Executive Committee Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force Meeting Summary
May 29-30, 2014
The NCSL Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force convened in Anchorage in conjunction with NCSL’s Executive Committee. Presided over by Task Force co-chair, Representative Dan Flynn of Texas, the task force covered a robust agenda of topics including:
- An all-day tour of Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson (JBER). JBER encompasses 80,000 acres, 1,247 buildings, 5,100 personnel and a complex mix of military organizations with a variety of missions, including both the Air National Guard and the Army National Guard. Tour highlights included:
- A mission briefing and installation tour led by the base commander Col. Brian Duffy.
- A briefing on land use compatibility and planning issues around the base.
- A close-up view of an F-22 Raptor fighter jet.
- The Joint Mobility Complex where service members transfer from garrison status into deployment.
- The Mission Support Group that procures “beans to bullets” and provides security and communications services.
- The search and rescue unit.
- The joint venture Veterans Administration-Department of Defense Hospital.
- Landfill Natural Gas Power Plant that uses methane gas from the local landfill to generate about 8 KW of clean power that supplies about half the power needed on the Ft. Richardson side of the base.
- Key elements of the task force meeting included:
- The participation by top leadership of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) including the adjutant general, Major General Thomas Katkus, who spoke candidly about the importance of sustaining the National Guard. The group also heard from DMVA Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre and Director Verdie Bowen.
- Cooperative partnering efforts between various state and federal agencies to provide health care in remote Alaskan locales.
- An update on Alaska National Guard efforts to prevent and respond to instances of sexual assault involving military members.
- Efforts in Alaska and other states to help sustain and retain the military presence particularly through the designation of “military facility zones.”
- A related discussion addressed Department of Defense efforts to assess the compatibility with base operations of the potential siting of wind turbines and other structures near military facilities.
- A panel discussion of various ways the public and private sectors in Alaska are cooperating to transition service members more expeditiously into civilian jobs, using targeted investment in individual veterans.
- An update on implementation of state regulations to ease the credentialing and licensing of service members particularly truck drivers, medical personnel and law enforcement.
- The availability of grants from the DoD Office of Economic Adjustment to states and local governments for planning and economic diversification in response to DoD actions like personnel reductions, operation changes and base closings, realignments or expansions.
- The task force received thanks from DoD representatives at the meeting on the quality and timeliness of its work, particularly the recent NCSL report on “State Policy Efforts to Sustain Military Installations,” and the significant legislation passed by task force members in their home states to benefit military veterans. This report was distributed to the NCSL Executive Committee meeting that followed the task force meeting.
- The NCSL Executive Committee passed an emergency resolution opposing proposed federal cuts to the Army National Guard, that had previously been approved by the task force. See text below:
Preserve the Army National Guard
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) recognizes that the Army National Guard (ARNG) is a vital tool for helping states manage and respond to emergencies and natural disasters at home and abroad. A strong ARNG ensures an operational resource and a strategic reserve for our active duty military branches in combat roles overseas, as well as adapting to complex missions domestically.
NCSL urges the federal government to maintain current funding levels for the ARNG in order to preserve their highly regarded capabilities, and to ensure that they are always prepared for duties in the states and abroad in service to our country.
NCSL recognizes that any effort to reduce our nation’s federal deficit requires reductions across all federal agencies. However, reductions should not be made without a thorough review of the overall Army force structure across the active, Guard and Reserve components.
NCSL further urges that any congressional or Department of Defense review of the Army structure, including the role of the ARNG, includes appropriate input from state policy makers.
NCSL also opposes any effort to preempt domestic control of the National Guard from state authority.
Services being provided to our veterans should also include members of the ARNG to help them transition into society and have equal access to job training and other benefits.
Furthermore, NCSL supports equipment return, replacement, and upgrade to address destroyed material left abroad during deployment,
The next meeting of the task force will occur on Aug. 19, 2014, in Minneapolis in conjunction with the NCSL Legislative Summit.
Please direct any questions to Jim Reed, NCSL task force staff at firstname.lastname@example.org.