National Legislative Committee 

Members

 

  • Phil Short, Committee Chairman, pshort@mcleague.org
  • Phil Zamora
  • Roger Ware
  • David Ossian
  • Dave Porter
  • Joe DeAngelo
  • Steve Tozzi
  • Russ Miller
  • Michael Clark
  • David Niemann
  • Bill Ebright

Message from the Legislative Committee Chairman

MARINES:  I want to say first, how honored I am to continue to serve our Marine Corps and Marine Corps League as the newly appointed  Chairman of the National Legislative Committee.  I extend my sincere gratitude to Commandant Webb, Chief Operating Officer Borka, and the National Board of Trustees for the opportunity to serve in this important role.  I also want to thank all of the members of my home detachment, Jack Maas Detachment 1379, Department of Virginia for according me the honor of serving as their Commandant for the past two terms.  Now moving forward, we have a big job to do together in the legislative arena protect our military pay, force levels, combat readiness, health care and retirement benefits, veterans affairs services, wounded warriors, and other quality of life areas (including Marine for Life and Transition Assistance Programs).  The remainder of 2108 likely will hold more surprises on Capitol Hill.  Midterm elections are coming in November, and the turnover in Congress could be significant. With partisanship on the rise, the political transition likely will pose interesting challenges.

THE MILITARY COALITION

Phil Short is a member of TMC Veterans Committee to engage on behalf of veterans.

FY18 NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE REPORT

Sir Commandant,
Earlier this summer, we established a Legislative Section on the Marine Corps League national headquarters website, www.mclnational.org. It is there for your information and use, so that you can follow the legislative process and see the issues and activity of your Marine Corps League in this important area. Just go to the “Marine Corps Library” and hit “Visit Now”. Go to “Legislation” and there you will be able to get information on the Legislative Committee, Messages and Reports from the Legislative Chairman, the Legislative action center (where you can see the MCL positions on legislative issues), and resource links. Feel free to use these resources to become more effective and active in participating in the legislative process at all levels. You are encouraged to engage your respective Senators and Representatives on key issues as is your right as a constituent.

The above chart is the normal process for the Defense Appropriations calendar and is useful in understanding the FY-2019 defense authorizations and appropriations bills. This process is designed to be carried out on parallel tracks to ensure the defense of our nation in a timely and efficient manner. H.R. 5515: John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019. The NDAA authorizes and prioritizes funding for the Department of Defense (DoD) and military activities and construction, and prescribes military personnel strengths for FY-2019. The bill authorizes $639/1 billion in base funding, $69 billion for overseas contingency operations, and $8.9 billion for mandatory defense spending, for a total of $717 billion. Key provisions are a full 2.6% pay raise, increased end-strengths for the services, and it does not reduce Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), restoring readiness, including readiness at sea, a strong naval construction program, key warfighting areas which include emerging threats. At this writing the NDAA is on track to the President for signature.
Here is the Bill summary as passed.
H.R. 5515 authorizes and prioritizes funding for the Department of Defense (DoD) and military activities and construction, and prescribes military personnel strengths for Fiscal Year 2019. The bill complies with the bipartisan budget agreement and authorizes $639.1 billion in base funding. Further, the bill authorizes an additional $69 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund to cover contingency operations. When factoring in $8.9 billion for mandatory defense spending, a total of $717 billion is authorized to be appropriated. Significant provisions of the legislation include:
Caring for Troops and Their Families – The NDAA increases the size of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Naval and Air Reserve, and Air Guard, fully funds a 2.6% pay raise for our troops, and extends a special pay and bonuses for servicemembers in high-demand fields.
The proposal ensures no military medical treatment facility will be closed or downgraded until all facilities are transitioned to the Defense Health Agency, and directs the Department of Defense to improve the process for reporting crimes to the FBI database, require DoD schools to improve tracking of juvenile misconduct, and refine sexual assault prevention and response to better assist victims.
To honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice for our men and women in uniform, the legislation authorizes a parade in the nation’s capital and a national celebration. The legislation prohibits the use of operational units or equipment in the Secretary of Defense believes such use will hamper readiness.
Restoring Readiness
Increased Training – The legislation increases funding for training for each Service. This will allow the Army to conduct 20 Combat Training Center rotations, including four rotations for the Army National Guard. The Army can also hold two Security Force Assistance Brigade culminating training events a year, and the Marine Corps is enabled to maximize the capacity of their full-spectrum collective training exercises.
Funding for flying hours has been increased by $24.2 million and funding for other training operations totals nearly $83 million above the increase already included in the President’s Budget Proposal.
The bill authorizes an additional $58.9 million to improve and modernize major combat range and test facility bases to include procurement of advanced threat radar systems.
Aviation Readiness – The legislation fully supports the President’s budget request of $2.8 billion for the procurement of spare airplane parts and authorizes an additional $100 million for spare parts for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The bill includes an increase of $65 million for the A-10 wing replacement program and directs the Air Force to consider using multi-year procurement contracts to generate better cost-savings.
Repairing Equipment – The legislation authorizes $21.8 billion for equipment maintenance and $3.7 billion for spare parts, which is an increase of $927.9 million over the FY18 Omnibus.

