve Caucus, Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ar.), makes technical changes to ROA’s charter that bring it in line with the current ROA structure and leadership.

Senator Leahy said, “Since its founding in 1922, the Reserve Officers Association has worked on behalf of the National Guard and Reserves and their families. For over 85 years, ROA has remained committed to its original mission, to ‘support and promote the development and execution of a military policy for the United States that will provide adequate National security.’ It has provided a voice to the men and women that serve our country in the National Guard and Reserves. I am proud that the Senate has demonstrated its support by passing this legislation.”

The charter was originally signed by President Harry Truman 60 years ago and was last updated in 1998 by the House Judiciary Committee in a blanket update of Congressional charters for a number of military service organizations.

“I’d like to thank the Senate for their recognition of the invaluable role the Reserve and Guard play in today’s global conflicts and for working with ROA to ensure citizen warriors have access to more affordable health care, greater influence in the military and adequate training facilities and supplies,” said retired Rear Adm. Paul Kayye, ROA President. “Renewing ROA’s charter reinforces my confidence in our lawmakers to do right by our Reservists.”

ROA appreciates the support from the Judiciary Committee’s professional staff who helped expedite the bill through to the Senate floor and from Mr. Daniel Ginsburg, former staffer for Senator Leahy and now Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.

The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives where an identical bill (H.R. 3581) was introduced by Representatives. Howard Coble (R-NC), Chris Carney (D-PA) and Gary Miller (R-CA). Once it passes the House, it will be sent to the President for signature.

The Reserve Officers Association is the professional association for all uniformed services of the United States. Chartered by Congress and in existence since 1922, ROA advises and educates the Congress, the President and the American people on issues of national security, with unique expertise on Reserve issues. ROA advocates for adequate funding of equipment and training requirements, recruiting and retention incentives, and employment rights for all members of the Reserve.

Read the bill, S.1599 at http://www.thomas.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.1599:

Tricare Help: How will health care reform really affect your Tricare?

James Hamby wrote a piece for Military Times published this month entitled "Tricare Help: How will health care reform really affect your Tricare?" ROA has been trying to get the word out for a while that Tricare/Tricare for Life is NOT about to be eliminated.

The Reserve Officers Association has been receiving a lot of calls and e-mails with concerns from retired ROA members that the proposed National Health care plan will deny them TRICARE or TRICARE For Life coverage. Anxiety has been increased by both public debate and viral e-mails that are reinforcing apprehension.

At this moment there are no real concerns about there being a health care crisis. TRICARE is defined as an “acceptable coverage” satisfying certain requirements in the new health bill (H.R.3200) to exclude TRICARE from certain proposed taxes. Additionally, certain members in Congress are advocating on behalf of the military and military retirees. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), ranking member on the House Armed Services personnel subcommittee, has gotten the House bill amended to insure that military families and retirees don’t have to “pay to play” and has gotten DoD exempted from certain employer requirements.

“The purpose of this amendment is to shield the men and women of our armed forces from onerous mandates and possible coverage deterioration as a result of this bill’s complex new health care governing scheme. Specifically, I believe we must exempt TRICARE from the “pay or play” employer mandate and other benefit mandates that would place an additional burden on this program that serves military personnel and their families,” said Rep. Wilson.

The ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), got two amendments accepted by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The amendments would allow veterans, military personal and their families to retain the choice of keeping their respective TRICARE and Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) health coverage and obtain additional private or public health insurance, and allow the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Veteran Affairs to continue to have sole authority over the respective health care systems.

“Under the [original] health care plan, veterans would be subject to taxes because the VA health care plan would not have recognized as an acceptable health care plan,” shared Rep. Buyer. ROA and The Military Coalition has sent a letter to every member of Congress emphasizing “that the unique identity and role of the military TRICARE and VA health delivery systems – including their non-taxable status – are preserved under any national health plan that Congress may develop”.

Some members have voiced apprehension that changes to Medicare will have changes to TRICARE and TRICARE for Life. One version of the bill would base provider fees on the Medicare fee scale plus 5 percent, which could stabilize what TRICARE can pay doctors. ROA is trying to further analyze to see what impact, if any, exists. Further, ROA is seeking dialogue with TRICARE contractors to ascertain their perspective on member concerns. The Association is working with 50 other associations, who will be proactive if problems arise.

