NCSL Task Force on Military and Veterans Affairs Meeting Summary


In conjunction with the NCSL Spring Executive Committee Meeting

May 17-18, 2012
Marriott City Center
Denver, CO

The National Conference of State Legislature’s Executive Committee Task Force on Military and Veterans’ Affairs has 25 newly appointed members and now includes 50 state legislators from 25 states. It works closely with several offices within the U.S. Department of Defense. It met for two half-days in Denver, Colo., with 15 task force members present. 
State Representative Dan Flynn from Texas presided; the co-chairs were unable to attend.

Thursday, May 17

Major General H. Michael Edwards, The Adjutant General of Colorado and Executive Director, Colorado Department of Military and Veterans Affairs

Gen.l Edwards discussed the need to gain support within the states to take care of the young men and women who serve. He stressed the importance of establishing relationships with active duty soldiers whom are very transitory—and may not even claim residency. States care about the security that the U.S. Armed Forces offers, and the benefits that active service members bring to economies. There are benefits for both states legislatures and the U.S. military to work together and to look at best practices in order to take care of veterans and active duty members.

Gen. Edwards noted that the state of Colorado and the Colorado Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs have worked together on many successful initiatives and were proud to highlight a few:

  • Licensure
  • Encroachment. Colo. Dept of Military Affairs helped legislators craft legislation that affects federal installations. Legislation passed to protect lands within two miles of installations and posts, for base commanders and air personnelsignifies importance for state support for military installations
  • Commanders Council in Colorado.  Gen. Edwards is the primary advisor to Governor John Hickenlooper. The governor and the Colorado Dept. of Veterans Affairs have a strong, open working relationship with Colorado State Legislature. 
  • HAATS—High-Altitude Army Aviation Training Site.  HAATS is the only U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) training site for high altitude (10,000+ ft) power management environmental training and falls under the command of the TAG–Colorado, with direct funding from the National Guard Bureau (NGB).
    • It trains aircrews (600 students a year) from all branches and components for the NGB as well as active Army, Army Reserves and International military aircrews for 1-2 week training sessions at the HATTS facility in Eagle/Gypsum, Colo., a small town 126 miles west of Denver and 31 miles west of Vail.
    • HAATS was established in 1985 to provide "graduate level" training to military helicopter pilots flying in mountainous terrain and at high temperatures. 
    • A unique training methodology is offered—Power Management—based on aircraft power designed to dramatically increase individual and crew situational awareness. The training process requires power accountability of the pilots in all flight regimes; this accountability produces insight to every situation to include multi-ship operations (including loss of rotary wing aircraft). The mountainous training area enhances the Power Management process.
    • With recent military actions in mountainous regions such as Afghanistan and northern Iraq, the demand for the HAATS training program has increased dramatically.
    • Invited Task Force for a future field trip to training site.
  • Grow the Army Initiative in Colorado. The state grew its infantry battalion from 2,800 to over 4,000 and gained federal support. Initial challenge was getting state share of military funding, yet with the assistance of his staff, including Mickey Hunt and Greg Dorman, and relationships formed and fostered with state Veterans’ and Military Affairs Committees—taxes used to build five armories, four of them with state share.  Veterans Trust Fund—also gained backing of veterans to assist with the effort.
  • State Partnership Program.  Ask your TAG about this program and meet your partners in another country; every state is partnered with a country. Idea is to show other countries (originally eastern European countries) how freedom, professionalism and the military works in the U.S. Colorado has partnered with Slovenia (since ’93) and Jordan (noted that females serve in Jordan) and Texas (motioned at Rep. Flynn) partners with the Czech Republic and Chile. The National Guard is proud of these relationships.
    • Relationships formed to build economies, global partnerships
    • Goal began as a National Guard initiative, military-to-military relationships formed
    • Enlisted service members were deployed and brought to countries knowledge of the military as well as civilian experience
    • Work hard to get to the point to graduate from a military-to-military relationship to one that is civilian-to-civilian
    • If military relationships have been formed, these partnerships need to focus on economics as well.  U.S. economy is designed to include partners—not to stand alone
    • Colorado is arm-in-arm with Slovenia. Slovenia to deploy to Afghanistan; CO will partner

