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AUSN Blogs

09

We have had a great month and we hope you are beginning to see some signs of spring.

Membership

The Every Member—Get a Member drive is underway and showing gratifying results.  We are getting many more paying members this year as opposed to complimentary members. We thank those of you who have been out recruiting and to our partner Excelsior College who is doing some good work with their students.

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04
AUSN Looks at Additional ‘Wish List’ Sent to the Hill by Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and other Service Chiefs for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) Budget
In a 31 March 2014 letter containing the unfunded priorities "Wish List," Admiral (ADM) Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), explained that the items were important to meeting combatant commander requirements and also included some items that were degraded due to sequestration in Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) and reduced funding in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14). ADM Greenert stressed that the items in his wish list, while important, were not to take money away from the programs funded in the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) Budget Request.  AUSN takes a look and will implement in its advocacy efforts many of the items and equipment request noted in the 'Wish List' including a request for funding for an additional 22 E/A-18G “Growlers.”

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
04
AUSN Analyzes House Budget Plan and Impact on Defense, Veterans and Military Personnel Spending
AUSN recently received and analyzed the House Budget Plan, which outlines the blueprint for a 10-year budget plan for the Federal Government.  The plan does not include any additional funding for the Department of Defense (DOD) in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15), keeping spending caps established under the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2013 in place. However, over the next nine years, the blueprint calls for close to $500 billion to be shifted from domestic agencies to the Pentagon.  Additionally, the plan, called, "The Path to Prosperity” proposal includes a three percent increase in discretionary spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), up to $131 billion while FY15 mandatory spending would total $175 billion.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
02
AUSN Analyzes Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report Assessing Weapons Programs
AUSN received, at the end of March 2014, the annual Government Accountability Office (GAO) which is published to analyze the Department of Defense’s (DOD) spending on weapons programs and suggest ways to improve procurement and cut costs.  The GAO reported that while Congress and DOD had been taking meaningful measures to reduce spending and create cost efficiencies in weapons acquisition, a few programs were still falling short in terms of cost and schedule estimates.  The report suggested that in spite of some near-term improvement, long-term solutions needed to be applied, such as encouraging more knowledge based approaches to procurement and reducing concurrent testing and production.  

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
01
AUSN Takes a Look at National Guard and Reserve Equipment Report (NGRER) for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15)
AUSN recently received the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Report (NGRER) for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs (OSD-RA).  Within the report are priority equipment needs of the United States Navy Reserve (USNR).  Of these items are modernization of equipment used for missions including: patrol and reconnaissance, i.e. replacing legacy platform P-3C 'Orion' with P-8A "Poseidon" aircraft, USNR Coastal Riverine Force (CRF), i.e. utilizing new MARK VI Patrol Boats, and acquisition of C-40A "Clipper" aircraft.  AUSN is actively engaged with Congressional staff on these important priorities for the Navy Reserve.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
25
AUSN Analyzes Government Accountability Report (GAO) on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Program
AUSN looks at a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, released 24 March 2014, that had some surprising findings regarding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), particularly regarding some software issues.  Overall, it found that delivery of F-35 aircraft could be delayed up to 13 months, "due largely to delays in software delivery, limited capability in the software when delivered, and the need to fix problems and retest multiple software versions." Further, it is unclear what capabilities might be affected, which means the military and Congress may not be able to make fully informed decisions about allocations of resources to the program. Funding will need to increase steeply over the next five years, an average of about $12.6 billion annually, through 2037, or just slightly less than the annual Navy shipbuilding budget.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
25
AUSN Looks at New Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Alternative Task Force
AUSN takes a look at a new task force, called the Small Surface Combatant Task Force (SSCTF), which has been ordered to re-evaluate the Navy’s small surface combatant program, replacing the now defunct Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Council that was formed in 2012. Directed on 24 February 2014 by the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF), Chuck Hagel, the main objective of the task force is to examine and review the LCS and compare it with other designs so as to ensure the Navy has, “a capable and lethal small surface combatant generally consistent with the capabilities of a frigate (FFG).” According to a 13 March 2014 directive from Admiral (ADM) Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), and the Sean Stackley, the Chief of Naval Acquisition (CAN), the new SSCTF is to be led by Mr. John Burrow, the Executive Director of the United States Marine Corps (USMC) Systems Command.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
11

Greetings Shipmates!

As the winter (hopefully) is coming to a close and spring starts to show, many of us will be shaking off our hibernation by going out to neighborhood or community centered events. The spring-season lets us get back out into the open air, with public gatherings such as B-B-Q’s, block-parties and more, and reconnect with people we may have not seen since Halloween, or even longer. With AUSN’s “Every Member – Get a Member” membership campaign kicking off this year, all of us here at Headquarters sure hope you will keep us in mind, as you prepare to meet up with friends and fellow Shipmates.   

