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AUSN Blogs

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
02
View from the Bridge—June 2014

Dear Members:

We are happy to finally have warm weather and a great deal going on at headquarters. We hope your summer has started well.

Membership Operations

We are pleased to welcome Eric L. Harris, AUSN’s new Manager of Membership Operations. Eric is originally from Arkansas but came to the DC area for graduate school and his desire to help others, especially those who defend the USA, caused him to stay. For the past six years, Eric has worked with Vietnam Veterans from all five branches of military service and we are excited to have him working to further the mission of AUSN. Please contact Eric with any questions you may have about membership.

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29
AUSN Reviews Department of VA, OIG Interim Report on VHA Review of the Phoenix VA Health Care System
On 28 May 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released an interim report reviewing issues of patient wait times, scheduling practices, and alleged patient deaths at the VA Health Care System (VAHCS) in Phoenix, AZ.  The OIG reports that, to date, they have substantiated serious conditions at the Phoenix VAHCS. The review states that 1,400 Veterans were included on the Phoenix VAHCS Electronic Wait Lists (EWLs). However, another 1,700 Veterans who were waiting for a primary care appointment were not placed on the EWL.  Until these 1,700 Veterans are placed on the EWL, their reported wait time had not started. OIG concludes that if this is not corrected, many Veterans remain at risk for being forgotten or lost in the complicated scheduling process.  The investigation is still ongoing and a detailed report is forthcoming.  AUSN will continue to monitor and work with Veteran Service Organization (VSO) partners on appropriate courses of action as more information develops and the OIG releases its final report.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
28
AUSN Takes a Brief Look at SASC markup of NDAA for FY15

On 23 May 2014, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the SASC Ranking Member, announced details of the Committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15). The Committee on Thursday, 22 May 2014, voted 25-1 to report the bill for Senate floor consideration.  The bill, currently in the form of S. 2289 authorizes $514 billion funding for the Department of Defense and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.  SASC Chairman Levin stated that, “the bill approved by the Committee makes the hard choices necessary preserve our military readiness and uphold our obligations to our men and women in uniform and their families in a difficult fiscal environment.”  The SASC markup stayed within budget caps and fully funded military readiness without using Overseas Contingency Operation (OCO) funds.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
21
AUSN Briefly Reviews SAC, MILCON/VA Markup of the FY15 MILCON/VA Appropriations Bill

The Senate Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs (SAC-MILCON/VA) approved its Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) MILCON/VA Appropriation bill on 20 May 2014, which provides total funding of $165.4 billion for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies for FY15. (This figure includes $55.6 billion in previously appropriated advances for Veteran’s medical care.) The bill provides $6.6 billion for military construction and family housing, $3.25 billion below the Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) enacted level. The bill also provides $158.6 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for FY15.  The bill provides $71.9 billion in discretionary funding and $93.5 billion in mandatory funding for the VA. The bill also includes $58.7 billion in Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) advanced appropriations for Veterans medical services. The SAC Full Committee is expected to markup the bill on 22 May 2014.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
21
AUSN Briefly Reviews SASC Subcommittee Markups on the NDAA for FY15
Beginning on 20 May 2014, the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) began its Subcommittee markups of the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), currently in the form of S. 2289.  Though many of the Subcommittee markups were Closed, a few were Open and provided detailed insights as to the make up of the final SASC approved FY15 NDAA bill.  However, the SASC Full Committee markup, scheduled to begin the afternoon of 21 May 2014 and continue throughout 22 May 2014, is Closed and information won't be released until after the markup is complete.  Once the revised bill, S. 2289, is released following the SASC Full Committee markup, AUSN will provide a detailed analysis of the revised SASC approved FY15 NDAA.

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
21
AUSN Monitors Amendment Debate on the House Floor of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15)
On 20 May 2014, at 7:25pm, the process for House floor amendment consideration to H.R. 4435, the Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) began.  AUSN will monitor throughout the week the amendments as they are considered, highlighting ones of interest to the Navy, Veteran and military family community.  After the House passage of H.R. 4435, expected by Thursday, AUSN will perform a comprehensive analysis of the revised House passed bill text and post on our website.  As of now, the FY15 NDAA in current form authorizes $521 billion in national defense spending along with an additional $79.4 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

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Posted in: Capitol Hill Blog
21

Greetings Shipmates!

Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, was borne out of the single greatest tragedy to have taken place in the history of the United States of America, the American Civil War. It is meant to remember and honor our fallen, to date nearly two million American men and women. It also helps bring Veterans’ issues back into the forefront of newsworthy stories and gives the opportunity for a grateful Nation to show thanks.  

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Posted in: Membership Blog
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