Gen. Edwards stressed the need for legislators to take ideas that work in their states and other states and to apply and use them to move forward with these efforts to make them national. “When we’re fighting for something in Colorado, we look at it as a national issue and we try to tie it in to a national perspective so that we may assist other states. A national message carries more weight with the federal delegation,” he said. 
Paul Friday, Director of Government and External Relations, Marine Corps Installations East, North Carolina
Friday explained that the Marine Corps also works on initiatives that are very different in terms of focusing on actual installations; it works to link organizations in order to build partnerships and focuses to keep them solid.  He emphasized the need to build partnerships at the state level—all the way to local community levels—and then link existing organizations in to multi-state organizations, up to those at the federal level. 
A goal is to establish military empowerment zones to protect lands near military installations from encroachment and allow for economic development (with a local option to raise additional funds working on collaborative projects) through a tiered incentive structure where all parties benefit. Tier 1) host communities enjoy the economic benefits of an installation, and also work with the military on challenges, to create incentives to help with schools, health care, roads and infrastructure needs. Tier 2) those that are not direct counties would also gain economic benefits, and Tier 3) all parties would benefit from more special forces training in the region. The military provided a prioritized list of lands and map to state to help protect those lands.

Friday outlined:

  • It took three years to put all mechanics in place to connect the North Carolina General Assembly to existing state, community-based and regional organizations, including those in South Carolina and Georgia. Building and maintaining relationships takes time and effort
  • Once partnerships were established, the Marine Corps completed the model and report in North Carolina and into the Southeast, studying nine communities with military presence in North Carolina by using comparative community analysis. Most had a moment when constructing bridges, or highway, or infrastructure, and the planning was not coinciding with need impact
  • Included in report to governor and legislature—contains seven recommendations for the state of North Carolina to solidify relationships
  • Market Based Conservation approaches:
    • Office of Secretary of Defense approved a market based pilot project: a joint venture with state of NC, Agricultural Commissioner and others. Idea is to pay farmers to keep farming their agricultural lands (working lands) near installations
    • Military installations have a lot of working areas near their bases, e.g. planes flying low
    • Bio-energy (bio-based products) important to maintain close ties with these industries that are large economic engines and compatible with military activity
    • Examines landowners—cost models—to contribute to economic activities in these areas
    • Agreement with National Associations of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) to create a sub-work group for each region of the country as a way to reach out to state commissioners.2 Can learn to be better partners and neighbors; state legislatures will be hearing more from state commissioners, as alliance will be formed this fall

Dave Dahl, Mission Sustainment Officer, Navy Region Southeast—Florida
How do state legislatures form working relationships with the military in states?
The State of Florida, Texas and the Navy in the Southeast have been setting up relationships to continue the viability of their missions through conveying the importance of mission sustainment. What do commanders on the ground need to continue the viability of their missions and reduce risks?

  • Developing long-term trust-based relationships, built on the ground, will help to form relevant working groups and Commanders Councils.
  • Need for strengthening of partnerships with state and local leadership. “Inside the fence and outside the fence reality”  Partnership has to evolve to a fully self-sustaining entity and legislation passed to support this is critical
  • Two regional models:  Texas Commanders Council and Florida model. Area mission sustainment officers routinely ask base commanders to identify top mission sustainment requirements, threats to these and what needs accomplished. Provide it to decision makers in a comprehensible form— to staffers in state legislative committees and to commissions. 
  • Three fundamental groups to consider: 1) mission commanders on the ground. Need to identify and validate their mission sustainment requirements. Do they need a statute… for this/that? 2) If group threats are evident working group puts them into “saleable” affinity groups and hands them to influence group early on, then to 3) mandate, legislative action group—state sponsored organization with official influence to decision makers
  • If states have comprehensive plans at the constitutional level, they can require compliance with state statutes
  • Focus first on economic development and sustainment will follow
  • The military has recognized that the relationship business is critical; people are needed on the ground that do nothing but work those relationships—mission sustainment officers.  These folks sit on planning commissions; they know the city commissioners, state legislators and committee chairs and they work to get the job done.

