Saturday, March 9, 2013

US Intelligence expert reports on impact of sequester

The nation's ability to gather the current amount of intelligence on threats around the world will be impacted by sequestration, even though they will not start the cuts until later in the year, according to Corin Stone, Assistant Director of National Intelligence Policy and Strategy, Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The ability to gain new intelligence in areas that are not the top priorities will suffer first and we will see a slowdown in processing information. The agency will also scale back research, which could lead to a gap in ability to act quickly.

"We will see cuts in travel, conferences, and all non essential activities. I was even asked to walk here today," she said.

She noted that "What keeps us up at night, is that we can calculate what we will cut and what we will not be able to afford to do when cuts happen; but we cannot measure the impact of what we won't get or what we won't know." However, she did assure the group that the NSA will continue to focus on mission and do all we can to make our nation secure.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Federal Food assistance across the nation continues to grow

Needs for more food programs is unfortunately growing due to underemployment and a growing senior population, Kevin Concannon, Undersecretary of Food Nutrition and Consumer Services with the US Department of Agriculture told the SA to DC attendees. He reported that in the last decade they have seen the number of people in the food stamp program increase because the number of people in households with depressed income has grown.

"We are asking what we can do to help support people staying in the workforce so this trend is reversed," Concannon said.

In their second largest program, the school meal programs, which provides 50 million children with food every day, about 23 percent of those students receive the meals free or at a reduced price. He said that in Texas the rate is higher.

One priority is to provide healthier foods for schools. Concannon said that changes were made to the school program to include more fruits and vegetables in the last two years. "The truth is that all of us eat too many processed foods around the country, and we believe the food program at schools is a good place to make positive changes." The agency is also making changes in school snacks because it regulates what is also in school vending machines.  and have taken steps to make those snacks healthier.

The agency has also begun to work with farmers markets to receive the food cards.
All of their programs cost 100 Billion each year, and

Summer feeding programs are critical for so many children who depend on the school lunch program. This is the time of year because they don't get the daily opportunity they have in schools. We have a summer feeding program that operated in local organizations like a boys and girls club or a church and we only serve a fraction of children that have the need. in Texas, we've seen when mayors take it on it brings public attention and helps with getting the message out to parents about how to get access.

When asked about sequestration, Concannon said that the food stamp and the school food programs are not affected because they are protected, however the Women, Infants, & Children (WIC) program, which provides nutrition assistance to low income mothers will be impacted.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cuellar reminds SA to DC group that border region is misunderstood

Rep. Henry Cuellar, the only Texas Democrat serving on the House Appropriations Committee, jokingly told SA to DC participants, “I could talk about appropriations, but there’s no earmarks and no money.”

Cuellar, instead, spent most of his time discussing immigration.  The Laredo native observed that the farther people live from the border, the stronger their opinions about the border tend to be – and they tend to be wrong.

The border region is not “the safest place in the whole world,” Cuellar noted.  But a GAO report he requested found that the crime rate along the border is lower than in Washington, D.C. and lower than the national average.

Cuellar laid out three elements for effective immigration reform.  First, smart border security that relies on technology, rather then using a 14th century solution – a fence – for a 21st century problem; second, a guest worker program; and third, a sensible solution to the 12 million undocumented residents already in the United States – not amnesty, but some sort of pathway to legal residency.

Cornyn: the Keystone Pipeline should be approved immediately

US Senator John Cornyn described Washington as a lot like Disney; "It is a fun place to visit, but it isn't reality."

The Senator noted that the sequester took many by surprise because most didn't it expect to happen. He said it hit disproportionately in San Antonio because it is Military City USA. "The military will suffer about a trillion dollar in cuts," he said. "This may be the only part of the federal government that this administration is willing to cut."

Cornyn said that many cuts are needed that are more logical. He told the group that the White House has cut its spring tours, saving about $18,000 a year, but there is obviously more that needs to be done.

He proposed that the nation should use an economic and spending model more like Texas, where more jobs are being created than the rest of the country, and where it is clear that we are doing something right. Cornyn asked what is the secret sauce in Texas? He said it starts with energy, special thanks to the invention of shale gas exploration and fracking. He speculated that if we could increase our production at the current pace, we could become energy independent in the foreseeable future. This benefit doesn't event count the economic benefit of the additional jobs.

Therefore, he said he believes the president should not delay in approving the Keystone Pipeline. "Imagine what it could mean in the geopolitics around the world if we could be less dependent on the middle east for oil," he said. The entire video is below.

