One of the key programs that have been put in place to support the Association’s Strategic Plan is a strong government relations presence. Simply stated our program is targeted at influencing public and government policy at all levels: federal, state and local at both the executive and legislative branch. ALA is a strong advocate for a robust and viable commissary, exchange and MWR benefit. The evolution of government relations has evolved to be captured by the term lobbying. The term "lobbyist" can be traced to the mid-seventeenth century when countrymen would gather in a large hall or lobby near the House of Commons to express their views to members of Parliament. The term lobbyist often co notates evil spirits but it is in fact a protected function under the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Government relations’ (Lobbying) provides a forum for the resolution of conflicts provides analysis and opinion and allows for the balance of power among interest groups. Government relations are an important part of the legislative process as a method to provide lawmakers with reliable data and impacts of a particular bill or policy. Each year your association works with the membership and our business partners to craft a legislative focus agenda for the upcoming year.
Understanding the Budget Process:
- Authorizations versus Appropriations
- Congress allocates considerable resources to support MWR and resale programs. We often see references to authorization bills and appropriations bills and are asked: What is the difference?
- Think about it this way: the authorization acts on Veterans, Defense and Homeland Security put the money in the bank and prescribes a lot of policy changes. The respective appropriations bills write the check and these appropriations expenditures are called outlays. Checks should be written for authorized items.
- Authorization laws have two purposes. They describe programs and are usually a prerequisite for appropriations. MWR and resale programs fall mostly into the category of "discretionary spending" for such items as civilian pay, transportation of goods, facility maintenance and utilities. For this type of spending the role of the authorizing committees is to enact legislation that serves as the basis for operating a program and that provides guidance to the appropriations committees as to the appropriate level of funding for the program.
- Authorizations can span many years for items such as pay raises for military personnel and for major capital purchases such as aircraft and ships. That guidance typically is expressed in terms of an authorization of appropriations. These authorizations are provided either as specific dollar amounts or "such sums as necessary". Authorizations can cover specific years or several years. Appropriations made available for a program after its authorization has expired are called "unauthorized appropriations."
- Ideally, authorization bills precede appropriations bills. However, often, especially in recent years, it is not uncommon for the appropriations to move ahead of the authorizing legislation because of the length and complexity of various spending and policy issues included in authorization bills.