Jan Larkin, Mission Sustainment Program, U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, DC
What will bringing home the troops mean for the military and also for states and communities? 

Ms. Larkin outlined what state legislators and task force members can do to help the military to address as troops return home. Let's talk and get ready.

  • High-Level of Readiness. Working with communities and states in welcoming soldiers home and communicating the need to keep them trained at a high-level of readiness at installations and bases
    • States and communities need to be aware and work with the military to communicate the fact that troops are coming home and military training activity is evident.
    • Troops have been deployed for the last ten years and are accustomed to a high-level of activity and training. Many installations have been relatively empty.  New residents have moved into communities and are likely not familiar with military activity, such as helicopter and night training. Notification is important before training commences.
    • What kinds of services and activities are available to service members and their families when they are off of the installations? (Schools for children, higher crime rates, spousal abuse, infrastructure, etc., should be considered.)
  • Mission Sustainment and Importance of Protecting our Installations and Preserving Critical Training Space near Bases and Military Ranges from Encroachment.  A need to look at every installation and determine if it is protected and how it can be protected and preserved in the future
    • Can the military return and do helicopter training at night? 
    • Are there accessible routes that can be used to train and travel, considering air space and area infrastructure?
    • Opportunities for compatible land uses and conservation easements through increased partnerships and protection of high-value regional habitat near test and training areas

Col. (Ret.) Joe Knott, Texas A&M University, U.S. Department of Defense Sustainable Ranges Initiative
The Department of Defense (DoD) Sustainable Ranges Initiative ensures the long-term viability and continuity of military training and testing ranges while providing good stewardship for the land through a framework of continuing, cooperative and coordinated partnerships within government and groups beyond installation boundaries.

The Sustainable Ranges Initiative ensures that the military continues to effectively test and train now and into the future. Readiness and Environmental Protection Initiative (REPI) is DoD’s core effort aimed at using the authority provided by Congress to protect military readiness by preventing incompatible development and preserving habitat through buffer projects, supportive education, engagement, and regional planning.

Col. Knott explained that the U.S. military has to be able to use the land it has to train and all the land it can to train to fight. The REPI program supports cost-sharing partnerships between the military, private conservation groups and state and local governments to protect military test and training capabilities and conserve land through acquiring conservation easements. There are currently 60 locations in the continental U.S. that have REPI programs, with six more planned.

Tim Ford, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Defense Communities, Washington, DC

The Association of Defense Communities (ADC) has a 35-year history of linking communities, states, the military and the private sector. It represents 200 communities, states and regions with a significant military presence, and interested partner organizations. ADC unites the diverse interests of communities, state governments, the private sector and the military on issues of base closure and realignment, community-military partnerships, defense real estate, mission growth, mission sustainment, military privatization, military families/veteran support and base redevelopment.
Ford noted that he works directly with the President of the ADC, John Armbrust, who is Executive Director of the Governor’s Military Council in Kansas. Task force members met him and he presented in Topeka, Kansas for the Kansas Range Tour, the task force’s meeting hosted by Kansas member legislators, October 17-19, 2012.  He addressed pending defense cuts and potential impacts on states and communities and the possibility of a new round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).

  • Looming defense spending cuts
  • Progress on Defense Authorization Act; it does not call for a BRAC round in 2013 and 2015
  • Future for BRAC—BRAC 2013 will not happen. Likelihood for 2015—not completely out of the question
  • BRAC rounds have been typically kept out of budgets
  • Real and present concerns. With cuts and the current climate it seems as if BRAC is happening now is like a BRAC; at least there is structure to it
  • Gives an opportunity for a transparency about what is occurring
  • Communities feel effects
  • Defense Communities Caucus—a bipartisan group of 50 members U.S. House Representatives
  • Local communities often share services, especially when economy is bad.  Mutual interest. Why can’t we do that with the military?
  • Shared services saves the military money
  • Shared-Service Agreements—House Defense Authorization Act—pilot authority in 2005. Budgets were flush. No need for DoD to focus on cost efficiencies. Currently in budget cutting mode and looking for ways to cut costs.
  • Legislation would allow for military installation to work with local community to see what services they could use on the installation. Contract to procure services
  • Not mandatory, has to be in best interest
  • It’s a cultural change (the legislation). Used to hiring a contractor or having staff; but, we think these collaborations will create great opportunities to help the local cities/communities as well as the military.
  • What states should do to support the military:
    • Make the case for installation support and the defense infrastructure in your state
    • Seek out and advance legislation that deals with emerging issues impacting installations and military families
    • Get organized and support military retention efforts now
    • Make reducing the cost of operating your installations and priority

