June 23 2017

In this issue:

FRA Hosts Coast Guard Caucus Event
NDAA Gets Subcommittee Markup in House
Arlington National Cemetery Plans to Expand


FRA Hosts Coast Guard Caucus Event
FRA hosted its 19th annual Coast Guard Caucus breakfast this week.  This event is designed to expand awareness on issues between senior Coast Guard leaders that promote dialogue between those members and members of Congress.  FRA National Executive Director Thomas Snee, who introduced the Commandant, Admiral Paul Zukunft, noted: "Each meeting brings a new dimension towards success, and mission of accomplishments for the "5th" branch of service that not only provides security in our inland water ways, environmental studies, reduces trafficking; it also strengthens our national security." 

The Coast Guard's 25th Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft, recently returned from the International Sea Power Symposium, was the keynote speaker. The Commandant claimed that America was not only the world's best coast guard but also the world's best sea services (Navy and Marine Corps). He boasted that the U.S. Coast Guard has twice the retention rate to that of other sea services.  The Commandant noted that the Coast Guard has serious funding challenges with implementing the new Blended Retirement System (BRS) that is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2018.  

Two Coast Guard Caucus co-chairman Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and John Garamendi (Calif.), who are the Chairman and Ranking Members of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee respectively, spoke at the meeting to express support for adding a Coast Guard Ice Breaker.  They also noted that the Coast Guard will have funding issues with the BRS.   

Zukunft acknowledged FRA's long-standing and strong commitment to the Coast Guard, thanking the association for its constant support of the personnel and their families. FRA's advocacy work focuses on compensation, health care and various quality-of-life programs that affect those in the USCG. 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.

Coast Guard Caucus Co-Chairman Rep. Joe Courtney (Conn.), assistant MCPO Leilani Cale-Jones and FRA National President Donald Larson, were also in attendance.  

NDAA Gets Subcommittee Markup in House
The House Armed Services, Military Personnel Subcommittee (HASC-MP) along other HASC Subcommittees completed their mark ups of their portion of the House version of the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA-H.R. 2810). The HASC Subcommittee that deals with FRA issues is the HASC-MP. Subcommittee Chairman Mike Coffman (Col.) stated that the bill would rebuild and grow the military.  Ranking Member Jackie Speier (Calif.) expressed disappointment that the Subcommittee could not at this time find funding or spending offsets for extending or eliminating the expiration date (May 31, 2018) for the Special Survivors Indemnity Allowance (SSIA) for widows/widowers.  

The Subcommittee markup includes:  

•    Prohibiting TRICARE fee increases or pharmacy co-pay increases;
•    Providing larger than requested pay increase (2.4% vice 2.1%);
•    Increasing Navy end strength by 4,000 and maintain Marine Corps end strength;
•    Enhancing OTH discharge review for Vietnam combat veterans presumed to have PTSD;
•    Adding $30 million for impact aid to public schools with large military population;  
•    Prohibiting active duty wrongful broadcast or distribution of intimate visual images;
•    Reimbursing military spouse for state licensure arising from relocation to another state;

The combined subcommittee mark ups will be reviewed by the full committee and then go to the full House for amendments, debate and approval. Once the Senate completes its version of the FY 2018 NDAA, the two chambers will appoint a conference committee made up of Senators and Representatives to arrive at a final Defense Authorization Bill to be approved by both chambers and sent to President Trump for signature or veto. 

Arlington National Cemetery Plans to Expand
The Army Times is reporting in the June 15, 2017 issue that Arlington National Cemetery will move forward with plans to expand the cemetery by more than 50,000 spaces that will extend the life of the cemetery from 2041 to until 2050. These additional burial sites will provide expansion from lands from the original Navy Annex complex and other adjacent areas at the cemetery. A December 2016 survey of FRA members reveals that 92 percent support immediate expansion of the Cemetery and 67 percent want to reserve a set amount of space for Medal of Honor recipients and/or active duty deaths.  For more information on this matter and survey results, be sure to read the upcoming FRAtoday July 2017 issue.  

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