Readiness at Sea – To address recent fatal accidents at sea, the bill directs the Navy to provide clear chains of command for operations, for building readiness, and for shipyard maintenance. The Navy is required to establish separate career paths for Surface Warfare Officers to help produce crews that are properly trained and skilled. The time a Navy vessel is forward deployed overseas is limited to no more than 10 years, and the redevelopment of the Former Ship Repair Facility on Guam is prohibiting to ensure the Navy retains sufficient ship repair capability in the Western Pacific.

The bill supports the accelerated construction of the fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier, construction of two additional Littoral Combat ships, and supports two additional Virginia-class attack submarines in fiscal years 2022 and 2023.

Building a Modern Force – The legislation supports the President’s request to buy new equipment to replace that which is too broken or too expensive to repair, or lack modern capabilities useful against current and emerging threats. These include:

• Authorizing $360 million, an increase of $338.1 million, for Stryker A1 combat vehicles, the most survivable and advanced version of the Stryker combat vehicle.

• Supporting the President’s budget request to modernize Army Armored Brigade Combat Team vehicles, including 135 M1 Abrams tanks, 60 Bradley fighting vehicles, 197 Armored multi- purpose vehicles, 38 Improved Recovery Vehicles, and 3,390 Joint Light Tactical Vehicles.

• Authorizing multiyear procurement authorities for F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft, C130 Super Hercules aircraft, E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft, advanced missiles and amphibious ships to generate better cost savings for the taxpayer and provide needed capability to the Navy;

• Supporting the President’s budget request for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and authorizing 77 aircraft.

• Authorizing an additional $85 million for additional UH-60M Black Hawk utility helicopters for the Army National Guard. The most modern Black Hawk version.

• Supporting additional funding to maintain the maximum production rate of critical munitions, such as small diameter bombs, joint direct attack munitions, hellfire missiles, advanced precision kill weapon systems, long range anti-ship missiles, tomahawk missiles, advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles and torpedoes.

• Mandating recapitalization of the Navy’s 43-year old auxiliary fleet which would help to transport Army and Marine Corps forces in times of conflict.

• Encouraging the rapid development and fielding of interim maneuver short range air defense capabilities and indirect fire protection solutions to address current efficiencies in air and missile defense.

• Fully supporting funding for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine and the B-21 Raider bomber programs

• Adding $150 million to accelerate U.S. efforts to field a conventional prompt strike capability before FY22, in response to the critical advances Russia and China have made in developing their prompt strike hypersonic weapons. Airborne Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance – The bill continues the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Recapitalization program and authorizes an additional $623 million for the program. In addition, bill authorizes $60 million to improve the capability of the Army’s Gray Eagle unmanned air system platform and an additional $105 million for EQ-4 unmanned aircraft systems.

Rebuilding Infrastructure – There is an increase in funding for facilities sustainment by $470.9 million and authorizes $11.3 billion for military construction, including family housing. An additional $340.5 million is authorized for depot maintenance.

The Department of Defense did not request a Base Realignment and Closure effort this year and the legislation does not authorize one.

Expanding Agility – The bill calls for a historic clarification of the acquisition process by restructuring the United States Code to logically assemble all acquisition-related statutes in one place for the first time since 1947. The bill repeals dozens of obsolete provisions or law, prescriptive statutory requirements for positions and officers, and outdated reporting requirements.

Reforming Bureaucracy – The bill creates a new DOD Chief Management Officer charged with finding efficiencies and reducing by 25% the budget of certain Department-wide activities including logistics, human resources, services contracting, and real property management by 2021.

Readiness Accountability – The bill requires enhanced quarterly readiness reports that include measures of cyber and space readiness, and a new requirement for combatant commanders to report readiness to fight an integrated battle using air, ground, sea, space, and cyber forces.

Strategic Readiness

Nuclear Deterrence – The legislation makes critical investments to modernize America’s nuclear deterrent and align it with modern threats by pursuing a lower-yield ballistic missile warhead to strengthen deterrence, adding $325 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s nuclear weapons activities, and increasing funding to accelerate the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent and the Long-Range Standoff cruise missile.

Missile Defense – To further the utility and practicality of missile defense, the bill:

• Supports the President’s request for missile defense and adds $140 million to the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) for development of critical directed energy, and Space sensing projects, and the acceleration of hypersonic defense capabilities.