Elaine Dumler, Separations Specialist,, Colorado

From Barracks to Backyard:  Linking Community Resources to Military Families Post-Deployment

Recognizing that the stress of separation is there, even for short assignments, Dumler works in a variety of creative ways to assist military families faced with sustained absences. She is an author, wife and mother whose husband served in the Army National Guard.  She interviewed over 2,500 military families for her books, I’m Already Home and I’m Already Home…Again and The Road Home—Smoothing the Transition Back From Deployment and also authored and designed a series of flip-chart books as a handy way to assist military personnel and their families.
Dumler shared with task force members some ways she works to keep military families connected, primarily at the community-level:

  • The Road Home—Smoothing the Transition Back From Deployment, her third book third in a series, helps military families deal with the deployment phase and focuses on families staying strong and connected while apart.
  • Find the best ways to integrate resources out there, i.e. community organization, and work closer together to help military personnel and their families.
  • Ideas for how to forge stronger relationships to ensure these services get to needed families.
  • Community service organizations can find ways to assist and to get things done when others say it will take time or cannot be done.
  • Better speed and efficiency at getting things done at the community-level.  Better access to information helps.
  • Know what the pressing issues are immediately because of direct interaction with military and families.
  •  “What if” approach…
    • Create better links between government and community services. Imagine referrals together; what would you see on a state level?
    • Recognize what community-based organizations and services have and how they might be able to fill what you need. Ask questions tell them your needs. Referral services are great.
    • Understand that community organizations are a better use of funds and are often less expensive than government agencies
    • Pride in supporting local businesses that also support vets through employment
    • Realize the greater program versatility
    • Promote better coordination

