Defense Roundup: SCMR Doesn’t Spell Army, One Helo Bid to Rule Them All

Posted by Fred Wellman

Hagel: Cuts Will Shrink Pay, Benefits and Force

Andrew Tilghman (@andrewtilghman), Defense News. Secretary of Defense Hagel released general results of the Pentagon’s much awaited Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR) last week. The review looked at how budget cuts at three levels– $100, $300, and $500 billion over a decade will affect the military’s ability to conduct their mission. The results were as disheartening as expected. Ranging from greater cuts to the ground forces, reductions in the Navy’s carrier strike groups, cuts to Air Force fighter and cargo squadrons, and hints that the leadership will choose cuts in benefits and personnel over modernization efforts. A leak of some of the working documents that included discussions of cutting the F-35 program and future Air Force stealth bomber caused a ruckus that was quickly tamped down by DoD on Thursday. The Army promises to be the big loser as its major weapons systems were left off the list of “protected” programs and troop cuts were all but guaranteed. All in all it’s a huge train wreck much as everyone on planet Earth has been saying it would be except politicians and defense “experts”. News is leaking that Senate Republicans are starting to talk to senior White House officials about a possible fiscal deal to void sequestration but John Bennett puts it well in his piece that this raises “hopes of a deal from miniscule to slight.”

Lockheed, Pentagon Reach Deal on 71 More F-35’s: Source

Andrea Shalal-Esa, Reuters. Even as the Pentagon was getting ready to release its much awaited review of its budget options in the age of sequester, a deal for the next batch of F-35 fighters was finalized for over $7 billion with Lockheed Martin. The deal will cover 71 jets broken down into the sixth and seventh production lots and includes aircraft for the U.S., Australia, Italy, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. This new deal reflects a 4% reduction in cost per aircraft over previous deals but concerns remain in Congress where the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee approved an amendment to the defense-spending bill slowing down purchases in future years over program progress concerns and the concurrency approach to procurement that sees aircraft being purchased and fielded even as testing continues on the system. In the end it’s all sort of nibbling around the edges as one of the most inevitable of weapons programs continues its inexorable march to more money and continued production.

Sikorsky the Only Apparent Bidder for VXX

Christopher Cavas (@cavasships), Defense News. Last week we told you that it looked like the competition for the next Presidential helicopter was going to be just a single bidder affair and it seems that’s how it played out as Sikorsky Helicopters is the only acknowledged bidder. The company is offering a VIP version of its S-92 helicopter to replace the long serving VH-3D and more modern VH-60Ns, also from Sikorsky. The Navy plans to acquire 23 aircraft starting in 2020 to be flown by the Marines out of Quantico, Virginia. Some 200 S-92s are in service around the globe and ten countries fly their heads of state in the aircraft. The Navy is adamant they have tried to make the competition fair and open so we’ll have to see how things play out and if any flags are raised as the “competition” proceeds.

Furlough Appeals Keep Coming

Lisa Rein (@reinlwapo), Washington Post. A tiny little agency hardly anyone has ever heard of has become ground zero in the battle for federal employees to turn back the losses of up to 20% of their pay because of unpaid furloughs due to the sequester budget ax. The Merit Systems Protection Board has been flooded by fax, snail mail, and electronic applications with some 13,090 appeals to federal employees furlough orders which is double last week’s total and completely overwhelming their capacity to manage the requests. The tidal wave from DoD employees has forced the board to put a hold on processing those requests until after the 30-day filing deadline from the start of furloughs on Aug. 8th. With 8 regional offices across the country, the board is still just digging out from requests from agencies like the IRS and EPA that started sooner. The good news is that they have already ruled on 11 of the 13,000 requests, so progress is already being made. Meanwhile the furloughs are having an impact in military hospitals including Walter Reed as reductions in staff are closing beds and slowing down appointments for wounded and ill service members with little hope of resolution in sight anytime soon.