• Adds $175 million to accelerate integration of Patriot (for lower altitudes) and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (higher altitudes) missiles to meet the requirements of the Commander of U.S. Forces in Korea.

• Requires the director of MDA establish a boost phase intercept program using kinetic interceptors, initiate development of a missile defense tracking and discrimination Space sensor layer, and continue efforts to develop high power directed energy for missile defense applications.

• Requires the Director of MDA to continue development for the homeland defense radar in Hawaii, and that it be operationally capable by FY23.

• Provides increased funding to address cyber threats to our missile defense systems.

• Supports the President’s request of $500 million for co-development of missile defense systems with Israel, and co-production of Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow weapons systems.

Space Warfighting – The legislation directs the Department of Defense to develop a plan to establish a separate alternative acquisition process for space acquisitions and directs the Secretary of the Air Force to develop and implement a plan to increase the size and quality of the space cadre within the Air Force. The bill establishes a sub-unified command for space under the Strategic Command for carrying out joint space warfighting and directs the Secretary to develop a plan that identifies joint mission-essential tasks for space as a warfighting domain.

Facing New Threats

Emerging Technologies – To address advancements in Artificial Intelligence, space and counter-space capabilities, cyber, influence operations, and hypersonics the bill places emphasis on programs to advance capabilities in these areas. The legislation fully supports the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and Defense Innovation Unit Experimental to ensure technological superiority and provides additional funding to accelerate Artificial Intelligence, machine learning programs, and hypersonics programs.

Russia – The legislation takes the following steps to combat Russian aggression towards the United States and its allies:

• Withholding funding for Open Skies Treaty aircraft and sensors until Russia again complies with the Treaty and takes other steps, including agreeing to extradite Russian nationals who have been indicted for their actions against the United States during the 2016 election.)

• Funding research and development to counter weapons being deployed by Russia that are in contravention of the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty.

• Levying new sanctions on Russia’s arms industry in response to that country’s treaty violations.

• Prohibiting military-to-military cooperation with Russia.

• Prohibiting the U.S. government’s recognition of the absorption of Crimea into the Russian Federation.

• Funding the President’s request for Ukraine, including $250 million for lethal defensive items.

• Funding the President’s request for $6.3 billion for the European Deterrence Initiative (EDI) to further increase number of U.S. troops in Europe, reassure U.S. partners and allies, and deter Russian aggression.

• Moves the EDI-related request for wartime materiel, known as the “Army Prepositioned Stock Unit Set” to the base budget, to encourage future such requests be to be included in the base budget.

• Instructing the President to designate an official on the staff of the National Security Council to coordinate a whole-of-government response to malign foreign influence campaigns against the United States.

• Bolstering international partnerships and providing additional funding for cyber warfare and influence operations to counter Russian aggression, cyber, and information warfare threats.

China – As China makes investments and advances in its military capabilities, this legislation directs a whole-of-government strategy to confront the People’s Republic of China and bolsters DOD’s efforts to plan for and provide the necessary forces and military infrastructure and logistics capabilities in the region. The bill supports military exercises with Japan, Australia, and India and improves security cooperation to counter China’s rising influence in Asia, Southeast Asia, and other regions.

Support for improving Taiwan’s defense capabilities are included in the bill, including joint training, military sales, and the use of security cooperation authorities, and the legislation prohibits any U.S. government agency from using risky technology.

North Korea – As North Korea continues its dangerous and destabilizing development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, the bill ensures U.S. forces are ready for potential conflict on the Korean Peninsula. The legislation expresses support for regional missile defense exercises and supports the President’s budget request for the Army’s precision strike missile program.

Counterterrorism – The bill authorizes the Counter ISIS Train and Equip Fund to aid partners and allies fighting ISIS and extends the Syria Train and Equip Authority through 2019. The bill authorizes continued security cooperation with the Government of Iraq and supports the Afghan military in its fight against the Taliban. U.S. Special Operations Command programs and activities are authorized including ongoing efforts in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Eastern Europe.

Iran – The legislation establishes a Defense Partnership to Counter Iran, extends authority for the Counter ISIS fund and expresses Congress’ support for the Gulf Cooperation Council unity.

Guantanamo Bay (GTMO)

The bill carries annual restrictions against transferring detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the United States and building or modifying facilities in the United States for housing detainees. H.R. 5515 also prohibits DoD from using any funds to transfer the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba.

The FY-2019 Defense Appropriations  Act:  H.R. 6157. The NDAA is only half of the story.  Without a corresponding Defense Appropriations Act enacted into law, the NDAA is dead in the water.  Article I of the Constitution clearly states: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” The Appropriations Clause is the cornerstone to what is referred to as “the power of the purse.”  Every year, Congress passes the National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes the dollars to be used for our nation’s defense. However, Congress must now appropriate those funds accordingly.

