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MOAA Storms the Hill 2015

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April 19, 2015

MOAA is Storming the Hill again — and you can follow along from home with our event-by-event coverage, and take action on issues affecting the military community. 


2015 Col. Arthur T. Marix Awards
Storming the Hill Recap
Council Presidents' Dinner
Information and Ideas Exchanged
Chief of Naval Personnel Addresses Council Leaders 


2015 Col. Arthur T. Marix Awards

 2015Marix Ayotte Robertson

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) receives the Col. Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award from Gen. Charles T. Robertson Jr., USAF (Ret). Photo by Steve Barrett.


MOAA President Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret), and Chair of MOAA's Board of Directors Gen. Charles T. Robertson Jr., USAF (Ret), presented six supporters of the defense community with the association's highest awards Tuesday night, kicking off the Storming the Hill legislative blitz.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rep. John B. Larson (D-Conn.) accepted the Col. Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award for their leadership on repealing COLA reductions and enhancing benefits for special-needs children in military families, respectively.

“It was really my honor to work on the COLA cuts,” Ayotte said. “We need to keep our promises to those who have defended our nation.”

Ayotte is married to retired Lt. Col. Joe Daley, who flew combat missions in the Iraq war with the Air National Guard and is a MOAA member.

Speaking of the threat posed by sequestration, Ayotte said, “The last thing we should do is diminish our military and put our men and women in uniform in a position where they don’t have the training, they don’t have the equipment that they need to serve and defend our nation. … I look forward to partnering with MOAA on this issue.”

Larson reminded attendees that “under 1 percent of the nation does all the work for this nation,” adding, “We should do everything feasible as elected representatives in Congress to ensure the men and women who wear the uniform, who serve this nation, get everything that they need -- not only while they’re serving, but after they leave the service.”

MOAA's Distinguished Service Award, presented since 1997 to individuals or organizations that are not members of Congress but have been consistently strong supporters of the national defense and the uniformed services community, went to AT&T Inc., represented by Jamie Rufolo, and the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine (HJF), represented by John Lowe.

AT&T was recognized for being a model Guard/Reserve employer and for supporting military personnel in the field with tablets and mobile phones; AT&T’s Veteran Employee Resource Group (ERG) has supported call centers in combat zones and conducts military outreach programs across the nation. Rufolo leads a program management team within AT&T’s Federal Government Customer Service organization in support of VA and U.S. Postal Service clients.

“It’s really great to be able to be in a room with people who understand,” said Rufolo, who has worked for AT&T for 17 years, during which she moved seven times as the spouse of an active duty Army major. She notes AT&T has a “very large network of veterans and military-minded individuals in the company that have a deep respect [and] camaraderie, supporting each other.”

HJF, a Bethesda, Md.-based nonprofit, has been dedicated to advancing military medical research for more than 30 years by providing scientific and research management services and more. Lowe, president and CEO of HJF, directs the provision of scientific management services to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and more than 70 military research institutes and treatment facilities across the country. He served with the U.S. Army in Korea and Germany and commanded the 44th Medical Brigade based at Fort Bragg, N.C.; his last active duty assignment was chief of staff of the 7th Medical Command, U.S. Army Europe.
Lowe expressed his pride in HJF’s thousands of employees who “report to work each day … all focused on executing a clear and inspiring mission that was given to us more than 30 years ago.”
Brad Bowman, national security advisor to Ayotte, and David Sitcovsky, legislative director to Larson, were recognized with MOAA’s Col. Paul W. Arcari Meritorious Service Award for their efforts in support of a variety of legislation to help servicemembers and military spouses and survivors.

“Good equipment and training are essential to military readiness, but they are nothing without quality people,” said Bowman, a former Army officer, helicopter pilot, and Afghanistan veteran. “If we forget that and fail to give our servicemembers and their families and retirees the pay and benefits and health care they deserve, we will be neglecting our moral duty to them, and we can endanger the viability of the all-volunteer force. The first would be morally wrong, and the second would be dangerous.”

