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Defense and Veterans Roundup: Unemployment Numbers, Electronic Health Records, Budgets and Some Actual Good News

Posted by Fred Wellman

Gen. Sinclair Gets Reprimand, Must Forfeit Some Pay in Army Sex Case

David Zucchino, L.A. Times. A long and contentious legal battle including the incredibly rare prosecution of an Army general officer for sexual assault ended with a whimper this week as Brigadier General Jeffrey Sinclair cut a plea deal and was sentenced to forfeit $20,000 in pay, restitution of $4,100 that was misspent on his government charge card in support of his multi-year affair with a subordinate, and a letter of reprimand. For perspective, the pay forfeit is spread over four months so as a general officer with 28 years of service he will lose approximately 35% of his paycheck for four months. So, he was essentially sentenced to a reduced budget until the summer. The case is a train wreck for the Army which is struggling to show it is tough on sexual assault and misbehavior in the ranks while not influencing cases politically. The Sinclair case was seen as a deeply flawed prosecution for months as the main witness, his jilted lover, kept getting caught in clearly false statements and contradictions that undermined the most damaging charges of sexual assault. In the end the general only faced charges surrounding his three-year relationship with the woman and inappropriate behavior with three other subordinates and having porn on his computer in combat. Most disturbing was that his defense rolled out the old “don’t penalize his family” trope to convince the judge that kicking him out of the service or reducing his rank would cause his family to lose retirement benefits. Now he will face a board that will determine his retirement rank based on the loosely worded concept of at which rank he last served honorably. That is expected to be Lieutenant Colonel based on the trial testimony but he will still walk with away this summer with around $50,000 or so a year in retirement pay and full benefits. To say the reaction in the ranks was outrage would be an understatement. Afterwards Sergeant Major of the Army Chandler, in an interview published by the Army Times, weighed in heavily on the silly funeral pictures that embarrassed the Army last month and how it hurt the reputation of the service. No one in the military leadership have said a word about one of their own carrying on repeated affairs and behaving mysoginistically throughout his entire tenure as a general officer. After all, embarrassing selfies are clearly undermining America’s views of their military much more than repeated failures of ethics, sexual misconduct, bribery and abuse of power. General Dempsey has his work cut out for him to right the ship of failed senior leaders.

Pentagon Withholds Internal Report About Flawed $2.7 Billion Intel Program

Gordon Lubold (@glubold) and Shane Harris (@shanewharris), Foreign Policy. For years now the saga of the Army’s Distributed Common Ground System all-in-one intelligence sharing program has dragged on with critics calling it at best over complicated and unreliable and at worst a total failure. The 30-year program that is expected to cost some $11 billion has been repeatedly attacked: most recently last summer by the DoD acquisition office itself finding that the Army shouldn’t be dismissing off-the-shelf technology from California’s Palantir Technologies. Interestingly, that report has been kept secret and not released to Members of Congress who have repeatedly requested it from DoD officials. FP got hold of the 57 page report and found that while it isn’t a ‘smoking gun’ death blow to DCGS-A, it does question why the Army has been so forcefully dismissing Palantir while deploying combat units who purchase the tool with their own money. No one believes Palantir can replace all of the functions of DCGS-A but its critical analysis pieces are simpler and more reliable. You should expect Congressman Duncan Hunter to roll in hot on this latest revelation after a very emotional exchange with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno on the topic last year. In light of the budget cuts leading to troops being cut and Commissary benefits disappearing there isn’t a lot of tolerance for another bloated, failed acquisition program among the rank and file of the military.

