KEITH'S CONGRESSIONAL CORNER
 

Let me start by passing along that our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
 
At last, football has returned. Unfortunately for the Air Force, Congress returned to Washington in September and stuck to their playbook – by punting. Although they agreed to legislation to temporarily fund the government, raise the debt limit, and provide aid to Hurricane ravished Texas and Louisiana, they punted. They punted any long-term deals into December and fumbled the opportunity to provide needed funding to our Airmen and their families.


We are a nation at war, and critical defense funding is essential at the start of the Fiscal Year (FY) on October 1st not months later. Yet, Congress has failed for the ninth straight year in providing stable and predictable spending on time.
 
Absent enactment of regular appropriations for a FY, continuing appropriations acts (known as continuing resolutions or CRs) provide funding for a specified time. Unfortunately, Congress and the president have passed full appropriations for the entire federal government only four times in the last 42 years. Congress delivered 30 different CRs the past 10 years, lasting for over 1,000 days in total.
 
Okay, since Congress passed a short-term CR that lasts through December 8th, the defense department will get reduced budget appropriations for a limited time, so what’s the problem?
 
CRs lock in funding at the previous year’s level, while the Air Force has grown and their requirements increased. CRs delay the start of new acquisition programs, services, and training that are critical to the warfighters. They waste dollars by preventing the termination of obsolete programs.
 
We will continue to lead the charge in Washington by advocating forcefully for full-year defense appropriations.
 

Last week, the Senate passed their version of the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), that we discussed in August. The legislation, passed for 54 straight years, is important because it authorizes funding, programs, and the military’s pay raise. The bill surpasses the $549 billion cap set by the Budget Control Act (BCA) and the House’s $696.5 billion and must be reconciled in Conference before becoming law.
 
Speaking of conferences, AFA held our annual Air, Space & Cyber Conference last week. It was a terrific event and one of the most widely-attended events in our recent history. Secretary Wilson’s speech focused on growing in size; training; readiness, and modernization. Chief of Staff General Goldfein focused on “Wars of Cognition” and speed. Audio-Video Recordings.


AIR FORCE HIGHLIGHTS

Fiscal Year 2018 Defense Appropriations
On September 8th, the President signed into law  legislation that would temporarily lift the nation's debt ceiling and fund the government
while delivering the first installment of emergency aid for victims of Hurricane Harvey.
 
The Good
    -  Ends the [unlikely] threat of a government shutdown
    -  Ends the [unlikely] default on the national debt at the end of September
    -  Sends more than $15 billion in immediate relief to Texas and Louisiana
 
The Bad
   
-  Marks the 9th straight year that the US Military will start the fiscal year with a CR
    -  The agreement is just for three months; Congress now faces a December 8th deadline to strike another deal to avert those fiscal cliffs. Christmas agreements are notoriously bad as lawmakers either punt or negotiate quickly to get out of town
 
The Ugly
    -  A punt into the new year
with another CRwill be detrimental to the Air Force
    -  The Air Force expects to mitigate the risk under a short-term CR
    -  To minimize long-term impacts, they will prioritize resources, preserving flying operations while driving short-term reductions in less time-sensitive spending to include travel, supplies, and facility sustainment, where it makes sense
 
Norquist warns of ‘corrosive,’ wasteful multiple continuing resolutions
Armytimes.com | 27 Aug 2017 | by Aaron Mehta
WASHINGTON — As the Pentagon stares down yet another continuing resolution, the building’s top budget official is warning that repeated uses of the budget procedure is “corrosive” to the military and wasteful of taxpayer dollars.
 
David Norquist, the Pentagon’s comptroller and chief financial officer, told an audience at the 2017 Defense News Conference that CRs have “administrative costs that are wasteful and readiness and operational costs that are unrecoverable.”
 
Norquist, in his first public speech since taking office, lamented how continuing resolutions have become “the new normal, and therefore, somehow acceptable,” adding that there have been 30 different CRs over the past 10 years, lasting for over 1,000 days in total.
 
“Just another sign of fall — the kids go back to school; football season begins; and the government starts operating under a CR,” he said. “Regarding numerous and lengthy CRs as simply part of the normal cycle does a huge disservice to the American people and our service members.”
Read more.
 

Op-Ed: ‘America is finally, thankfully, modernizing our nuclear program
thehill.com | 27 Aug 2017 | by Dave Deptula, Dean of the 
Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies of the Air Force Association and Peter Huessy, Director of Strategic Deterrent Studies for the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies of the Air Force Association
For the first time in nearly 35 years, the United States is back on track to modernize its entire nuclear deterrent.
 
