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Defense & Veterans Roundup: Budget Battles Just Beginning on Capitol Hill, Medals of Honor for 19 Men

Posted by Fred Wellman

Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level

Thom Shanker and Helene Cooper, New York Times. The Pentagon will be previewing its 2015 budget proposal today and early insights are showing an aggressive post-war move to reduce the military’s size and capability to a war fighting force but not an occupation one like the last decade. Pentagon officials are telling the New York Times that the Army will shrink to its lowest size since before World War II and the A-10 Warthog attack jet and U-2 spy planes will be eliminated completely. The bottom line is that with continuing fiscal austerity ahead and very little likelihood of a protracted land war on the horizon, maintaining a large Army makes little sense fiscally or strategically. The challenge of still maintaining the world’s top military will be realized by ensuring those who remain in uniform are trained to the highest level by deep investments in Special Forces and cyber-warfare capabilities. Reducing the Army down to 440,000 makes it the size of the 1940 Army. For veterans and military families the proposals include many of the cuts and changes we’ve been predicting including reduction in the tax-payer subsidies to commissaries, reduction in housing allowance increases, increases to Tricare health insurance deductibles, and co-pays for the new favorite budget target “working age retirees” and some military family members. Another twist in the five-year budget proposal is that it comes in some $115 billion over budget caps and completely ignores sequestration cuts that could kick in again in just two years. The proposals will face a Congress already gearing up for mid-term elections later this year sure to want to avoid burning bridges at home or with veterans groups so plan on this budget being kicked around through November.

Obama to Award Medal of Honor to Two Dozen Veterans, Including 19 Discrimination Victims

Scott Wilson, Washington Post. The nation’s highest award for valor got a lot of attention and discussion late Friday as the White House announced that after a 12-year long review of past valor awards for indications of discrimination some two dozen men would be awarded Medals of Honor. African American, Hispanic, and Jewish veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam who received the services’ second highest awards for valor were reviewed and many were found to have deserved the MoH but were rejected over discrimination at the time of their nominations. Just three of the recipients are still alive today and will be present at the March 18th ceremony at the White House. At the same time, Secretary of Defense Hagel announced that after yet another review of the evidence he is rejecting recommendation of the medal to Marine Sergeant Rafael Peralta who is claimed to have smothered an enemy grenade with his body after receiving a mortal head wound in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004. Numerous investigations have concluded that Peralta’s wounds left him unable to consciously move to cover the grenade contrary to reports from comrades on the scene. That story took a major hit over the weekend as the Post’s Ernesto Londono published a piece where two of the witnesses from that battle recant their previous stories of Peralta’s actions, claiming the story was concocted on the scene amid fears that one of his own comrades had fired the shot that killed the Marine in chaotic firefight inside a house. The controversial claims are sure to be heavily pushed back by Marine veterans who have held Peralta’s actions up as the epitome of a Marine fighting for his buddies even to his last breath and joined the ranks of the Corps’ fighting heritage for which he was awarded the Navy Cross. We don’t believe either Hagel’s announcement or Londono’s story will stop the continuing battle to gain the award for Peralta among his supporters including Marine veteran Congressman Duncan Hunter.

The Pentagon Can Now Only Buy American Flags Made in the U.S.

Mark Berman, Washington Post. It’s one of those things you think are just plain common sense but it seems that it’s never been dictated by law or regulation that the U.S. military must purchase its U.S. flags from American suppliers with made in the U.S.A. materials. That was fixed on Friday with an amendment by California Congressman Mike Thompson that added the provision to the 1941 Berry Amendment which restricted the Department of Defense from purchasing food, clothing, fabrics, textiles, or tools that aren’t grown or produced in the United States. Flags hadn’t been included until now. We recommend the military call the folks at Re-Patriot Flag, a military member owned business which produces their U.S. banners from 100% recycled U.S. materials and donates a portion of their proceeds to our friends at Team Red, White and Blue. Certainly a good set of causes to support in our view.