Sitcovsky said of his work with Larson, “It’s been an honor to be able to assist military families … and ensure they’re getting access to the appropriate services they need.”

The Col. Arthur T. Marix Congressional Leadership Award and Col. Paul W. Arcari Meritorious Service Award both are named for significant former MOAA staffers. Marix founded MOAA in 1929 and served as its first president, while Arcari was the association’s director of Government Relations for 14 years, retiring in 2001.


Storming the Hill Recap

More than 150 MOAA members — including council and chapter leaders from every state and members of the association’s board of directors, staff, Auxiliary Member Advisory Committee, and Currently Serving and Currently Serving Spouse advisory councils — “stormed” Capitol Hill Wednesday to urge nearly all 535 legislators to support a bipartisan debt-reduction package that avoids disproportional penalties on servicemembers and their families.

Storming the Hill participants specifically focused on three issues:

  • • eliminating harmful sequestration budget cuts established by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011;
  • • sustaining military pay and benefits; and
  • • rejecting disproportional TRICARE fee hikes and plan changes.

In addition, Hill-stormers provided to their legislators informational packets regarding MOAA’s position on the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission’s 15 recommendations and the inequities affecting guardmembers and Reservists, disabled retirees, and survivors.

MOAA also asked those at home to take part in the event by contacting their elected officials and sending a prepared message saying they oppose cutting pay and benefits and shifting costs to servicemembers, retirees, and military families.

Council Presidents' Dinner

Watch Rep. Thornberry’s full speech below, from MOAA’s Council Presidents’ Dinner.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, outlined for MOAA council and chapter leaders many of the intricacies of maintaining a strong defense in a challenging budget environment during the association’s Council Presidents’ Dinner Wednesday evening.

Thornberry thanked the currently serving, former, and retired servicemembers and their spouses and survivors in attendance and addressed many of MOAA’s 2015 Storming the Hill priorities in his speech.

Underscoring the growing threat of terrorism and America’s role in fighting evil in the world, he said, “I just want to reiterate gratitude for everyone’s service to our country but also gratitude for your continuing service. The country needs you … and it needs those voices for a strong military, for a strong national defense. You all play a key role of course when you come to Washington, and you get into all those offices and let all members of Congress know what’s important … how it affects the people in the military… but you also play a key role when you go back home and are leading voices in your communities about what’s happening in the world and about how essential it is for the U.S. to be strong, to have a strong national defense.”

Thornberry expressed the likelihood of a bipartisan end to the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration that first were triggered by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

He said he has challenged the stereotype that in the Republican caucus “you’re either a budget hawk or a defense hawk.” “And I believe that a huge majority of the Democratic caucus believe that we must end sequestration, especially for the military,” he continued.

Regarding the recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, Thornberry recognized the hard work and good intentions that went into the report and said the House Armed Services Committee is in the process of reviewing the recommendations and likely will accept some proposals and reject or require further study on others. He also acknowledged the possibility of TRICARE reform, which he said must be done carefully, as health care is the most complicated issue at any level of government.

Following Thornberry’s remarks, MOAA Board of Directors Chair Gen. Charles T. Robertson Jr., USAF (Ret), thanked the congressman by announcing a $6,000 MOAA Scholarship Fund senior grant in Thornberry’s name. 

Information and Ideas Exchanged

Council leaders from across the country gathered April 16 at the Crowne Plaza Old Town in Alexandria, Va., to learn more about national MOAA’s initiatives and exchange best practices and ideas during the 2015 Council Presidents’ Seminar.

Council and Chapter Affairs Committee Chair Lt. Col. Ed Marvin, USAF (Ret), introduced MOAA President Vice Adm. Norbert R. Ryan Jr., USN (Ret), who opened the daylong seminar. Ryan spoke about upcoming MOAA events and new initiatives, and thanked council and chapter leaders for the work they do in their communities.

Marvin then opened the first general session by introducing MOAA Board Chair Gen. Charles Robertson, USAF (Ret), who thanked leaders for their legislative advocacy efforts and sharing their thoughts on how MOAA might better meet the needs of its members and the military community.

