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President orders agencies to upgrade government payment card security

ASMC National News - Tue, 2014-10-21 13:23

Federal agencies will soon be implementing greater security measures and new technology in their payment card programs to improve the data security of financial transactions.

Citing the significant economic consequences of recent data breaches (such as Target and Home Depot), President Obama issued an Executive Order directing “to transition payment processing terminals and credit, debit, and other payment cards to employ enhanced security features, including chip-and-PIN technology.”

Even though the government’s payment card program includes many safeguards against fraud and abuse, the president determined that “the Government must further strengthen the security of consumer data,” by upgrading its payment card program.

Agencies are to use the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-119 as guides to determine which security enhancement to use.

By January 1, 2015, new payment processing terminals will “include hardware necessary to support such enhanced security features,” according to the Order. By the same date, the Treasury Department will develop a plan for installing “enabling software that supports enhanced security features.”

Existing government credit, debit, and payment cards (used for official business) that do not have enhanced security features will have to be replaced. The General Services Administration (GSA) will begin replacing such cards provided through GSA contracts no later than January 1, 2015.

Other agencies with such card programs will also have to provide OMB (by January 1, 2015) with plans that will ensure that their cards have enhanced security features.

The Executive Order also addresses the security of federal online transactions. The president orders the National Security Council (NSC), the Office of Science and Technology, and OMB to develop a plan that ensures “that all agencies making personal data accessible to citizens through digital applications require the use of multiple factors of authentication and an effective identity proofing process,” within 90 days. These plans will have to be implemented within 18 months.

Hagel Orders Formation of Expeditionary Ebola Support Team

Defense News - Sun, 2014-10-19 00:00

In response to a request by the Department of Health and Human Services -- and as an added prudent measure to ensure the nation is ready to respond quickly, effectively, and safely in the event of additional Ebola cases in the United States -- Secretary Hagel today ordered his Northern Command Commander, Gen. Chuck Jacoby, to prepare and train a 30-person expeditionary medical support team that could, if required, provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals in the United States.

Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby issued a statement saying Gen. Jacoby is now working with the military services to source and to form this joint team. It will consist of 20 critical care nurses, 5 doctors trained in infectious disease, and 5 trainers in infectious disease protocols.

Once formed, team members will be sent to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for up to seven days of specialized training in infection control and personal protective equipment (PPE). That training is expected to start within the next week or so and will be provided by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Upon conclusion of training, team members will remain in a "prepare to deploy" status for 30 days, available to be sent to other CONUS locations as required. They will not be sent to West Africa or elsewhere overseas and will be called upon domestically only if deemed prudent by our public health professionals.

Identifying, training, and preparing forces in advance of potential requests ensures that we can respond quickly and is analogous to how we prepare DoD personnel in advance of other potential civil support missions, such as hurricane relief and wildland firefighting.

Secretary Hagel is committed to ensuring DoD is prepared to provide appropriate capabilities, as required, to support our government's response to this deadly disease. He is extraordinarily proud of the skill and professionalism of our servicemen and women and of the unique capabilities they bring to this important effort.  As always, their safety and security will remain foremost on his mind. 

Pentagon Leaders Salute USO, Troops for Service

Defense News - Sat, 2014-10-18 00:00

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, honored the USO and service members for their volunteerism and service at the 2014 USO Gala here.
“This time in which we live is as challenging and uncertain, and complicated, as I suspect, any time during our lifetimes,” Hagel said.
Particularly important, he said, is the strength of the USO, with its vibrancy, character and values which it provides as it helps bring comfort to our men and women in uniform and their families.
Hagel thanked the USO for representing “a certain certainty” during “uncertain times,” and congratulated their nominees for volunteer and service members of the year.
“I want to thank the enlisted men and women who are being honored tonight,” he said, “and everyone here who serves his or her country, and [or] has served his or her country.”
Hagel, who served as USO president from 1987 to 1990, praised the organization’s new leader, J.D. Crouch, and its previous, Sloan D. Gibson, who now serves as deputy secretary for the Department of Veteran Affairs.
“I’ve known J.D. for many years -- he will be a terrific leader for this institution,” he said. “You’ve had many good leaders in this institution.”
“Sloan Gibson went on and continues to make big contributions to his country,” Hagel said. “As I said … I’m very proud that I had a small part to play in helping continue to build this institution many years ago.”
“I have been a strong supporter [ever] since -- not just as secretary of defense -- but as a former soldier,” he said, “but probably more importantly, as an American. All of America recognizes you and what you do, and how important you are.”
Gen. Dempsey expressed his pride in serving with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and pointed to numerous challenges the military now faces around the world.
“We have a lot going on in case you haven’t noticed,” Dempsey said. “If I’d had this conversation with you … four months ago, we wouldn’t be talking about insecurity in Europe, we wouldn’t be talking about this thing -- [the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant], and we wouldn’t be talking about Ebola -- and here we are.”
“By the way,” he said, “the Joint Chiefs and the men and women who serve -- we’re going to figure it out.”
The chairman noted even as service members are deployed on missions “we already know about,” others are preparing to carry out others.
“We’ve got people packing their bags to go to Europe to reassure our allies or go to Iraq or Kuwait to make sure that this threat of ISIL doesn’t continue to expand, and to go to places like Senegal and Liberia to make sure that this disease is contained, and therefore, doesn’t become a threat to the homeland.”
The chairman lauded the USO for its commitment to service members and assured they would continue to have work to do in taking care of America’s troops and their families.
“So [to] the USO -- I hope you didn’t think we were going to put you out of work,” Dempsey said. “You’re going to have some work to do, and we’re proud to be partners with you in doing it.”


