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ReserveVoice: May, 2015

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (HR 1735)

Work was completed on the House Armed Services Committee defense bill and now it goes to the House floor for a vote by the all 435 Representatives.  Here are a few things included in the bill:
  • Duty Status Consolidation (Sec. 521-526):  Implements the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) recommendation to consolidate status from 30 to 6 types.
  • Involuntary Mobilization(Sec. 565):  Includes ROA legislative proposal to include two additional involuntary mobilization duty authorities so service members are exempt from five-year limit on reemployment rights.
  • Employment Program for Guard and Reserve (Sec. 567):  Provides for the state’s adjutants general to manage a pilot program to provide job placement assistance and employment services to the Guard and Reserve. 
  • Veteran Status (Sec. 592):  Allows for the title of “veteran” to Reserve Component service members who qualify for retired pay for nonregular service but did not meet the requirements for entitlement to any veteran benefits.
  • A-10 Funding:  The mark restores funding for the A-10 and the committee has left the door open for a floor amendment that would prohibit the retirement of the A-10 fleet.
  • Military Retirement System Modernization (Sec. 631-634):  Implements a blended retirement system consisting of a 401(k)-type program, continuity pay at 12 years of service and a 20-year retirement stipend.  It did not include the Reserve Components lump sum recommendation of the MCRMC.
  • Financial Literacy (Sec. 651):  Improves financial literacy of service members and increases the frequency and strengthen the financial literacy and preparedness training of members of the armed forces.

Servicemember and Veteran Mental Health Care Package:

ROA attended a meeting with Senator Donnelly (D-IN) for his follow-on “Care Package” to the Sexton bill concerning suicide prevention.  Senator Donnelly’s bill directly addresses the needs of the Reserve Components.  It will provide a registry of community providers service members who understand the medical care they need as a result of their military duty.  The Guard and Reserve return to the community when their military duty is done and the registry will help them choose the best medical provider.The part of the bill would affect the Reserve Components the most would require DoD and VA to:
  1. Develop a special designation for providers that demonstrate strong knowledge of military culture and of treatments focused on the needs of troops and veterans;
  2. Create a joint, searchable online registry of providers that earn this designation; and
  3. Update all DoD and VA online provider lists to indicate providers that have gained this voluntary designation.
At the meeting, ROA advised Senator Donnelly of other areas that could be considered for the Reserve Components:

TRICARE Reserve Choice: Require providers with TRICARE Reserve Select or our TRICARE Reserve Choice proposal to have the same requirement in the Community Provider Readiness Recognition Act part of the Care Legislation.
Guard and Reserve Medical Records:  Have DoD establish a central repository for Guard and Reserve medical records – RC service members have a hard time getting VA disability, since their medical records are at home stations, TDY locations, and civilian health care providers.  It will take several years before DoD finishes their electronic health record and gets it fully deployed.  In the meantime, RC service members are not qualifying for VA medical care as part of a disability.
Veteran Status:  Guard and Reserve complete the same type of duty that active does but because of the way the law is written they are not designated as entitled for veteran status.  ROA would like to see Title 38 reflect the Title 10 requirements as met by the Reserve Components.

ROA 2015 Legislative Agenda:
 

ROA at the White House

ROA attended the White House VSO quarterly meeting 5 May.   Jeff Phillips, executive director, discussed ROA’s support of the blended retirement proposal, with its 401(k)-type program, which would provide retirement savings for 83 percent of the enlisted force that does not stay in the service for a 20-year retirement.  Phillips advised of ROA’s development of original legislation that would eliminate many health care challenges, such as continuity of care, faced by RC service members and their families face when going on and off of military orders.  Addressing broad veterans and military concerns, he urged that the commissary adopt some of the market-driven efficiencies used by AAFES to increase its competiveness, services and revenues.  He urged that the administration allow veterans to shop the Exchange online; veterans currently cannot use the PX.  AAFES profits support Morale Welfare and Recreation programs; opening it to veterans would increase its ability to support MWR and support veterans themselves.  The White House had not heard this recommendation before and expressed interest.

Army Update

An Operational USAR Requires Proper Resourcing

Twenty years ago the decision was made to place the majority of the Army’s combat support and combat service support capabilities in the Army Reserve.   Thus, the USAR effectively became an operational force, whereas it had been a strategic reserve.   The USAR has most of the Army’s critical enablers such as medical, logistics, civil affairs, legal and chemical capabilities.  These new responsibilities also created the need for more resources – and they have not been as forthcoming as are needed. 

