Defense Roundup: The Demise of Tanks and the Rise of Veterans Advocacy

Posted by Fred Wellman

The End of the Tank? The Army Says It Doesn’t Need It, but Industry Wants to Keep Building It.

Marjorie Censer (@commoncenser), Washington Post. The end of over a decade of war and massive budget cuts in the U.S. and abroad are having far reaching impacts on the defense industry. There is probably no sector of that industry feeling the impact more than those who build the massive armored land vehicles that have been the hallmark of the U.S. Army and Marines since World War II. Companies that manufacture the fighting vehicles and tanks have either stopped making new vehicles long ago or only a trickle come through and now rely on refurbishing the thousands of vehicles already fielded. But with the wars’ endings, DoD wants to stop making new vehicles and focus on other priorities. Congress has kept many of the plans alive through forced rules but as less defense minded representatives remain, even that lifeline’s days appear to be numbered and with no major armored threats in the world we may actually be facing the end of the era of mass mechanized warfare. It’s a sad time for those who have built the vehicles for decades but one can’t help but feel that the tank could be the next VHS recorder; a powerful device that changed the world but has been passed by in technology.

The Military Has Cataloged Its Ethical Failures, and They’re Kind of Awesome

Gordon Lublold (@glubold), Foreign Policy. The Department of Defense has a little known branch called the General Counsel’s Standards of Conduct Office which tracks and monitors the reports coming out of disciplinary actions, investigations, and criminal actions within the military. Lubold got his hands on the office’s July 2012 report called The Encyclopedia of Ethical Failure, which goes into the details of issues with uniformed and civilian members of DoD. The report lacks the usual DoD mil-speak and bureaucratic stuffiness with headlines like “Staff Sergeant Tricks out His Ride on the Government’s Dime” and “A Swing and a Miss for Senior Officers Using Government Funds on Golf Outing”. Many of the reports are ones heavily reported in the news such as officers found to have been taking bribes for contracts in Kuwait and retired Gen. Kip Ward who insisted on premium class flight tickets and overnight stays in luxury hotels. With the many reports in recent months of generals behaving badly, the report offers an inside look at how even small things like extending a conference attendance for a day to play golf are illegal in the military. You can look at a report like this as a negative for the behavior it exposes or a positive sign as healthy organizations take stock of their failures and use them as learning tools. This report appears to be a bit of both.

‘Semper Fi’ for sale: Marines Increasingly Raise Money from Branding

Jim Michaels, USA Today. Consumers spend about $37 million a year on Marine Corps licensed merchandise ranging from coffee mugs, t-shirts, and airsoft guns and revenue from royalty agreements has grown dramatically. Last year the Marines made about $1.8 million, which was up from just $111,000 in 2010. All of the money earned is sent to the morale, welfare, and recreation fund that supports activities for servicemembers and their families. All of the various branches are expanding their management of their brands since a landmark 2004 law that allowed them to trademark licenses to businesses. The Marines have since gained control of not just their logos but trademarked terms like “Semper Fi”, “The Few. The Proud” and even the slogan “Pain is weakness leaving the body.” With the popularity of all things military these days it’s only going to expand as more businesses look to make money off the cool kids on the block. Just head on down to any DC gift shop to pick your own personal line of real Navy SEAL products to show how cool you are to all your friends. America!

Veterans Dying Because of Health Care Delays

Scott Bronstein, Nelli Black, and Drew Griffin, CNN Investigations. Disturbing reporting from CNN this week that delays in diagnostic exams and treatments at VA facilities have led to the deaths of 19 veterans while 63 other veterans are suffering adverse effects from delayed diagnoses. With a backlog of over 7,000 veterans waiting for diagnostic tests in the southern region alone, critics are worried the number of tragic—and preventable—deaths could grow. Congressman Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, says the VA has not responded to the committee’s requests for more information and that no one has been punished, fired, or demoted for the failures in care that led to these deaths. In a written statement to CNN, the VA said it is working to overhaul its consult process but offered little in the way of concrete steps. With Rep. Miller and others interested, expect this to be the topic of a HVAC hearing very soon.

Top Enlisted Retirees Push Back on COLA Cuts

Patricia Kime (@patriciakime), Military Times. It is becoming trendy on Capitol Hill to support repealing the COLA reductions and even DOD is saying current retirees should be exempt from cuts even if Congress or a benefit commission were to keep them in place, and now a group not heard from as much as retired generals is speaking up: retired senior enlisted personnel. The group of high-ranking former enlisted leaders said they decided to speak up after an influential group of retired generals spoke out in favor of the cuts. “We definitely aren’t living high on the hog here,” one of the men told Kime. These leaders say they are used to sacrifice for the greater good, but that their pensions are a benefit they earned in the streets of Saigon and in Afghanistan. As enlisted leaders, they worry about their men and say the COLA reductions and other threats to military benefits could affect readiness and retention of the best troops. With over half a dozen proposals to reverse the reductions floating around the Hill, these added voices are crucial to the advocacy effort. Said Retired Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (SW/FMF) Joe Campa: “I’ve heard people say it’s not a big deal — it’s not that much money. But if it’s not a lot, don’t do it, because the cost of doing this is too high a price to pay.”