Gallego Sees a Need for a Kinder Washington

Congressman Pete Gallego shared that for a guy from a small town, decisions in Washington seem to be more complicated than they have to be. He told the group that he has a different approach than many leaders in DC. He told of the birth of his first child and how everything he does is focused on what he wants to teach to his young son about honesty and integrity. He told the SA to DC attendees that he feels it should be ok to work with everyone in Washington, regardless of political party. He said relationships are important because we need everyone to build a stronger country for our children's future. He noted that Texas has the most to loose in the budget cuts to the military that came with the sequester. He also said we need help from all parties to fix the problem we created. The audience laughed when he asked, "Have you ever asked a favor of someone you just beat up?" He then said that Washington needs leaders who take care of the people of the nation, as well as a small business leader takes care of their customers. He recalled that he felt people have been rude to him when they find out he was a Congressman. He hopes to help change the attitude around the country about Congress.

Israel Ambassador Reaffirms Ties with US

Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, described the religious and historical roots of the complex and enduring Israeli-American relationship.  Military cooperation, shared economic growth in high-tech innovation and a common interest in environmental protection have augmented that relationship and play an important role in exchanges between San Antonio and Israel.  Mayor Castro,for instance, signed a memorandum of understanding in 2011 with an Israeli company for cooperation on recycled water:

Oren also mentioned Lyndon B. Johnson's reference to Israel as "America's Alamo in the Middle East," a reference that Israelis appreciate as a high honor, but one that — given the fate of the defenders — they don't particularly care to emulate.

The dinner was sponsored by BCFS Health and Human Services and is a highlight of the trip.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Capitol Hill Meetings - the heart of the trip

More than a dozen issue teams take our Federal Agenda issues to Capitol Hill with their specific talking points that will help convince our elected leaders of their importance.

Photo: Members of the SA to DC Transportation issue team meeting with Rep. Pete Gallego.

Senator Ted Cruz Talks About his Priorities

Sen. Ted Cruz said he and his staff have a singular focus – economic growth. Of all economic data swirling around, the most important data point is the 0.8 percent average economic growth rate during President Obama’s first term. Cruz contrasted that figure with the 3.3 percent average economic growth rate since World War II. Without economic growth, Cruz said, no other problems in Washington can be solved - including the debt problem. Cruz said that budget writers cannot cut enough spending to balance budget without economic growth and that this issue could be the source of bipartisan agreement to get people back to work. Cruz identified three sub-priorities: restraining out of control spending, reducing the tax burden on individuals and businesses and reducing the regulatory burden.

Senator Cruz Wants To See Economic Growth

Sen. Ted Cruz said he and his staff have a singular focus – economic growth. Of all economic data swirling around, the most important data point is the 0.8 percent average economic growth rate during President Obama’s first term. Cruz contrasted that figure with the 3.3 percent average economic growth rate since World War II.

Without economic growth, Cruz said, no other problems in Washington can be solved - including the debt problem. Cruz said that budget writers cannot cut enough spending to balance budget without economic growth and that this issue could be the source of bipartisan agreement to get people back to work.

Cruz identified three sub-priorities: restraining out of control spending, reducing the tax burden on individuals and businesses and reducing the regulatory burden.

Congressman Smith Working on Bipartisan Projects

Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Committee, has a poster in his office from the Hubble Space Telescope’s Ultra-Deep Field survey. The image depicts a small area of the sky notable for its low density of bright stars – a dark area, The Hubble image reveals that this dark area actually contains thousands of galaxies each consisting of billions of stars.

Smith suggested that there’s a metaphysical interpretation of that image for today’s dysfunctional environment in Washington: Even in the darkest times, it’s possible to find sources of light. As a committee chairman, Smith has been a trailblazer in hosting bipartisan committee retreats.

Congressman Doggett Talks Tourism and Economic Development

Rep. Lloyd Doggett told SA to DC participants that San Antonio’s Spanish colonial missions aren’t just artistically and historically important, they’re also a source of economic development for the South Side and a magnet for tourists. The effort to expand the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, he said, was being hampered by a “fanatical belief” by some members of Congress that the federal government should not acquire another inch of land.

Doggett complimented the work of Bexar County and the San Antonio River Authority on the Mission Reach of the river improvements project and said that a proposal to restore San Antonio’s West Side creeks would be another important step for economic development.

