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NDIA Educational Mission Allows Advocacy, Limited Lobbying Role.

Almost 10 years ago, the Board of Directors approved my recommendation to have the association assume a more activist role in promoting the need for a strong national defense and technology base, with particular attention to the nations industrial preparedness. My reasoning was that is one of the fundamental reasons why our founders decided to create the association back in 1919: to speak out on behalf of the industrial base.

The Board's endorsement of that recommendation sparked a decade-long evolution by NDIA into the active advocacy role we now play.

Often, when people learn that we advocate for specific issues, their first reaction is almost a whispered, "But you don't lobby, do you?" That common reaction led me to believe that many of our members may not be familiar with NDIA's participation in advocacy activities. It seemed appropriate that we should fully explain our policy on advocacy, because it does include some forms of lobbying.

Fundamentally, NDIA is an educational, charitable, non-profit association, exempt from federal taxation. The organization is composed of individual members and businesses, all of whom share a common purpose: working to raise awareness of the importance of a strong national defense and the need to sustain a healthy industrial base. We represent a broad-based constituency of individuals-both in the public and private sectors. In fulfilling these roles, it often is necessary to interact with members of Congress and the Executive Branch. While much of what we do in these areas is educational, we also are allowed to lobby, albeit with certain restrictions.

Educational Is Primary

At least 90 percent of everything we do in the area of advocacy falls under the definition of educational activities. Those activities include distributing information, furnishing technical advice, or providing expert witnesses before government proceedings.

On the other hand, lobbying means communicating with a legislative body or government employee, focusing on a specific piece of legislation. Lobbying activities in which NDIA participates include individual contacts with congressional staff members, as well as Executive Branch officials. We provide testimony and prepare statements for hearings. We submit data regarding member positions and views on legislative and regulatory matters. Any or all of these functions can include grass-roots activities, which generally take place within our chapters or as joint efforts with other associations.

One hard and fast rule is that NDIA advocates only on broad, industry-wide issues, never on any individual or company-specific program.

As a non-profit association exempt from federal taxation, there are certain statutory restrictions on any lobbying activities we might undertake:

* First, we may not engage in any partisan political activities, such as campaign fund-raising or endorse a particular candidate, or any type of political action committee (PAC) activities.

* Second, our lobbying expenditures must not exceed a predetermined dollar amount--currently $800,000. (We don't come close to this expenditure limit.)

* Third, we are permitted and do have a registered lobbyist on our staff.

Providing oversight for our advocacy activities is our Government Policy office, led by Peter Scrivner, who spent 26 years on Capitol Hill as a professional staff member on various committees. Pete is also our registered lobbyist, in compliance with the appropriate statutes and restrictions. Finally, a standing committee of the Board of Directors provides oversight for NDIA's Government Policy agenda.

So yes, we do advocate. We think you want us to support and encourage national defense efforts. And yes, we do lobby--but very rarely. Currently, we are "lobbying" against the blacklisting regulation which allows government contractors to be disqualified from competing for government contracts on the basis of a complaint (not proven, but alleged) that they have not complied with a federal law or regulation.

We are also lobbying for prompt payment of defense companies by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS), and against a moratorium on government outsourcing. We believe that all of these positions are in the best interest of national defense, and you, our members. Please let us hear from you on this important subject.
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Author:Skibbie, Larry
Publication:National Defense
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2000
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