Defense Roundup: Budget Deal Breaks Faith with Service Members and Retirees, Contractors Report High PTSD Rates, Little Care

Posted by Fred Wellman

Ryan-Murray Deal Hits Younger, Future Military Retirees

Tom Philpott, Stars and Stripes. The shocking news last week was that in a bizarre twist, Republicans and Democrats came together and actually agreed to something. Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray announced late Tuesday a surprising compromise budget proposal that takes out much of the damaging sequestration uncertainty while avoiding many of the larger issues that still linger. As the agreement was looked at closer, many saw things to like and things to worry about. Overall the Pentagon is happy to have some certainty in their budget and a return to a normal process of managing their programs. By Thursday, veterans and military support organizations were pretty worked up over a provision that will save billions over ten years by cutting back on future Cost of Living Adjustments for so-called “working age retirees” up to age 62 and current military members. What the deal effectively means is a 20% cut in a military retirees pension. It got loud very quickly online as a campaign to stop the agreement as a betrayal of the promises made to today’s veterans gained steam but did nothing to slow down the House passing the bill on Friday and likely passage this week in the Senate. The proposal was really politically astute as it isn’t really a cut at all but a slowing down of future raises. On top of that it only affects those who stayed in 20 or more years, which is senior officers and NCOs who probably have second careers. Our take is this was a poor move, as it leaves no grandfather clause and ignores a host of studies and commissions now in progress on ways to adjust the military benefits programs. But more concerning is that this passed easily and likely represents simply the first step of many in rolling back of military benefits painted as overly generous. Next will likely be increases in Tricare fees and rates for the same working age retirees, closure of stateside commissaries, and eventually adjustments in the entire structure of retirement programs for military members. The Senate is promising to review the idea but it’s hard to resist a done deal that saves almost $7 billion.

Planes Parked in Weeds in Kabul After $486 Million Spent

Tony Capaccio (@acapaccio), Bloomberg. Just two weeks ago it was revealed the Army built a $36 million headquarters on Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan against the wishes of the local commanders. Now it appears $486 million worth of Italian transport planes bought for the Afghan Air Force sit in the weeds off the tarmac at Kabul International Airport after only flying some 200 of planned 4,500 hours of training and missions back in 2012. The 16 refurbished G222 transports were meant to fill about 15% of the new air force’s fleet but once they arrived in country it was obvious they were flying in a hotter dustier environment than they were built to support. Faced with near constant maintenance issues and repeated failures by the contractor hired to maintain them, Alenia Aemacchi, the fleet was set aside to be used as spare parts and replaced with American C-130Hs. Eventually they will be stripped of military gear and destroyed according to the Air Force, which calls the entire affair a valuable “lesson-learned” case study. A very expensive lesson learned.

SOCOM Web Initiative on Senate Chopping Block

Howard Altman (@haltman), Tampa Bay Tribune. U.S. Special Operations Command runs a network of 10 websites called the Trans Regional Web Initiative in partnership with the Geographic Combatant Commands to provide a counter-narrative to the extremist websites that proliferate around the world. Produced in local languages they present an American view on current news and current events. The effort has long been scrutinized as an effort that has little real impact in spite of the programs insistence that its two million unique visitors a month are making a difference in the battle of ideas. Unfortunately, that battle comes with a $20 million a year price tag to keep it running and in this budget environment the Senate is taking a closer look at the necessity of such an effort. The ROI on $1.7 million a month for just over 2 million visitors is pretty high for a business to justify and it looks like Congress is wondering the same thing.

Small Business Administration Wants to Help Small Businesses that Send Employees to War

John Grady, ScoutComms’ Special Correspondent. Even as the war in Afghanistan winds down the Pentagon is planning on regularly activating and deploying National Guard and Reserve units around the world as part of its global mission. When a small business loses a key employee to a deployment it can be disastrous to the company and many don’t recover. The Small Business Administration is trying to get the word out to more businesses about the availability of a unique disaster relief loan modeled after its natural disaster loans but designed to help businesses survive when key employees are sent into harm’s way. John Grady had the opportunity to speak to SBA leaders about the effort this week and it’s worth learning more for those that might be devastated when the CEO goes to war.

Changes in Media:

Rick Maze departs Military Times
After 33 years, Rick Maze has left the Military Times family of papers and will now head up Army Magazine as editor in chief. Rick covered military and veterans’ issues on the Hill most recently and has a storied career of reporting on issues that affect our troops and their families.

Iraq War Vet-Turned-Congressman Gets Show on MSNBC

Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Stars and Stripes. Former Congressman Patrick Murphy is the first post-9/11 veteran to land his own TV show. The young Pennsylvanian will take to the airwaves on MSNBC’s “Taking the Hill” where he’ll cover veterans and military families issues. The show will air next year on a “yet to be determined” schedule. We look forward to seeing many familiar faces grace the small screen to discuss the hottest topics.

