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AUSN Blogs

09
By Edgar Rodriguez Director of Legislative and Government Relations Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or “drones,” have been one of the pri...

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
22
AUSN Analyzes Recently Released Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) 2015-2019 Navigation Plan
On 20 August 2014, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral (ADM) Jonathan Greenert, USN, released his Navigation Plan for the 2015 – 2019 fiscal years to describe how resources will be efficiently and effectively used. The CNO uses his three tenets; “Warfighting First, Operate Forward and Be Ready,” to ensure that the standard is achieved with a successful budget: warfighting first, operate forward, and be ready. These tenets, according to ADM Greenert, will guide fiscal policy within the Navy. In the plan, he explains how these three tenets are also supported by investments in the Department of Defense missions (specifics of these investments can be found in the CNO’s “Sailing Directions”.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
19
AUSN Analyzes Naval Aviation Vision Strategy Report for 2014 thru 2025
The United States Navy recently published its Naval Aviation Vision Strategy for the years 2014 thru 2025. The purpose of this regular document is that the Navy and Marine Corps can provide a periodic update to nearly every type and model of aircraft used in a ten year window, or by the year 2025.  One of the goals listed within the report is to have a Carrier Strike Group that could deploy with only 5 models of aircraft in order to cut life cycle costs and allow air wings to fly 25% more sorties than the USS Nimitz class carriers, thus cutting the cost of the budget. AUSN takes a look at this report in details as we continue our mission to advocate for the Navy’s equipment needs.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
04
AUSN Receives Update on Benefits and Programs offered by the Defense Health Agency (DHA)
In this membership blog, AUSN's Director of Military and Veteran Benefits, Mr. Michael Little, reports on a brief received by AUSN, along with other Military and Veteran Service Organization's (MSO/VSO) regarding updates from the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Dr. Jonathan Woodson, and the Director of the Defense Health Agency (DHA), Lt. Gen. Douglas Robb, USAF.  During the brief, new programs and initiatives were discussed and introduced to attendees that would be beneficial to AUSN members as well a the Veteran community.

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Posted in: Membership Blog
31
AUSN Reviews New Government Accountability Office (GAO) Report on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

On 30 July 2014, AUSN received a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, titled “Additional Testing and Improved Weight Management Needed Prior to Further investment,” which raises several red flags, as the development of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) moves from the construction phase, and into testing. The LCS is a reconfigurable naval vessel that can be focused on surface warfare, mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare. The public report released was a modified version of the finalized confidential version, which was deemed too sensitive for public distribution.   Overall, the GAO report states that the LCS has gained weight during construction, and has been slowed down during testing.  AUSN takes a look at the GAO report which offers a critical view of the issues associated with the program.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
31
AUSN Takes a Look, and Concerned With, Democratic Majority Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Report on GI Bill
AUSN recently received a report from the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee (HELP), chaired by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), titled, “Is the New G.I. Bill Working?: For-Profit Colleges Increasing Veteran Enrollment and Federal Funds.”  The findings of the Democratic report show that in the past several years, enrollment of Veterans in for-profit colleges has greatly increased, from 23% to 30%, even though the overall student enrollment in such institutions has declined. Furthermore, there has been a very apparent decline in Veteran enrollment in public institutions, as it has dropped from 62% in 2009 to 50% in 2013.  Also, according to this report, some of these for-profit institutions have also become financially dependent upon Post-9/11 GI Bill funds while engaging in deceptive and mis-representative promotions and recruitment specifically targeting Veterans. However, AUSN remains concerned that good for-profit institutions that help Veterans are being unfairly targeted with those for-profits that have been known to practice deceptive practices, especially considering the report is solely from the Senate-HELP Democratic Majority Staff and does not include the viewpoints on the subject from the Republican Minority Staff.  This raises questions on how valid the report is with only one viewpoint of the Committee.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
29
AUSN Analyzes Miller-Sanders Comprehensive Veterans Legislation Conference Agreement