Key members of the national staff provided council leaders with information on MOAA’s ongoing and upcoming initiatives. Kathy Partain, director of Membership and Marketing, reviewed MOAA’s new membership model and national membership trends, and discussed the association’s website redesign and brand refresh, which includes a new logo with the tagline, “Never Stop Serving.”

Capt. Patricia Coles, USN (Ret), deputy director of the Transition Center, updated participants about the services provided by the center, ranging from hosting live and virtual career fairs to supporting chapter-run personal affairs committees and transition assistance groups. Sarah Hadacek, deputy director of Veterans and Survivor Services, then outlined MOAA’s new Veterans Service Organization pilot program in the Washington, D.C., area.

Kathy Prout announced the Auxiliary Member Advisory Committee had been renamed the Surviving Spouses Advisory Committee (SSAC) in order to better reflect their mission. Prout then reviewed the committee’s projects and objectives.

Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret), director of Government Relations, spoke about the new Steve Strobridge Award. The award, named in honor of MOAA’s former Government Relations director, will be given to the top legislative chair/liaison in a council or chapter each year. Details and nomination forms will be emailed to council and chapter leaders in May, and nominations are due June 30, 2015. The session ended with Ryan presenting awards to the winners of the 2014 Col. Marvin J. Harris Communications Award Contest.

In the afternoon’s general session, Council and Chapter Affairs Director Col. Barry Wright, USA (Ret), outlined the department’s strategic and aspirational goals, reviewed Chapter Recruiting 2015, and provided an operational snapshot of councils and chapters. The seminar concluded with council and chapter leaders participating in an open discussion session where they asked questions and exchanged ideas and best practices.

Chief of Naval Personnel Addresses Council Leaders

Vice Adm. William F. Moran, USN, Chief of Naval Personnel, addressed Council Presidents’ Seminar participants and their spouses along with members of the national staff and board of directors during an April 16 luncheon at the Crowne Plaza Old Town in Alexandria, Va.

Moran outlined what the Navy is doing to attract, train, and retain the very best people while dealing with the challenges posed by sequestration and an improving job market. He indicated recruiting has been at an all-time high the past five years, and he thanked MOAA’s leaders for their legislative efforts on Capitol Hill that helped close the pay gap between the civilian and military sectors.

He also said the Navy’s retention rate was high the past five years but predicted that might change as the national unemployment rate drops and the economy expands. Current proposals to cap military pay also are causing concern.

“Now we are starting to see [military] compensation rates come down … quite frankly, at a time when we have to compete harder,” said Moran. “My job is to figure out how to keep the best people in the Navy.”

Accomplishing this goal, Moran believes, will mean increasing flexibility in the Navy’s personnel system. Under the current system, many talented servicemembers leave to start a family, care for an ailing child, further their education, or meet other life goals.

“Today, you stay on this conveyor belt of promotion opportunities that starts from the day your enter the service and you stay with that,” said Moran. “There is no opportunity to come off that conveyor belt and come back on without being penalized in your career.”

Moran indicated the “conveyor belt” system needs to change so the Navy can retain high-quality servicemembers. He also outlined efforts to modernize training to meet the needs of today’s high-tech Navy while retaining the service’s cultural aspects.

He concluded his speech by asking MOAA’s leaders to continue their legislative advocacy efforts on behalf of military members and their families before opening the floor to questions.

Moran, a native of New York, received a bachelor’s degree from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1981 and a master's degree from the National War College in 2006. He assumed duties as the Navy’s 57th chief of naval personnel, Aug. 2, 2013. Serving concurrently as the deputy chief of naval operations (Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education) (N1), he is responsible for the planning and programming of all manpower, personnel, training and education resources for the U.S. Navy. He manages an annual operating budget of $29 billion and leads more than 26,000 employees engaged in the recruiting, personnel management, training, and development of Navy personnel. His responsibilities include overseeing Navy Recruiting Command, Navy Personnel Command, and Naval Education and Training Command.