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Defense Roundup: Navy Yard in Recovery and Healing, Veterans Decry “Troubled” Headlines, Budget Future Still Confusing/Scary

Posted by Fred Wellman

Service Chiefs Warn of Sequester’s ‘Insidious’ Effects

John T. Bennett (@BennettJohnT), Defense News. Last Wednesday found the leaders of all four military services before the House Armed Services Committee testifying on the effects of continued sequester budget cuts. The testimony was peppered with colorful words like ‘insidious’, ‘bleak’, ‘difficult’, and ‘devastating’. The news reports that came out almost immediately offered the grim news that all four services are saying they may not be able to even fight one Major Theater Operation if sequester cuts are allowed to continue into 2014 with only the Marines saying they could but with major caveats. For perspective, the rule has always been to fight one major theater war (e.g. North Korea) and deter another (e.g. Iran). Instead, the chiefs are warning of cuts to all major procurement programs, massive training losses and deeper cuts force levels. We’ve seen a lot of folks wondering what the big deal is with these cuts since they “only take us back to 2006 funding levels”. The problem is the nature and mechanics of the sequester cuts not the total amounts. The military has little control over the buckets to be emptied with sequester. Kind of like you’ve planned to use your savings account to pay taxes but the government empties your checking account instead and all of your checks start bouncing while thousands of dollars sit untouched because you’re not allowed to move them. That’s sequester in a nutshell. The good news Congress admits it’s their fault. The bad news–they don’t feel bad enough about it to fix it.

Tab for Bringing Gear Home from Afghanistan: $3 billion

Tom Vanden Brook (@tvandenbrook), USA Today. The military has a huge task ahead of it in the next year as the U.S. effort in Afghanistan comes to an end after 13 years of fighting in the remote nation. The herculean task is carrying a price tag upwards of $3 billion based on current estimates due to the need to ship so much out by air and over land through Pakistan to reach ports. The Army has the lead and started this year with an estimated $28 billion worth of equipment in the country and some $11 billion of that has made its way out of the country and 330 of the then 400 military outposts have been already closed down. According to Vanden Brook, about $7 billion in material will remain in Afghanistan via sales to our allies, gifted to the Afghan government or sold off and broken down as scrap metal. The enterprising folks at The Duffel Blog found the best solution may be ‘Operation: Yard Sale’. Either way it remains a daunting task and the clock is running.

Pentagon Suspends IED Group’s Twitter Account

Julian Barnes (@JulianBarnes), Wall Street Journal. It was a seriously rough week for the folks at the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization. The bad news started with the odd decision by someone in the public affairs office to leverage a bombing at a Philippine movie theater to make a poorly thought out joke about the proliferation of IEDs. “Were they re-showing Gigli? Bomb explosions at 2 movie theaters in Philippines http://goo.gl/4K9EQC The IED is a global threat.” It only took moments for a cascade of indignation to come across Twitter and then they doubled down with a response to The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman “@attackerman Yes, Bad Taste-Bad ppl doing bad thing didn’t warrant bad movie reference. Will punish #socialmedia rep by forcing 2 watch Gigli”. It was an over an hour before an adult finally intervened and offered a half-hearted apology but the damage was done and Pentagon Press Secretary George Little ordered the JIEDDO Twitter feed shut down. The week only got worse when on Friday it was announced that Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter decided last month to direct the down sizing of the organization into a smaller entity under the office of the Secretary of Defense. JIEDDO has had the mission to devise strategies, tactics, and equipment to defeat the growing threat of IEDs and has met that mission with decidedly mixed results. It probably isn’t made easier when someone with a bad sense of timing and humor serves as the public voice for the organization.