Legislator Roundtable

Task Force members reported on critical military issues affecting their states and proposed legislation related to veterans, military personnel and their families.
Moderator:  Representative Flynn from Texas
Sen. Ulibarri (NM):  We are integrating military with communities. The military has been untouchable; communities do their own things. Encroachment—wind power in New Mexico—and at one time a mission wasn’t possible because of a wind farm. This information is valuable to the state so that we can enact legislation. The military is the economic engine in New Mexico as well as our national laboratories.   I like the tone that we have to integrate the military and labs, etc. I like the tone from the military here. Readiness and environmental protection efforts is key to preserving property.
Rep. Flynn (TX):  More female involvement and service members returning home to look for civilian jobs—we have to be prepared to address those issues.
Sen. Donnelly (MA):  Represents Lexington and Hanscom Air Force Base.  A lot of technical weapons research located in the area; MIT partially on the base, labs on the base, and Harvard and BU. Important to keep good relationship and keep these dollars close and it’s nice to see our MIT grads get into defense and protect the country. TPI and PTSD is also a focus—finding help for these folks through Massachusetts’ Valor Act—piece that prohibits cities and towns from obtaining medical records from veterans unless needed.
Rep. Dean Campbell (MA):  Issue at federal level that might interest states—soldiers could be released for 30 or 60 days once they return home, and then they are required to physically report back, for a couple of days, to avail themselves of some of the services that could be available.
Sen. Donnelly (MA):  Returning veterans have skills and discipline. We’re looking at earmarking money to send vets to community colleges to reeducate and get them through that rather than getting certificates they don’t need from proprietary schools, using GI money, but with a focus: use the money for education that they can actually use.
Rep. Parisella (MA):  An issue to address is making teachers aware of students whose parents are deployed and use videos to distribute to schools.
Elaine Dumler:  Mentioned example of a letter she has that a family could use, given to the teacher and administration, saying, “This student, his dad has been deployed… to be on the lookout… to recognize behavior.”
Sen. Reeves (VA):  Assisting in reprogramming HR folks on how to hire a veteran.  Questionnaires and the application process are not effective.  Our former delegate is working with corporations and changing their attitudes about hiring veterans.
Rep. Saddler (AK):  Many bills enacted and in the works. Brooke will include Rep. Saddler’s and Alaska legislation listing that he shared with her. 
Rep. Dean Campbell (MA):  Mentioned additional efforts: Joined the children’s compact… innovative service veteran owned businesses …procurement program, modeled after the federal program. Foundation works with gold star families, a trust fund has been set up to help military families. Finding that there are a number of older widows that need to be sought out and let know there is help. We stipulated that our secretary be a veteran. Temporary license renewal extensions is a top priority. Requiring a judge to look at PTSD in sentencing and recommending programs is important—very dense to get around the issues legally. Have a “home of the brave” program to assist nonprofits in housing for veterans. Have an aging veteran’s population; housing is a big problem for us.
Rep. Aquino (HI):  Hawaii has passed a lot of legislation. In 2012, Hawaii addressed seven of the 10 key issues and worked closely with DoD and Ed Kringer’s office to provide testimony to support bills. All five branches of military in state, but sometimes forget the importance of the military. Licensure and regulatory agencies— worked together to get language that would be supported by all. Working on the issue of Veterans Treatment Courts and addressing some of the funding and staffing concerns. Recent bill failed; could not agree on funding, but moving forward and will hopefully go into operation this year.  Legislation was enacted that protects military personnel from predatory lending practices. Agreements and memos of understanding with state governments, military and community are needed.  Hawaii passed legislation that requires the governor to go into memo of understanding with DoD, Pacific Command.  A memorandum of understanding says we support the military; this agreement will help with relationship in future.
Delegate Jameson (MD):  We have put ourselves in a good situation in Maryland. We have hired a general that has been with us for seven years, involved in the BRAC issue working under Dept. of Economic Development. BRAC commission works with regions of the states that have military bases to try to make sure the funding and guidance are there, to keep our bases BRAC-free as possible. We are concerned with encroachment; appears to be more situations where we have environmental issues going against the base and military concerns. Maryland is working with military on offshore and onshore wind bills; will help protect a lot of jobs. Real estate and housing: we passed a bill that is a disclosure for real estate settlement. Public disclosure so folks moving into communities will know more about their neighborhoods.  Southern MD has largest number of active and retired vets in state. With returning soldiers and the PTSD, we’ve been plagued with issues. Facilities are far from communities and it is difficult to get veterans and retirees into those facilities—working with congressman to get a new facility in our area.  Veterans Treatment Courts—getting a bill moving on that. Veterans Caucus is beneficial to bring bills forward to gain sponsors.
Jan Larkin:  Wanted to speak for Kansas, since Kansas delegation could not make the meeting because of session. Kansas has passed a lot of recent, effective legislation. Motorcycle licensure is a huge issue—a morale issue. Soldiers return from overseas and cannot take their motorcycle off the base until they have had motorcycle training and more. Sometimes it’s the only mode of transportation they have.  Safety studies have been conducted and show that training makes no difference in your safety once you’ve driven a motorcycle for six months. Kansas passed a law that that if you come to Kansas, and if you have a military motorcycle license and one other form of ID, and if you can pass an eye test, you can drive your motorcycle in Kansas. 
Paul Friday:  Most states that are gaining personnel are running into the issue of not enough room on installation to do assigned training. Two things happening in Texas—1) use of state lands, especially those in danger of being closed. Parks and other things were going to be shut down because of lack of use and budget issues—some, very large areas.  By reaching out, the state gained resources in exchange for temporary training use and this effort kept parks open. 2) Threats to endangered species. Federal court decisions will put more species on the list… states can come into play for a double win. Looking for state game lands, wildlife areas and preserves—where military can share in the cost of species recovery efforts. He stressed the need to get ahead of this issue that will compound in next few years.
Rep. Flynn:  The window of opportunity may close for legislation—yes, we need to move and work quickly.
Del. Jameson (MD):  Maryland working to establish public-private military partnerships and have had success in the area of energy and cutting costs. We have been able to find a private partner to replace a coal-fired plant with gas fired plant—up-scaled it because of partnership. Private company can sell the energy on the grid, and the rest goes to the base.  In addition, solar projects have become an interest for military bases pursuing green initiatives and trying to cut their costs.  Look forward to learning more about energy opportunities.
Michael Behm:  Since 2008, DoD has not been able to use conservation funds and match those with other federal agencies on projects. This task force passed a resolution at 2011 Legislative Summit in San Antonio that called for restoring authority of DoD to match its conservation funds with other federal agencies.  Issue gained support and got farther than ever in Congress. Ultimately it was not included, yet there is still an opportunity to amend the farm bill.
Jan Larkin:  If you can stack funds, you can do something sizeable. Not being able to stack federal funds on a project creates a more difficult planning situation.