This is the summary of H.R. 6157.

H.R. 6157 provides $674.6 billion in total discretionary budget authority for the Department of Defense for fiscal year (FY) 2019. The bill provides $606.5 billion for the Department of Defense base budget, which is an increase of $17.1 billion above FY18 levels, and $68.1 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account to support the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). This funding level is consistent with the National Defense Authorization Act as well as the recently enacted budget agreement.

The major provisions of the bill are as follows:

Title I—Military Personnel

The bill provides a total of $144 billion – $139.3 billion for base requirements and $4.7 billion for OCO/GWOT requirements – to provide for 1,338,100 active-duty troops and 817,700 Guard and Reserve troops. The bill fully funds the requested 16,400 end-strength increase and the 2.6 percent pay raise for the military.

Title II—Operation and Maintenance

The bill provides a total of $245.9 billion – $197.6 billion for base requirements and $48.3 billion for OCO/GWOT requirements – for operation and maintenance. This funding supports key readiness programs to prepare troops for combat and peacetime missions, including flight time and battle training, equipment and facility maintenance, and base operations. Within this amount, the bill includes $1 billion above the request to fill readiness shortfalls, $1.05 billion above the request to invest in facility sustainment, restoration, and modernization programs, and $20.6 billion total for depot maintenance. This funding will help rebuild our forces to ensure our troops have the training and equipment they need.

Title III—Procurement

The bill provides for a total of $145.7 billion – $133 billion for base requirements and $12.7 billion for OCO/GWOT requirements – for equipment and upgrades. Major initiatives and modifications include:

Title V—Revolving and Management Funds

The bill provides a total of $1.557 billion – $1.542 billion for base requirements and $15.2 million for OCO/GWOT requirements – for the Defense Revolving and Management Funds.

Title VI—Other Department of Defense Programs

The bill provides a total of $34.4 billion – $34 billion for base requirements and $352 million for OCO/GWOT requirements – for expenses not otherwise provided for, including the Defense Health Program. Specifically, the bill provides $364 million for cancer research, $125 million for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research, and $318 million for sexual assault prevention and response.

Title VII—Related Agencies

Title VII provides for $514 million for continuing the operation of the Central Intelligence Agency Retirement and Disability System Fund. The Title also provides for $512.4 million for the Intelligence Community Management Account.

Title VIII—General Provisions

Title VIII includes, among others, the following general provisions:

  • Section 8012 provides that civilian personnel of the Department of Defense may not be managed on the basis of end strength or be subject to end strength limitations.
  • Section 8024 provides that none of the funds appropriated or made available shall be used to procure carbon, alloy, or armor steel plate that were not melted and rolled in the U.S. or Canada.
  • Section 8065 provides $500 million for Israel Cooperative Programs. An additional $47.5 million is provided in title II for the Israeli anti-tunneling program.
  • Section 8094 prohibits funding to transfer or release any individual detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba into the United States, its territories, or possessions.
  • Section 8095 prohibits funding to modify any United States facility (other than the facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) to house any individual detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
  • Section 8096 prohibits funding to transfer any individual detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to a country of origin or other foreign country or entity unless the Secretary of Defense makes certain certifications.
  • Section 8105 prohibits the use of funds by the National Security Agency targeting U.S. persons under authorities granted in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
  • Section 8109 prohibits funding from being used to violate the War Powers Resolution Act.
  • Section 8115 prohibits the use of funds to close facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.

Title IX—Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO)

Title IX provides $68.1 billion for Global War on Terrorism operations or the OCO fund.

The world is an increasingly dangerous place and, having assessed those threats, our legislators must now provide the funding necessary to ensure we can defeat our adversaries and keep America safe. This defense bill includes funding that will allow the United States to rebuild military readiness.  Appropriately, the bill also funds the pay raise for service members.  Given the threats that the United States faces all around the world, the timely passing this funding bill sends a strong signal that the United States is dedicated to the safety and security of all Americans, the well-being of our economy, and the men and women who protect our nation.

Therefore it is critical that Congress complete this legislation in order to avoid another harmful continuing resolution (CR) situation as occurred last year.  When the Congress and the President fail to agree and pass one or more appropriations bills, then a CR may be passed which continues pre-existing appropriations at the same levels as the previous year for a set amount of time.  CRs not only waste money, but it undermines the budget process and introduces uncertainty into government agencies and programs.  The worst case scenario is an expiring CR which triggers a government shutdown.  In defense terms, CRs harm readiness, procurement, contract execution, and chip away at our service members’ ability to fight, win, and survive.

