By Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va., (11/3/09) – The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 signed by the president Oct. 28 included many provisions for the National Guard.
"This authorization bill is a big deal for National Guard Soldiers and Airmen,” said Air Force Brig. Gen. James Demeritt, director of the National Guard Bureau’s office of Legislative Liaison. “Once again, the U.S. Congress has recognized the critical contributions the National Guard makes to national security both at home and abroad.”
Demeritt said the doubling of pre-deployment healthcare is a “major reform” that could strengthen the Guard’s readiness. Also, he said the reports that Congress as required on the State Partnership Program, technicians, the Transient, Trainee, Holdee, and Student (TTHS) account for the Army National Guard, and the addition of a vice chief’s position at NGB will “all provide important opportunities to tell the Guard story for next year."
First, the act doubles the amount of time a member of the National Guard is eligible for TRICARE prior to mobilization. The increase from 90 to 180 days allows members of the Retired Reserve, who are qualified for a non-regular retirement at the age of 60, but are not yet at the age of 60, to qualify for TRICARE Standard.
“This provision could potentially increase the medical readiness of the Army Guard,” said Army Col. Rob Brown, the chief surgeon of the Army National Guard.
The bill does not include the administration’s requested increase in the Army National Guard’s civilian or non-dual status technicians, an important category of full-time staffing, Guard officials said.
In rejecting the requested increase, the conferees instead directed that the secretary of defense must submit a report on the duties, requirements, current and future demand, and recommend limits regarding National Guard non-dual status technicians.
“The conferees understand that the operational tempo for the reserve components has increased during the current conflicts and that higher tempo in turn necessitates higher numbers of full-time support personnel to support the reserve components,” according to the congressional report.
The Army National Guard’s non-dual status technician population is now over 3,000 strong, despite the 1,600 cap on permanent end strength, according to the report, and “as such, the conferees feel it is prudent to wait for the result of the full-time support report (being conducted by the Army), as well as the report on non-dual status technician requirements found elsewhere in this Act, before increasing the permanent cap.”
Despite the administration’s request for an increase in technician authorizations, the conferees felt, “that the permanent cap of 1,600 remains sufficient for fiscal year 2010.”
The conferees also moved to strengthen authorities for the National Guard State Partnership Program, which links states with foreign countries for strengthening relationships and training opportunities for the National Guard.
Not later than 90 days after the NDAA is enacted, the defense secretary, with the help of the secretary of state, must set regulations regarding the use of funds appropriated to DoD to pay for activities conducted under the program. These regulations must be sent to Congress.
“The conferees believe that the security cooperation activities of the State Partnership Program of the National Guard have made a valuable contribution to global security through building relationship between State National Guard units and over 60 partner nations throughout the world,” according to the congressional report.
For this fiscal year, there was no change in the numbers of personnel authorized for the National Guard. They are 358,200 for the Army Guard and 106,700 for the Air Guard.
The act allows the service secretaries to waive reserve component end strength by 2 percent, which could enhance manning and readiness in essential units or in critical specialties, said Guard officials. Previously, service secretaries only had the authority to waive active duty end strength.
Pay and entitlements
The act authorizes a 3.4 percent military pay increase.
For recruiting purposes, the act extends the payment of the following bonuses and special payment for one year:
• Select Reserve re-enlistment bonus
• Select Reserve affiliation or enlistment bonus
• Special pay for enlisted members assigned to certain high priority units
• Ready Reserve enlistment bonus for persons without prior service
• Ready Reserve enlistment and re-enlistment bonus for persons with prior service
• Select Reserve enlistment bonus for persons with prior service
The act allows members to elect to receive non-regular retired pay upon retirement for service in an active reserve status performed after becoming eligible for a regular retirement. It also allows up to $200 for each day of administrative absence that a member would have earned between Jan. 19, 2007, and the date of the implementation of the Post-Deployment/Mobilization Respite Absence program had the program been implemented during that time. The authority expires in one year.
Stop Loss Special Pay is authorized for any month or portion of a month beginning Oct. 1 and ending June 30, 2011. It is authorized for any reserve component member, who serves on active duty while his enlistment or period of obligated service is extended or whose eligibility for retirement is suspended due to Stop Loss.
The act also enhances the dental care provided to members of the reserve component on active duty for more than 30 days in support of a contingency operation.
Reserve component members returning from mobilization will be allowed to remain on active duty while under evaluation for physical or mental disability that could result in separation or retirement or placement on the temporary disability retired list or inactive status list.
The act requires any servicemember diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury to receive a medical examination before separation.
The act also requires the secretary of defense to implement a plan to improve mental health care access for families of Guard and Reserve members deployed overseas. This would require the expansion of existing DoD program to increase access for family member, Guard officials said.
The bill also requires that each member deployed for contingency operations receive five personal mental health assessments –60 days before deployment, 90 to 180 days from the date of redeployment, and not later than six, 12 and 24 months after deployment.
Service secretaries are required to provide Guard and Reserve members who are demobilized or separated with information on the availability of care at warrior transition units and the location of community-based warrior transition units.
The act encourages the service secretaries to avoid scheduling mobilization training at a temporary duty location that is outside the normal commuting distance.
It also allows the service secretaries to provide legal services to members of the reserve components.
The act increases the DoD’s contributions to the National Guard Youth ChalleNGe Program from 60 percent to 75 percent, which will enable states, which face mounting budgetary pressures to continue and perhaps in some cases to expand this highly successful youth mentoring program, said Army Col. Anthony Kissik, the chief of youth development for the National Guard Bureau.
The act establishes a program to provide community healing and suicide prevention for members of the National Guard, Reserves and their families within the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program. It also requires a report from the secretary of defense on the various reintegration program administered by the National Guard.
The act authorizes $585 million in military construction funds for the Army Guard, and $236 million for the Air National Guard. Because military construction must be both authorized and appropriated, the full scope of National Guard military construction for the coming year will not be clear until the companion defense appropriation bill is enacted, Guard officials said.
The act increases the minimum number of strategic airlift aircraft from 299 to 316 for the Air National Guard. It also repeals the requirement from the FY08 NDAA to maintain C-130E aircraft.
Also included in the bill are requirements for several reports from the secretary of defense and the Army and Air Force service secretaries.
By April 1, the secretary of defense must submit to Congress an extensive report on joint general officer management. One of the issues which the report is required to address is whether re-establishment of the position of vice chief of the National Guard Bureau is necessary.
The bill requires the defense secretary to submit a report on procuring 4.5 generation fighter aircraft for the Air National Guard.
The secretary of the Army must submit a report on the creation of a Transient, Trainee, Holdee, and Student (TTHS) account for the Army National Guard, which evaluates the options and makes recommendations. It must be submitted to the Congress no later than 180 days after enactment of the NDAA.
Also included is a provision that requires the secretary of the Air Force to submit a report before the retirement of any legacy fighter aircraft or C-5 aircraft. The report will:
• Detail how the force structure will address capability gaps
• Assess the current threat environment
• Describe the follow-on mission for each affected base
• Explain the details of the decision, including the costs
• Describe the environmental analysis being conducted
• Identify the reassignment and manpower authorizations affected
• Estimate the cost avoidance
Also, these aircraft cannot be retired until 30 days after the report is submitted to the secretary of defense.
The authorization bill is one of two bills needed for the DoD to perform its functions. The other is the appropriations bill, which is being reviewed by a Senate-House committee to resolve differences between the two chambers’ versions.