Panel: Scant Evidence ‘Resiliency’ Programs Really Work

Patricia Kime (@patriciakime), Military Times. Despite millions of dollars poured into military programs intended to prevent mental health issues, an Institute of Medicine report found there is little evidence to suggest these programs are working. Within DOD, efforts to lower rates of PTSD and military suicide have produced dozens of programs for troops and their families, but according to the report these programs are rarely evidence-based and are not rigorously evaluated for effectiveness. The largest of these programs is the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier and Family Fitness Program, a $125 million that teaches coping strategies to become more emotionally resilient. While the Army says it has evidence that CSF2 is working, the IOM counters that the Army’s evidence is based on too small a sample size of the over one million who have taken part in the program. Essentially, the program has not produced results, nor have the many others DOD leaders have quickly put into place after each spike in public outrage over combat-related mental health issues. It’s time to start consolidating limited resources around proven treatment programs.

Bipartisan Legislative Group Wants to Change VA Funding

Gregg Zoroya (@greggzoroya), USA Today. During the government shutdown in October, the VA was only about a week away from running out of money to pay disabled veterans. That’s why Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and his counterpart on the House side, Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), have introduced bills that would fund all of VA, not just its health administration, a full year in advance. While there is bipartisan support in both chambers, the biggest opposition comes from the typically powerful Appropriations committee. Appropriations committee members fear that a two-year funding cycle would lessen their ability to use funding as an oversight method. Veterans groups have been largely championing the proposal with Disabled American Veterans working to rally its members and supporters to call Congress to action.

Bush calls out the 99%

Leigh Ann Caldwell, CNN. ScoutComms was on hand for a rare public appearance by former President Bush as he hosted veterans’ advocates and leaders, the private sector, and government officials to highlight the needs of veterans and military families in a post-war America. The Bush Center in Dallas in collaboration with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families is working on a comprehensive report about the state of veterans in America to be released this spring, but Bush noted some findings such as 84 percent of veterans feel civilians don’t understand the challenges veterans face returning home. That’s why a big theme of the conference was how to do more for veterans with fewer resources. Doing their part, The Bush Center is spearheading an effort to assess the efficacy of the over 46,000 veterans and military support organizations in America. This report, due out in the fall, would identify best practices and point veterans and military families towards programs and organizations most likely to help them. Corporate and philanthropic funders are becoming more and more judicious about the programs they support. Many want metric and outcomes, but in the veterans space it can be difficult to measure impact. For advocates, groups have to share credit for passing massive legislation. For service organizations, how does one quantify a veterans’ sense of self-worth? These are questions non-profit leaders will have to answer. The Bush Center will conduct another convening of advocates, leaders, and supporters in the fall. Talking about the issues is important and hopefully soon the talk leads to action.

Guard Member Fired After Using Forklift to Retrieve Twix from Vending Machine

Clark Kauffman, The Des Moines Register. Not the typical veteran unemployment story we see: this one is nothing but self-inflicted pain. An Iowa National Guardsman might soon find himself in the annals of the Duffel Blog soon thanks to his passion for Twix.

Pentagon gets New Media chief

Jon Harper, Stars and Stripes. The former national communications director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign has been appointed as the new Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Brent Colburn already started work last week, as the position was one of several now exempted from Senate approval. Colburn is a long-time political hand working as a Senate staffer, campaign spokesman, and communications lead for both of Obama’s inaugural committees. Between campaign stints, he served as the communications lead at FEMA, DHS, and was most recently the Chief of Staff for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He’s a graduate of William and Mary. Welcome to the party Brent!

Tradeshows & Conferences

HELI EXPO 2014 (Mon-Thu, 24-27 February); Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, CA

View our full list of upcoming tradeshows.

Congressional Hearings

Both chambers are in session this week. Budget hearings are getting underway.

