Keith’s Congressional Corner

When Congress returned to D.C. last week from its two-week recess, they had only five legislative days to pass funding before the federal government shutdown on Friday, April 28th. On Friday Congress passed - and the President signed into law - a one-week continuing resolution (CR), the third CR for this fiscal year.

Subsequently on Sunday evening, Congressional appropriators reached an agreement to fund the government until October 1, 2017 through the ”Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017.“ The Omnibus Appropriations bill combines all 12 of the FY 2017 appropriations bills (to include defense appropriations). Expected passage of the appropriations bill will: 1) end the threat of a partial government shutdown 2) end the possibility of a year-long CR and 3) provide the Defense Department with approximately $15 billion more to address immediate readiness needs.AFA's website.

The funding appropriated for this year arrests the decline in Air Force readiness but stops well short of fixing their long-term readiness problems or adequately address their recapitalization and modernization needs. The agreement merely kicks the proverbial can down the road on sequestration from the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The debate now turns to the FY 2018 budget for the new year beginning October 1st. Unfortunately, the initial optimism has dimmed on seeing large increases in national security funding. We can expect the next budget discussions to be even more contentious as several issues return, such as border wall funding; Planned Parenthood funding; and the Affordable Care Act with new issues to address including Taxes and increased defense spending.

Air and Space superiority are not American birthrights and need to be fought for and won. AFA is advocating tirelessly to make congressional decision makers aware that the Air Force needs stable and predictable (Regular Order) spending bills, at sufficient levels, that adequately fund their ever-growing missions, enables them to grow their force, modernize their bases, and allows them to recapitalize their aging weapon systems.


  • SECAF Nominee Awaits Confirmation: Dr. Heather Wilson, President Trump’s nominee to become Secretary of the Air Force, had her nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 30th. The full Senate will hold her confirmation vote on Monday evening, May 8th. Read more.

  • AFA Op-ed: Is Congress ready to ground the Air Force? (Defense News, 11 Apr 17) … Gen Larry O. Spencer (ret.), USAF (AFA President) “ “In 2013 I was the vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force. I presided over plans to absorb an unplanned and ill-conceived sequestration reduction. The budget cuts were so devastating, the Air Force was forced to do the unthinkable — ground front-line combat-coded aircraft. We also delayed depot repairs from which the Air Force is still trying to recover. Since that time, I have often wondered what would have happened if our nation called upon those grounded airplanes to defend the country. That was a dark time in our history. I am concerned we may repeat that dark history. Read more

    Sadly, it appears that some of our nation’s lawmakers might surrender to the idea that the Department of Defense can operate on a continuing resolution for defense appropriations the remainder of this fiscal year. To be clear, it won’t be an enemy that grounds the world’s best Air Force — this would be a self-inflicted wound. Without firing a shot or spending a dime, near-peer competitors will catch up faster while our readiness problems escalate.”

  • Mitchell Institute Op-Ed: Congress, Military Are Running Out of Time (Breaking Defense, 13 Apr 17…Lt Gen David Deptula, USAF (Dean, Mitchell Institute) “There is no enemy on the planet than can do more damage to the United States Air Force than us not getting a budget,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told a defense conference on February 23. Read more

    Lack of 2017 appropriations and no supplemental increase in funding…will increase risk to the nation and ultimately result in dead Americans on a future battlefield,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley on April 5 to the House Armed Services Committee. He went on to say Congress’s, “…failure to pass a budget, in my view both as an American citizen and chief of staff of the United States Army, constitutes professional malpractice.”

    These are strong words for the leaders of the Air Force and Army to speak to Congress. The Navy and Marine leadership have weighed in with similar comments. Considering that Congress has not passed a defense appropriations bill on time for eight years in a row these comments are unarguably accurate. Congress’ inability to execute its fiscal responsibilities in a timely fashion does indeed constitute professional malpractice, but worse, its negligence threatens the ability of America’s armed forces to execute the nation’s security strategy.