After previously approving the building of 12 new Columbia class submarines and a new B-21 nuclear-capable bomber, the United States has selected two contractors to compete to build the next land based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) nuclear deterrent. This would be the first new land based ICBM since the Peacekeeper missile was deployed in 1986 and completes a nuclear modernization effort plan promised by the administration. 
Read more.

 
VA’s Decision Ready Claims Program – Decision on Claims Within 30 Days
Effective September 1st, the Department of Veterans Affairs started the Decision Ready Claims (DRC) initiative, a disability claims submission option with accredited Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) that promises to deliver faster claims decisions to Veterans and their families.

The Decision Ready Claims (DRC) Program is the fastest way to get your VA claim for increase processed. You can get a decision on your claim in 30 days or less by working with an accredited Veterans Service Organization (VSO).
Read more.
 
Post-9/11 GI Bill Questions
We continue to receive members’ questions regarding the latest Veterans education legislation referred to as the Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017. The new law will not benefit all GI Bill beneficiaries nor is it ‘Forever’, however, it is designed to enhance the current education benefit.  Since 1944, the beginning of the GI Bill, each generation of veterans was eligible for different levels of education entitlements and restrictions. 
 
We recommend you contact the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) at 888-442-4551 to speak with a counselor. They will verify your eligibility for entitlement benefits based on your social security number and dates of service. They will try to help you gain benefits based on your state of residence. (State VA and Federal VA rules different.).

These VA websites that may help:
    -  VA Education and Training:
http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/
    -  Hand Outs and Forms: http://www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/handouts_forms.asp
    -  House Veterans Affairs Committee Fact Sheet on Harry W. Colmery Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2017: https://veterans.house.gov/uploadedfiles/gi_bill_one_pager.pdf
 
If you believe your Veterans education issues have merit, and they are not fully addressed by the VA, you should voice your concerns to your state’s US senators and your District’s congressional representative.
 
September is Suicide Prevention Month
An estimated 22 veterans take their lives each day. During September’s Suicide Prevention Month and year-round, join the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in letting people know that preventing suicide starts with this simple act of support: Be There. Help connect Veterans who are going through a difficult time or who may be at risk for suicide with resources that can make a difference.
Read more.

QUOTES TO NOTE

“The Air Force is as fast as a herd of turtles as far as space is concerned…A Space Corps would be a better steward of space matters than the Air Force would be, because there would be no competing interests as there are now with space falling under the Air Force’s aviation-focused structural umbrella…I don’t think the Air Force can fix this…You can’t have two No. 1 priorities. The Air Force is focused on air dominance, as it should be.”
- Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Strategic forces subcommittee
 
"The last several years our senior military and civilian leaders have come to the Senate Armed Services Committee and asked for the same thing, that our Congress provide stable, predictable funding, and that we provide it on time. Is that a lot to ask?"
- Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman, Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC)
 
“Continuing resolutions do enormous, lasting damage to the American military.  We are witnessing an alarming increase in accidents, growing evidence of a force under stress, and an eroding technological position when compared with our adversaries. Not only does this [CR] bill fail to remedy those problems, it makes them worse.”
- Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee (HASC)

“The Constitution places on Congress the responsibility to “raise and support”, “provide and maintain” the military forces of the United States.  It is morally wrong for our nation to send brave men and women out on mission -- even routine training or operations -- without the very best equipment, the very best training, the very best support our country can provide.  The dysfunction in the budget process has meant that we have not provided them with the best and that we have not been meeting our responsibilities.”
- Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman, House Armed Services Committee (HASC)
 
“The [Budget Control Act] caps were never intended to be a solution; they were intended to be a problem. We cannot properly provide for our nation’s defense, and we cannot be good stewards until we lift the BCA caps.”
- David Norquist, DOD Comptroller and Chief Financial Officer

KEY DATES TO WATCH
 
Sep 30
Fiscal Year 2017 Ends
 
Oct 1 Fiscal Year 2018 Begins
Oct 17
AFA Breakfast, Capitol Hill Edition with Gen. Lori Robinson, Commander, US NORTHCOM and Commander, NORAD
 
Nov 15
AFA Breakfast, Capitol Hill Edition with Gen. Darren McDew, Commander, US TRANSCOM
 
Dec 8 Fiscal Year 2018 Continuing Resolution (CR) Expires

If you have questions, please contact:

Keith Zuegel, Col (Ret.), USAF
Senior Director, Government Relations
Air Force Association (AFA)


GRL@afa.org

 
 
 

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