KEITH'S CONGRESSIONAL CORNER

“It’s déjà vu all over again”
 
Yogi Berra’s quotes make me smile…budget “progress” in Washington does not. 
 
Congress has completed defense appropriations only 21 percent of the time since the Fiscal Year (FY) changed to October 1st in 1977. This year followed the same trend. The present continuing resolution (CR) appropriations bill expires December 8th and we expect it will be followed by another CR. A year-long CR is a possibility and would be devastating to our military.
   
Congress has yet to decide on funding levels for defense and non-defense programs. Further complicating agreement includes issues such as Tax Reform, Dream Act (DACA), border wall funding, and the Affordable Healthcare Act. Without a new agreement on both sides of the aisle, sequestration and much lower defense spending caps return by law in the FY 2018 budget. In addition, early in the new year, Congress must raise the debt ceiling.
 
For the Air Force (AF), a CR means the scaling back of exercises, curtailing of hiring and recruitment, and delays in acquisition programs and contracting. Six new program starts would be impacted including necessary F-15C and F-16 fighter upgrades and the Joint Space Operations Center Mission system. CRs prevent multi-year procurements so taxpayers pay increased costs. CRs delay needed infrastructure improvements and stop personnel movements, which help reduce force retention. The longer that CRs are extended, the more that the Air Force suffers adverse consequences.
 
Congress passed the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference report (summary below), which will authorize nearly $700 billion for the defense topline. However, the Budget Control Act permits just $549 billion in fiscal 2018 national defense spending. Some are calling the authorizers work a “hollow budget” as its topline has yet to be agreed to by congressional leadership or matched by appropriators.
 
Since my last update, October marked the 20th birthday of the first flight of the F-22 Raptor. Many still recall how the Air Force Association (AFA) led the charge for continued production of the world’s preeminent fighter.
 
AFA’s President Larry Spencer and I met with Representative Don Bacon (R-NE-2) and his staff to discuss Air Force issues and AFA advocacy. The congressman, a retired Air Force Brigadier General and AFA member, authored H.R. 3897, The Gold Star Family and Support Installation Access Act. The legislation allows access to on-base services and installation benefits to surviving spouses who remarry, dependent children, and other next of kin of the deceased member who has died while serving. AFA endorsed the legislation and posted a statement of support on its website and social media platforms. We also endorsed Senator Fischer's (R-NE) companion bill.

 
The Air Force needs your help. Reach out to your congressional representative and senators and tell them to pass a defense budget now. Our nation’s warfighters deserve stable and predictable funding—at adequate levels. More delays or insufficient funding stalls Air Force growth, worsens readiness, further ages weapon systems, increases costs, and needlessly risks the safe return of our nation’s Airmen.
 
AFA wishes you and your families a very Happy Thanksgiving! To all those deployed away from home and families during this holiday, we send along a special thank you for your service.

AIR FORCE HIGHLIGHTS

Government Matters Interview with AFA’s President
On November 8th, the Air Force Association’s President, Larry Spencer was interviewed by ABC’s Channel 7 regarding the defense budget and Air Force issues. 
Watch the Interview.
 
National security warrants focus on space — but not a separate Space Corps
defensenews.com | 27 Oct 2017 | by Keith Zuegel 
 
The House and Senate are conferencing the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that could create a separate Space Corps in the Department of the U.S. Air Force by January 1, 2019. The House included the Space Corps provision while the Senate disagreed. The Department of Defense opposes the proposal, and so should Congress.
 
Although focusing on space is encouraging, now is not the time to undergo a radical reorganization of the Air Force. Secretary of Defense Gen. Jim Mattis wrote Congress declaring, “I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organizational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint war-fighting functions.”
 
Reorganizations are costly and time prohibitive, and Congress should first detail how a separate Space Corps would improve space capabilities while saving taxpayers’ money.
Read more.
 
Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization (NDAA)
Last week, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed the Conference report for the fiscal year 2018 defense policy bill. The bill authorizes nearly $700 billion, including $626.4 billion in base spending and $65.7 billion in the overseas contingency operations (OCO) fund. $20.6 billion is marked for the nuclear national security programs in the Department of Energy.
 
Since the NDAA exceeds the $549 billion Budget Control Act (BCA) defense spending cap, sequestration will return in FY 2018 unless Congress reaches an agreement to change the law. Note: AFA has been strongly advocating that the defense budget cap must end immediately. Our national security is at stake.
 