  • Letter to Editor: Van Cleef: Pass a defense budget now (The Roanoke Times, April 27, 2017)…Brig Gen (Ret.) Scott Van Cleef (Former AFA Chairman of the Board) “Our military is building and is rapidly becoming stronger than ever before.” So said President Trump in an April 16 tweet. If only it were true. To meet its mission, the military needs to grow and become stronger, but can’t. Why? Because Congress has not passed a 2017 defense budget. More than halfway through the year, the government is still operating on a continuing resolution (CR), freezing spending at last year’s levels. With no action by April 28, the government will shut down…again.” Read more.
  • AFA Signs Coalition Letters to Address CR The AFA joined the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the U.S. (EANGUS); National Guard Association of the U.S. (NGAUS); and the Reserve Officers Association (ROA) in sending coalition letters to the Senate and House Committees on the Budget and Appropriations to seek full defense appropriations. Read more.

    “With the prospects of another Continuing Resolution (CR) looming, the undersigned organizations, representing the Active and Reserve Components, respectfully request that your committee convey to your colleagues the dire need to pass a Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17), Department of Defense Appropriations Act to provide appropriations for active-duty and reserve personnel in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force (the military departments), and for National Guard personnel in the Army and Air Force. The unnecessary burdens and increased risk placed upon our military because of yearly fiscal uncertainty, compounded by Sequestration is unacceptable, costly to the taxpayers, and jeopardizes our nation.”

  • More Pentagon Nominations President Donald Trump plans to nominate Kari Bingen as principal deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence and Robert Story Karem as assistant defense secretary for international security affairs.
  • CRS analyzes defense spending under the Budget Control Act The Congressional Research Service (CRSO released a new report which analyzes the effect of the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) on defense spending. The law directed across-the-board spending cuts in fiscal year 2013 and set spending caps on defense and domestic discretionary spending through 2021. The law “has been a major hurdle in enacting annual spending legislation.” Defense Hawks seek increased defense spending above the spending caps while Democrats want equal increases in non-defense spending. The report also examined how the budget law affected DoD’s war-related Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, which is not capped and has been used to fund capped programs.
  • USAF is Great Investment for Global Vigilance, Global Reach, Global Power The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its analysis that the Navy’s build-up toward a 355-ship Navy would cost an average of nearly $27 billion a year over the next 30 years--60 percent increase above what Congress has allocated on average for shipbuilding. The CBO concluded that it would require 18 years for the Navy to achieve the 355-ship goal.
  • Military Health System (MHS) AFA’s Government Relations has been attending Executive Council and Working Group meetings at the Defense Health Agency (DHA). Last week, the focus was on the new TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) transition from the contractor, MetLife, to United Concordia Companies, Inc. (UCCI) on May 1, 2017. The new TRICARE contract requires UCCI to provide a network of providers where at least 95 percent of enrollees must have access within 35 miles and 21 days.
    There are some contract enhancements:
    • Annual maximum per enrollee increased to $1,500 (from $1,300)
    • No cost share for sealants (currently 20%)
    • Lower auto-enrollment to age one (currently age 4)
    • Revised out-of-network reimbursement (will be paid at lesser of billed chargers or network allowable charges for the area (currently reimbursed at higher rate)
  • Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military: Fiscal Year 2016
    “Overall, this year’s statistical data indicate that the Department is making progress toward its dual goals of reducing the occurrence of sexual assault and encouraging greater reporting of the crime. In fact, this year’s data suggest that about one in three Service members are choosing to report their sexual assault, up from the one in four estimated for 2014 and the one in fourteen estimated ten years ago in 2006.” Read more.
  • Buy American
    President Trump signed an executive order last month that directs maximum federal purchase of American-made goods. Former Pentagon officials testified that strict adherence to buying American-made goods could negatively impact DoD's acquisition process.
  • Proposal to Tax GI Bill
    Some may have read about a proposal vetted by the House Veterans Affairs Committee to look at shoring up the Post 9/11 GI Education bill by charging new members $100 per month for 24 months. It is but one of a dozen proposals that have been suggested to fill in the $3 billion shortfall.
    The monthly fee for new recruits would be expected to raise $3 billion in the first 10 years, and then would be used to expand benefits, according to the committee. Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-N) said the extra money would "preserve GI Bill benefits for generations to come."  "The legislation we are working on with veterans and stakeholders would provide a long-overdue increase in resources so that the spouses and children of our wounded and fallen heroes, as well as reservists, Guardsmen and Purple Heart recipients, can pursue the educational opportunities that they deserve," he said.
    The initiative was floated by a few associations in D.C. who believe that the Post 9/11 GI Bill should be preserved before it runs out of funding. Some veterans’ service organizations have stated that the $100-per-month proposal should be given consideration. Other associations are strongly in opposition and see the $100 as a tax.
    Although this legislative proposal is now on hold and has a small chance of becoming law, AFA is working closely with associations and with Congress to ensure our members maintain GI Bill benefits.
  • Air Force Being Modest
    Earlier this month you may have heard about the 21,000-pound, GPS-guided bomb, also known as the Massive Ordnance Air Blast or MOAB (Mother of All Bombs) dropped against ISIS. In most newspaper clippings it read something like, “The strike used a GBU-43 bomb dropped from a U.S. Aircraft. AFA is proud that it was the US Air Force that changed the strategic landscape by dropping a bomb they developed from an Air Force MC-130 aircraft and shacking tunnels, a very difficult target.
  • Nuclear Policy Review (NPR)
    The Trump administration initiated the process for a nuclear policy review. The review is typically conducted by each new administration, and this effort is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.
    The USAF will be protective of the replacement of 400 legacy Minute Man III ICBMs with the Global Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), development of the new B-21 Raider bomber, and Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications.  The USAF also needs to consider the $23 billion Long Range Stand-off (LRSO) replacement of legacy ALCMs for the bomber-fleet.