Accounting Disagreement Delays Construction of Veterans’ Clinics

Wyatt Andrews (@WyattCBS), CBS News. An R/V seems like an unlikely place for a veteran to receive health care, but due to a bureaucratic change in definition, those are the kinds of facilities where veterans in 27 cities will be receiving care for the foreseeable future. The VA wants to replace these temporary clinics with full-service, permanent ones and requested the money from Congress to do so. Unfortunately, the Congressional Budget Office (a non-partisan arm of Congress that provides economic analysis and data to lawmakers) last fall decided that VA’s rental agreements nationwide now count as government purchases, not rentals. VA had to eat the cost of 20 years of lease payments in one fiscal year budget. That means construction on these 27 clinics is on hold until Congress frees up more money for the agency or reverses the CBO ruling. The full-service clinics would serve up to 340,000 veterans in mostly rural areas that are far from larger VA medical centers.

Veterans Group Survey Shows Alarming Suicide Numbers

Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Stars and Stripes. This February, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America surveyed its 120,000 veteran members about issues facing their community. Of the about 4,000 veterans who responded, one third said they had considered taking their own life. A slightly higher percentage of the respondents said they knew a veteran who had taken their life. The survey, while not statistically representative of all young veterans, continues to highlight the mental health crisis in American and among our veterans and military. The Army reported active duty suicides were up in June and a recent veteran’s murder-suicide illustrate that the need for better mental health services continues to exist despite a massive push by the White House and VA to look busy on the issue. Summits are being help at the 152 VA medical centers worldwide this year with many already having taken place. But as IAVA’s Tom Tarantino told USA Today regarding the survey response on suicide, “I don’t think anybody thought this was going to be an easy problem to fix, but this is a very complicated problem with no one policy solution.”

VA Offers Veterans a Way to Speed Claims Approval

Gregg Zoroya (@greggzoroya), USA Today. The Department of Veterans Affairs, in its ongoing (and so far winning) battle to decrease the backlog of disability claims, this week announced a monetary incentive for veterans to file easier and faster to process fully-developed claims. It’s a substantial amount of money, too: potentially a year’s worth of back disability payments. The offer only applies to new claims, not supplemental or appealed claims. As inadequate paperwork or documentation is a major source of delays in processing, fully-developed claims have a much smoother time making it through the rating process. It’s worth noting that though VA announced this new initiative with great fanfare, it was an act of Congress—one VA opposed—that enacted this incentive. VA opposed the legislation based primarily on the fact that not all veterans can file a fully-developed claim. Fully-developed claims require enough evidence to decide a claim, but not all veterans have access to that information at a given time. VA worried that this incentive would penalize veterans with complex claims while rewarding those with simple, fact-based claims. That, of course, could lead to litigation, another worry of VA. In their testimony to Congress, VA estimated the cost of this incentive at “$315.7 million over five years, and $761.7 million over ten years.”

Survey: Veterans Often Sleep Poorly, Don’t Seek Treatment

Rebecca Ruiz (@rebecca_ruiz), Forbes. ScoutComms’ client VetAdvisor partnered with sleep experts at Johns Hopkins University to determine what is causing veterans’ sleep issues and how those sleep issues are impacting everyday life. We spend over 30 percent of our lives asleep (ideally) and so it’s important to overall health in addition to the more obvious productivity and fatigue issues. The survey found combat veterans were more likely to report having issues falling asleep with hypervigilance being a main culprit. Many veterans who took the survey also reported using alcohol as a way to fall asleep. Fortunately, a large percentage also said they would be interested in talking with a sleep coach or using sleep monitoring technology to improve their quality of sleep.

Tradeshows & Conferences

National Veterans Small Business Conference (Tue-Thu, 6-8, August); St. Louis, MO

Disabled American Veterans National Convention (Sat-Tue, 10-13 August); Orlando, FL

Our website has a full list of upcoming tradeshows

Congressional Hearing

Congress is in recess.

Think Tanks & Other Events

Brookings Institution: Dissecting the Pentagons Strategic Choices and Management Review Who: Michael E. O’Hanlon, Director of Research, Foreign Policy, Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, August 6, 2013 Where: 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036

Center for Strategic & International Studies: Military Strategy Forum with Major General Steven L. Kwast, Director, U.S. Air Force Quadrennial Defense Review Who: Major General Steven L. Kwast, Director, U.S. Air Force Quadrennial Defense Review, David J. Berteau, CSIS Senior Vice President and Director of the International Security Program When: 1:30 PM, Tuesday, August 6, 2013 Where: 1800 K St NW, Washington D.C. 20006

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, August 05, 2013 8:49 am

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