Glass Half Full - By Mike Hadley

NATIONAL GUARD magazine
February 2017
Washington Update

By Mike Hadley
(read online digital version)

Change and the unknown are two overarching themes for the 2017 legislative outlook.

We don’t know the new administration’s priorities or when it will release its fiscal 2018 budget request. And we are in the dark about appropriations funding for this fiscal year beyond April 28 when the current continuing resolution ends.

In fact, we will likely be dealing with deliberations on two budgets at the same time this year—the fiscal 2017 budget after the continuing resolution ends and the fiscal 2018 budget whenever Congress gets to work on it.

While uncertainty can cause anxiety, it can also create opportunities. NGAUS intends to take an optimistic “glass half-full” approach and capitalize on the opportunities that lay ahead.

There are many things we do know early in the year that look promising for the National Guard. The administration of President Donald Trump has a strong interest in the nation’s defense.

Congress has already expressed an interest in increasing defense spending, including substantial hikes to personnel and force structure. The details are still to be determined, but there is every reason to believe that the Guard will see its fair share of these increases—if and when they occur.

The president has said he intends to improve U.S. infrastructure. Guard facilities make up the bulk of the critical infrastructure required for homeland defense. Much of this infrastructure is outdated—if not entirely obsolete—and in need of significant repair or replacement.

There is a serious backlog of military-construction projects that are waiting, shovel-ready, for funds. A significant increase in MILCON funds would be an easy way to impact our national security and create jobs.

We have a somewhat rare situation today in that the president and majority in both chambers of Congress are of the same political party. This should provide an easier path for legislation then when an opposition party controls one of those three entities. This doesn’t mean that legislation will be rubber-stamped, but it certainly can simplify the process.

The Guard continues to enjoy tremendous support on Capitol Hill, and NGAUS is grateful. A number of new legislative initiatives are already in the works in the 115th Congress. This is another strong indicator that the lawmakers are supportive and want to make things better for the Guard.

We will provide more detailed information on pending legislation in the coming months.

NGAUS also has excellent working relationships with many other military and veterans service organizations, such as the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, the Reserve Officers Association and the Air Force Association, to name just a few.

We work closely with these organizations on common interests when needed. The collective power of our efforts is an effective way to achieve meaningful results for all of our members.

A current example is our work on the mobilization status known as 12304(b), which fails to provide deployed reserve-component members the same benefits as the active-component troops serving alongside them. We are working with other organizations to ensure that Guardsmen receive benefits normally associated with these deployments, such as Post- 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

The congressional calendar will be one of the major challenges because the president’s budget request will be late, compressing the time available for Congress to do its job.

We’ve been through this before. NGAUS will focus on critical issues considered priorities and find creative ways to help Guardsmen.

We are optimistic that the new administration is genuine in its desire to help the Guard and we will spend the year making that a reality.

The NGAUS legislative director can be contacted at mike.hadley@ngaus.org.