What can we do?  As citizens, we must engage with our elected representatives to urge them to pass timely appropriations legislation that can be enacted into law.  Write, email, or use social media to make your voice heard!  In FY-2019, there is the great opportunity to readiness back on track and providing service members with the resources they need. It is essential to provide reliable funding to support those who are putting their lives on the line to ensure our freedoms.  Your active participation will help to bring some more accountability to government.

S.2372:  Department of Veterans Affairs MISSION Act of 2018. Signed into law by President Trump on June 6, 2018, this historic veterans legislation consolidates and reforms VA’s community care programs; extends funding for the current Veterans Choice Program for one year; strengthens VA’s ability to recruit, hire and retain quality medical personnel; reviews, realigns and modernizes VA’s health care infrastructure; and extends eligibility to VA’s comprehensive caregiver assistance program to aging and disabled veterans injured before September 11, 2001.  This legislation is the result of years of defining what role the private sector should play in providing healthcare to America’s veterans and it furthers the goal of providing veterans with the care they earned and deserve. As a result, the VA health care system will improve while relying on the private sector when needed, in order to make sure veterans have the best care possible.  Your Marine Corps League strongly advocated passage of this veterans legislation in coordination with The Military Coalition of some 56 veterans organizations.

This is a summary of the bill as passed.

The House Amendment to S. 2372 strengthens and improves the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system for the benefit of the nation’s veterans. The bill consolidates VA’s multiple community care programs and authorities and provides further funding for the Choice Program. It would establish an Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) process to recommend actions to modernize and realign VA’s massive medical infrastructure and also expands VA’s Family Caregiver Program to pre-9/11 veterans and increases VA’s internal capacity to care for veteran patients in VA medical facilities through improvements to various recruitment and retention programs. Specifically, the bill:

Title I: Caring for our Veterans

Title I of the bill establishes a robust, consolidated VA community care program, referred to as the Veterans Community Care Program (the Program). Through the Program, veterans who are enrolled in the VA healthcare system or otherwise entitled to VA care would be granted access to care in the community. Access to community care would be required under the Program if VA does not offer the care or services the veteran requires, if VA does not operate a full-service medical facility in the state in which a given veteran resides, if a given veteran was eligible for care in the community under the Choice 40-mile rule and meets certain other criteria, or if a given veteran and the referring clinician agree that furnishing care in the community is in the best medical interest of the veteran after considering certain criteria. Access to community care would also be required if VA is not able to furnish care within designated access standards developed by VA after consultation with certain other entities and published in the Federal Register and on VA’s website. Care may be authorized in the community if a given medical service line within a VA facility fails to meet certain VA quality standards developed by VA or if veterans in need of an organ or bone marrow transplant have a medically compelling reason to travel outside the region of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Additionally, eligible veterans will be authorized two visits per calendar year at participating walk-in or Federally-qualified health care clinics. walk-in care.

To resolve disputes regarding eligibility for care in the community under the Program, title I of the bill would require VA to provide veterans with a clinical appeal process to review community care eligibility determinations but prohibit such appeals from being appealed to the Board of Veterans Appeals. Title 1 of the bill would also require VA to develop and administer a number of training programs to ensure that veterans, VA employees, and community providers are fully aware of and educated on the Program, the VA healthcare system, and mental and physical health conditions that are common among veterans.

To carry out the Program, VA would be required to enter into a contract or contracts to establish a network of community care providers and authorized to establish tiered networks pursuant to such contract or contracts but would be prohibited from prioritizing providers in one tier over another in a manner that limits a veteran’s choice of providers. Title I of the bill would authorize VA to pay for services not subject to a contract or agreement but deemed necessary by VA nevertheless. In such cases, VA would be required to take reasonable efforts to enter into a formal agreement, contract, or other legal arrangement to ensure that future care and services provided by the provider in question are covered.

Title I of the bill requires VA, to the extent practicable, to reimburse community care providers under the Program at Medicare rates, authorizes VA to pay higher rates in highly rural areas, and requires VA to incorporate value-based reimbursement models to the extent practicable to promote high-quality care. The VA is required to reimburse community care providers in a timely manner, and is authorized to contract our claims processing to a third party.

Title I of the bill authorizes VA to enter into provider agreements called Veterans Care Agreements (VCAs). VCAs would not be subject to competition or other requirements associated with federal contracts and the same affirmative action moratorium that applies to TRICARE contractors and subcontractors pursuant to OFCCP Directive 2014–01 would apply to VCA contractors and subcontractors. Veteran eligibility for care under VCAs would be subject to the same terms as VA care itself and the rates paid under VCAs would, to the extent practicable, be in accordance with rates specified for the Program. Title I of the bill would also authorize VA to enter into VCAs with State Veterans Homes and eliminate competitive contracting actions and other requirements associated with federal contracts for State Veterans Homes.

