The Officer March/April 2011 : Page-20

capitol View SucceSS vs. Victory Capt Marshall a. hanson, Usnr (ret.) roa DireCtor of legislation ROA doesn’t rest until legislative goals come to complete fruition. hen can a success be declared a victory? As we end one congressional session and begin another, we face this question as we review ROA’s legislative goals. The challenge is that different military associations make different claims of accomplishment over the same issues. Some groups wave the flag of victory as soon as legislation is introduced—similar to what congressional offices do. This can be a hollow victory if an elected official does little more than drop a bill into the clerk’s hopper. The next test is getting legislation recognized by a committee and released to the floor of the House or Senate for a vote. While clearing either the House or the Seante is a success, it is not yet a victory. Even with a president signing something into law, it is not even a success if it is not what is best for ROA members. This year offered a perfect example. The bill from Rep. Tim Walz (D–Minn.) on veteran status finally gained traction in September, passed the House, and appeared to have tacit approval in the Senate. But it was derailed in the last days of December by following a political track to a dead end. Other successes are compromised by a need for victory. A colleague from another association said, “Sometimes you have to give up something to gain something.” The needs of the constituents are sometimes superseded by the need for a win by an organization. Fixes to the post–9/11 GI bill, for example, were compromised and incomplete. Other associations and lawmakers overlooked Title 14 orders that activate Coast Guard Reservists, while Title 32 orders for the National Guard were included. Even more frustrating was the reduction of available tuition money to $17,500 for GI students attending private colleges. To balance the cost of the bill, money was taken from one group to pay another, yet some organizations will tout this as a big victory. A provision signed into law often is not enough. An example is the FY 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, where “Each year, ROA has between five to six legislative successes. This is from an agenda list of some 70 items, calculating to about an 8 percent success rate.” language was included to remove a barrier to early retirement credit when mobilization orders cover two fiscal years. To avoid the pay-go costs, the removal was included as a “Sense of Congress” provision without changing the actual language in the U.S. Code. While Congress has told the Pentagon that the military is doing the early retirement crediting incorrectly, the Department of Defense (DoD) will likely go back to Congress asking for the law’s wording to be changed. Unknown is whether DoD will yet change its policy for crediting time against early retirement, despite Congress directing it to change. Rather than declaring victory and walking away from the issue, ROA has already contacted the office of Rep. Tom Latham (R–Iowa) asking him to reintroduce the legislation and to contact the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs to clarify if policy will change. This won’t be a victory until Reserve Component members receive full credit for their service. ROA continues to work to get the early retirement law corrected for service performed at least to Sept. 11, 2001. Even with success, some ROA members may not view this as a victory, as they want to include their service for earlier activations. A handful of members insist that there is no early retirement unless it is paid out after 20 good federal years of service—as retirement is for active duty. Each year, ROA has between five to six legislative successes (see “Stymied Initiatives” on page 18) . This is from an agenda list of some 70 items, calculating to about an 8 percent success rate. Yet, many further accomplishments are incremental, moving additional agenda items forward toward future congressional sessions. In addition, we add new issues to ROA’s agenda every year. While our progress may not be grounds for blowing our own horn and holding a victory parade, these successes are comparable to the claims touted by other associations.  20 the O fficer / M arch –a pril 2011

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