Watch the discussion with the Castros


Late Reception features Mayor Castro and Congressman Castro

Today, San Antonio leaders participating in the SA to DC trip began to arrive at the San Antonio International Airport as early as 4:00 a.m. Discussions and planning started amongst the delegation members on topics including Small Business, Immigration, Military, and other focus issues important to the economic growth of our very own Alamo City. They are prepared to advocate on behalf of the more than 40,000 small business owners in the San Antonio metropolitan area. Arriving at 10:00 a.m. in Baltimore was soon followed by a 45-minute shuttle ride to our hotel, Marriott at Metro Center, where a late afternoon reception was held to welcome the San Antonio Delegation. A special thanks goes out to our very own San Antonio Mayor, Julian Castro and Congressman Joaquin Castro for answering questions from reception guests and our distinguished moderator, Ron Fournier, Editorial Director for The National Journal.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

National Journal editor calls Castro brothers the 'future of politics.'

At the opening session of SA to DC 2013, National Journal editor Ron Fournier said Mayor Julian Castro and Rep. Joaquin Castro represent the future of American politics. "The two gentlemen from your state are the two rising stars in politics." Fournier said that a time of extreme cynicism in politics, the willingness of individuals to come to Washington to serve as advocates, such as with SA to DC, provides a ray of hope for political pragmatism.

What to expect the first day in DC

The Greater San Antonio Chamber President tells what is in store the first day of SA to DC.

What happens before the group arrives?

by Michael Vela
In preparation for the San Antonio delegation to arrive in Washington DC on Tuesday, March 5th the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and The Greater Chamber staff spent the day walking the halls of the nation’s Capitol, confirming appointments with respective State Representatives and Congressmen. This year's SA to DC trip is a partnership between the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Free Trade Alliance and The Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. Together, we will host a delegation consisting of more than 150 business leaders, state and local elected officials from San Antonio at the Nation’s Capitol.

This year’s delegation consists of 12 committees: Small Business, Immigration, Military, Healthcare & Bioscience, Transportation, Water, International Trade, Education, Technology, Manufacturing, Aerospace, and Hospitality & Tourism.

Also, Hispanic Chamber President & CEO, Ramiro Cavazos, along with Jose Maria Gonzalez, Director of International Business, and Michael Vela, Director of Communications were delighted to visit with former San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President & CEO, Louis Escareño on Sunday.

Dedicated staff make SA to DC special every year

Leaving the Chamber of Commerce weather behind in San Antonio, the Sa to DC group of 100+ business and community leaders took off early this morning for sunny, but significantly cooler Washington DC.

This post is a special shout out to the staff members from The Greater Chamber and the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber who have spent countless hours getting meetings set up, staying up really late, getting up and working well before the sun rise to make this trip smooth.

Thanks especially to Jose Maria Gonzalez, Michael Vela, Will Garrett, Liza Barratachea, Lauren Sides, Michelle Morris and Allegra Zwan. You make this trip really special for the rest of us.

Photo: big loads of luggage are taken to charter busses for SA to DC attendees

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mayor Castro and Congressman Castro to kickoff SA to DC events

SA to DC 2013 starts off with a bang this year with a lively discussion on three topics with Mayor Julián Castro and Congressman Joaquin Castro, moderated by National Journal Editorial Director Ron Fournier. The opening event is a rare opportunity to catch the two together and talk about federal and local priorities on education, military relations and immigration reform.

Fournier has also made recent headlines because he joined several seasoned journalists to challenge White House tactics on their recent management of press relationships. He is also outspoken about the broken politics across our nation's capitol. In fact, today's blog suggests that President Obama and Speaker of the House John Boehner need to grow up. 

Read it here:
by Ron Fournier

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Chamber Prepares Pro-Business Agenda to Take to DC

The Greater Chamber is working to build our strongest advocacy case for the business community in Washington, DC, as we prepare for the 2013 SA to DC trip March 5-8. As The Chamber’s mission is to build and sustain a diverse and prosperous economy, the Legislative Committee is currently reviewing submitted items for the 2013 Federal Agenda. All potential items will head to the Board of Directors on February 28 after going through the committee process. The Chamber strives to ensure your voice is heard and encourages you to submit your white paper and priority issue(s) to the Public Affairs Department as soon as possible.

You can also help us personally address the needs of the South Central Texas region, which will be produced in our Federal Agenda, by joining us for our annual SA to DC trip.

The Chamber’s Legislative Committee is chaired by Vicki Perkins, Chief Government Relations Officer Advocacy and Government Relations at CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System. For more information about the Public Affairs Committees, please contact Lauren Sides at (210) 229-2160.
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