Title I of the bill requires VA to perform market area assessments on a number of key factors at least once every four years. VA would be required to submit the assessments to Congress and to use them to determine the capacity of the Program’s provider networks and access and quality standards. VA would also be required to submit a strategic plan to Congress, no later than one year after the date of enactment and at least every four years thereafter. The strategic plan would be required to specify the demand for care and the capacity to meet such demand both at each VA medical center and in the community. VA would be required to take a number of elements into consideration when developing the strategic plan and to identify emerging issues, challenges, and opportunities and recommendations to address them.

The title also addresses safe opioid prescribing practices by non-VA medical professionals, improved information sharing with community health care providers, and the participation of VA providers in the national network of state-based prescription drug monitoring programs.

The title sunsets the Choice Program one year after enactment of the bill, which is the expected date the Program should be implemented. The title authorizes VA to use any unutilized Choice funding to sufficiently balance community care accounts.

Finally, Title I makes improvements to telemedicine efforts, embraces innovation for care and payments, improves access for veterans and live donors to transplant procedures, and expands the eligibility for the Family Caregiver Program to pre-9/11 veterans.

Title II: VA Asset and Infrastructure Review

Title II of the bill requires VA to establish a nine member Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission. The AIR Commissioners would be appointed by the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate and in consultation with Congressional leaders and congressionally chartered, membership-based veterans service organizations. The Commission would be tasked with considering recommendations made by VA and submitting a report to the President on VHA facility modernization and realignment. The report would then be submitted to Congress and absent a joint resolution of disapproval the recommendation would become law. Title II of the bill includes additional authorities to allow VA to take action as may be necessary to carry out any recommended VHA facility modernization or realignment and to transfer or lease properties to historic preservation organizations.

The Commission must incorporate feedback from veteran service organizations, conduct meetings and hearings open to the public, and update information through online publication of any VA proposals.

Title II also calls for the improved training of construction personnel, a requirement to review enhanced use leases, and an assessment of VA health care provided throughout the US territories in the Pacific.

Title III: Improvements to Recruitment of Health Care Professionals

Title III provides scholarships to medical students in exchange for service to VA, increases the amount of education debt reduction available through Education Debt Repayment Program from $120,000 to $200,000 over five years and from $24,000 to $40,000 annually, establishes a specialty debt repayment program at the Department, and rolls back limitations on bonuses for recruitment, relocation, and retention.

Further, Title III establishes a pilot program for supporting four years of medical school education costs for two veterans at each of the five Teague-Cranston Schools and at four historically black colleges and universities. The covered medical schools would include Texas A&M College of Medicine, Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University, Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University, Edwards School Medicine at Marshall University, the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, and Morehouse School of Medicine. The medical schools that opt to participate in the program would be required to reserve two seats each in the class of 2019.

Title IV: Health Care in Underserved Areas

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) defines a medically underserved area as an area designated by HRSA as having too few primary care providers, a high infant mortality, a high poverty or a high elderly population.

Title IV of the bill requires VA to: (1) develop criteria to designate VA medical facilities as underserved facilities; (2) consider a number of factors with respect to such facilities, including the ratio of veterans to providers; the range of specialties covered; whether the local community is medically underserved; the type, number, and age of open consults; and whether the facility is meeting VA’s wait time goals; (3) perform an analysis annually (if not more often) to determine which facilities qualify as underserved; and (4) submit a plan to Congress, within one year of enactment and not less frequently than annually thereafter, to address underserved facilities.

Title IV of the bill also requires VA to carry out a three-year pilot program to furnish mobile deployment teams of medical personnel to underserved facilities and to consider the medical positions of greatest need at such facilities and the size and composition of teams to be deployed. It would also require VA to establish a pilot program to establish medical residency programs at covered facilities, including VA facilities, a facility operated by an Indian tribe or tribal organization, an Indian Health Service facility, a Federally-qualified health center, or a DOD facility.

Title V: Other Matters

Title V requires a report on bonuses to high-level employees of the Department, allows podiatrists to be named to a supervisory position in the Department the same manner as a physician can be, and alters the definition of a major medical facility project from projects that exceed $10 million to projects that exceed $20 million.

Further, Title V promotes the use and integration of mental health, substance use disorder, and behavioral health services in a primary care setting by placing peer specialists in care teams and establishes a medical scribe pilot program to increase the use of medical scribes in emergency department and specialty care settings at 10 VA medical centers.

Finally, Title V extends the current funding fee rates for mortgages closed on or after September 30, 2027, through September 30, 2028, extends the reduction in an amount of pensions furnished by Department of Veterans Affairs for certain veterans covered by Medicaid plans for services furnished by nursing facilities, and authorizes $5.2 billion for the Choice Program.

