KEITH'S CONGRESSIONAL CORNER

The pace in Congress went from a slow crawl to a dead stop with their departure from Washington; both the House of Representatives and Senate embarked on their August Recess and will return September 5th.

 

Before the House departed, they passed a four-bill appropriations package that included the Defense bill.
 

Before the Senate departed, they confirmed the Undersecretary of the Air Force, Matt Donovan, a recent professional staff member on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). AFA’s President Larry Spencer sent along our congratulations, and AFA looks forward to working with Undersecretary Donovan.

 

Since only 12 legislative days remain before the new Fiscal Year (FY), September is shaping up to be a busy month in DC. It needs to be. Congress must navigate through funding the federal government in FY 2018, increasing the debt limit, and passing the Defense Authorization bill.

 

Although there seems to be broad consensus for greater defense spending, Congress will be unable to complete FY 2018 appropriations bills in time for the new FY beginning on October 1st. Since the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 imposed statutory limitations on national defense spending far below this year’s proposed discretionary spending levels, we can only expect passage of a short-term CR (Continuing Resolution) by October 1st. That will mark 9 years in a row the fiscal year started with partial funding. The most pressing concern is the duration of the CR. Although CRs do provide limited appropriations, the piece meal approach is counter-productive to the military and wasteful to taxpayers. CRs delay the start of new programs, waste money by failing to terminate old programs, and keep spending at the previous year’s level while the Air Force continues to grow.

 

Deep divisions remain in Congress. An estimated 45 percent of Congress are pursuing an increase in defense spending; 45 percent seek a comparable increase in non-defense spending if defense spending is increased, and 10 percent demand fiscal restraint by keeping lower federal spending at the BCA levels. In the end, either the BCA needs to be amended for the fourth time to authorize and appropriate additional defense money or the defense department will experience increased readiness problems due to inadequate discretionary spending levels.

 

The Air Force is just too small for what our nation requires, and AFA has been advocating strongly on behalf of our members and on behalf of our Air Force. We continue to engage leaders in industry, government, media, and with the Field’s help, district and state congressional offices. We have a voice in legislation and recently had the opportunity to weigh in on the GI Bill revision, the "Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017." We are drafting op-eds and challenging our Chapters in the Field to leverage these by tailoring them for local press opportunities or by drafting new articles for local papers.

 

In early August, led by the Nation’s Capital Chapter, AFA held a widely-attended SECAF Welcome Reception and Dinner for new Secretary of the Air Force Dr. Heather Wilson. Approximately 225 guests attended the event held at the Army Navy Country Club, including attendees from the Air Force, industry, media, foreign embassies, and AFA. AFA’s President Larry Spencer addressed the crowd and welcomed the new secretary.

 

September’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference is projected to be the largest and most widely attended event in recent history. We hope to see many of you next month at the event, hosted at the Gaylord Hotel in Washington, DC. In preparation for the event, we are working through our second level of review on "AFA’s Top Issues – 2018" document.

 

One more thing, if you have concerns, issues, or comments about AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service), please pass them along, as AFA’s Government Relations is a member on the Exchange Retiree Advisory Council. The next meeting is August 23rd, so we welcome your inputs.


AIR FORCE HIGHLIGHTS

Op-Ed: ‘Air Force pilot shortfall is dangerous for the US’
defensenews.com | 7 Aug 2017 | by Larry Spencer, President, AFA
Today, the Air Force and our nation are in crises because we don’t have enough pilots. Since the 1991 Gulf War, the Air Force lost 30 percent of its personnel and was forced by budget shortages to cut combat-coded fighter squadrons by nearly 60 percent. As a result, the Air Force has a shortage of 1,555 pilots — 1,211 of them are key fighter pilot billets. And while we are currently focused on the pilot shortage, the Air Force is also short 3,500 maintenance personnel. Those numbers directly impact aircraft available to fly, negatively impact readiness and have lowered morale.
Read more.
 
Air Force Priorities Updated
The Secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force will soon release their new priorities that are well aligned with those of Secretary of Defense Mattis.
 
Secretary of the Air Force Wilson: The demand for air power to protect the vital interests of the nation is high, and we do not expect that demand to decrease in the foreseeable future. The Air Force is too small for what the nation expects of us.  In order to ensure our Air Force remains lethal and ready when the nation calls, we have established the following Air Force priorities:
    ·  Restore readiness … to win any fight, any time
    ·  Cost-effectively modernize … to increase the lethality of the force
    ·  Drive innovation … to secure our future
    ·  Develop exceptional leaders … to lead the world’s most powerful teams
    ·  Strengthen our alliances … because we are stronger together
 
GI Bill Passes Senate – Heading to President for Signature
The full senate passed HR 3218, the “Forever GI Bill” last week and is on its way to the President’s desk for signature. AFA’s supports the education legislation, which will increase veteran benefits by more than $3 billion over the next decade. It marks the largest expansion to the GI Bill since 2008. AFA sent out a President’s Note on this issue recently.
Full Text of Bill.  The Student Veterans of America (SVA) did a section-by-section analysis: Read more.
 
Pentagon unveils plan to overhaul bureaucracy, buy weapons faster
WashingtonExaminer.com | 30 Jul 2017 | by Jamie McIntyre
The Pentagon is pledging to reform its much-maligned acquisition structure to enable it to buy better, cheaper weapons.
 
