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Defense Roundup: Cool Army helo pilots may become less cool Blackhawk pilots, PTSD in focus in Canada, job skills programs expand

Posted by Fred Wellman

Budget Negotiators Looking at Military Pensions

David Rogers, Politico. It’s hard to keep track of the super committees, special negotiators, and platinum-sponsored-deluxe-Congressional-top-level meetings that have been proposed and subsequently failed to come up with solutions to the budget impasses on the Hill in the last few years. The latest attempt at forming a negotiated plan led by Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray is coming close to its deadline and word is that the military compensation system is in the crosshairs as part of the cuts needed to close the gap between the Senate and House. Military leaders have been arguing for the better part of the last two years that changes are needed in the personnel system including raising the fees for health insurance and contributions to the entire system for military retirees and they may be close to getting their way as the Congressional Budget Office has laid out options including having officers contribute money towards retirement and making the qualifying period that final retirement pay is based on longer to lower the overall amount. It’s pure speculation if any of these ideas will make it into the final plan, or even if there will be a final plan frankly, but the fact that these ideas are being regularly discussed shows how far things have come in the nation’s capital on providing for military members.

US Army Plans to Scrap Kiowa Helo Fleet

Paul McLeary (@paulmcleary) and Michelle Tan, Defense News. Defense News reports that the Army is close to a dramatic transformation of its entire aviation fleet that will essentially remake the entire force and remove entire fleets of aircraft from the inventory and rearrange the distribution of all the rest. The first move is to completely retire the more than 300 aircraft OH-58D fleet and replace its reconnaissance mission with AH-64 attack helicopters from the Guard and Reserve fleets. Moves of UH-60s and UH-72 Lakotas between the components will round out a reshuffling that will reduce the Army’s maintenance requirements and logistics systems but will likely devastate the aviation branch of the service. These aren’t just pieces of equipment alone. They are tied to thousands of pilots, crewchiefs, and maintainers whose careers will be placed in limbo or ended without an aircraft to fly. Already National Guard units are raising red flags about losing their attack units and more will be sure to weigh in as the plan is finalized. This is a significant blow to the Army’s aviation branch which has been trying to field a new armed reconnaissance aircraft for decades and will now likely not see one for years to come.

New Air Force Bomber Costs Seen Reaching $81 Billion – 47 Percent More than Planned

Tony Capaccio (@acapaccio), Bloomberg. As the Army contemplates a complete overhaul of its entire approach to aviation, the Air Force is busily trying to get the F-35 in the fleet and begin work on its next generation of bomber. For that effort they have already asked for millions in research and preliminary work based on a 2010 estimate of building a fleet of 100 aircraft for a total of $550 million per aircraft. But many are skeptical of the Air Force’s ability to truly build anything on its preliminary budget estimates since it has never pulled it off. Defense analysts have run the numbers and using today’s dollars put each aircraft at about $810 million apiece as a more likely estimate and that will likely grow as well. The problem of course of parsing dollars is that it doesn’t talk to need. The fact is that pilots today are flying B-52s that are over 50 years old and a replacement for a manned bomber is needed…if you believe that manned bombers are even needed in the future. In the end this issue is yet another in the long list of budget, strategy and future force issues the Department of Defense faces like nothing most of us can remember in decades.

State, Corporate Partnership Offers Veterans Opportunity for Free Manufacturing Training

Zach Evans, Evansville Courier & Press. Indiana became the second state to join the Get Skills to Work coalition last week as manufacturers joined educators, state leaders, and National Guard officials to announce the new partnership. Through Get Skills to Work, veterans in Indiana will be able to access free training in manufacturing disciplines that industry leaders in Indiana like Alcoa need to bolster their workforces. Illinois was the first state to join Get Skills to Work, a coalition founded by GE, Alcoa, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing along with IVMF and others that has helped over 30,000 veterans in pursuit of careers in manufacturing.