September 25, 2018 is National Voter Registration Day.  Members of the Marine Corps League, we can continue to make a difference in this nation if we are willing to pay the price of personal involvement in our national affairs.  First this requires that each one of us become a regularly participating voter.  But you must register to vote in your home city or county to do so.  How can we expect to elect honest, courageous, and committed leadership in our governing institutions, unless we are willing to take a few minutes to register?  The fall election is a great time to participate in electing the leadership our nation needs in these challenging times.

Until next time, leanin’ forward in the trenches.  Semper Fidelis!

National LeGislative Priorities

TRICARE – Ensure any TRICARE reform sustains access to top-quality care and avoids disproportional TRICARE fee increases.

Who is affected? All military beneficiaries, including active duty troops and retirees and their family members and others entitled to DoD’s health care

The issue: Reforms to the Military Health System must sustain an operationally ready force with a ready medical force. We agree the military’s health care system needs to evolve beyond what it is today into a modern, high-performing, integrated system.

 

MILITARY PAY – Sustain military pay comparability with the private sector.

Who is affected? All active duty currently serving uniformed personnel and their families

The issue: Budget pressures might may affect military pay raises, widening the gap between military pay and civilian-sector pay.

 

QUALITY OF LIFE BENEFITS – Block erosion of compensation and non-pay and quality-of-life benefits.

Who is affected? All currently serving uniformed personnel and their family members

The issue: Future proposals may reduce the value of compensation, to include non-pay and quality-of-life benefits such as the Basic Allowance for Housing, Special Incentive Pays, and commissary, exchange, and morale, welfare, and recreation benefits, harming recruiting and retention.

 

MILITARY RETIREMENT – Protect military retirement and Cost of Living Allowances (COLA).

Who is affected? All new entrants into military service after Jan. 1, 2018 as well as those with less than 12 years of active military service who choose to opt in to the new blended retirement system (BRS)

The issue: Budget constraints may lead to further reductions in the value of the military retirement benefit earned after 20 years of service.

 

WOUNDED WARRIORS – Sustain wounded warrior programs and expand caregiver support.

Who is affected? Service members who were wounded in action, battle-injured with major limb amputations, traumatic brain injuries, and individuals with service-connected conditions acquired since Sept. 11, 2001.

The issue: While DoD, the VA, and the military services continue to maintain programs to care and support our most vulnerable service members; there is a need to establish a more unified and integrated system of care and benefits that will provide comprehensive wrap-around services.

 

END FINANCIAL PENALTIES TO RETIREES – End financial penalties to military retired veterans with disability compensation.

Who is affected? Veterans with service-connected injuries

The issue: Veterans forced into disability retirements before completing a full career (also known as Chapter 61 retirees) are prohibited from receiving military retired pay concurrently with VA disability compensation.

 

END SURVIVOR PENALTIES – End financial reduction of benefits to survivors whose military spouse died of service-connected causes.

Who is affected? Military dependent survivors

The issue: Military dependent survivors whose sponsors died of service-connected causes suffer from the widows tax, a dollar-for-dollar offset of DoD’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) from the VA’s Dependency and Indemnity Compensation (DIC).

 

“FIGHT TONIGHT” READINESS – Ensure the Guard and Reserve system adequately supports requirements for an operational reserve.

Who is affected? Members of the reserve components and their families

The issue: The paradigm for reserve component usage has changed from a strategic reserve to a combat-ready warfighting element incorporated into current and future war planning. As the demands on Guard and Reserve troops have evolved, so has the need for benefits comparable to their active duty counterparts.

 

RECRUITING AND RETENTION – Recruiting and retention of an all-volunteer force require alignment of spouse and family support programs.

Who is affected? Every service member who has or will have a family

The issue: The decision to remain in service often is made around the kitchen table and considers the evolving needs of the entire family, including the employment, educational, and health care needs of non-serving family members; access to child care; and the frequency of relocation.

 

VETERANS HEALTH CARE ACCESS – Ensure timely access for Veterans’ health care and preserve Veterans’ earned benefits.

Who is affected? All eligible U.S. Veterans receiving VA health care and earned benefits.

The issue: The demand for VA health care and benefits continues to grow. Budget and infrastructure must support the increasing demand.

 

CMC Legislative Priorities

“Presidential Budget 2019 (PB19), Modernizing for the Future Force, focuses on three budget priorities – modernization, readiness, and manpower – directly aligning with the Secretary of Defense’s guidance to improve warfighting readiness, achieve program balance, and increase lethality. Driven by Marine Corps Force 2025 (MCF 2025), the capability investment strategy which modernizes the force toward implementing the Marine Operating Concept (MOC), we plan to rebuild a more lethal, maneuverable, and resilient force able to operate in the emerging strategic environment.