(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallDoDNew
 

Air Force Major General (Ret) Bobby Presley passed away on September 18, 2014

ASMC National News - Fri, 2014-10-17 13:54

ASMC extends our sincere condolences to the family of Air Force Major General (Ret) Bobby Presley, who passed away on September 18, 2014 in San Antonio, TX.  

General Presley was a lifetime member of ASMC and served as ASMC National President during the 1976 – 1977 timeframe.  Clearly General Presley was a great American.  ASMC thanks his family for his selfless and outstanding service to our nation and for his dedicated leadership and support of our Society.  

Also, thanks to Brig Gen (Ret) Dennis Samic for notifying ASMC HQ of General Presley’s passing.

Al Runnels, Executive Director, ASMC 

Obama: Fight Against ISIL ‘Long-term Campaign’

Defense News - Tue, 2014-10-14 00:00

The fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists will be a “long-term campaign,” President Barack Obama said today.

Obama spoke here at a meeting hosted by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey that featured participation by 21 foreign chiefs of defense. The purpose of the meeting was to coordinate strategies in the efforts against ISIL.

There are no “quick fixes” in the battle against ISIL, Obama said. But with some 60 nations contributing to the coalition, he added, the world is united against the terrorist group.

United ‘to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL’

“We are united in our goal to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL so that it's no longer a threat to Iraq, to the region, or the international community,” the president said.

The foreign nations represented at the meeting included Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.

There have been “important successes” in the coalition’s efforts, Obama said, such as stopping ISIL’s advance on Irbil, saving civilians from massacres on Mount Sinjar, retaking the Mosul Dam, and destroying ISIL targets and fighters across Iraq and Syria.

"We’re also focused on the fighting that is taking place in Iraq's Anbar Province, and we're deeply concerned about the situation in and around the Syrian town of Kobani, which underscores the threat that ISIL poses in both Iraq and Syria," the president said.

Coalition airstrikes will continue in both these areas, he said.

“As with any military effort, there will be days of progress and there are going to be periods of setback, but our coalition is united behind this long-term effort,” Obama said.

The situation is not a “classic” conflict in which the enemy is defeated in the battlefield and surrenders, he said.

Coalition battling ‘an ideological strain of extremism’

“What we’re also fighting is an ideological strain of extremism that has taken root in too many parts of the region,” Obama said.

Other U.S. defense participants included Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of U.S. Central Command; Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III, commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command and Navy Vice Adm. Frank C. Pandolfe, the director for the Joint Staff’s Strategic Plans and Policy directorate at the, Pentagon.

“One of the interesting things to hear from our military leadership is the recognition that this cannot simply be a military campaign,” said Obama, noting the effort must include all the “dimensions of our power” that bolster economic and political stability in the region.

ISIL poses a “significant threat” to the people of Iraq and Syria and to the surrounding countries and beyond, including the United States and Europe, Obama said. Australia, he said, has already seen terrorist networks trying to “infiltrate and impact population centers.”

An important aspect in the campaign against ISIL is continuing humanitarian aid to all populations that have been impacted, Obama said. He pointed out that Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey have been bearing an “extraordinary burden” due to the situation with displaced persons that began with the civil war in Syria.

While some of the countries represented in the room are “really stepping up” and doing what is necessary to contain the Ebola epidemic, the “world as a whole is not doing enough,” Obama said.

Nations will have to do more, he said, because unless the disease is contained at the source, it will continue to threaten “hundreds of thousands of lives,” and could lead to economic and political destabilization down the road.

U.S. military assists Ebola fight in West Africa

He pledged that the United States will continue its efforts to fight Ebola. He said “enormous strides” have been made in standing up a U.S. military operation in Western Africa to build supply lines and bring supplies, equipment and workers into Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In the United States, the administration is “surging” resources into Dallas, he said, after a nurse contracted the disease after treating a man who had the disease and has since died.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with her and all the courageous health care workers around the country who put themselves in challenging situations in treating this disease,” Obama said.