Institute for Veterans and Military Families and JPMorgan Chase Expand Veterans Career Transition Program to Include Military Spouses

The venerable Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University is expanding its skills training and certification programs. While the military struggles to align its training with the professional certifications veterans will need to secure jobs in their field, IVMF’s Veterans Career Transition Program allows transitioning service members, veterans, and now spouses to access top tier, online skills training in human resources, project management, IT, and many more fields all at no cost. These courses allow veterans and spouses the flexibility to complete courses at their own pace in their free time from any place—including Afghanistan. The deadline to apply for courses starting in January is December 15. For more information or to apply, visit: http://vets.syr.edu/vctp

‘Always a Marine’: Homeless vets Weather the Holidays as National Numbers Dip

Bill Briggs (@writerdude), NBC News. VA and HUD are making more funding available for housing vouchers for veterans and to the community-based organizations that serve them, but the 2015 goal of ending veteran homelessness will not be met without the hard work of service providers. The “Vet Hunters” are one such group made up of veterans who seek out homeless veterans in camps and other areas around Los Angeles. Vet Hunters work to connect veterans with services and shelters and the organization is even opening its own facility in February 2014. What will get us closer to ending veteran homelessness according to Joe Leal, founder of Vet Hunters? A better economy. While the country awaits a stronger recovery, veterans and other Americans are spending their nights on the streets. It’s groups like Vet Hunters and the myriad others that go unheralded that will be crucial to VA achieving its 2015 goal. VA can write the checks, but service providers are on the front lines.

Rash of Suicides Among Canadian Soldiers Puts Post-Traumatic Stress in Spotlight

Globe and Mail and Canadian Press. It was a tragic week for the Canadian armed forces as four soldiers, all Afghanistan War veterans, took their lives in the span of a week. The deaths are forcing the Canadian government and military to put a focus on mental health, something some Canadian soldiers say it has taken far too long to do. Canada’s top general (akin to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dempsey) released a video imploring troops to reach out to brothers and sisters in arms who may be struggling. Prime Minister Stephen Harper also weighed in and urged those in the military and veterans who may be struggling to reach out to the support systems in place. A fear is that the suicides could have a broader impact on morale and mental health within the armed forces and among veterans. Former General Romeo Dallaire, now a Canadian senator and previously head of the UN mission in Rwanda during the genocide, got into a minor traffic accident after falling asleep at the wheel of his car. Dallaire has battled PTSD since his days in Rwanda and said news of the suicides had led to him being unable to sleep.

Honor and Deception

Dave Phillips, The Colorado Springs Gazette. The news that the Air Force Office of Special Investigations has created an undercover program using Air Force Academy cadets to spy on their classmates has caused a bit of a firestorm in the circles of alumni of the military’s service academies this week. The informant program was exposed this past week by the Colorado Springs paper when it investigated one such former informant who was tasked to break academy rules in pursuit of his assignments but was then subsequently kicked out of the school because of the infractions. Even more disturbing to most is that when he was administratively kicked out OSI refused to acknowledge his work. Even former OSI lawyers find the program disturbing because it forces future officers to disobey the very honor code they are sworn to uphold to build the future of the service. It’s not lost on most people that asking a cadet to lie means you are asking them to undermine the entire education framework they are working under. The fact that OSI does it without blinking an eye shows a much larger problem with the organization than the fact that college age kids at a military academy might be doing drugs or breaking regulations on late night partying. Who is worse in this situation: the law enforcement agency asking kids to lie to catch others or the kids breaking the rules in the first place?

VA and Defense Chiefs Confront the Reality of 700,000 Incarcerated Veterans

Bob Brewin (@BobBrewin), NextGov.com. There is a growing movement to build special Veterans Courts across the country and last week the very first Vet Court Conference was held in Washington, DC and it got some high level support between VA and DoD. Both VA Secretary Shinseki and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dempsey spoke to the more than 1,000 judges and mental health and substance abuse professionals that gathered to address the estimated 700,000 military veterans in our nation’s prisons. The conference, and the courts, is aimed at veterans who are in the criminal justice system due to substance abuse and mental health problems and is backed up by some statistics that point to the larger problem. Since 2004 it’s estimated there has been a 38% increase in substance abuse among veterans and some 81% of arrested vets are involved with drugs. Since the first court was founded in Buffalo, NY they have grown to over 130 court systems and gained national attention as an alternative to throwing veterans who mostly need rehab into jail to be forgotten. The effort has got clear official support with VA now including 172 justice outreach specialists who work with the courts and dealt with some 36,000 veterans this year alone. With a 2011 study showing that just 3.9% of the jailed veteran population included post-9/11 veterans it is important to get ahead of the problems this generation faces now and make sure that number keeps low and stop the cycle before it starts.