Suicides in the Army Decline Sharply

Gregg Zoroya (@greggzoroya), USA Today. Good news from the Army this week as the number of suicides among the active component fell dramatically in 2013 from a tragic high in 2012. “I’m not declaring any kind of victory here,” LTG Howard Bromberg, chief of Army personnel told Zoroya. “It’s looking more promising.” Bromberg hopes this means the myriad programs the Army has put in place to prevent and respond to suicide have made an impact. One such program is an experimental treatment at Ft. Carson where 60 percent of the soldiers in the cohort saw a reduction in suicidal ideations. The Army has spent millions of dollars over many years in an effort to stem the rising number of suicides in its ranks, but both suicide researchers and Bromberg agree that the most important factor in the decrease may be an Army less engaged in combat overseas. Though the other branches have yet to release their 2013 data, informal totals from DOD show the overall number of suicides also went down in 2013. Unfortunately, the Army’s reserve and Guard components saw an increase in suicides in 2013, a worrying trend that speaks to the greater issue of mental health care in America.

An Aggressive Voice for the Newest Vets

Jeremy Herb (@JHerbTheHill), The Hill. You may have seen him on MSNBC, C-SPAN, or even The Daily Show, but often times the work of IAVA’s Chief Policy Officer Tom Tarantino flies under the radar while IAVA makes headlines. Herb’s profile gets deeper than most happy hour conversations and provides some good insight.

A Troubled Marine’s Final Fight

Mark Thompson (@MarkThompson_DC), TIME. A good and haunting long read on the effects war had on one man. After a stand-off with police that triggered his PTSD, the former Marine landed in jail with even fewer mental health resources than before. His struggle, unfortunately, is not uncommon for veterans (and civilians) within the criminal justice system.

Winter Census Tallies Homeless Veterans

Quil Lawrence (@QuilLawrence), NPR. Every January—polar vortex or no—volunteers hit the streets to count the number of homeless people for the official “point-in-time count.” Keeping with tradition, VA and HUD Secretaries Shinseki and Donovan took the streets of DC to interview homeless people about their demographics—including their veteran status. Results should be out in December 2014, the final tally before the administration’s goal to end veteran homelessness by 2015.

Congratulations to Leo Shane

After nine years at Stars and Stripes, Leo Shane is headed to the Military Times family of papers. He’s taking over for Rick Maze who recently left for Army Magazine. If anyone can fill Maze’s shoes with the requisite reporting chops, it’s Leo. His beat remains unchanged so we look forward to continuing to harass him on a regular basis.

Tradeshows & Conferences

Nothing of interest this week, but SO/LIC and AFCEA’s Marine West are on the horizon.

View our full list of upcoming tradeshows.

Congressional Hearings


Armed Services: State of Al Qaeda, its Affiliates, and Associated Groups: View From Outside Experts Who: Mr. Bill Braniff, Executive Director, National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, University of Maryland, Mr. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program, Dr. Seth Jones, Associate Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center, RAND Corporation, Dr. Christopher Swift, Adjunct Professor of National Security Studies, Georgetown University When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, February 4, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security: Future of the Homeland Security Missions of the Coast Guard Who: Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, February 4, 2014 Where: 311 Cannon

Foreign Affairs: Al-Qaeda’s Resurgence in Iraq: A Threat to U.S. Interests Who: Mr. Brett McGurk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, U.S. Department of State When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 5, 2014 Where: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa: U.S. Counternarcotics Operations in Afghanistan Who: The Honorable William R. Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Mr. James L. Capra, Chief of Operations, Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Department of Justice, Ms. Erin Logan, Principal Director for Counternarcotics and Global Threats, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense When: 2:00 PM, Wednesday, February 5, 2014 Where: 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs: What can the Federal Government Learn from the Private Sector’s Successful Approach to Hiring Veterans? When: 3:30 PM, Wednesday, February 5, 2014 Where: 334 Cannon House Office Building


Homeland Security Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight: Fraud and Abuse in Army Recruiting Contracts Who: Lt. Gen. William T. Grisoli, Director of the Army Staff, U.S. Army, Maj. Gen. David E. Quantock, Commanding General, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and Army Corrections Command, Joseph P. Bentz, Principal Deputy Auditor General, U.S. Army Audit Agency, Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn (Ret.), Former Director, Army National Guard, Col. Michael L. Jones (Ret.), Former Division Chief, Army National Guard Strength Maintenance Division, Philip Crane, President, Docupak, Lt. Col. Kay Hensen (Ret.), Corporate Compliance Officer, Docupak, Former Contracting Officer, National Guard Bureau When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, February 4, 2014 Where: 342 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

Center for a New American Security: Unconventional Energy and U.S. National Security Who: Thomas E. Donilon, Distinguished Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations, Former National Security Advisor When: 5:15 PM, Thursday, February 6, 2014 Where: 1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC, 20004

New America Foundation: Surge Who: Peter R. Mansoor, Colonel, U.S. Army (Retired), Author, Surge: My Journey with General David Petraeus and the Remaking of the Iraq War, General Raymond E. Mason, Jr. Chair of Military History, Ohio State University, Joel Rayburn, Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Army, Research Fellow, National Defense University, Peter Bergen, Director, National Security Program, New America Foundation When: 12:15 PM, Friday, February 7, 2014 Where: 1899 L Street NW Suite 400, 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, February 03, 2014 5:23 pm

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