The legislation has been sent to the president for his signature. Since this legislation has passed the past 54 years, it is a safe bet that this bill will become law.
 
    Authorization Bill Summary:
 
    Bill Funding
    - $699.6 billion in defense funding—includes $626.4 billion in base defense funding
 
    Personnel
    - End Strength: Grows Air Force (AF) by 4,100 active-duty personnel
    - Military Pay Raise: 2.4 percent military pay raise [AFA Advocacy issue]
    -
Includes several provisions for military families
    - Allows the return of up to 1,000 retired members to active duty
    - Before retiring, members would be provided a mental health assessment
 
    Procurement
    - A-10: $103 million to restart the wing replacement program
    - Air Force One: $434.1 million to replace presidential aircraft
    - F-35A: $5.8 billion for 10 more F-35A strike fighters for the Air Force, for a total procurement of 56 F-35As
    - JSTARS: Bars retiring E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS)
       -- Directs Pentagon to outline shortcomings in surveillance capabilities should the Air Force end its recapitalization of the JSTARS. Note: the AF is expected to announce its decision soon on whether to recapitalize the aircraft
    - KC-46A: $2.95 billion to procure 17 KC-46A aerial refueling aircraft
    - MC-130J: $979.4 million for 11 MC-130J aircraft
    - OA-X: $400 million to procure a fleet of light attack aircraft
 
    Provisions
    - Permanently preserves Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) payments to surviving military spouses. The more than 60,000 Americans whose spouses died either on active duty or during retirement will continue to receive $310 per month plus COLA indefinitely
[AFA Advocacy issue]
    - Acquisition: Includes provisions to streamline the acquisition process

    - BRAC: Does not authorize a BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) round in FY 2018
    - Fighters: Requires AF to maintain inventory of at least 1,970 fighter aircraft and at least 1,145 primary mission aircraft through FY 2021
    - Security Clearances: DOD will get control of security clearance process and work to reduce government-wide backlog of 700,000 clearances
    - Space: Does not establish a separate Space Corps within the AF [AFA Advocacy issue]
      -- Requires Deputy Secretary of Defense to work with an outside firm (unconnected to the AF) to consider a future separate Space Corps
 
Military Is Overhauling Its Retirement Systems
New York Times | 3 Nov 2017 | by Ann Carrns 
 
About 1.7 million people serving in the United States armed forces have a big decision to make in the coming months, as the military undertakes a major overhaul of its retirement system.
 
Beginning in January, the military is switching from just a traditional pension system, in which retirees receive a monthly check for life based on their pay and years of service, to one that also includes investment accounts, like those commonly available to civilian workers. The new “blended” system is based, in part, on recommendations by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.
Read more.


AFA’s CyberPatriot Launches Its Tenth Season
Airforcemag.com | 6 Nov 2017 | Daily Report
 
The Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot National Youth Cyber Defense Competition began its tenth season on Friday, with more than 5,000 high school and middle school students from the US, Canada, and other participating nations. The teams will participate in an online competition, made up of four rounds, to see which can best protect against cyber attacks. The teams compete for 28 expenses-paid trips to Baltimore for CyberPatriot’s National Finals Competition in April. In addition to the CyberPatriot competition, AFA also hosts an elementary school cyber education initiative, youth cyber camps, and will publish a preschool-focused cyber security storybook titled “Sarah the Cyber Hero.” AFA this year is also beginning a senior citizen cyber awareness program.
Read more.
 
F22 CTF Celebrates 20th birthday of Raptor first flight
aerotechnews.com | 30 Oct 2017 | by Kenji Thuloweit 
 
The F-22 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., held a ceremony Oct. 19 to commemorate the first flight of the F-22 Raptor.
 
The first flight of the first F-22 aircraft took place Sept. 7, 1997.
 
According to the Air Force, the F-22 Raptor’s combination of stealth, supercruise, maneuverability, and integrated avionics, coupled with improved supportability, represents an exponential leap in warfighting capabilities. The Raptor performs both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions allowing full realization of operational concepts vital to the 21st century Air Force.
Read more.
 