VA-DoD Common Records System May Still Be Possible

Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times. The idea of a common digital medical record system has become the white whale of more than a few Captain Ahabs at VA and DoD but they still keep setting sail to take on the legendary beast. This week, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told lawmakers that his latest venture on the Pequod left him with hopes of DoD buying his department’s digital record system as their own. This comes after a year of outside help improving their system called the Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture, VistA, and now renewed hope that it will become a replacement for DoD’s own outdated system. Last year the department released the source code to commercial developers and let them make improvements and use the code to develop their own systems. When DoD goes to buy a new system, that new one may already be compatible with VA’s system but with a commercial firm as the source. The whole battle continues after a $1 billion multi-year effort to combine the two departments processes failed to accomplish anything amid squabbling over who had the better of the two. When that effort failed, DoD decided to seek a better commercial approach that is kicking off in earnest in coming years with a goal to have a new system in place by 2019 that may, hopefully, actually be compatible with VA’s system…even if it’s just by accident.

Despite Improvements in Vets’ Jobless Rate, Iraq, Afghanistan Vets Still Lag

James Rosen, McClatchy Washington Bureau. The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics released the 2013 veteran unemployment numbers this week and they were full of relatively good news for most veterans but also caution for others. Overall veteran unemployment remains lower than the national average and there has been progress in every sector but post-9/11 veterans had a 9 percent unemployment rate, two percent higher than the civilian average, and veterans between 18-24 years old had 21.4 percent unemployment. Our CEO Fred Wellman was asked for his perspective and offered that clearly “there has been progress, and companies are doing good things, but we still have a challenge with younger and new vets coming out of service finding employment. We need to keep our eye on the ball and help these younger vets match their skills with jobs in their areas.” The many programs to help veterans find jobs like the GE led ‘Get Skills to Work’ effort and the Chamber’s Hiring Our Heroes are making an impact but the mission is far from complete.

Moral Injury

David Wood (@woodwriter), Huffington Post. A multi-part multimedia piece from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist David Wood that raises important and uncomfortable questions about the nature of war and how we fail our veterans in the healing process.

Report Estimates Half of Vets on GI Bill Graduate

Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press. Initial data hot off the presses: Student Veterans of America’s groundbreaking report on the Post-9/11 GI Bill shows 51.7 percent of student veterans are graduating with degrees, far above the 12 percent figure used by some experts. Student veterans are graduating at a slightly lower rate than traditional students—those enrolling out of high school—but at a slightly higher rate than other non-traditional peer groups. This is good news for student veteran advocates who have been looking to show a return on investment for the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Had student veterans been graduating at a rate near 12 percent, advocates feared Congress would quickly make cuts to benefit. This data will become a critical talking point for veterans groups in the months to come. Another tidbit via Leo Shane (@LeoShane) on Twitter, “According to @studentvets report, 64% of vets who attend private colleges get a degree. At public schools, it’s 51%. For-profits, it’s 45%.” That is sure to re-invigorate debate over veterans and for-profit schools, both their supporters and their detractors. The full report will be released this afternoon and @ScoutComms will be on hand to livetweet all the most important details.

What’s in Veterans Affairs’ $164 Billion Budget?

Jacob W. Sotak (@JWSotak), The New York Times’ At War blog. Last week, VA Secretary Shinseki made his department’s case for its funding priorities before Congress. The majority of the VA budget is tied up in mandatory spending on disability payments and pensions. The discretionary budget covers Shinseki’s three big priorities for FY 2015: better access to health care for veterans, ending veteran homelessness, and ending the backlog of disability claims. The big push on the latter two in 2015 makes sense as that is the year Shinseki and the president have set for ending both. VA homelessness programs get a 14 percent increase in funding in this budget request, one that is likely to be approved. But many of VA’s programs for homeless veterans depend on HUD funding, too, which can face tougher battles for funds with penny-pinching Members of Congress. Shinseki also drew fire in the Senate on two pernicious issues for VA: mental health care services and access to VA services for rural veterans. These are two areas we expect to see quite a bit more coverage on in coming months.