Last weekend, AUSN was pleased to hear that the Chairmen of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee (HVAC) and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee (SVAC), Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL-01) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) respectively, and the conferees to the Joint HVAC/SVAC Conference Committee, announced an agreement in regards to a comprehensive Veterans bill.  The new $17 billion conference agreement legislation is designed to improve access to medical care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics. The measure would provide $10 billion for subsidizing care outside the VA system for Veterans facing long waits for treatment or living at least 40 miles from a VA hospital or clinic. Another $5 billion would permit the VA to hire additional staff and upgrade facilities to meet health care demands. Of the total amount of money, $5 billion is offset by savings elsewhere within the VA.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
24
AUSN Analyzes Report on Open Burn Pits and Implications
Last week, AUSN received an audit report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) detailing the impact that open-burn pits have had upon servicemembers deployed, particularly to the Shindand Air Base in Herat province in western Afghanistan, where some 4,000 U.S. and Afghan military personnel and contractors are housed. Burning of trash in such pits is contrary to Central Command regulations, the audit said.  The Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), enacted nearly five years ago, outlawed the practice unless no alternatives are available. The law mandated that, if certain kinds of trash, such as plastics and batteries, are burned, Congress must be notified. But neither U.S. Central Command nor U.S. Forces Afghanistan told lawmakers about the open burning, according to the audit.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
15
AUSN Takes a Look at Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) Markup of Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) Defense Appropriations Bill
On 15 July 2014 the Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Defense (SAC-D) held a markup hearing to approve its version of the Defense Appropriations Bill for Fiscal 2015 (FY15). The bill itself appropriates $549.3 billion for base and Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funding, which is $22.7 billion less than FY14, and just over $1 billion more from the President’s Budget (PB) request for FY15. In addition, $59.7 billion is for OCO with $489.6 billion for Defense base budget appropriations.  The OCO funding number, which recently came in by the Administration, is significantly less than the $85.2 billion appropriated in Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14). SAC-D Chairman, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), began the hearing with his opening remarks in which he spoke of the impact that the bill will have on not only our national security, but also on the military personnel who serve our country: “Today’s bill makes targeted investments in support of the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) most valuable resource - the three million Active Duty, Reserve Component and civilian employees. It sets clear priorities, removes $11.7 billion in unnecessary funding and reinvests those funds where they are needed the most. It also sets out to maintain the U.S. defense industrial base for the long term.” The FY15 Defense Appropriations bill strives to provide funding in support of our troops, Veterans and their families, as well as to invest in innovation to maintain our technological edge, restore readiness and support high priority programs, and institute reforms.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
14
AUSN Looks at New Navy Shipbuilding Plan Sent to Congress

Last week, the Navy submitted its annual long-ranged plan for construction of naval vessels for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) to Congress. The document, prepared by the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Integration of Capabilities and Resources) (N8), expresses the Navy’s plans for the construction of combatant and support vessels over the next 30 years. It includes the estimated total costs of construction for each vessel used to determine estimated levels of annual funding in the shipbuilding plan.  AUSN took a brief look at some of the highlighted programs to achieve, what the document states, is a goal of a 306 ship fleet.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
08
AUSN Looks at White House Report on the Issues Impacting Access to Timely Care at VA Medical Facilities

Last week, AUSN received a report from the Administration that took a look at the impact that our Veterans are having in accessing timely care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities throughout the country.  The continued investigation into the VA’s recent failures was detailed by the report, released by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rob Nabors. The report provides background, observations, and solutions on the key failures of the VA, including the 14 day scheduling standard, the structure of the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), personnel and oversight issues, a lack of updated scheduling technology and resources, and an inability to articulate budgetary needs.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
03
AUSN Reviews Interim Report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC)
On 3 July 2014, at 1300, the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) released their Interim Report detailing their review of the current compensation and benefits programs for members of the Armed Forces. This interim report provides the foundation for the Commission’s recommendations for modernization of the military compensation and benefits system, which is due to the President and Congress on 1 February 2015.  AUSN, through our Vice-Chairman of the Board, MCPON Jim Herdt, USN (Ret), has testified and spoken before the Commission numerous times and welcomed their staff to our headquarters.  We will be following developments as this Interim Report leads to the Commission’s final report and continue to be a part of ongoing conversation’s with the Commissioners.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
30
AUSN Takes a Look at President’s Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Request for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15)

