16 January 2018 Washington Update

January 16, 2018
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 Inside this issue
TREA: The Enlisted Association’s Washington Update
TREA: The Enlisted Association’s Washington Update
Finally: A DoD Audit is Coming
TREA has been urging for years that the Department of Defense be audited just like every other department of the federal government.  And in the fy2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Congress directed DoD to be audit-ready by 2017.  Finally, DoD says it is ready for an audit this year, even though they missed the deadline.

Last week, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, David Norquist, the Defense Department’s comptroller. said that the process has started for the first departmentwide audit in DoD history.

While the department has auditors looking at various contracts or processes, “this is the first time the department will undergo a full financial statement audit,” he said.

This audit will verify the count, location and condition of military equipment and real property. “It tests the vulnerability of our security systems and it validates the accuracy of personnel records and actions,” Norquist said.

The department will have 1,200 financial statement auditors assessing the books and records to develop a true account of the state of the department, the comptroller said. It will take time to pass all the process and system changes necessary to pass the audit and get a so-called “clean opinion,” he said. He noted that it took the Department of Homeland Security — a much smaller and newer agency — 10 years to get a clean audit.

An audit will improve accountability, the comptroller said, noting that, for example, an initial Army audit found that 39 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters were not properly recorded in the property system. “The Air Force identified 478 structures and buildings at 12 installations that were not in its real property system,” he added.

The audit should cost about $367 million in 2018, Norquist said, which is about the same percentage of the overall budget that large firms like Proctor and Gamble or IBM spend on their audits. “We also anticipate spending about $551 million in 2018 fixing problems identified by the auditors,” he said.

Finding better ways to do business will allow DoD to invest in greater lethality for the force, the comptroller said.

TREA has long supported an audit because DoD leaders have complained for years that military health care costs too much, and that the leading problem was health care for military retirees.  At the same time, stories continually appear in the news about DoD overruns on the costs of weapons, millions of dollars being unaccounted for, and other horror stories about the way DoD wastes money.  We are tired of military personnel being the scapegoats for a department that simply can’t account for all the money it is given.

Even though it will cost close to a billion dollars, TREA is pleased that an audit will finally take place.  Unlike some DoD projects, we think this is money well-spent and we look forward to hearing the results when they finally become available.

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TREA in the News
Last week TREA: The Enlisted Association’s Deputy Legislative Director, Mike Saunders, was interviewed by the Stars and Stripes about the new tax bill in an article that you can read here:

https://www.stripes.com/experts-servicemembers-should-start-navigating-new-tax-law-now-1.506470

If you’ve been reading this update, then there isn’t much new information in there. The main takeaways are that most people will see a tax cut, unless they live in a high property-tax area and regularly claimed more than $10,000 in state and local tax deductions (the new law caps those deductions at $10,000).

If you know anybody who is currently serving and is now on the new retirement plan, they should be using any tax savings to contribute to their new Thrift Savings Plan. Money contributed early grows the most in 401k-style retirement systems. Since the individual tax cuts expire at the end of 2025 they should save all that they can right now.

If there are any changes to the law that could affect the active duty, dependents, survivors or veterans we will get the word out.

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World War I Coin to be Available for Purchase Wednesday
TREA was contacted last week by the World War I Centennial Commission to let us know that on Wednesday of this week the U.S. Mint will officially release for sale the World War I Centennial Silver Dollar to honor the 4.7 Million who served.  You can see more about the coin here:

http://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php/communicate/press-media/wwi-centennial-news.html

The World War I Centennial Commission is a Non Profit Federal Organization dedicated to building a National Memorial for the Service men and women of the Great War.

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Army Phases Out Early Retirement Program to Retain More Troops
via Federal News Radio

As the Army continues to move away from its plans to draw down its end strength, the service is phasing out its temporary early retirement program.

Starting Feb. 28 the Army will terminate its temporary early retirement authority (TERA), according to a Dec. 15, 2017, memo signed by Army Secretary Mark Esper.

Since 2012, temporary early retirement authority has served as an effective tool for drawing down the Army’s end strength. However, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 increased Army end strength and we have ceased the drawdown. Therefore, I am terminating the use of TERA and ending the reduction in minimum years of active commissioned service required for voluntary retirement,” the memo stated.

Soldiers who are eligible for TERA must have submitted their request by Jan. 15 to be considered for the last batch.

The TERA program was started in 2012 and let soldiers who served between 15 years and 20 years retire with full retirement entitlements.

The program was a tool to cast off soldiers as the Army tried to lower its end strength during the Obama administration.

The service was planning on going as low as 450,000 active duty soldiers. Plans changed, however, after the Islamic State and other threats reared their heads.

Last year, the Army paused its drawdown and is now building its force back up to 483,500. Building the force to that level comes with its own challenges.

For 2018, Army Recruiting Command will need 80,000 active-duty recruits to stay on target.

Officials say they have never accessed that many soldiers in a single year without violating Defense Department policies, which set standards for new recruits’ educational levels, criminal histories, past drug use and other measures of “quality.”

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, the commander of Army Recruiting Command, said the Army’s 1,400 nationwide recruiting centers managed to exceed the increased 2017 goal for the regular Army without violating those standards, though recruiting into the Army Reserve fell slightly short of the higher goal.

And the one thing our leadership has been clear with us about is that we will continue to meet the DoD benchmarks in 2018. There’s a number of things we’re doing to make sure we do that,” Snow said in an interview. “For one, we’ve identified the resources we’ll need early on, so we’ve missioned the recruiting force for the higher numbers even though it’s not clear yet what Congress is going to support with appropriations.”

The Army is paying active-duty recruits an average of $12,700 in bonuses.

Bonuses will also be offered for new recruits who agree to join on a “quick ship” basis, beginning their service within four-to-six weeks from signing their contracts, rather than staying for a time in the Army’s delayed entry pool.

Snow said the Army was also retooling its marketing strategies both at a national and local level, mindful of the fact that only three in 10 Americans of enlistment age meet the military’s basic qualifications to serve, including less reliance on traditional techniques like mass media campaigns and prospecting for candidates via telephone, and more of a focus on targeted advertising, including through social media.

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Ranking Member of Senate Veteran Affairs Committee Looks for Input
Senator Jon Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, is asking for veteran input during the State of the VA hearing tomorrow at 2pm.

To participate, go to:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SVACDems/posts/293305017859772

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SVACDems/status/951862131154145281

Use the hashtag #AskShulkin when you reply.

Post expires at 4:17am on Wednesday January 24th, 2018

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