The Air Force Still Has No Idea How Vulnerable It Is to Cyber Attack

John Reed (@ReedFP), Killer Apps, Foreign Policy. The Air Force Association held their annual conference last week at the National Harbor and by all accounts it was a tough one for the organization. The show has seen a marked decrease in attendance in recent years and faced with a service facing massive cuts and an uncertain budget future it looks like this year wasn’t any better. FP’s John Reed reports that one defense contractor confided in him the event was “dead” – never what you want to hear as an organizer. The speeches and panels revealed a number of tidbits including that U.S. Space Command is only about a fourth of the way through their vulnerability assessment of networks to cyber attack. In addition, Air Force leaders are considering making the next generation bomber a deep reconnaissance aircraft as well to give it a multi-mission capability and fill gaps in ISR platforms. Osprey engines are still struggling with dust intake problems that are shortening the lives of the systems leading to the spraying of Rhinoliner shells on training LZs. Not a lot of groundbreaking news for the Air Force as the services chief of staff found himself spending the show on Capitol Hill predicting the worst-case scenarios for the coming budget year. Next week is Modern Day Marine at Quantico, which usually has a stronger turnout than many shows, but we aren’t hearing a lot of chatter about defense firms attending in force this year.

Former Army Capt. Will Swenson to Receive Medal of Honor for Heroics in Afghanistan

Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe), Marine Corps Times. Capt. Will Swenson has waited a long time for the bureaucratic red tape to un-stick itself, but this week—as we all needed some good news—the White House announced it would be awarding the nation’s highest honor on him for his actions in Afghanistan. The six-hour battle was so intense, this is the second Medal of Honor recipient to have emerged from the fight as Dakota Meyer received the honor in 2011 and two Marines earned Navy Crosses for their valor. Unfortunately, the battle is also widely known for the lack of air and artillery support provided for the troops on the ground. After the battle, Swenson unloaded on his commanders for the decisions made back in the TOC showing he has courage not just on the battlefield. Check out Lamothe’s piece for more on Swenson’s heroics.

Veterans Dying from Overmedication

Jim Axelrod, CBS News. The VA is an excellent resource for veterans seeking health care, but a CBS News investigation found that veterans seeking care through the VA are being prescribed fatal cocktails of drugs at a far higher rate than their civilian counterparts. At least one VA doctor told CBS News that narcotics are being overprescribed to patients. The same doctor said it’s an issue of resource management for the VA. A veteran with plenty of narcotics is going to be happy and so complain less and come in for treatment fewer times so as not to overburden the system. Narcotics aren’t necessarily a bad way to treat pain, but other doctors at VA say patients aren’t being effectively monitored for changes in their pain or injuries. Of course, over prescribing drugs is a nationwide problem, not only a VA problem, but the statistics, if they are to believed, show a dangerous trend in the veterans community that far outpaces the rest of the country. Expect this to come up in Congress’s continuing pressure on VA for better transparency about the level of care provided to veterans.

This Fall’s Hottest Accessory: Fake Service Dogs?

Julie M. Rodriguez, Care2. Just when you started feeling better about humanity, an article like this one reminds you that there are plenty of bad actors out there. You’ve probably met a few of this particular breed of imposter: the fake service dog. While plenty of our beloved pets play important roles in our lives, service dogs are specially trained to be able to perform tasks like pulling a wheelchair, providing medical attention, or helping with daily tasks. Service dogs don’t sit on laps, take breaks to mark territory, or do other things we find eccentric or adorable about, you know, pets. Unfortunately, many people see “service dog” branding as a way to spend more time with their pets, pick up dates, or save money on boarding or hiring dog walkers. That means though that our friends with real service dogs will have to put up with a bit more scrutiny as businesses and organizations work on ferreting out the imposters. It’s a case of a few rotten apples making it harder to make a pie that pleases everyone (much like that tortured metaphor ruined this paragraph for some.)

Also don’t miss: Jim Dao on the Amerasians looking for the fathers who fought in Vietnam and left a legacy greater than war.  A 66-year-old male veteran speaks out against sexual assault in the military as a rape survivor himself. Former Marine Amir Hekmati is still being held in prison in Iran despite recent high-profile prisoner releases there.