Why Military Readiness Takes a Hit Every Time Congress Delays the Budget
Nationalinterest.org | 22 Oct 2017 | by Dan Keeler 
 
Imagine you are a department head in a small company. You love your job and the people you work with. One of your responsibilities includes managing a $50,000 operations budget. One year, upper management tells you they can only give you $35,000 right away. The remaining $15,000 will come “soon.” You cut some corners and make some educated guesses. Time goes by. You cut some more training and travel. The $15,000 never comes. You ask your boss when it might show up. “Next month,” he says. Finally, with two months until the end of the year, management delivers the $15,000. You scramble again to meet deadlines. You received all the money you needed, but everything was three times harder than it should have been. The customer is happy, but everyone around you is miserable. Your team never makes up the lost training. You mention how inefficient the year was to your boss. He shrugs and says, “But we gave you the whole amount. You met your goals. What’s the big deal?” Now, imagine this kept happening . . . year after year. Would you quit? Would the company fail?
 
Sadly, this scenario is not hypothetical. The “small company” is our Department of Defense and you are the customer. Instead of $50,000, the real number is around $650 billion annually—the largest slice of the U.S. discretionary budget. Our servicemen and women don’t build widgets. They build military readiness. That readiness defends you and your family from very real threats around the globe. Every year since 2010, U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines built military readiness while battling budgetary uncertainty. Last year, the president signed a $1.1 trillion federal budget on May 5, 216 days late. Over those 216 days, Congress passed two separate continuing resolutions [CRs] to keep the government funded at last year's levels. As a result, the U.S. military operated on the previous year’s budget for the first two quarters. Most accounts started the year short 3–5 percent. That sounds relatively harmless. The government stays open and money keeps moving. Unfortunately, over time, this harmless-sounding budgetary tool [CR] causes very real damage.
Read more.

QUOTES TO NOTE

“Our biggest need right now is for a higher and stable budget.”

- The Honorable Dr. Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force

 

“At some point, families make a decision that they just can’t keep doing this at this pace. And I think that’s the biggest thing we’re facing is we’re burning out our people because we’re too small for what the nation is asking.”

- The Honorable Dr. Heather Wilson, Secretary of the Air Force

 

“We as a nation don’t produce enough aviators … to adequately service the requirement for military, business and commercial aviation…So this is a national-level issue that we’re working with industry.”

- General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force

 

“Long term CRs impact the readiness of our force and their equipment at a time when security threats are extraordinarily high.”

- General James Mattis, Secretary of Defense

 

"The range of global threats we face calls for a far more innovative, dynamic and cost-effective Department of Defense…Speed is one of the most important attributes of a system designed to win. That is certainly true with airpower.”
- The Honorable Matthew Donovan, Under Secretary of the Air Force


"When it comes to innovation, the Air Force is looking for new ways to do business, accelerating the transfer of ideas from the lab to the field, and putting the latest capabilities in Airmen's toolkits as quickly as possible."

- The Honorable Matthew Donovan, Under Secretary of the Air Force

 

“Our ability to adapt and respond faster than our potential adversaries is the greatest challenge we face…We need your assistance--your partnership, ideas and innovation. It is going to take our combined efforts and partnerships to build a more lethal force with the inherent flexibility and responsiveness our nation needs to maintain our competitive edge.”

- The Honorable Matthew Donovan, Under Secretary of the Air Force

KEY DATES TO WATCH
 
2017  
Oct 1 FY 2018 Began
Nov 17 Mitchell Space Breakfast with Brig Gen Bradley Saltzman, Air Staff Future Programs
Nov 20 Mitchell Hour with Gen Mike Holmes, Commander, Air Combat Command
Dec 1  3rd Annual West Coast Aerospace Forum- Air and Space Power in a Multi- Domain World
Dec 5  Space Policy Paper Release- Leading in a Rapidly Changing World: Policy Issues in Global Space Operations
Dec 8   Space Breakfast with Gen John Raymond, Commander, Air Force Space Command
Dec 8 Fiscal Year 2018 Continuing Resolution (CR) Expires
Dec 14 Mitchell Hour with Gen Joseph Lengyel, Chief, National Guard Bureau
Dec 19  4 Mitchell Hour with Lt. Gen. Mark C. Nowland, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR
2018  
Jan  AFA Breakfast, Capitol Hill Edition
Feb 5 FY 2019 President’s Budget (PB) Release
Feb 21-23 Air Warfare Symposium, Orlando, FL
Sep 17-19  Air, Space & Cyber Conference, Gaylord National Hotel, National
 

If you have questions, please contact:

Keith Zuegel
Senior Director, Government Relations
Air Force Association (AFA)


GRL@afa.org

 
 
 

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