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Defense Roundup: Sequester Takes a Break in August…Except for the Navy, Combat Doesn’t Increase Suicide Risk

Posted by Fred Wellman

Analysts: Cutting Aircraft Carriers a Real Possibility

Mike Hixenbaugh (@mike_hixenbaugh), The Virginian-Pilot. The many angles that come out of sequester cuts and the Pentagon’s recently completed Strategic Choices Management Review are still being examined around the defense industry. All of the defense analysts are weighing in with many saying they are too much and others saying it’s just right. At the home of half of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet, the talk of mothballing two or more of the mighty ships has deep and severe implications. It’s estimated that even losing a single aircraft carrier would cost the Hampton Roads area thousands of jobs and $425 million in annual revenue, so talk of two going away is an uncomfortable conversation for the area surrounding the world’s largest naval base. Options being discussed include having the next two carriers up for their midlife nuclear refueling instead be “mothballed” while continuing to build the next models in the fleet. Obviously, this is the choice favored by the shipbuilding and repair industry, as it will keep them in business at both ends. Either way there is rough water ahead for the ships that have been the centerpiece of U.S. naval strategy since World War II.

Navy to Scrap Submarine Miami

Christopher P. Cavas (@cavasships), Defense News. The Navy decided this week that the cost of repairing the arson damaged nuclear submarine U.S.S. Miami was too high after new estimates. The announcement blamed sequestration budget limitations for making the $450 million repair bill too high to afford. In an unusually political moment the Navy’s Facebook page posted: “Due to sequestration, your ‪#USNavy plans to scrap the submarine USS Miami rather than repair it.” It opened a floodgate of political venom and wholly ignores the idiot contractor who lit the fire so he could get off work early to see his girlfriend. The damage was much more extensive to the piping and other systems and needs an additional $390 million this year after more than $94 million has been spent to date simply assessing the damage. While the loss of the attack submarine hasn’t been talked about as much as passing blame for being unable to fix it, neither has the cost savings of an unplanned “mothballing” of a ship. As communicators, it’s disconcerting how much the military’s public affairs outlets have skated dangerously close to political stances as the sequestration insanity continues to roll. Sequestration didn’t kill the Miami, an idiot painter named Casey James Fury did.

DoD’s New Anti-Counterfeit Rules Are Confusing Defense Contractors

Aliya Sternstein (@Aliya_NextGov), Defense One. Concerns about counterfeit and fake parts for military systems resulted in the development of a deadline in the 2011 defense authorization law for implementing controls to fight the flood. A two-year investigation found that over 1 million suspect electronic parts have found their way into the military supply system, mostly from Chinese sources. Unfortunately, like many requirements on DoD, it remains unclear about exactly what an “acceptable” anti-counterfeit system would look like and it plans to release the mandate in the first quarter of calendar year 2014. The new requirements will cover anywhere from 400-1,200 prime contractors and currently are expressed in nine bullets in a draft guidance document with directions including “training of personnel” and to establish “processes to abolish counterfeit parts proliferation.” Hopes are that the department will take industry concerns into account and give them time and deeper guidance to build new computer systems that will work and not disrupt existing systems as major defense builders could come to a complete halt if the systems fail.

Money-Shuffling Got Military $1B to End Furloughs

Dianna Cahn (@DiannaCahn), The Virginian-Pilot. The Pentagon was able to shuffle some money, float some checks, delay some payments and all of those things that households all over the country do every day to scrape up $1 billion to cut civilian furlough days from 11 to 6 this fiscal year. The effort of transferring money from acquisition accounts to day-to-day operations included delaying some contracts, re-prioritizing spending others, and utilizing funds put aside to return equipment from Afghanistan. The change had far reaching effects throughout the department including ensuring that DoD-run schools wouldn’t have to start the year with four day weeks and giving a shot to morale for a beleaguered work force. Unfortunately, it’s really a temporary fix if sequester cuts aren’t lifted as furloughs will probably rear their ugly heads again with the new fiscal year starting October 1st.

