The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate returned from August Recess on Tuesday, September 8, 2015. Both Chambers have outstanding legislation to accomplish before the end of the fiscal year – September 30 – and the end of the calendar year.
Congress must pass the Defense Appropriations Act to fund the Department of Defense, but Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on a bill. Republicans want to utilize one-year, Oversees Contingency Operations (OCO) accounts to circumvent Budget Control Act (BCA) caps to help fund DOD. House and Senate Democrats want BCA-cap relief for non-defense agencies as well, in order to approve the defense budget. The President has threatened to veto a defense bill which includes OCO funds if other, non-defense appropriations bills do not have additional funding to circumvent BCA caps.
At the end of September, Congress will pass a 3-month Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the Department of Defense and other agencies. The Federal Government will not be shut down like in 2013. With a Presidential election on the horizon, Democrats and Republicans do not have the appetite for a shut down. Unfortunately, a CR is worse than a bad budget- DOD budget experts would rather have a low budget than a CR. When Congress passes a CR, DOD cannot start developing new weapons programs- Programs that have been in the planning stages for some time. To make matters worse, it appears Congress will turn around and pass a 9-month CR to fund DOD through September 30, 2016 before adjourning at the end of the calendar year. As it stands now, it appears DOD will be funded at fiscal year (FY) 2016 levels throughout FY2017.
What it means to EANGUS
EANGUS continues to advocate for technicians to be exempt from furloughs caused by a Federal Government shutdown. At present, technicians can and would be furloughed. Fortunately, a shutdown is highly unlikely any time before the 2016 Presidential election.
National Defense Authorization Act
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees continue to work out differences between their respective bills. Coupled with the aforementioned appropriations bill, it seems unlikely that the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will pass in September – it might pass as late as December. In the case of the NDAA, Congress will likely purposely stall the bill to later in the year when it considers the 9-month Defense Appropriations Bill in December.
More party politics. Because too few Americans outside Washington, D.C. know the difference between the policy making NDAA and the Appropriations Bill which funds DOD, Democrats and Republicans will try to control the messaging behind the Appropriations Bill (i.e. CR) and the NDAA. In the end, the NDAA will pass before the end of the year, for a fifty-fifth consecutive year.
What it means to EANGUS
The House and Senate Armed Services Committees are at a crossroads on an issue which directly affects EANGUS members. The EANGUS National Office has advocated for retirement modernization stemming from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission final report issued in February 2015. Specifically, EANGUS has supported a “lump sum” payment option for members of the National Guard who retire at, or after, 20 years of service. To put it simply, the lump sum option is an amount of compensation that a Guardsman could receive before the age of 60 for his or her Service in the Guard (if he or she serves 20 years or more). EANGUS has actively advocated for retirement compensation, immediately at separation, for Reserve Component members. A lump sum option would be a big win for young Guardsmen who opt into the blended retirement plan and for the future force. EANGUS National Office Staff have been in high level conversations with Committee Staff and the details are still being worked out on Capitol Hill. More to come on lump sum as discussions progress.
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