Army planning calls for the USAR to meet contingent and combat requirements with 27,000 soldiers a year.  These soldiers must be ready – but with tighter fiscal times at DoD, funding is insufficient to train, equip, and maintain the Army Reserve as an operational force.  A requirement-resource mismatch threatens the USAR’s ability to support the Army; the current method of taking from one unit’s readiness to support another’s is not sustainable.
Cuts to the Annual Training and Operational Tempo accounts have already limited individual, leader and collective training.  One USAR engineer company commander shared with us this week that he was told he could have training or schools, but not both.

This year alone the USAR will be unable to pay for 8,000 training and 15,000 education seats.  This was dramatically shown just last week here at the ROA headquarters when we hosted the Reserve Component National Security Course for their Capitol Hill Day.   Typically, the USAR would send about 40 senior officers and enlisted leaders to attend this two-week program.   This year they had zero attendees that would have had to travel – because of the cost/lack of resources.  

Equipping and modernization are also hurt:  the USAR represents 20 percent of the Army but it equipping budget is less than 3 percent.   A particular area where resources are needed is in dealing with bulk petroleum assets where the USAR provides 92 percent of all Army assets.  Without modern equipment in sufficient amounts in this area, the Army and any Joint Force being supported may run out of gas!

Full Time Manning is a further area critical to supporting the Force.  The USAR is running at about 76 percent of its authorized strength and this jeopardizes the ability of the USAR to perform foundational requirements in support of our Soldiers.

The Army Reserve has many talented individuals and fine units, but it can only meet its missions with proper resourcing.  For FY16, the resourcing amounts as set by the President and reflected in recent actions of the House Armed Services Committee and in the budget resolutions suggest that the USAR will receive funding barely sufficient to achieve its missions.   Your continued support with members of Congress to ensure proper resourcing for the USAR is more important than ever!
 

Navy Update

Vice Adm. Robin Braun testified before the Senate on the Navy Reserve fiscal year 2016 budget saying, “Although today’s Navy Reserve is 34% smaller than it was in 2000, the PB-16 requested Navy Reserve end strength of 57,400 is based on continuous efforts to optimize Reserve force structure and utilization.” 
 
ROA raised end strength concerns for all Reserve Components in January by adding this issue to the 2015 legislative agenda.  Recent cuts are a concern because the reductions are below FY2000 end strength levels, which was the last peacetime level before the horrific events on September 11, 2001.  Ten years later, former members who issued the original 9/11 Commission Report provided an update where they stated:
 
“The struggle against terrorism is far from over—rather, it has entered a new and dangerous phase.  Al Qaeda—affiliated groups are now active in more countries than before 9/11.  The world has become more dangerous over the past few years.” 
 

Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff nominated

ROA attended President Obama's May 5 Rose Garden nomination of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president also nominated USAF Gen. Paul J. Selva, commanding U.S. Transportation Command, to serve as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs.


 

Air Force Update

Base Realignment and Closure 2016? The House Armed Services Committee disallowed language April 30 that would have allowed another round of BRAC in the upcoming year, sparing the current array of Air Force bases from any changes.  The full House still must vote on the National Defense Authorization Act, which could have BRAC language in it; otherwise prospects for a BRAC in FY 16 look dim.

The Pentagon says it has approximately 25 percent excess capacity; in the era of sequestration, it is looking to lower that number and harvest the savings. DoD wants to use savings to recapitalize equipment, and restore combat capability and readiness to levels pre-sequestration.  To the AF, that means buying F-35s and replacing F-16s and A-10s. (Congress may have other ideas.)

For the Air Force Reserve a new round of BRAC provides both opportunity and risk. The AF is committed to recapitalizing its fighter fleet with the F-35. This includes the USAFR and Air National Guard fighter bases now flying F-16s and A-10s. The problem is the cost to outfit a base to host the F-35: it’s more than $250 million dollars per squadron, according to our sources. At that price there is no way that the current structure of the USAFR can survive. The AF cannot afford to have a ton of single-squadron F-35 bases, at over $250M each, spread all over the country.

The only way the Reserve Component can stay in the fighter business anywhere near its current level is to co-locate its fighter squadrons at Active Component bases. For example, instead of having one ANG F-35 FS at McEntire ANGB and three AC F-35 FSs right down the road at Shaw Air Force Base, near Sumter, S.C., the AF would co-locate all four at Shaw.  This saves millions (billions?) of dollars, both in initial base outfitting and squadron beddown, but also in long-term operations and maintenance expenses. In addition, tightly integrating RC forces into AC wings is good for the long-term viability, relevance and survivability of our Reserve Component.