Friday, May 18

Presiding:  Representative Dan Flynn from Texas

Col. Joel Best, Commander, Commander, Colorado Air National Guard
Col. Best spoke about the High-Altitude Army Aviation Training Site (HAATS), National Guard pre-eminent school for individual mountain helicopter training, and outlined the following points.
**See page 1 of this meeting summary for introductory information on HAATS**

  • Objective—obtain skills to defeat the environmental enemy at 10,000+ ft and to understand the elements and pressures in order to prevent accidents
  • Helicopters fly at 18,000-19,000 ft. in certain circumstances—students must know how this feels and how helicopters fly so they’re comfortable at these altitudes
  • The school unique because of  its small size, people come from Alaska, Hawaii and internationally
  • More than 6,200 have trained through school in last 3 years
  • Active duty, Reserve or National Guard
  • All components come together at a National Guard school—no need to measure credit
  • Conditions relate to Afghanistan—almost a perfect match up by Continental Divide with huge winds
  • Operate on bringing your own helicopters
  • Working on construction of a new facility and NCSL is invited to come and tour
  • Work with environmental and conservation groups and on environmental impact statements
  • Continual presence and conversation—folks want to know what we do and why we do it
  • Interface with employers and key civic leaders through the Chamber of Commerce.  It is important to take these folks to HAATS and to installations and bases so they understand the benefits

Ed Kringer, Director, State Liaison and Education Opportunity, Office of the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy, Washington DC

Kringer works with states on a number of key issues to service members and their families. He began by thanking task force members for what they had done in moving legislation and let them know that in 2011—89 statutes were enacted across eight of his office’s list of 10 major issues requiring legislation.
He stressed the value of testimony and TA experts—he and his office can assist with these efforts. Inviting service members, including their spouses, to participate and testify, to fill a room or to come in uniform can be powerful and is encouraged.
Key issues impacting service members and their families for 2012

  • Facilitate Service members receiving licensure and academic credit for military education, training and experience
  • Facilitate military spouse transition through licensure portability and eligibility for unemployment compensation
  • Minimize school disruption for military children
  • Increase access to quality, affordable childcare for military families
  • Ensure military separations do not determine child custody
  • Improve absentee voting for military members and their families
  • Provide authority for establishing Veteran Treatment Courts (VTCs)
  • Protect consumers  and enforce the predatory lending regulation
  • Comport state laws with DoD rules on disposition
  • Coordinate state-wide public-private support

Lt. Col. (Ret.) Kevin Schmiegel, Founder and Executive Director, Hiring Our Heroes Program, National Chamber Foundation, Washington, DC

In March of 2011, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched Hiring Our Heroes, a nationwide initiative to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment. With a network of more than 1,600 state and local chambers and other strategic partners from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, the goal was to create a movement and conduct job hiring fairs across the nation.

Hiring Our Heroes has done just that. In its first 12 months, it hosted more than 190 hiring fairs in 48 states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia and more than 9,500 veterans have jobs.

It has significantly expanded its efforts in 2012 with hiring fairs in 400 communities, the establishment of a stand-alone program for military spouses, and a sustained campaign to enlist the commitments from the small business community to hire veterans and military spouses over the next years.