The rumors about TRICARE being axed resulted from a Congressional Budget Officer Report. Read the facts about this report and the hoax that followed by clicking here.

Marshall Hanson
Director of Legislation and Naval Services
Reserve Officers Association

Air Force Reserve Chief Discusses Operational Reserve

The Heritage Foundation hosted the Chief of the Air Force Reserve, Lt. Gen. Charles E. Stenner Sept. 24 for a discussion where he first addressed the Air Force Reserve as both a Strategic and Operational Reserve. I’ve already written at length about that topic in the Officer Magazine (Assessing a Strategic Air Force Reserve, Feb 2009). The necessity for a Strategic Reserve for our country has been a topic featured in the Officer as well (Strategic Reserve Still Required, Feb 2009).

The question that remains for the Air Force is how much strategic depth can their Reserve give while serving as an operational force? The Air Force Reserve Command, in its goal to become a fully operational command next to its brothers Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command and the like is making a change to how it manages its Reservists for deployment. This change will help keep the balance needed between the Reserves operational and strategic requirements.

In the past, Reservists were farmed out to the other major commands and managed by the functional managers of each command. If a combatant commander had a need for 10 contracting officers and the Reserve “bought” that requirement, then the Air Expeditionary Force folks had to go to up to 10 different major commands to find the people.

No longer. Air Force Reserve Command will now manage all of its Reservists centrally. Not only will this help with predictability and sustainability, according to Gen Stenner, it will also help with those high demand, low density career fields with people who deploy more often than the average person is expected to go.

As a public affairs officer in my Reserve capacity, I am in one of those high-demand, low-density roles. With only a handful of public affairs professionals in the Air Force, the career field recently had to endure 100 extra deployment taskings for requirements in Afghanistan.

The Active Duty public affairs officers are in a 1-to-1 dwell, meaning for every term they deploy, they are home for equal the amount of time and then go again. Many of these assignments are 6 months to a year long, so folks can expect to go for 6 months or a year and then be home for 6 months or a year before they deploy again.

The Reserve, to keep balance between the civilian, family and military roles of its volunteer force, tries its best to keep that dwell time 1-to-5, meaning be called to serve for a year and then not have to be operational for another five years.

Gen Stenner said that statistics show for every notch down the post he is forced to take that dwell time, about 10 percent of his force leaves the service. So for career fields in the 1-to-3 dwell, statisticians factor in that 20 percent of the force will leave.

Gen Stenner has hopes that changing the Reserve Command to be a direct force provider to combatant commanders will better manage the people in the system to ensure certain pockets of folks are not overburdened while others have not been tasked to do their part.

Given that Joint Forces Command considers the extent to which services have had to mobilize their Reserve and Guard into its decision process for tasking each service with combatant commander requirements, hopefully this change by AFRC will help alleviate the pain across the board.

Today, there are 142,000 Reserve and Guard members on active duty supporting operations around the world. Since 9/11, there have been more than 730,000 citizen warriors called up, some multiple times.


DAVID W. SMALL
Director, Communications and Air Force Affairs
Reserve Officers Association
One Constitution Ave Washington DC 20002
(202) 646-7719, dsmall@roa.org
twitter: @ReserveOfficer

"Serving Citizen Warriors Through Advocacy and Education Since 1922"

Welcome to ROA's new blog: The Reserve Officer

It has been my goal to connect the Reserve Officers Association with the online tools of today, providing better and more regular outreach to our audiences -- particularly members of the Reserve Component serving today. I'm pleased to say that we will now begin blogging here. Blogs take many faces. One blogger I recently spoke to didn't like being called a blogger, and preferred the term news analyzer. This blog will do that. It will also be an outlet for ROA to issue statements of its own. Some content will be original and other posts will be pieces of information from others of which we think our audience will be interested and we will have original reporting discussing military policy and advocacy positions. We will blog from our educational events and post information germane to our Servicemembers Law Center. The bloggers of these posts will be the nationally elected leaders of our association as well as the National Staff directors, so posts will have many personalities. Thank you for following us!

DAVID W. SMALL
Director, Communications and Air Force Affairs
Reserve Officers Association   
One Constitution Ave Washington DC 20002
(202) 646-7719, dsmall@roa.org
Twitter: @ReserveOfficer

"Serving Citizen Warriors Through Advocacy and Education Since 1922"