But, co-locating at an AC base and moving away from “distributed” basing risks weakening an essential attribute of the RC, the tie between our military and our local communities.

The only other option, if the USAFR wants to “save” its current bases, is to transition those bases away from the fighter mission and into other, probably non-flying, support roles. Not having a strong RC presence in the AF’s fighter mission is not good for our national security: if the RC leaves the fighter business we lose the ability to retain experienced pilots and maintainers who choose to transition out of the AC right at the time they are the most valuable to our nation’s security. Years of experience and millions of dollars in training would be lost.

This is a conundrum the total AF and our communities must face head-on. The thought of closing or dramatically downsizing our local USAFR and ANG “home team” bases is unpalatable, but the alternatives may be far worse. This is the biggest problem any new round of BRAC would have to address.

If there isn’t any 2016 BRAC, the forces are aligned such that a BRAC is very likely in the next two years. Are we ready to face the tough choices our current budget situation has forced upon us?
 

ROA in The News

Tricare for Guard, Reserves being pushed
MilitaryTimes.com May 7, 2015
A proposal to shift 9 million Tricare beneficiaries to civilian health plans may have been rejected last month by Congress and President Obama, but some military advocates are pressing for a test-run of the plan, called Tricare Choice, for National Guard and Reserve members.

Reunions:

Outfit:                        USS Elokomin
Reunion Date:           September 24-27, 2015
Location:                    Cleveland OH
Contacts:
Robert O’Sullivan, Theeloman@verizon.net, 617-288-3755
Ron Finet, Finet@hotmail.com, 262-742-4269

Law Reviews:

Legal analysis on the issues impacting your life in and out of uniform


  • No. 15033 Relationship between USERRA and Tennessee Law for Corrections Officers
  • No. 15034 Terminating Leases and Contracts when Entering Active Duty
  • No. 15035 USERRA’s Five-Year Limit and the Initial Period of Obligated Service
  • No. 15036 Time off from Work for Short Periods of National Guard Training
Visit the Service Members Law Center

Events

2015 ROA National Convention

July 26-29, 2015
Location: Marriott Wardman Park

2660 Woodley Road, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Room Rate is $199 plus 14.5% applicable tax
Registration & hotel booking information coming soon!

Partners

Exchange Offers $2,400 in Electronics in Latest Sweepstakes


Army & Air Force Exchange Service Public Affairs
NEWS RELEASE: 15-029                May 6, 2015
Exchange Media Contact: CHRIS WARD – wardchr@aafes.com

DALLAS – Army & Air Force Exchange Service shoppers looking to enhance their TV viewing experience or add to their media room will have the opportunity to do so in the Exchange Mobile Center Spring Sweepstakes.
 
Through May 21, authorized shoppers can enter at www.shopmyexchange.com/sweepstakes. The first place winner will receive a Samsung 55” Smart TV, valued at $1,500. The runner-up will be awarded a $500 Exchange gift card with third place landing an iPad Air.

No purchase is necessary and entrants need not be present to win. The Exchange Mobile Center Spring Sweepstakes drawing will take place on or about May 28, 2015. 
 
The Army & Air Force Exchange Service goes where Soldiers, Airmen and their families go to improve the quality of their lives through goods and services provided. Exchange earnings provide dividends to support military morale, welfare and recreation programs. The Exchange is part of the Department of Defense and is directed by a Board of Directors, responsible to the Secretaries of the Army and Air Force through the Chiefs of Staff.To find out more about the Exchange history and mission or to view recent press releases please visit our Web site or follow us on Twitter.
 

Medical emergency assistance that goes beyond health and travel insurance

“Any time you have an accident or sudden illness while traveling away from home, ROA Emergency Assistance Plus provides a crucial safety net that helps pay for emergency medical transportation expenses your health or travel insurance generally will NOT cover. With more than 20 assistance benefits, EA+ steps in to provide Medical Evacuation, Medical Assistance, Travel Assistance, and Assistance for Companions. Coming this summer, you will be able to enroll in the newly enhanced EA+ Program, which will now provide members with a nurse escort, if deemed medically necessary, to help ensure you get proper medical care during your trip home. This new enhancement is a valuable benefit that can save members anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000. For more information, visit www.roaeaplus.com or call toll free 1-866-846-4752.”
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Reserve Voice is a monthly bulletin produced by the Reserve Officers Association of the United States, the nation’s leading advocate for Reserve Component policy and resourcing, and support of RC service members and their families.

Copyright © 2015 The Reserve Officers Association, All rights reserved.


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