As I briefed at the Division 3 PAC in April the BAH survey and study I started back in 2017 is still ongoing, as I am awaiting the actual data collected by the DoD contractor to help determine the BAH rates here on Ellsworth. My original Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Defense Travel Management Office/Defense Human Resources Activity (DTMO/DHRA) was submitted way back in Oct 2017 and I received a response in Dec 2018 (14 months later) that they had identified 8 documents that met my request.
But they denied to provide the data citing it was “exempt in their entirety pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4) and 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(6)” for “trade secrets”. Needless to say I filed an appeal in January 2019, still to be determined if that will take another 14 months. Next to close the loop on "Leadership Engagement" on the subject (vice legislation actions) I submitted an Airman Powered by Innovation (API) suggestion (2018-936) titled “Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) Transparency” in May of 2018. It is still “in review” as of April 2019.
Next, a full 12 months before the issue of poor government oversight of Privatized Housing hit the media and the halls of Congress I launched a Privatized Housing survey in response to numerous and continued complaints and comments on "Ellsworth Families" Facebook page. This survey provided different results than the housing contractor's own surveys and resulted in the the base commander directing two base "Townhall" meetings on the subject of housing (both BAH and Privatized Housing). While poorly attended due to lack of announcements/advertising it was reassuring to see base leadership engage on the subject of housing.
Finally, on a positive note. In January 2019 I attended an Ellsworth Spouses Club forum on the subject of Active Duty Spousal Professional Licensure Reciprocity. The forum was extremely educational for all in attendance, to include some 25 spouses, the base Airman & Family Readiness Center, the Vice President of the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce and yours truly. I had earlier in 2018 discussed the issue with the Chamber and the South Dakota Secretary for Veterans Affairs, but now the issue was ready for the upcoming legislative year. That day I wrote and sent letters to the 18 state legislators from the Ellsworth area, as well as the Secretary and the Governor asking for their "time and consideration on the necessary pieces of legislation that will be proposed in this and future years on this subject."
Next I attended a state legislature "Cracker Barrel" forum expecting to engage the legislators on the subject and the proposed House Bill 1111. To my surprise, the bill had unanimous sub-committee support in both houses and by mid-March had passed both houses unanimously and was signed into law by the Governor on 21 March. A true victory at the state level for all active duty spouses in the State of South Dakota: State professional occupation license issued within 30 days of completed application and no cost. A great example of AFSA Chapter advocacy at the state level.
As I pass on the legislative baton let me leave you with these 10 yes/no questions to use to self-assess your chapters legislative program:
1.My briefs/discusses current AFSA Legislative news at each chapter meeting?
2.My shares AFSA legislative news at base and/or community organization meetings?
3.My shares Legislative news (Social Media, e-mail, newsletter, etc.)?
4.My polls/surveys our members and/or installation populace to gather their concerns?
5.My meets with installation/community leaders to discuss issues and/or concerns?
6.My routinely attends installation/community townhalls/other military/veteran forums?
7.My routinely meets with U.S. Congressional Staffers, State Dept of Veteran Affairs, etc. ?
8.My hosts legislative Q&A forums with local leaders and/or congressional staffers?
9.My is a member of local Chamber(s) of Commerce and related committees?
10. My participates and urges others to contact elected representatives (VoterVoice, etc.)?
It's been my pleasure to serve as your legislative trustee,
Kevin M. Ott, CMSgt (retired)
President, AFSA Division 3 (Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin)
605 939-4404 (cell)
AFSA Website: www.hqafsa.org