FRA NewsBytes - 06-27-2014

In this issue:
FRA Hosts Coast Guard Caucus Event
Defense Spending Bill Passes House
NED Discusses Continuing Education on Capitol Hill
Senate Confirms New DoD Comptroller
FRA NHQ Closed on Independence Day


FRA Hosts Coast Guard Caucus Event
FRA hosted its 16th annual Coast Guard Caucus Breakfast this week, an event designed to expand awareness of the Coast Guard’s remarkable service to our nation and promote dialogue between members of Congress and key Coast Guard leaders.

The Caucus is a bipartisan group of 73 lawmakers who share a common interest in the Coast Guard, co-chaired by Representatives Howard Coble (N.C.), the only USCG veteran serving in Congress; Frank LoBiondo (N.J.), Rick Larsen (Wash.) and Joe Courtney (Conn.).

The new Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Paul Zukunft presented Congressman Coble with a Distinguished Public Service Award. Coble served and supported the Coast Guard for over 23 years as a member of the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve, and has continued to be an ardent supporter during his 30-year career in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Coble’s exceptional public service and extraordinary contributions to the service were praised as befitting the highest traditions of the U.S. Coast Guard.

Zukunft and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (MCPOCG) Steven Cantrell acknowledged FRA’s long-standing and strong commitment to the Coast Guard, thanking the association for its constant support of Coast Guard personnel and their families. FRA’s advocacy work focuses on compensation, health care and various quality-of-life programs that affect USCG personnel and their families. Specifically, FRA works to ensure Coast Guard pay and benefits remain on par with those enjoyed by Department of Defense personnel, and that adequate funding is available to support these programs. FRA is committed to educating members of Congress, their staff and the public about the Coast Guard’s critical missions as a part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Other lawmakers in attendance included Representatives Walter Jones (N.C.), John Garamendi (Calif.), Mike McIntyre (N.C.), and Mark Meadows (N.C.) who all praised the versatile, multi-mission service of USCG.


Defense Spending Bill Passes House
The House passed the FY 2015 Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 4870). It provides $202 million more than the Administration requested and $4.1 billion more than the current fiscal year. The spending bill provides $128.1 billion for personnel expenses, $830 million less than the Administration’s request and $668.6 million less than fiscal 2014 appropriations. The bill provides for a 1.8 percent pay increase (instead of 1 percent requested by Administration) and no additional TRICARE fee increases, as is provided in the House Defense Authorization bill (H.R. 4435). The bill provides funding to continue to pay for 100 percent of troop housing costs through the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH); the Administration request had proposed a reduction in the BAH. The bill also restores a $100 million cut to the Defense Commissary Agency for stateside commissaries. The measure cuts current end strength by 52,800. The bill would provide $275 million for sexual assault prevention and response programs, $50 million more than in current fiscal year (2014). FRA will continue to monitor Appropriations legislation that impacts member benefits.


NED Discusses Continuing Education on Capitol Hill
National Executive Director (NED) Thomas Snee participated in a panel discussion this week on Capitol Hill regarding continuing education. The panel discussion was in conjunction with the 70th anniversary this week of the enactment of the GI Bill of Rights, which provided educational opportunities for service members returning home from World War II. Before the panel discussion there was a short documentary on the changing role of higher education in America. The documentary indicated that today only 15 percent of college students are full time students between ages 18–24. The documentary mentioned that a significant proportion of new students are veterans using the Post-911 GI Bill.


Senate Confirms New DoD Comptroller
The U.S. Senate recently confirmed Michael McCord to replace Robert Hale as Pentagon Comptroller. McCord had served as Deputy Comptroller since January 2009. The Defense Department Comptroller is the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense on all budgetary and fiscal matters, including the development and execution of the Defense Department's annual budget of more than $600 billion. As the agency’s Chief Financial Officer, the Comptroller also oversees the Department's financial policy, financial management systems, and business modernization efforts. The Senate also confirmed Christine Wormuth to be DoD Policy Chief.

Other important nominations awaiting Senate confirmation include Jessica Wright as Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness, and Jo Ann Rooney as Navy Undersecretary. Both of these nominations were submitted to the Senate for confirmation on January 6, 2014.


FRA NHQ Closed on Independence Day
FRA’s National Headquarters (NHQ) offices will be closed on Friday, July 4, in observance of Independence Day. Congress is also in recess next week, so the next issue of NewsBytes will be July 11, 2014. The NHQ staff wishes all FRA shipmates a safe and enjoyable 4th of July.