The Defense Department on Tuesday submitted to Congress a report mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, which outlines a proposed restructuring "to better pursue the goals of technological superiority, affordable systems, and well managed business operations."
Read more.
 
Air Force Gets Creative to Tackle Pilot Shortage
Military.com | 30 Jul 2017 | by Oriana Pawlyk
The 
Air Force's pilot shortage has leaders worried not only about filling gaps in the immediate future, but also how the military and civilian airlines may suffer without fine-tuned aviators in decades to come.
 
As a result, Air Mobility Command at 
Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, if given permission, may start a small group tryout for pilots testing a new program in which aviators stay at their home-duty stations longer, thus increasing their longevity and likelihood to stay in service, the head of the command told Military.com in an exclusive interview.
 
"Should we go with a 'fly-only' track?" Gen. Carlton Everhart II asked rhetorically during an interview Wednesday, July 26th
Read more.
 
Goldfein: Bomber Roadmap, Priorities Paper Coming Soon
Airforcermag.com | 27 Jul 2017 | by John Tirpak
The Air Force will in September release a long-awaited new Bomber Roadmap which will focus not just on the B-1B, B-2, B-52, and B-21, but enabling technologies and things such as standoff weapons, Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said Wednesday, also promising a new white paper on Air Force priorities. 

At a Capitol Hill event hosted by AFA, Goldfein said Global Strike Command chief Gen. Robin Rand has been in a “very aggressive dialogue with Congress” about USAF’s bomber plans for the last week or so, seeking congressional input and “socializing” the document so there are no surprises when it’s released. “It’s not even just a bomber roadmap,” he said. “It’s a Global Strike roadmap, that includes all these capabilities that come together to allow us to hold these targets at risk” around the world.
Read more.
 
Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 2018) Appropriations Work Continues…Slowly
 
So far, the majority of the defense oversight committees in Congress have marked their budgets approximately $30 billion higher than the President’s budget request, so the military could see increased funding in FY 2018. However, without amending the BCA, sequester is triggered, and spending reverts to only $549 billion.
 
In late July, the House passed a four-bill appropriations package that included $658 billion for defense--$584 billion in base funding and $74 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. The bill also included the FY 2018 Energy, Legislative Branch, and MILCON-VA (Military Construction-Veterans Affairs) funding.  The MILCON-VA portion provides $88 billion in discretionary spending for MILCON and VA programs.
 
Unfortunately, in July the Senate Appropriations Committee set FY 2018 defense funding lower at only $513 billion in base funding and $82 billion in OCO funding.
 
                                                          Base Budget        OCO               TOTAL
House Defense Appropriations Committee (HAC-D) $584.2 billion $73.9 billion $658.1 billion
Senate Defense Appropriations Committee (SAC-D) $513 billion $82 billion $595 billion
President’s Budget Request $603 billion $64.6 billion $667 billion
BCA Spending Limit for 2018 $549 billion    
 
FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)

The Senate’s work on the NDAA was delayed because of the extensive debate on different versions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so the NDAA will be a priority upon their return in September. The Senate’s version of the NDAA authorizes a total of $700 billion in defense spending, including $640 billion in base budget spending and $60 billion in OCO funding.
 
                                                          Base Budget        OCO               TOTAL
House of Representatives/HASC $621.5 billion $75 billion $696.5 billion
Senate/SASC $640 billion $60 billion $700 billion
 
The House’s NDAA included a provision standing up a Space Corps within the Department of the Air Force. AFA agrees with the Air Force that space should be on everyone’s radar and welcomes the debate in Washington. Space is a contested environment, and operating the nation’s space assets is vital to the Air Force’s mission to win in Air, Space and Cyberspace. As a nation we do not go to war without space assets’ integral role in the joint fight kill chain. As the operation of our nation’s space assets is critical to our nation’s security, we strongly endorse the Air Force’s efforts to consolidate Space Operations Command and Control into a single, joint command-and-control center.

QUOTES TO NOTE
 

"We've asked to increase the end-strength in the United States Air Force, but we're also putting money into immediate readiness, and then medium and long-term modernization."

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


“This [Space Corps proposal] will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money. And if I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy. …I don’t need another chief of staff and another six deputy chiefs of staff.”

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

 

“I will tell you this, that right now, as we make this transition from a benign to a warfighting environment, I would just offer to you that any move that actually ends up separating space as opposed to integrating space I would argue is a move in the wrong direction, because if I was the Chief of Naval Operations, the Chief of Staff of the Army and my fellow joint chiefs and I were sitting here, I would tell you for all of the missions that we as joint chiefs do in the business of combined arms against an enemy, space is absolutely essential to every one of our missions.”
- General David Goldfein, Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF)


KEY DATES TO WATCH
 

Sep 15-17:    2017 Joint Base Andrews Air Show (with AF Thunderbirds)

Sep 18-20:    AFA’s Air, Space, & Cyber Conference, Washington, DC
Sep 30:         Fiscal Year 2017 (FY 2017) Ends
Oct 1:            Fiscal Year 2018 (FY 2018) Begins

 

If you have questions, please contact:

Keith Zuegel
Senior Director, Government Relations
Air Force Association


GRL@afa.org

 
 
 

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