What You Don’t Know About Aaron Alexis’ Short and Troubled Navy Career

Sam Fellman, Navy Times. As the nation and DC continue to recover from the tragedy of 12 innocent lives taken too early at the Navy Yard last week, more and more comes out about the man who perpetrated the horror. Aaron Alexis by no means had a remarkable or decorated military career. He served in the Navy Reserves and had quite a few run-ins with the law and his superiors during that time. His shipmates say that even when Alexis entered the service, he was already a troubled man. Though he was discharged honorably from service, reports indicate the Navy was seeking to give him a general discharge but later decided on the honorable in the interest of getting rid of their problem sailor faster. Alexis’s issues weren’t only related to the Navy, though, as the New York Times details a long series of incidents that paint a distressing portrait.

Groups Upset over ‘Troubled Veteran’ Headlines

Bryant Jordan (@BryantJordan), Military.com . As the first reports started to trickle out about the shooting spree at the Navy Yard, inevitably certain groups were holding their collective breath over the identity of the shooter. Veterans were one such group and unfortunately as news of Alexis’s Navy service broke, headlines questioned whether that service led to his deadly rampage. As Phil Carter of CNAS points out to Military.com, there is no evidence that Alexis’s service played a role in his mental state or his actions. Joe Davis of VFW goes on to note that Alexis’s military service awards are nearly ubiquitous among those who have served since 9/11 and Tom Tarantino from IAVA points out that even if Alexis did have PTSD from his military service or civilian experiences, PTSD is not associated with violent acts. Continuing to link military service with PTSD and violence only further stigmatizes veterans, especially those looking for work. Alexis was clearly a troubled man, but he wasn’t troubled because he was a veteran.

The Other Half of ‘This Town’

Kevin Baron (@DefenseBaron), DefenseOne. Enough about the man who took 12 lives. Kevin Baron has a very poignant piece on those who we lost last week at the Navy Yard. It’s an ode not only to them but also to the community of defense bureaucrats and military members who keep a large part of DC going and often go overlooked. DC is a town that celebrates the theatrics of Capitol Hill and fancy K Street addresses, but for most of us, the DC we know takes place on little-known military installations and across the river in enclaves like Arlington, Crystal City, and the Mark Center. The 12 men and women who went to work last Monday weren’t hoping to see their name in Politico some day, rather they wanted to serve their country and raise their families at the same time. 

Tradeshows & Conferences

Modern Day Marine  (Tue-Thu, 24-26 September); Marine Corps Base Quantico

Our website has a full list of upcoming tradeshows.

Congressional Hearings

House:

Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security: Fulfilling A Key 9/11 Commission Recommendation: Implementing Biometric Exit When: 10:30 AM, Friday, September 26, 2013 Where: 311 Cannon House Office Building

Senate:

Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation, Operations, Safety, and Security: An Examination of the United States Aviation Industry and Jobs, Focusing on Keeping American Manufacturing Competitive When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, September 26, 2013 Where: 253 Russell Senate Office Building

Think Tanks & Other Events

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: China’s Maritime Strategy in the East China Sea: Peaceful Coexistence, Deterrence, and Active Defense When: 9:00 AM, Tuesday, September 24, 2013 Where: 1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20004

Elliott School of International Affairs: An Evening with The Honorable Barbara Bodine
Who: The Honorable Barbara Bodine, Former US Ambassador to Yemen When: 3:00 PM, Wednesday, September 25, 2013 Where: 1957 E Street, NW. Washington, DC 20052

Homeland Security Policy Institute: Economic and Cyber Espionage and the Protection of Trade Secrets: An Overview of the Legal Landscape and Policy Responses Who: The Honorable Michael Chertoff, Former Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, Chairman, Chertoff Group, Chairman, George Washington University Cybersecurity Initiative When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, September 26, 2013 Where: 1957 E Street, NW, Washington, DC 20052

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, September 23, 2013 10:35 am

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