The following letter has been sent to FY 2005
National Defense Authorization Act conferees
27 July 2004
Chairman, Committee on Armed Services
228 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Fax: (202) 224-6295
The Fleet Reserve
Association (FRA), the most senior and leading enlisted organization in The
Military Coalition (TMC), is grateful for the opportunity to comment on the
Armed Services Committees= efforts to continue protecting
and improving quality- of-life programs for service members and their
families as contained in the Senate and House versions of the FY 2005 Ronald
Reagan National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
appreciative of the initiatives appearing in both bills, including an
across-the-board 3.5 percent pay increase for military personnel. This
provision alone sends a positive message to our men and women in uniform at a
time when troop and family morale is of the utmost importance.
The attached matrix
is provided for your consideration. It is similar to that submitted by The
Military Coalition; however, the recommendations made by FRA are meant to
raise awareness of several items of special interest to enlisted men and
women of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard; active, reserve, and
They are as
Services Survivor Benefits Plan (USSBP)
instrumental in encouraging Congress to adopt the USSBP in 1972. While it has
proven to be a much better program than its predecessors, some imbalances
remain. The current language provides an annuity of either 55% or 35% of a
member= s covered retirement pay for surviving spouses.
The 35% annuity comes when the survivor attains the age of 62 or older.
Currently, it is estimated that more than 85% of survivors are in receipt of
annuities at the 35% level. FRA strongly supports the House provision that
phases out the 35% offset over three-and-a-half years beginning in September
2005. It also includes an open enrollment period that is more inviting than
its Senate counterpart to enlisted service members, who initially declined
participation. Much of the declination came as a result of the dramatic loss
in compensation when the enlisted service member retires - nearly two-thirds
of his or her active duty pay. FRA also supports Section 643 of the House
version that offers the means to pay for the initiative.
FRA supports the
Senate proposal for fee-based TRICARE participation by the Selected Reserve.
Last year= s NDAA authorized a one-year pilot program, yet
the Defense Department failed to implement the program. The Senate language
would improve unit readiness and enhance recruitment and retention by
providing access to TRICARE for all Guard and Reserve members and their
families for a modest annual premium. The proposal is most important to
junior reserve enlisted personnel who are married and have children. Many are
just beginning a career in the civilian sector and require financial
assistance to afford health care for themselves and their families.
and Force Structure
ever-increasing operations tempo has already signi-ficantly
over-stressed a downsized force, which bodes ill for future retention and
readiness goals. FRA agrees with the Senate that today=
s mission requirements demand a larger force and supports the House provision
increasing the Marine Corps by 9,000 personnel over a 3-year period (FY
2005-07). The Association, however, is concerned with the Navy=
s desire to decrease its end strength levels by 10,400 personnel (7,900
active duty and 2,500 reservists). Such a major reduction on top of the
downsizing of the forces in the last decade will present a major problem for
the Navy to maintain adequate readiness and meet an increased commitment in
protecting the Nation= s sea lanes and lending support to our ground
Incentive Pay for Military Firefighters
endorses Sec. 620 in the House bill authorizing enlisted military
firefighters= eligibility to receive Hazardous Duty Incentive
Pay (HDIP). Under current policy, civilian firefighters working side-by-side
with their military counterparts are authorized additional pay in their
federal paychecks as compensation for the risks involved in their employment.
Military firefighters are not so entitled, but there should be no doubt these
men and women rate special consideration in the performance of their duties.
The House section has the support of the Defense Department as well as the
major enlisted organizations.
Replacement of Damaged Household Goods
FRA is adamantly
opposed to Sec. 1065 in the House version of the NDAA, which prohibits the
Defense Department from fully implementing the new program for the movement
of household goods for military personnel. Instead, the House is requiring
Defense to submit a complete evaluation of the results from the 14-site
initiative phase. The household goods move process has been the subject of
many demonstrations, pilot programs and studies over a several-year period.
Defense has used the information gained from previous efforts to design the
new program, which it is ready to implement. Important customer service
improvements, such as full replacement value reimbursement for lost or
damaged goods, cannot be implemented until the start of the new program.
According to an
FRA survey conducted in 2000, service members incurred an average of
$2,270.13 in out-of-pocket expenditures related to PCS moves, for which they
were not reimbursed. Seventy-six percent of the participants were enlisted
personnel who did not have the disposable income to replace damaged and lost
household items. FRA believes service members and families should not be
denied these improvements while the moving industry continues to enjoy a
flaccid requirement to provide good service and the responsibility that goes
with a sound business regimen.
the Navy Title Change
endorses Sec. 901 in the House version of the NDAA to change the title of
Secretary of the Navy to Secretary of the Navy and Marine Corps. This change
would enhance the role of the Marine Corps as an equal member of the Armed
Services in the eyes of our citizens, while giving the secretarial office a
title that better reflects its oversight responsibilities. The recent
participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom proves again the Corps merits
recognition as a separate armed force not submissive to any other military
Receipt of Retired Pay and Veterans Disability Compensation
s language addressing concurrent receipt was a tremendous step forward, but
many inequities remain. FRA strongly supports full concurrent receipt. Until
then, the Association endorses language accelerating implementation of full
concurrent receipt of retired pay and VA disability pay for 100 percent
disabled military retirees.
Thank you in
advance for your consideration of the Association=
JOSEPH L. BARNES
National Executive Secretary
Duncan Hunter Chairman, Committee on Armed Services U.S. House of
Representatives 2120 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC 20515Fax: