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Defense Roundup: Spotlight on caregivers and female veterans, and GAO flays another program

Posted by Fred Wellman

Four Issues to Watch as US Congress Returns for Busy Fall

John T. Bennett (@BennettJohnT), Defense News. Congress returns this week to a vastly different agenda than the one they left for vacation facing three weeks ago. No one expected the burning issue in September would be authorizing strikes on Syria for chemical weapons attacks on their own citizens. The vote is going to be contentious while it will likely pass the Senate, the House simply doesn’t sound interested in jumping into another Middle East fight. Meanwhile, the budget isn’t even close to being voted on so another Continuing Resolution is almost inevitable and to make it fun the debt ceiling is coming up for a look once again. Far at the bottom of the top four issues lay the unfortunate defense bills and the monster that the idiotic sequestration cuts represent in Fiscal 2014 leading to not just furloughs but layoffs and massive contract cancelations. The good news is that Congress is finally coming together to work hard and do the right thing for our country. BAZINGA! Just kidding. It’s going to be another running train wreck, almost without question.

Signs Point to Rockier Road for Services Contractors

Marjorie Censer (@commoncenser), Washington Post Capital Business. If you’ve been reading the Scout Report regularly you’ve been hearing about the increasingly bleak outlook for government services contractors as budgets shrink. Unfortunately, new results point to the situation being worse than previous predictions imagined as the Center for Strategic and International Studies released a report on 2012 spending showing a continuing drop in services contract spending. As a case in point, major services contractor SAIC had a dismal last quarter with a 62% drop from the same quarter last year as defense work dried up and expansions into other markets such as health IT aren’t bearing the hoped for safety margins. CEO John Jumper summed it up well when he says they are seeing “confusion” among government contracting officers as everyone scratches their head over the budget and are simply sitting on their money while the messy fiscal situation remains unresolved.

US Navy, GAO at Odds Over Carrier Issues

Christopher Cavas (@cavasships), Defense News. The Government Accountability Office released a scathing report last week on the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier currently under construction calling it increasingly unlikely a functional first Ford-Class ship will be delivered on time and without yet more cost increases. The GAO is especially critical of the Navy’s decisions to rush unproven designs for new launch systems and other technologies that will cause out of sequence developments and a test plan that will extend some 34 months after the ship is “operational”. A draft report circulated in the spring at the Pentagon caused a ferocious response from the Navy and DoD leading to the dropping of GAO’s biggest original recommendation that the entire program should be delayed as the technologies are fixed. One big part of the problem is the ongoing delays of the F-35, which will not be delivered until a year after the USS Gerald R. Ford is operational, meaning retrofits and other modifications will be needed to the ship at increased costs and likely testing issues. By far the biggest issue is the growing costs of the ship, which has gone up 22.3% from original estimates and is likely to keep growing beyond the current $12.8 billion per ship. The Navy can’t seem to get a break on its ship building programs.

Many Vets’ Caregivers Cut Out From Federal Benefit

Kevin Freking (@APkfreking), Associated Press. In a report compelled by Congress and released last week, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimated that there are 70,000 veterans’ caregivers who would seek VA benefits—if the benefits were available to them. Currently, VA caregiver benefits like a monthly stipend and respite time are only available to caregivers of post-9/11-era veterans. Groups like Disabled American Veterans and Vietnam Veterans of America say it’s unfair to treat a generation of veterans differently from any other. There are service-connected disabilities among Vietnam and other era veterans that put an undue financial burden on family caregivers. VA says that expanding the benefit—which would take an act of Congress—would cost between $1.8 and $3.8 billion and require an additional 2,000 workers. Some lawmakers like Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, want to see VA get a handle on the current program and other issues facing the agency before any expansion takes place.

Female Veterans Struggle to Overcome Homelessness

Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Arizona Republic. Phoenix is on track to end veterans’ homelessness by 2014, a full year ahead of the President’s goal of 2015, but the disproportionate population of female homeless veterans still vexes local service providers. At least one shelter is having trouble finding stable funding for their female-only facility. Just like female veterans have unique issues, whether its uniform fit or deployment health issues, homeless female veterans also need specific interventions and shelters from their male counterparts. On the homefront, female veterans can also find the transition back to civilian life difficult as some find their service is seen as less combat-intense than men who deployed despite their Purple Hearts, CABs, or PTSD.

Looking Closer at the Role of Life Insurance in Military Suicides

Alan Zarembo (@AlanZarembo), Los Angeles Times. September is Suicide Prevention Month and it comes at a time when the military is still grappling with a suicide crisis among the ranks. But recent studies have shown less correlation between combat experience and suicide and the statistics look similar: recently a quarter of those committing suicide have less than two years in service and 70 percent of those have never deployed. Overall, over half of active duty suicides had never seen combat. Instead, studies have pointed towards pre-existing mental health conditions as better indicators for at-risk soldiers. This piece highlights another potential trigger: financial issues and life insurance benefits. While there is no hard data, a few anecdotes of soldiers who felt they were worth more dead than alive are disturbing enough. At least one expert says life insurance likely has little effect on suicide rates given the state of mind that these people are in. For more on the issue of suicide in the military, David Wood and the Huffington Post have an in-depth section this month called Invisible Casualties.

A Child of War, with a Sense of Purpose

Wayne Drash, CNN. The daughter of the first American killed in Afghanistan was 9 years old when her family received the worst news a military family can get. Today, Alison Spann is entering her senior year of college. Allison suffered double the loss when her mother lost her battle with cancer just a month after her father was killed. Since her parents’ deaths, Alison has struggled with grief and anger, but continues to try and be the daughter her parents told her she could be. Her ambition led her to interning on Capitol Hill this summer ahead of finishing her degree in communications and political science. The internship also put her in proximity to her father’s final resting place at Arlington National Cemetery, which she visited every week to update him on her life. Alison’s story is remarkable, but not unique. Fortunately groups like TAPS exist to help military children, widows, and families who have lost loved ones in military service.

Veterans Start Nonpartisan Capitol Hill Job Network

Rick Maze (@Rmazetns), Military Times. DC has plenty of affinity groups, but now veterans working on Capitol Hill, in advocacy groups, and around the “halls of power” have a new, non-partisan one. HillVets started last year after two veterans decided to form a networking and social group for veterans who wanted to connect not on just a professional or political level. For the group, that means a softball team, twice a month happy hours, and partnerships with veterans’ non-profits like Team Rubicon and Team RWB. Learn more about the group at www.HillVets.org

Tradeshows & Conferences

2013 Maneuver Warfighter Conference (Mon-Fri, 9-13 September); Fort Benning, GA

MOAA/NDIA Warrior Family Symposium (Thu, 12 September); Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Washington, DC

Our website has a full list of upcoming tradeshows

Congressional Hearings

House:

Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: A Matter of Life and Death: Examining Preventable Deaths, Patient-Safety Issues and Bonuses for VA Execs Who Oversaw Them Who: Brandie Petit, Veteran Family Member, Gerald Rakiecki, Veteran and VA Police Officer, Sydney N.W. Schoellman, Veteran Family Member, Phyllis A.M. Hollenbeck M.D., FAAP, VA Primary Care Physician, Bob (or Judy) Nicklas, Veteran Family Member, The Honorable Dr. Robert A. Petzel, M.D., Under Secretary for Health Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs, Michael E. Moreland, FACHE, Network Director VA Healthcare (VISN 4) Veterans Health Administration U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Leslie B. Wiggins, Medical Center Director Atlanta VA Medical Center Veterans Health Administration U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Brian G. Stiller, Medical Center Director VA Western New York Healthcare System Veterans Health Administration U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Jeffery L. Milligan, Medical Center Director VA North Texas Health Care System Veterans Health Administration U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Joe D. Battle, Medical Center Director G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center Veterans Health Administration U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Charles Sepich, FACHE, Network Director VA Southeast Network (VISN 7), James Cody, Interim Network Director VA Health Care Upstate New York (VISN 2), Lawrence Biro, Network Director VA Heart of Texas Health Care Network (VISN 17), Terry Gerigk Wolf, Medical Center Director and Chief Executive Officer VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Rica Lewis-Payton, Network Director South Central VA Health Care Network (VISN 16) Veterans Health Administration U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs When: 9:00 AM, Monday, September 9, 2013 Where: 436 Grant Street Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security: Fulfilling A Key 9/11 Commission Recommendation: Implementing Biometric Exit When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, September 10, 2013 Where: 311 Cannon House Office Building

Joint Committee on Veterans’ Affairs: Legislative Presentation of the American Legion When: 10:15 AM, Tuesday, September 10, 2013 Where: Senate Dirksen-Ground Level Room 50

Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere: Challenges to Democracy in the Western Hemisphere Who: Mr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center, (Former President of the Republic of Colombia), Hector E. Schamis, Ph.D., Adjunct Professor, Center for Latin American Studies, Georgetown University, Mr. Carlos Lauría, Senior Coordinator, Americas Program Committee to Protect Journalists, Cynthia J. Arnson, Ph.D., Director, Latin America Program, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars When: 3:00 PM, Tuesday, September 10, 2013 Where: 2172 House Rayburn Office Building

Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies: The Threat to Americans’ Personal Information: A Look into the Security and Reliability of the Health Exchange Data Hub When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, September 11, 2013 Where: 311 Cannon House Office Building

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs: Implementation Update: Fully Developed Claims When: 3:00 PM, Wednesday, September 11, 2013 Where: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity: A Review of the Performance of the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program (VRAP) and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, September 12, 2013 Where: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Senate:

Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: The Department of Homeland Security at 10 Years: Examining Challenges and Achievements and Addressing Emerging Threats Who: The Honorable Thomas J. Ridge, Former Secretary of Homeland Security, The Honorable  Jane Harman, Former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from the State of California, Admiral  Thad W. Allen, USCG, Retired, Former Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, The Honorable  Stewart A. Baker, Former Assistant Secretary for Policy at the Department of Homeland Security When: 9:30 AM, Wednesday, September 11, 2013 Where: SD- 342, Dirksen Senate Office Building

Think Tanks & Other Events

Center for Strategic and International Studies: Operational Energy in the Next Decade: Policy, Strategy, and Innovation Who: Sharon E. Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs, Lieutenant General Robert R. Ruark, Director of Logistics, J-4, Joint Staff When: 12:30 PM, Monday, September 9, 2013 Where: 1800 K Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006

Heritage Foundation: Benghazi: Another Tragic September 11 Anniversary Who: The Honorable Allen West, Former US Representative, Director of Programming, NextGeneration.tv, Mary Habeck, Associate Professor of Strategic Studies, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University, Steven Bucci, Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation,
Peter Brookes, Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs, Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, The Heritage Foundation When: 11:00 AM, Tuesday, September 10, 2013 Where: 214 Massachusetts Ave NE, Washington, DC 20002

American Enterprise Institute: Al Qaeda Today Who: The Honorable Tom Cotton, US House of Representatives (R-AR), Jessica Lewis, Institute for the Study of War, Michael O’Hanlon, Brookings Institution, Katherine Zimmerman, AEI When: 1:00 PM, Tuesday, September 10, 2013 Where: 1150 17th Street NW, Washington, DC 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, September 09, 2013 9:02 am

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