Modernization – The Foundation of Our Future Readiness: Our Marine Corps must be modernized to meet the demands of the strategic environment. What we desire to achieve is a Corps capable of exploiting, penetrating, and destroying advanced adversary defenses in all domains in support of naval or Joint Force operations. That modernized force would deter adversaries, prevent conflict, and provide capabilities required to “…suppress or contain international disturbances short of large-scale war;” thus, preventing the consumption of readiness from the larger Joint Force. PB19 is synched with MCF 2025, specifically investing in areas such as: Information Warfare, long range precision fires, air defense, C2 in a degraded environment, and protected mobility / enhanced maneuver. These capability areas support building a Next Generation Marine Corps across Active and Reserve components.

Readiness – The Core of Our Ethos: The Marine Corps is unique among the Armed Services because your expectations require Marines to be a fight-tonight, forward deployed force, ready and capable of acting with minimal preparatory time. We must address four primary challenge areas:

Aviation: Our priority remains building aviation readiness for combat by balancing modernization with readiness recovery. PB19 supports our aviation recovery plan that, if sufficiently resourced and supported by our industrial base, recovers the force to acceptable readiness levels by FY20 with a ready bench by FY22.

Amphibious, Maritime, and Expeditionary Ships: The Joint Force must maintain access to and the ability to maneuver through the global commons, project power, and defeat a competitor attempting to deny freedom of action via the employment of A2AD capabilities. To meet these challenges, the naval force must be distributable, resilient, and tailorable, as well as employed in sufficient scale and for ample duration. Today, the operational availability of the amphibious fleet is insufficient to meet global demands, negatively impacting the unit training necessary to recover full spectrum readiness, and does not support CCDR requirements for power projection. Consequently, the strategic risk to the larger Joint Force and mission is increased.

Deployment to Dwell: A majority of the Active Force is experiencing a deployment to dwell (D2D) ratio that is unsustainable and limits time to train to our full naval mission sets. We must return to a 1:3 D2D force to have the time required to train for the high-end fight and achieve balance with our Marines and their families. High operational tempo is affecting our ability to retain Marines and sustain our career force. PB19 supports an 186,100 Active and 38,500 Reserve component end-strength force while maintaining an approximate 1:2 D2D ratio. Funding at a 1:2 D2D ratio, although not sustainable, is a conscious, short-term decision we must make to balance modernization while meeting current demand and simultaneously recovering our readiness. This must not become the new normal.

Infrastructure: We must prioritize Infrastructure Reset, improve infrastructure lifecycle management, enhance its resilience, and ensure infrastructure investments are aligned with Marine Corps capability-based requirements to support the warfighting mission, contributing directly to current and future Force readiness. PB19 funds the Infrastructure Reset Strategy with realized long-term cost savings through a reduction of 1056 failing structures (14 million square feet) during the FYDP and yield savings in Facilities Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization accounts.

Manpower –Growing and Sustaining Our High Quality People: Our people – Marines, civilians, and their families – are the foundation of all that we do; they are our center of gravity. PB19 provides $15.7 billion towards our manpower accounts, over 36% of our total request as it begins to implement MCF 2025. It also supports building a more experienced, better trained, and more capable force by increasing the number of Marines we have with special skills. Our Marines want to deploy, serve our Nation, and protect our country from threats overseas. As Marines, we pride ourselves on being ready and on training for combat in conditions that are as close to reality as possible to enable success when called to fight. To ensure their success in future conflicts, we continue to build upon our lethality as we adapt our training, driving changes in our programs.”

Reference: CMC Testimony April 20, 2018

 

LEGISLATIVE ACTION CENTER

 

Blended Retirement System

Orientation for Spouses of Service Members Covered By BRS

To increase awareness and understanding of the BRS components along with available resources, DoD created a series of three videos to provide spouses an understanding of the components of BRS, “Your Retirement System”, “TSP: What’s It All About”, and “Navigating Your Way to a Secure Financial Future”.   Service members and families are encouraged to watch the video series, take the BRS training and meet with an accredited Personal Financial Manager or Counselor for free financial counseling at their local installation’s Military and Family Support Center or through Military OneSource.

Here are links to the three videos:

An Orientation for Spouses of Service Members Covered by BRS
https://youtu.be/X8P9UOiMrf8

TSP: What it’s All About
https://youtu.be/YUbyMJTwCk4

Navigate Your Way to a Secure Financial Future
https://youtu.be/vIei9Gz_LZM

 

Resource Links

Congressional Legislation (Bill Finder)
Find Your Senator 
Find Your Representative 
The Military Coalition
Marine Corps Office of Legislative Affairs