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Posted in: Membership Blog
11
AUSN Analyzes OMB Sequestration Report to Congress
AUSN recently received a report from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) looking at how the Federal government is adhering to sequestration, under the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, as well as how the Administration's Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) President's Budget (PB) respects the caps set forth by the BCA as well as the two-year budget agreement of the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2013.  The FY15 PB, for instance, proposes a detailed, account level request that adheres to the 2015 defense and non-defense levels set in the BBA agreement and includes a separate, fully paid for Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.  This initiative would provide an additional $28 billion each for defense and non-defense categories and these additional discretionary resources would help spur economic progress, promote opportunity and strengthen national security by providing critical investments infrastructure, education and innovation.


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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
10
AUSN Looks at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Strategic Plan for 2014 thru 2020
AUSN recently received the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) thru Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) Strategic Outlook report, summarizing what VA has currently done and what it hopes to continue to do.  The successes are described in great detail, even looking at a few notable developments for the upcoming year in regards to combating Veteran homelessness and ending the significant backlog on VA claims.  However, the more 'strategic' outlook appears to be lacking in that the details aren't clearly laid out as far as how the VA hopes to continue to build on its successes and what it needs, even from Congress, in order to achieve future gains in helping our nation's Veterans.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
07
AUSN Looks at DOD Proposal in Report on Drastic Changes to Military Retirement System

AUSN recently received a copy of the Department of Defense (DOD) 2014 report titled, “Concepts for Modernizing Military Retirement,” which was released 6 March 2014.  This detailed proposal cites fundamental and far-reaching changes to the current pension system.  The changes would preserve the current system’s defining feature of a 20-year vesting fixed-income pension. But it would ultimately provide smaller monthly checks.  In order to compensate for that, the new proposal would offer three new cash payments to be provided long before old age; a 401(k)-style defined contribution benefit awarded to all troops who serve at least six years; a cash retention bonus at around 12 years of service; and a potentially large lump-sum ‘transition pay’ provided upon retirement to those who serve 20 years or more.  In the broad view, the new plan would lower the total economic value of the military retirement package, but not by much.  Specific details vary, but several options show a roughly 10 percent reduction in cumulative lifetime payments.  Coupled with long-term reduction with the new cash payments is a strategic decision by Pentagon personnel experts, based on the notion that troops would prefer a plan that gives them more money up front to reduce the impact of smaller pension payments later in life.  This report comes as the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) are currently meeting to make final recommendations in 2015.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
07

Greetings from our Frozen Capital! After a very busy start to the New Year, I am excited to finally have the chance to launch my View from the Bridge blog and to relate some of the positive things that have transpired.

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06
AUSN Does Brief Analysis of the President’s Budget (PB) Request for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15)
On 4 March 2014, the Administration sent to Congress the President's Budget (PB) request for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15).  The PB requests a total of $495.6 billion for the DOD budget, about $31 billion less than FY14 requested levels, but is consistent with the revised spending cap set by Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2013. Of particular concern are proposals within DOD's budget to reduce military pay raises, lowering Commissary subsidies, reducing the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and merging three different TRICARE plans; Prime, Standard and Extra, into one Consolidated TRICARE Health plan while instituting TRICARE for Life (TFL) enrollment fees.  The Navy also will see funding cuts for its weapons programs, particularly the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) and P-8A Poseidon's.  AUSN takes a quick look at some of the major highlights which will precede a more thorough report in the coming weeks.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
05
AUSN Analyzes Recently Released Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) of 2014
On 4 March 2014, Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) Chuck Hagel delivered the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) to Congress. The QDR details the strategic direction of the United States Armed Forces, and specifies resource priorities required to meet strategic objectives. The updated defense policy can be categorized into three main pillars of strategy.  The first pillar is to protect the homeland by disrupting the potential for future attacks and mitigating the effects of natural disasters. The second pillar is that the United States will engage in efforts to develop global security and preserve regional stability by deterring potential adversaries and engaging in cooperative efforts to pursue common security objectives. The third pillar is that the United States will retain and enhance its ability to project power and win decisively through the deterrence of aggression, the destruction of terrorist networks, and the distribution of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Key points in the QDR outline the Navy's role which, through an aggressive effort to reduce acquisition costs and temporary ship lay-ups, the Navy will modernize its fleets of surface ships, aircraft, and submarines to meet 21st Century threats.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
04
AUSN Looks at Recently Released Report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on Long Term "Doc-Fix" Legislation