  • It’s unfortunate that we are now discussing the potential of yet another extended continuing resolution, which is the equivalent of a mini sequestration round, which we have already been through before. You see, in the Air Force we still haven’t recovered from round one. Failing to pass an appropriations bill will cost the Air Force $2.8 billion in the remaining five months of 2017- Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein
  • This is no time, in my professional view, to increase risk to our national security.  A year-long CR or a return to the [budget control act] funding will do just that. It will increase risk to the nation, and it will ultimately result in dead Americans on a future battlefield.” - Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley
  • I don’t think we should accept it as the new normal,” he added. “I think we should pass it and pass the supplemental with it and get on with it … pass the budget.” - Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley
  • If it makes you feel better, we are all making history. We’ve had the longest period in American history where Congress has been unable to deliver a budget on schedule. We’ve had the longest period in American history where we have not complied with constitutional budget order and we have the first administration in the history of the United States that has transitioned under a continuing resolution.  Congratulations. All of your names will be in a history book somewhere. They should be in a history book as the American citizens who lost faith in the ability of Congress to do its job.”  -Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Paul Selva at April 13th AFA Breakfast
  • "I want to make it as clear as I possibly can to everyone here and everyone that's listening that I am not considering stop-loss." - Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein
  • Not to have an adequate Air Force in the present state of the world is to compromise the foundations of national freedom and independence.- Prime Minister Winston Churchill
  • Air power is like poker. A second-best hand is like none at all—it will cost you dough and win you nothing.” – General George Kenney, Commander of Allied Air Forces in the Southwest Pacific, 1942-45

Bill will fund military operations overseas, ensure the readiness of our troops to meet global threats, and sustain defense health and safety programs. Over the weekend, the Senate and House Appropriations committee agreed to a budget deal that funds the federal government for the last five months of FY 2017. According to the House Appropriations Committee’s FY 2017 Omnibus Summary, the “
The Department of Defense portion of the Omnibus funds critical national security needs, including military operations and readiness programs, as well as health and quality-of-life programs for our troops and military families. The bill is consistent with the enacted National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017.
In total, the bill provides $593 billion, an increase of $19.9 billion over the fiscal year 2016 enacted level and $16.3 billion more than the Obama Administration’s request.
This includes:
- $516.1 billion in base discretionary funding – an increase of $2 billion above current levels; and
- $76.6 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)/Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) funding. This amount includes $14.8 billion in new funding requested by the Trump Administration.
When combined with the $5.8 billion in supplemental funding enacted in the Continuing Resolution that passed in December, the total Defense funding for fiscal year 2017 is $598.5 billion, an increase of $25.7 billion over fiscal year 2016 and $22.1 billion more than President Obama’s original request.”
With passage of the 2017 budget, the Air Force would focus on growing end-strength from 317,000 to 321,000 by the end of 2017. They need to grow to 350,000 but won’t be able to until 2023-2025. They would also stress readiness improvement and would be hampered in supporting modernization. The F-35 remains a priority, and they hope to accelerate the B-21 bomber development, Global Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), and the KC-46 tanker.