Present-Traumatic Stress: Banding Together to Fight — and to Heal

Martin Kuz, Stars and Stripes. The military doesn’t wait to treat physical wounds until troops have returned home or left the service, they treat those wounds immediately. One lesson the military has learned is that invisible wounds must also be treated immediately. To better treat potential mental wounds from traumatic incidents, the Army tries to bring together units within 72 hours of an incident to talk with each other and with behavioral health specialists in what is essentially group therapy. As Kuz finds in following one unit’s tragic loss, not every soldier welcomes the idea of opening up to strangers about their emotions, let alone an outsider like a behavioral health specialist. After the Night Riders lost their most popular brother, Sgt. Johnson, few wanted to open up, but once a fellow sergeant shared his grief the emotion poured out. Luz was there to document the session and paints a gripping tale of post-traumatic growth and of a soldier, father, and leader lost far too soon.

PTSD Rates Similar Among Defense Contractors and Veterans, Report Says

Josh Hicks (@Reporter_Hicks), Washington Post. A recent RAND survey found that 25 percent of federal contractors who have served in war zones meet the criteria for PTSD. That compares to a PTSD rate of 20 percent in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. As contractors have been deployed worldwide, sometimes even outnumbering troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, they have been put in more dangerous situations than ever before. While the military has many programs in place before, during, and after deployment to help prevent and treat mental health issues stemming from combat exposure, most contractors told RAND they had no such internal mechanisms. Similarly, only 28 percent of contractors who screened positive for PTSD were receiving treatment. Though a number of contactors are also veterans who can seek some care through the VA, specialized care for combat trauma does not readily exist in civilian healthcare systems. It’s a very unique challenge this very new kind of contractor-heavy war has caused. A study on humanitarian aid workers, journalists, and others working in combat zones might also have some unique findings on how combat effects those on the blurred front lines.

Vets in Tech Helps Veterans Get Their Foot in the Door

Gary Peterson (@garyscribe) and Mark Emmons (@markedwinemmons), San Jose Mercury News. Looking around her Silicon Valley community, Katherine Webster saw many affinity groups intended for women, young people, LGBT folks, and others, but never a group for veterans. She decided to change that. A year and a half later, Vets in Tech calls some of the biggest names in technology its backers and has expanded from the California breeding ground to six other techy locations across the country. Not only is Vets in Tech working to get veterans interested in technology careers, it’s also working on connecting veterans with networking opportunities, resume tips, and LinkedIn profile makeovers. It’s not about job fairs, it’s about the personal touch and breaking down the intimidating barriers some see around technology (like not knowing how to code—it’s not a prerequisite!) Full disclosure: ScoutComms supports Vets in Tech through our work with Get Skills to Work and GE.

Help Is Hard To Get For Veterans After A Bad Discharge

Quil Lawrence (@quillawrence), NPR. “Bad paper” haunts around 100,000 veterans. The phrase has become shorthand for the other-than-honorable discharges the veterans carry around with them. Thanks to this “bad paper”, they are cut off from the education, health, and other benefits afforded to veterans with honorable discharges. Even getting a civilian job can be difficult with the stigma attached. In many ways, this makes some sense. The relatively small number of veterans discharged because of misconduct or criminal activity likely should not get the same benefits as those who served honorably. It can get tricky, a Catch-22 of sorts, when the misconduct that results in other-than-honorable discharges is due to PTSD suffered in combat. These troubled troops can sometimes end up too much for a unit to handle and they’re offered general discharges without knowing the real consequences of their actions. Lawrence has a fascinating series about the challenges these veterans now face trying to get treatment for their injuries, seen and unseen, with the stigma of “bad paper” hanging over them.

Tradeshows & Conferences

No major event this week, but check out our full list of upcoming tradeshows.

Congressional Hearings


Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Hearings to examine the Navy Yard tragedy, focusing on the physical security for Federal facilities Who: Caitlin A. Durkovich, Assistant Secretary for Infrastructure Protection, National Protection and Programs Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, L. Eric Patterson, Director, Federal Protective Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Stephen Lewis, Deputy Director for Personnel, Industrial and Physical Security Policy, Directorate of Security Policy & Oversight, Office of Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, U.S. Department of Defense, Mark L. Goldstein, Director, Physical Infrastructure Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office, Stephen D. Amitay, Executive Director, National Association of Security Companies, David L. Wright, President, Federal Protective Service Union, American Federation of Government Employees When: 10:30 AM, Tuesday, December 17, 2013 Where: SD- 342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight: Hearings to examine the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security Who: Charles K. Edwards, Deputy Inspector General, U.S. Department of Homeland Security When: 10:30 PM, Thursday, December 19, 2013 Where: SD- 342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Think Tanks & Other Event

Potomac Institute for Policy Studies: The Syrian Electronic Army Who: Dr. Gabi Siboni, Director of the Military and Strategic Affairs Program, Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv When: 12:00 PM, Tuesday, December 17, 2013 Where: 901 N. Stuart Street, Suite 200, Arlington, VA 22203

Atlantic Council: Cyber Risk Wednesday: Risks and Resilience of the Electrical Sector
Who: Tom Parker, Chief Technology Officer, FusionX, Neal Pollard, Senior Fellow, Cyber Statecraft Initiative, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, Atlantic Council, Gib Sorebo, Chief Cybersecurity Technologist, Leidos When: 3:00 PM, Wednesday, December 18, 2013 Where: 1030 15th St. NW, 12th Floor, Washington, DC 20005

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, December 16, 2013 8:29 am

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