Legislature(2007 - 2008)CAPITOL 106
04/03/2007 08:00 AM STATE AFFAIRS
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* first hearing in first committee of referral
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= bill was previously heard/scheduled
HB 210-QUALIFICATIONS OF THE ADJUTANT GENERAL 8:42:04 AM CHAIR LYNN announced that the next order of business was HOUSE BILL NO. 210, "An Act relating to the appointment and qualifications of the adjutant general." 8:42:14 AM REPRESENTATIVE NANCY DAHLSTROM, Alaska State Legislature, presented HB 210 as prime sponsor. She paraphrased the sponsor statement, which read as follows [original punctuation provided]: House Bill 210, "An act relating to the appointment and qualifications of the adjutant general," is before us to bring attention to the importance of guard duty in relation to its leadership. In recent years, the Alaska National Guard has undergone major changes. It has seen organizational restructure, increased deployment responsibility and additional missions at home. With the amplified demand for the Alaska National Guard, it is imperative for our state's adjutant general be adequately qualified. House Bill 210's intent is to positively impact troop morale by appointing leaders who have shared similar experiences and walked in their shoes. Knowing their leader has been down a similar path will create a deeper respect within the troops. The National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C. is considering an increase in rank for the bureau chief, from three-star to four-star. Increasing the rank from major general to lieutenant general will give the Alaska National Guard a jump start on this initiative and make our adjutant general more qualified and better received when working with issues back in Washington, D.C. An increase in rank will not impact the state budget and will not increase the adjutant general's salary as a state employee. It is important to note this legislation does not limit the power of the Governor to appoint a viable candidate as Adjutant General/Commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. This legislation is supported by the Administration and I ask for your favorable consideration. CHAIR LYNN stated, "It's my understanding that potentially a National Guard general could be advanced to the Joint Armed Services Committee in [Washington], D.C." 8:45:12 AM McHUGH PIERRE, Director of Communications, Office of the Commissioner/Adjutant General, Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, confirmed that Lieutenant General Blum (ph) is "looking at the possibility of staying on," and he is being considered for promotion from three-star to four-star rank. 8:45:59 AM REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL asked what the differences are between the requirements of a lieutenant [general] versus a major general. MR. PIERRE replied that [the lieutenant general] holds a higher level of respect, with more troops serving underneath him/her. He added: However, that wouldn't change very much in our situation. Simply, it would just allow the level of interaction on the federal, on the national, side of the house to increase, and that way they would have more pull in D.C. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL summarized as follows: The intent, then, is to try to ratchet up the level of qualification. I see you have five-years' experience, and so the intention here is to ratchet up the level of experience so that ... getting this higher grade, this general grade officer, ... not only would be recognized as an appointed position, but also as an earned position, I take it. 8:47:21 AM REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM said that's absolutely correct. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL directed attention to page 1, line 5, of the bill, and noted that the language read, "the governor may". He reminded Representative Dahlstrom of Chair Lynn's remarks [during the hearing on HB 179] regarding the ambiguity of using the word "may." He questioned whether the sponsor may want to use a stronger directive, such as by using the word, "shall." REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM responded that that issue has been discussed between the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs and the administration, thus she deferred the question to Mr. Pierre. MR. PIERRE stated that the department wants to keep the power of governor intact, which he said is not only important from the standpoint of the governor, but also in finding a viable candidate. He explained that if there are no viable candidates, the department doesn't want to set limitations that would "hinder the growth of the organization." He said the department believes that with the increasing demands on the National Guard, there must be a strong leadership to guide the organization and help it grow. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL said although the verbiage in the bill gives direction, the use of the word "may" is not strong. The word "shall" is too strong, he said; therefore, he questioned whether the word "should" could be a possibility. REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM said she does not know about the legality of using the word "should." CHAIR LYNN noted that if the governor does not do what he/she "should" do, than he/she is doing something that should not be done, which he said would not make him very comfortable if he were governor. REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL explained that he has discovered in the past that the common sense use of a word sometimes differs from its legal definition. He said his concern over the semantics is not such that he wants to slow down bill. He said he thinks the bill gives some direction that the legislature would "prefer qualifications at the five-level mark ... in military service." On the other hand, he indicated that he does not want to disallow the possibility of finding someone in the Department of Homeland Security who didn't necessarily have the "heavy military experience." 8:50:41 AM MR. PIERRE clarified that a person must be a federally recognized general officer in order to "have this position." Furthermore, the increase in rank would only happen if approved on "the federal side of the House." REPRESENTATIVE COGHILL remarked, "Well then, those are enough 'shoulds' for me." 8:51:10 AM REPRESENTATIVE DOLL said the bill uses "may" more than once, and she interpreted that to mean that "it could happen without this bill." MR. PIERRE confirmed: It has happened without the bill. Our current adjutant general, General Campbell, is an Alaskan. He's a long time member of the Alaska National Guard - 25 years - so, certainly this happened. It has not happened in the past, and the organization has suffered because of that, according to members of the organization. And the Alaska National Guard Officers' Association feels very strongly that this should be in statute, not directing, but suggesting. And the fact that it's suggesting on statute has enough implication that the future governor will look at that and consider his or her appointment with that much more complication or ... weight behind it. REPRESENTATIVE DOLL asked for further clarification. She noted, "Because the governor will make the appointment, but you said it also has to be ... mandated or okayed on a federal level, as well." MR. PIERRE explained: Well, you must be a federally recognized general officer, so you must have achieved rank that is sufficient to be promoted to Brigadier General, within the military. 8:53:26 AM MR. PIERRE, in response to a request from Representative Roses, stated for the record that major general is a "two-star" and a lieutenant general is a "three-star." REPRESENTATIVE ROSES opined that if there is any state in the Union where the adjutant general deserves to be considered for a higher rank, it ought to be the state of Alaska. He explained that the level of engagement that the National Guard has in Alaska far exceeds any other state. He said many of the generals he has met have spoken to the fact that Alaska "sets the standard on the way the [National] Guard and the active military should engage." He mentioned, by way of example, the disaster on the H.M.S. Tireless, emphasizing the expediency with which the National Guard took over the responsibility of the otherwise engaged Coast Guard. He stated his support of HB 210. 8:56:03 AM MR. PIERRE, in response to a question from Representative Doll, clarified that Alaska's current adjutant general is not a lieutenant general. According to federal law and Alaska State Statute, the adjutant general can only be a two-star general, which Mr. Pierre reviewed is a major general. REPRESENTATIVE DOLL noted that the language, [on page 1, line 8], specifies that the adjutant general "may not exceed lieutenant [MAJOR] general." She asked what the next rank up would be. MR. PIERRE answered, "General." He continued: Due to federal requirements ..., the National Guard bureau chief is a rank above the adjutant generals. Therefore, if the National Guard bureau chief is to be a four-star general, the adjutant generals would be a three-star general. 8:56:55 AM REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM offered a means by which the committee could memorize the rank of generals from bottom to top: "be my little general." Using the first letter of each word, "b" stands for brigadier general, "m" stands for major general, "l" stands for lieutenant general, and "g" stands for the top ranking general. 8:57:55 AM REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG said adding an additional star on Alaska's adjutant generals will help maintain their independence. He discussed other legislation. CHAIR LYNN expressed appreciation of the Alaska National Guard. 9:01:22 AM REPRESENTATIVE DAHLSTROM, in response to a question from Representative Coghill, said she does not believe there is a need for an effective date on the bill. 9:01:30 AM REPRESENTATIVE ROSES moved to report HB 210 out of committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying fiscal notes. There being no objection, HB 210 was reported out of the House State Affairs Standing Committee. The committee took an at-ease from 9:02:07 AM to 9:03:42 and again from 9:03:47 AM to 9:04:22. 9:04:26 AM REPRESENTATIVE ROSES noted that the association of the adjutant generals would be meeting this June in Anchorage.