AFA had been working diligently on Capitol Hill, in the Press, with other associations, and the Military Coalition to stress to Congress that a year-long Continuing Resolution (CR) would have been devastating to the US Air Force.  We held meetings, wrote several op-eds, and collaborated with our chapters to convince Congress to pass the FY17 defense budget now.
Under a CR, the Air Force would have been compelled to stop growing the force that is needed to conduct its missions. Obsolete programs would continue to be funded, and the Air Force would be unable to start needed new programs. For the past eight years, this country, a nation at war, has been funded in the costliest way for taxpayers and the riskiest way for our warfighters. Air Force Readiness is at dangerous levels: the service is less than 50 percent ‘ready’ for its missions. They are short 1,555 pilots, 950 fighter pilots, 3400 maintainers and needed cyber specialists.
Absent full appropriations for the next five months of this fiscal year, the world’s most predominant Air Force would have traded off readiness to find $2.8 billion in unbudgeted funds. It would resemble sequestration again. The Air Force would have ground non-deployed forces this summer for 2-3 months. They would have stopped purchasing needed munitions that are already at critically low levels. Our defense communities would feel the pain. Civilian hiring would stop.  Air Force Chief of Staff General Goldfein testified, “You will have the equivalent of a no-fly zone over your base.” Depot hiring would halt, and aircraft maintenance would be curtailed. Thousands of families would not be able to change assignments this summer and be forced to PCS during the new school year. The Air Force would stop fixing what is broken on bases. Training exercises would cease. Modernization programs would be delayed. 60 program starts would wait, costs would increase, and warfighters would do without. All this degrades readiness, and all this can be prevented.
Another CR would have been wasteful for the taxpayers, dangerous to our Airmen, and a devastating shot to the heart of the brave men and women who defend this great nation and the civilians and families that support them.

In March, the administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) sent a request to Congress seeking an additional $30 billion in defense spending to address immediate readiness needs. Congress largely ignored the request as it would violate 2011 Budget Control Act spending caps. In the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017, additional funding was included in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) section for readiness and warfighting needs, however, the $14.8 billion fell far short of the $30 billion request.

In March, President Trump released his FY 2018 budget blueprint to Congress; the full budget is expected to be released in mid-May with congressional oversight hearings running through the summer. Many analysts believe this budget will see far more scrutiny as it requests several items that will not be popular with some such as border wall funding, planned parenthood, sanctuary cities, etc. Tax cuts and the affordable care act might also affect budget negotiations. Competing factions will affect outcomes: Defense Hawks will strive to dramatically increase defense funding, Democrats will seek an equal amount of non-defense discretionary spending, and Fiscal Hawks will try to rein in spending.
The president’s budget request is expected to include an additional $54 billion in defense spending bringing the total to $603 billon, a 3.2% increase over President Obama’s last defense budget request. House and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairmen have been calling for at least a $640 billion defense budget to fix readiness and procurement.

May 5:            Continuing Resolution Funding Expires
May 20:          AFA’s Wounded Airmen Cycling Challenge
Jun 5:             AFA Capitol Hill Breakfast w/ General Holmes, ACC Commander
May 22:          Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Released
Jun 26:           House Armed Services Committee Mark-Up of FY 2018 NDAA
Jul 26:            AFA Capitol Hill Breakfast w/ General Goldfein, Chief of Staff
Sep 18-20:     AFA’s Air, Space, & Cyber Conference, Washington, DC
Sep 30:          Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) Ends
Oct 1:             Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) Begins

If you have questions, please contact:

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


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