Joint:

Veterans Affairs Committees: Legislative Presentation of the Disabled American Veterans Who: Joseph W. Johnston, National Commander, Disabled American Veterans When: 2:00 PM, Tuesday, February 25, 2014 Where: 345 Cannon

House:

Homeland Security: The Secretary’s Vision for the Future – Challenges and Priorities Who: Honorable Jeh Johnson, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Where: 311 Cannon

Armed Services: The Posture of the U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Southern Command Who: General Charles H. Jacoby, Jr, USA, Commander, U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, General John F. Kelly, USMC, Commander, U.S. Southern Command When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health: Assessing Actions Taken in Response to Subcommittee Oversight When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Where: 334 Cannon

Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources: American Energy Jobs: Opportunities for Veterans When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Where: 1324 Longworth

Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies: American Energy Jobs: Quality of Life in the Military Who: Sergeant Major Raymond F. Chandler, III, United States Army, Master Chief Petty Officer Michael D. Stevens, United States Navy, Sergeant Major Michael P. Barrett, United States Marine Corps, Chief Master Sergeant James A. Cody, United States Air Force When: 10:30 AM, Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Where: 2358-A Rayburn

Armed Services: The Posture of the U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Transportation Command Who: General William M Fraser III, USAF, Commander, U.S. Transportation Command, Admiral William H McRaven, USN, Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, February 27, 2014 Where: 2118 Rayburn

Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security: Afghanistan: Honoring the Heroes of Extortion 17 When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, February 27, 2014 Where: 2154 Rayburn

Senate:

Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel: The Relationships Between Military Sexual Assault, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Suicide, and on Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Treatment and Management of Victims of Sexual Trauma Who: Lance Corporal Jeremiah J. Arbogast, USMC (Ret.), Ms. Jessica Kenyon, Former Private First Class, USA, Dr. Karen S. Guice, M.D., M.P.P., Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Health Affairs, Ms. Jacqueline Garrick, LCSW-C, BCETS, Director, Department Of Defense Suicide Prevention Office, Dr. Nathan W. Galbreath, Ph.D., M.F.S., Senior Executive Advisor, Department Of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention And Response Office, Dr. Susan J. McCutcheon, RN, Ed.D., National Mental Health Director, Family Services, Women’s Mental Health And Military Sexual Trauma, Department Of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Margret E. Bell, Ph.D., Director For Education & Training, National Military Sexual Trauma Support Team, Department Of Veterans Affairs When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Where: 222 Russell

Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support: Department of Defense Information Technology Acquisition Processes, Business Transformation, and Management Practices Who: Honorable Katrina G. McFarland, Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Acquisition Department Of Defense, Mr. Kevin J. Scheid, Acting Deputy Chief Management Officer Department Of Defense, Honorable Teresa M. Takai, Chief Information Officer Department Of Defense, Mr. David A. Powner, Director, Information Technology And Management Issues Government Accountability Office When: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, February 26, 2014 Where: 232 Russell

Armed Services: U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command Who: Admiral Cecil D. Haney, USN, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command, General Keith B. Alexander, USA, Commander, U.S. Cyber Command When: 9:30 AM, Thursday, February 27, 2014 Where: G50 Dirksen

Think Tanks & Other Events

The Brookings Institution: The Future of Land Power and U.S. Ground Forces Who: Major General Christopher Haas, U.S. Army Special Forces Command, Major General William Hix, U.S. Army, Peter W. Singer, Director, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Senior Fellow, Colonel Jim Zientek, U.S. Marine Corps, Major General H.R. McMaster, Commanding General of the Maneuver Center of Excellence, U.S. Army When: 10:00 AM, Monday, February 24, 2014 Where: 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, DC, 20009

US Institute of Peace: Getting Beyond 2014 in Afghanistan Who: Ambassador James F. Dobbins, Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Department of State, Ambassador Marc Grossman, Former Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Department of State, Clare Lockhart, Director and Founder, Institute for State Effectiveness, David Sedney, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia, U.S. Department of Defense, Alex Thier, Assistant to the Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development When: 10:00 AM, Monday, February 24, 2014 Where: 1775 Massachusetts Ave NW, Falk Auditorium, Washington, DC, 20009

 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 24, 2014 8:19 am

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