NORAD: No Fighter Escorts for Santa

Military Times. The War on Christmas continues—except this time it’s a war on war. Every year, when the big red dot over the North Pole isn’t a Russian missile test, NORAD uses its high-tech gadgets to track Santa’s global gift giving. Perhaps in recognition of the more dangerous airspace Santa must traverse such as China’s air-defense identification zone, this year NORAD gave Santa a fighter-jet escort. For some parents, that was an F-35 too far. After Bryan Bender at the Boston Globe spoke to a few parents (who will clearly never let their children watch “Top Gun”) that were concerned about the message the military was sending to kids, NORAD decided to pull the jets and leave Santa completely undefended as he heads into North Korea. Sorry kids, Christmas is ruined because Santa was detained by Kim Jong Un.

Tradeshows & Conferences

Gulf Defense & Aerospace (Tue-Thu, 10-12 December); Kuwait International Fair, Kuwait

We recently updated our full list of upcoming tradeshows.

Congressional Hearings

House:

Committee on Foreign Affairs: The Iran Nuclear Deal: Does It Further U.S. National Security? Who: The Honorable John F. Kerry, Secretary of State, Department of State
When: 1:00 PM, Tuesday, December 10, 2013 Where: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations: Contracting Away Accountability – Reverse Auctions in Federal Agency Acquisitions When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, December 11, 2013 Where: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Committee on Foreign Affairs: Afghanistan 2014: Year of Transition Who: The Honorable James F. Dobbins, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Department of State, Mr. Donald L. Sampler, Assistant to the Administrator, Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs, U.S. Agency for International Development, Mr. Michael J. Dumont, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Afghanistan, Pakistan, & Central Asia, U.S. Department of Defense When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, December 11, 2013 Where: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces: U.S. Asia-Pacific Strategic Considerations Related to P.L.A. Naval Forces Modernization When: 3:30 PM, Wednesday, December 11, 2013 Where: 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology: Building a Network for Manufacturing Innovation When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, December 12, 2013 Where: 2318 Rayburn House Office Building

Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade: The Resurgence of al-Qaeda in Iraq Who: Kenneth M. Pollack, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution, Ms. Jessica D. Lewis, Research Director, Institute for the Study of War, Michael Knights, Ph.D., Lafer Fellow, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Daniel L. Byman, Ph.D., Professor, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University When: 1:00 PM, Thursday, December 12, 2013 Where: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Senate:

Committee on Foreign Relations: Hearings to Examine the Transition in Afghanistan When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, December 10, 2013 Where: SD- 419, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: Hearings to Examine the Veterans Affairs (VA) Claims System, Focusing on a Review of the Veterans Affairs’ Transformation Progress When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, December 11, 2013 Where: SD- 418, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Think Tanks & Other Events

US Naval Institute: Defense Forum Washington Who: Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Member, Armed Services Committee and Budget Committee, Representative J. Randy Forbes (R-VA), Member, Armed Services Committee and Judiciary Committee and Chairman, House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), Member, Armed Services Committee, Budget Committee and Foreign Relations Committee, former Governor of Virginia, The Honorable Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy When: 8:00 AM, Tuesday, December 10, 2013 Where: 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20001

American Enterprise Institute: Squaring the circle: General Mark Welsh III on American Military Strategy in a Time of Declining Resources Who: General Mark Welsh III, Chief of Staff, US Air Force When: 8:00 AM, Wednesday, December 11, 2013 Where: 1150 17th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036

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 09, 2013 6:53 am

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