Combat Not Linked to Rise in Military Suicides, Study Says

Alan Zarembo (@AlanZarembo), Los Angeles Times. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that experiencing combat does not put someone at higher risk of suicide. While suicide rates among active duty personnel are trending upward, this study seems to confirm that deployments haven’t been the culprit. Those most at risk, according to the study, are men who have had previous mental health issues. Even among transitioning veterans, a period thought to be especially risky, had the statistically same rate of suicide as those who had never deployed and those with multiple deployments. The study is one of the largest undertaken by the Pentagon to study the effects of war on mental health. Started in 2001, the study has over 150,000 troops participating with an expected end date of 2068. As the study highlights concern over troops and veterans with mental health concerns, it’s not surprising the Senate conducted a rare field hearing in Atlanta to question officials over recent troubling reports over patients falling through the cracks.

Wall Street Firm Finds Jobs for War Veterans

Maria Alvarez, Newsday. At least one Wall Street firm has figured out the best day traders don’t necessarily come from Princeton, Yale, or Harvard. Drexel Hamilton hires veterans for its high-risk, combat-speed jobs. Like many employers, Drexel Hamilton has recognized the value veterans bring to the workplace, but it also does something not every employer is willing to do: train the veteran for the job. While many veterans may come back from Afghanistan with the raw skills for Wall Street, few have the knowledge beyond having seen the movie (or perhaps “Boiler Room” for the younger crowd.) Stories like this one, while obviously great PR for the firm, also show that veterans come with many skills that can be applied to a wide range of tasks.

The Dangers of a Sensationalist Portrayal of Veterans

David Eisler, New York Times’ At War. There are two veterans we hear about, the author writes. The hard-working one with many skills who would be an asset to a company and the victim who has debilitating mental or physical health issues and needs support they aren’t getting. These two competing narratives, sometimes used by the same people and groups to make their varying points, are hurting veterans and the military. Not only does the stigma affect those who have served, this idea that all veterans are scarred by their service affects the perception of the military by civilians and young people considering their future. Because so few people have served or even know someone who has, these very black and white ideas about veterans takes hold. Those of us who work in the veterans community know the reality is much more complex. Service gives strength, but combat and deployments also take their toll. Like the author says, one can be an asset to a company and also need a little help on the hard days. A more authentic portrayal of veterans would help Americans have a better understanding of those who served and also free veterans from the overwhelming stereotypes that pervade conversations.

A Glimpse of War, Hemingway-style

Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Stars and Stripes. Our favorite story of the week: two Army veterans have taken to social media (#sixwordwar) and Kickstarter (less than $800 from their goal as of writing) to tell the stories of thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The two former soldiers are collecting six-word war stories, an idea borrowed from Ernest Hemingway’s steadfast belief in brevity, from veterans with a wide range of experiences from Fobbit to door-kicker. Even the tension between the two is explored in one story, “Salsa night means we’ve lost direction.” But others, like “Four trucks out, three trucks back”, say a lot even in very little. Leo has collected some of the best here, but now that the phenomena has taken off, we’re hoping to see some more variety (and more familiar faces) in the final book.

Tradeshows & Conferences

AUVSI’s Unmanned Systems 2013 (Mon-Thu, 12-15 August); Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC

Our website has a full list of upcoming tradeshows.

Congressional Hearings

Congress is in recess.

Think Tanks & Other Events

Stimson Center: Between War & Peace: Do We Need New Tools For Messy Transitions? Who: Stuart W. Bowen, Jr., Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, James A. Schear, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations, William Durch, Stimson Senior Associate and Co-director of the Future of Peace Operations program When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, August 13, 2013 Where: 1111 19th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20036

Brookings Institution: Enterprise Leadership: The Essential Framework for Today’s Government Leaders Who: Admiral Thad Allen, Senior Vice President, Booz Allen Hamilton, Senior Vice President and former Commandant, USCG, Jackson A. Nickerson, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Governance Studies, Ronald Sanders, Vice President and Fellow, Booz Allen Hamilton When: 8:30 AM, Wednesday, August 14, 2013 Where: 1775 Massachusetts Ave. 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, August 12, 2013 9:08 am

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