ROA’s legislative team, along with other members of The Military Coalition (TMC) Guard and Reserve Committee, recently met with The Honorable Dennis M. McCarthy, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs and past-ROA Executive Director, to discuss legislative goals for 2010.
Sec. McCarthy, who was appointed by President Obama and confirmed in June 2009, expressed his own objectives and several DoD priorities for the upcoming year. He discussed at length the Reserve Components’ transformation from a strategic reserve to an operational force in the post-9/11 years, and how the Reserve Components will continue in that role for the foreseeable future. He made clear the need for funding, compensation, recruitment, and retention policies to be kept in line with the increased demands on Reserve and Guard personnel.
With regard to Reservists being used in the operational force, Sec. McCarthy stated that many of the troops he has spoken with in the field want to stay on rotational availability after current contingencies subside. This action, though, has training, facility and equipment implications.
Sec. McCarthy also emphasized the importance of increasing enrollment in TRICARE Reserve Select (which has only 7-8 percent of those eligible enrolled) and increasing family support and the effectiveness of the Yellow Ribbon Program for returning servicemembers.
With the Employer Support for Guard and Reserve under Sec. McCarthy’s arm of responsibility, he posed the question of how its function can expand and create employment relationships much like the Army Reserve’s partnership initiatives.
Representatives of The Military Coalition were given the opportunity to advise Sec. McCarthy on several legislative priorities for 2010. ROA Legislative Director CAPT Marshall Hanson spoke about Commission on National Guard and Reserve recommendations, including the necessity for state and federal coordination with regard to the utilization of Reservists for domestic disaster relief efforts.
Among the other priorities discussed were revamping the reserve retirement system in recognition of increased service and sacrifice of Reserve Component members, ensuring Federal Reserve veterans have access to Yellow Ribbon services and support that are available to National Guard veterans, providing a continuum of health care insurance options, enhancing educational benefits, and strengthening SCRA and USERRA protections.
Sec. McCarthy responded to the early retirement conversation in posing the question of how such a program’s focus could be changed from that of rewarding tours of duty to one which is better utilized as a retention tool tied to length of service. An example given included subtracting one year from age 60 retirement for each year over 20 served.
TMC and Sec. McCarthy plan to meet in the coming months to evaluate the progress being made on TMC and ROA legislative objectives.