On 27 February 2014, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its report to Congress on the cost estimates associated with "Doc-Fix" legislation being proposed in both the House and the Senate.   Proposed legislation would replace the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, which determines the annual updates to payment rates for physicians’ services in Medicare, with new systems for establishing that payment rate.  The proposed bills, S. 2000 and H.R. 4015, represent a policy agreement among three committees (Senate Finance, House Energy and Commerce, and House Ways and Means) and would cost $138.4 billion for 2014 through 2024. This estimate comes as the current “Doc-Fix” patch is set to expire on 1 April 2014 and cause a 24 percent cut in physician Medicare payment rates.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
25
AUSN Takes a Look at ‘Hints’ of What May Be in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) President’s Budget (PB) Rollout Next Week
Yesterday, 24 February 2014, the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF), Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), General Martin Dempsey, USA, held a press conference on forthcoming Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) President's Budget (PB) request, confirming and denying certain rumors that have been spun the past few months.  If what they stated is what to be expected in the PB rollout, starting 4 March 2014, then this FY15 Budget request will be one of the most comprehensive cuts to military personnel and equipment in modern history.  AUSN takes a look at this cut suggestions within the PB which include cutting commissary benefits, increasing TRICARE fees, cutting military pay, cutting Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) benefits, dramatically cutting Marine Corps end strength numbers, cutting our Navy cruiser (CG) fleet and making drastic reductions to the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS).

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
13
AUSN Pleased to See “COLA-Fix” Passage, But Major Concerns Still Loom
AUSN, while pleased to see a bi-partisan agreement on the Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) fix for current and former servicemembers that passed this week, repealing the cut in the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2013, there are many concerns with the final bill, in the form of S. 25.  To offset the cost of the repeal, which totals over $6 billion, the bill would extend sequestration under the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 for mandatory programs, including Medicare and certain Department of Defense (DOD) accounts, for one year, moving it from a Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) end date to a Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) end date.  In addition, the repeal of the pension adjustment from the 2013 BBA would apply only to members or former members of the Armed Forces who joined the military BEFORE 1 January 2014, i.e. ‘grandfathering’ those who joined prior to 2014 from changes proposed in the BBA. Any individual joining the Armed Forces AFTER 1 January 2014 would be subject to the annual COLA reduction cut mandated in the BBA once they retire before the age of 62.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
12

Greetings Shipmates! I hope the start of your year has gone as well as AUSN’s has.

Over the last month and a half, we have held our beginning-of-the year Board of Directors meeting, as well as our much anticipated Capitol Hill Reception; where we awarded Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL-01) and Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) for their outstanding legislative work on behalf of the Navy and its Veterans. We even received a “shout-out” from Buzzfeed Politics, a well-read political website (refer to #7 of the list, on the website provided below), for the latter.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/bennyjohnson/17-secret-things-you-totally-missed-at-the-state-of-the-unio

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Posted in: Membership Blog
11
AUSN Looks at CBO Reports on Debt Ceiling and COLA Fix Proposals Taking Shape this Week
Debate is heating up this week as Congress tries earnestly to fix a provision in the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2013 that passed into law last December that would cut Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) to less than 1 percent for military retirees under the age of 62.  The House recently passed its proposal which would offset the cost for repealing the provision by extending sequestration cuts by one more year whereas the Senate is debating a bill which, at this moment, does not contain any offset language.  With disagreement on how to find an offset to the current COLA reduction and a looming debt ceiling limit that will be breached in late February, time is running out for lawmakers to find consensus.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) weighed in earlier this week to look at all of the current proposals from a fiscally 'doable' standpoint.  AUSN is keeping an eye on developments in both the House and Senate, hoping for a bi-partisan solution to correct the wrongs of the 2013 BBA.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
11
AUSN Monitoring Navy Equipment and Industry Concern Developments on Eve of Release of the President’s Budget (PB)
Last week, a group of four defense think tanks met in the Dirksen Senate Office Building to present their perspectives on what the Department of Defense (DOD) should do in regards to future equipment procurement.  In regards to the Navy, these think tanks all had consensus on cutting the amount of aircraft carriers (CVN's) in the fleet and almost unanimously, three of the four think tanks, to reduce Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) procurement.  Letters have been sent to the President and DOD, by lawmakers, followed by AUSN letters to the Hill, voicing concern for such proposals which may find their way into the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) President's Budget (PB) request, currently expected to be released the first week of March.  In an effort to see which proposals are being discussed seriously, AUSN takes a closer look at recommendations by DOD and these think tanks in preparation for the FY15 PB release.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
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