Exclusive: Army Squared Off With Budweiser Over Controversial Super Bowl Ad

Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), Foreign Policy. An unvarnished look at the sausage of how Budweiser’s much-maligned Super Bowl ad came to be and how the Army almost successfully killed it. The ad started with a PR firm, Weber Shandwick, reaching out to the Army on Budweiser’s behalf. Budweiser was looking to reunite a soldier with his family by “delivering” him via Bud’s iconic Clydesdales as part of National Lager Day on December 10. Army lawyers quickly determined they could not provide any official support or soldiers, but that nothing would prevent a soldier not in uniform and off duty from participating. Seemingly dissatisfied with this answer, Budweiser (or perhaps the PR firm) enlisted Veterans of Foreign Wars’ headquarters to carry water for them with the Army and made a similar request, this time for official participation in a “documentary”. The Army saw this end-run for what it was and once again killed it. Or at least they thought they had. Budweiser managed to get Lt. Chuck Nadd on film for their documentary by “sponsoring” a VFW welcome home party. At the time, Lt. Nadd knew he was being filmed and interviewed and later reported it to his chain of command that he spoke to Budweiser and VFW officials on camera. This set off another flurry of Army emails including talk about drafting a “cease and desist” letter to Budweiser to prevent the potentially illegal commercial from airing. With just seconds left on the play clock, the Army’s top public affairs officer seems to have stepped in and cleared the way for Budweiser to have its cake and eat it to. The whole story smells a little off and gives the PR business a bad name. We’re glad to see the Army tried to do the right thing and uncomfortable about the resolution that seems to go against the ban on using soldiers to endorse commercial products. We hope Lamothe and maybe an IG continue to the investigation.

The WWII Hero America Abandoned

Megan McCloskey (@MegMcCloskey), ProPublica. At ProPublica, McCloskey is keeping an investigative eye on Joint Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command and its many failings. In this case, a family was finally able to bring their soldier’s remains home after France and Germany collaborated to test DNA evidence and dissenter PFC Lawrence Gordon—after the Pentagon refused.

‘Enlisted’ Is the Best Show You’re Not Watching, Flavorwire
Army Times calls on Fox to give ‘Enlisted’ better time slot, Army Times

As ratings for “Enlisted” are decreasing faster than the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, both TV aficionados and military supporters alike are coming together to save the Fox sitcom. The show’s current 9:00PM on Friday time slot is doing it no favors, nor did the pilot episode, but the show has come a long way since then both in the eyes of average Americans and discerning veterans. Hopefully this one re-ups.

Thom Shanker leaves Pentagon Beat

Long time New York Times Pentagon reporter Thom Shanker left the five-sided puzzle palace last week to move across town and take over as Washington D.C. bureau weekend editor. Shanker is incredibly well regarded by both his peers and his subjects as a fair but relentless journalist and was toasted by the press pool and Secretary of Defense Hagel upon his departure after 13 years covering DoD.

Tradeshows & Conferences

No major tradeshows or conferences this week.

View our full list of upcoming tradeshows.

Congressional Hearings

Congress: Both chambers are back in session this week for more budgetary fun.

Joint:

Veterans Affairs: Legislative Presentation of The American Legion When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 26, 2014 Where: G-50 Dirksen

House:

Armed Services: Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of the Army Who: The Honorable John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, U.S. Army, General Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, U.S. Army When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense: Navy and Marine Corps Budget Hearing Who: The Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary, United States Navy, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, United States Navy, General James F. Amos, Commandant, United States Marine Corps When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 Where: H-140 Capitol

Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel: Military Personnel Overview Who: Lieutenant General Howard B. Bromberg, Deputy Chief of Staff , G-1, U.S. Army, Lieutenant General Samuel D. Cox, Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, U.S. Air Force, Vice Admiral William F. Moran, Chief of Naval Personnel and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Manpower, Personnel, Training and Educaiton, U.S. Navy, Ms. Sheryl E. Murray, Assistant Deputy Commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, Ms. Jessica L. Wright, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Department of Defense When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 Where: 2212 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces: Fiscal Year 2015 Missile Defense Hearing Who: Ms. M. Elaine Bunn, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy, Department of Defense, Lieutenant General David L. Mann, U.S. Army, Commander, United States Strategic Command, Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, Vice Admiral James D. Syring, U.S. Navy, Director, Missile Defense Agency When: 3:30 PM, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense: Air Force Budget Hearing Who: The Honorable Deborah Lee James, Secretary, United States Air Force, General Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 26, 2014 Where: H-140 Capitol

Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces: Fiscal Year 2015 Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Combat Aviation Programs When: 12:30 PM, Wednesday, March 26, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces: Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request for Seapower and Projection Forces When: 3:30 PM, Wednesday, March 26, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness: Operation and Maintenance without OCO Funds: What Now? When: 9:00 AM, Thursday, March 27, 2014 Where: 2212 Rayburn

Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense: US Army Budget Hearing Who: The Honorable John McHugh, Secretary of the Army, U.S. Army, General Raymond T. Odierno, Chief of Staff of the Army, U.S. Army When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, March 27, 2014 Where: H-140 Capitol

Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies: Veterans Affairs Budget Hearing Who: The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary, Veterans Affairs, Robert A. Petzel, MD, Under Secretary for Health, Allison A. Hickey, Under Secretary for Benefits, Steve L. Muro, Under Secretary for Memorial Affairs, Stephen W. Warren, Executive in Charge for Informational Technology, Helen Tierney, Executive in Charge for the Office of Management and Chief Financial Officer When: 1:30 PM, Thursday, March 27, 2014 Where: 2359 Rayburn

Senate:

Armed Services: U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea Who: Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, USN, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, USA, Commander, United Nations Command/ Combined Forces Command/ U.S. Forces Korea When: 9:15 AM, Tuesday, March 25, 2014 Where: G-50 Dirksen

Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel: Active, Guard, Reserve, and Civilian Personnel Programs Who: Honorable Robert F. Hale, Under Secretary Of Defense (Comptroller), Honorable Jessica L. Wright, Acting Under Secretary Of Defense For Personnel And Readiness, Honorable Jonathan A. Woodson, Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Health Affairs, Honorable Frederick E. Vollrath, Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Readiness And Force Management, Mr. Richard O. Wightman, Acting Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Reserve Affairs, Colonel Michael F. Hayden, USAF (Ret.), Director, Government Relations, Military Officers Association Of America, Mrs. Kathleen B. Moakler, Government Relations Director, National Military Family Association, Mr. John R. Davis, Director, Legislative Programs, Fleet Reserve Association, Captain Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret.), Director, Legislative And Military Policy, Reserve Officers Association When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, March 26, 2014 Where: 222 Russell

Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support: Current Readiness of US Forces Who: General John F. Campbell, USA, Vice Chief Of Staff United States Army, Admiral Mark E. Ferguson III, USN, Vice Chief Of Naval Operations United States Navy, General John M. Paxton, Jr., USMC, Assistant Commandant United States Marine Corps, General Larry O. Spencer, USAF, Vice Chief Of Staff United States Air Force When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, March 26, 2014 Where: 232-A Russell

Armed Services: Posture of the Navy Who: Honorable Raymond E. Mabus, Jr., Secretary Of The Navy, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, USN, Chief Of Naval Operations, General James F. Amos, USMC, Commandant Of The Marine Corps When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, March 27, 2014 Where: G-50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

Student Veterans of America: Million Records Project Initial Data Release When: 12:30 PM, Monday, March 24, 2014 Where: Jack Morton Auditorium, 805 21st Street NW, Washington, DC 20052

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: Policy Agenda Launch and Mental Health Panel Who: Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA, Terri Tanielian, Senior Social Research Analyst at the RAND Corporation, Loree Sutton, Brigadier General (Ret.) in the U.S. Army and Co-Director of Threshold GlobalWorks, LLC, Caitlin Thompson, VA Deputy Director of Suicide Prevention When: 12:00 PM, Monday, March 24, 2014 Where: 209 Capitol Visitors’ Center

Fred Wellman, President ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of defense industry news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. You can follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms.

This entry was posted on Monday, March 24, 2014 8:53 am

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