On Thursday, 26 June 2014, the White House submitted its long-awaited Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) request to Congress, to be considered for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15).  The House-passed its FY15 Defense Appropriations Bill, H.R. 4870, earlier this month which contains $570.4 billion in funding for the Pentagon and defense-related programs, which includes a $491 billion appropriation for "base" funding and an original placeholder amount of $79.4 billion for OCO. The Administration, with its recent OCO request, has since recommended that the $79.4 billion be amended and reduced to $58.6 billion.  With most of the Defense measures, both Appropriations and Authorization, bills already passing the House, the remaining action must be taken in the Senate.  AUSN will be part of this conversation as it develops in the following months.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
30
AUSN's Position On The Secretary of VA Nomination

AUSN's Legislation and Veterans Services Assistant, Mr. Michael Little, explains the Association's current standing on the President's Nomination of Mr. Robert McDonald to become the next Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
27
AUSN Veteran's Binnacle List for 23-27 June

AUSN's Legislative and Veteran Services Assistant, Mr. Michael Little, gives his weekly report of the Veteran's "Binnacle List".  Breaking down his "Log Book" for the week, giving brief descriptions of legislation that is coming across the channels, and trying to clear up any "messdeck intelligence" before it gets out of hand.  

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
22
AUSN Celebrates 70 Years of the GI Bill!
AUSN's new Legislative and Veteran Services Assistant, Mr. Michael Little, writes about his family member, Mr. John Stelle, who is considered the founding father of the original 1944 GI Bill of Rights.  In addition, Mr. Little attended many ceremonies recognizing the historic significance of this year's 70 Year Anniversary on behalf of AUSN.

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Posted in: Membership Blog
19
AUSN attends CSIS Brief on Sustaining America's Enduring Role in the Asia-Pacific Region
AUSN attended the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) bipartisan discussion between Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA-04), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, and Representative Colleen Hanabusa (D-HI-01).  The brief, titled, Sustaining America’s Enduring Role in the Asia-Pacific Region: A Congressional Perspective, focused on the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region and the Congressional work being done on this effort.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
19
AUSN Monitors House Floor Debate, and Amendment Consideration, of H.R. 4870, the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) Defense Appropriations Bill

AUSN began monitoring the House debate, starting 18 June 2014, of the $570.4 billion Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) Defense Appropriations spending bill (H.R. 4870) under a modified open rule, which permits any member to offer amendments but places a time limit of 10 minutes for debate. Overall, the bill is $200 million more than requested by the president. The legislation would provide $789 million to refuel the USS George Washington (CVN-73) aircraft carrier. It also includes $5.8 billion for 38 F-35 aircraft, and $975 million for 12 EA-18G Growlers aircraft.  The measure includes a 1.8 percent wage increase for service members, which exceeds the president’s request of 1 percent, but matches the pay raise in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) for FY15.  The bill also includes only a placeholder of $79.4 billion for overseas operations in Afghanistan because the White House has not yet submitted its detailed war request. This delay has drawn criticisms from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who urged the Obama administration to send the proposal to Capitol Hill.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
12
AUSN Looks at House and Senate NDAA Provisions for Special Account on new Ohio Class Ballistic Submarine (SSBN-X) Program

AUSN is keeping an eye on a possible new endeavor that is taking shape with the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  It appears Congress is creating a rare special account in order to fund a class of Navy capital ships. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) passed NDAA, H.R. 4435, and Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) passed NDAA, S. 2410, versions contains legislative provisions which suggest that Congress will be generating an isolated fund for the Ohio Class Ballistic Submarine (SSBN-X) replacement program. This program has been a top priority for the Navy in recent years, but continues to be threatened due to the fiscal realities under sequestration.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
11
AUSN Reviews House Appropriations Committee (HAC) Markup of the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) Defense Appropriations Bill

On 10 June 2014, the House Appropriations Committee (HAC) approved by voice vote its Defense Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15). Overall the bill appropriates $491 billion in discretionary funding, which includes funds for research for psychological health, Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI), and cancer research, as well as sexual health response programs, increased funding for military readiness, a 1.8% pay raise for our servicemembers (counter to the President’s request for 1% but equal to the Employment Cost Index), as well as critical national security needs. The bill came in $200 million over the President’s Budget (PB) request for FY15, and appropriates $4.1 billion more than the bill in FY14. HAC Members, for example, decided to provide $789 million in order to continue refueling the USS George Washington (CVN-73) The Committee was unpleased by the Navy’s decision to discontinue support for a warship that had yet to see 50% of its lifetime. Due to the ships construction cost of $3 billion, the Committee saw it as a waste of those resources to end fueling for the vessel.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
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