The lessons learned in Dallas will be applied to hospitals and health care centers throughout the country, he said. He noted, however, that an outbreak in the United States is unlikely because of the nation's strong health care infrastructure.
 

CBO estimates FY2014 budget deficit drops to $486 billion

ASMC National News - Fri, 2014-10-10 12:04

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the final FY2014 federal budget deficit was 486 billion, $195 billion lower than FY2013.  The decline in the deficit resulted from higher government revenues (+$239 billion), while federal spending increased only $44 billion.

This is the lowest recorded annual budget deficit since FY2008 (-$458 billion) and is almost $100 billion lower than the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) projected in its Mid-Session Review in July.

When measured as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the deficit dropped to 2.8 percent from 4.1 percent in FY2013.  This is below the average for the past 40 years and significantly lower than the 9.8 percent recorded in 2009.

According to CBO, revenue growth was led by a seven percent increase (+$114 billion) in individual income and payroll tax withholding due to higher wages and salaries and the expiration in the temporary 2 percent reduction in payroll taxes (for social security). Other nonwitholding individual income tax receipts (principally estimated tax payments) rose by $43 billion. Corporate incomes tax receipts increased by $48 billion mainly due to higher taxable profits.

Federal spending grew by only one percent (+$44 billion) in FY2014, according to CBO. Spending on federal discretionary and mandatory programs increased by only +$9 billion (0.3 percent) as increases for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid (totaling +$87 billion) were offset somewhat by declines in military spending (-$30 billion), unemployment insurance payments (-$24 billion), and other program outlays (-$24 billion). However, spending on interest on the debt rose by $12 billion and lower net payments to government sponsored enterprises (such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are considered offsetting receipts) resulted in a $23 billion increase to outlays.

Data on government expenditures and receipts and the deficit are reported in the Monthly Statement of Receipts and Outlays of the United States Government (MTS) prepared by the Treasury Department. Treasury will report the official FY2014 budget deficit later this month.

Federal employee health insurance premiums set to rise 3.2 percent in 2015

ASMC National News - Wed, 2014-10-08 17:49

Health Insurance premiums for employees covered under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program will increase an overall average of 3.2 percent in 2015, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced this week. The 2015 increase is lower than the 3.7 percent increase in 2014 and the 3.4 percent rise in 2013.

In releasing the new rates, OPM said that the 2015 increase “represents the fourth consecutive year that FEHB rate increases have been below 4 percent.”

The FEHB program covers 8.2 million people who can choose from among more than 250 health plans.  FEHB plans cover about 85 percent of all federal employees and 90 percent of federal retirees. According to OPM, FEHB is the largest employer-sponsored health benefits program in the U.S.

While premiums vary with each plan, enrollee’s average bi-weekly payments next year will increase by $2.93 for self-only and by $6.89 for family plans.  Premiums for specific plans are available on the OPM Website.

OPM also announced that the average 2015 premiums for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) will increase 1.7 percent for dental coverage and will rise by 1.5 percent for vision coverage.

The Open Season for health, dental and vision, and flexible spending accounts will start on November 10, 2014 and end on December 8, 2013.  Open season allows federal employees and retirees to make changes to their plans and eligible employees to enroll in the plan of their choice.

OMB gives agencies guidance for operating under FY2015 CR

ASMC National News - Mon, 2014-10-06 13:41

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has issued guidance setting the rules under which federal agencies will operate during the FY2015 Continuing Resolution (CR) enacted (H.J. Res 124) late last month. The CR period runs from October 1 through December 11, 2014.

Under this guidance, OMB will apportion (distribute funds to agencies to be available for obligation) funds automatically to appropriations accounts during the CR period, unless language in the CR provides for specific levels of funding or special rules.

The amount provided in the FY2015 CR is the “rate for operations provided in the applicable appropriations acts for fiscal year (FY) 2014 and under the authority and conditions provided in such Acts,” according to the OMB memo.  The amount is net of any rescissions, plus or minus mandated transfers, and includes a 0.0554 percent reduction required in the CR (Section 101(b). However, funds designated for Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism and disaster relief are excluded from the 0.0554 percent cut.

OMB calculates the automatic apportionment rate by multiplying the annualized amount by the percentage of the year covered in the CR.  In this case the automatic apportionment rate is 19.73 percent to cover the 72-day CR period.

Not all accounts receive funding during the CR period.  Agencies cannot obligate funds for accounts for which no funding was included in an FY2015 appropriations bill that has been passed or reported out of committee in either the House or the Senate. If a program (PPA) within an account has not been funded (zero-funded) by the House or Senate, the account will receive an automatic apportionment and the agency can fund the program within the account total.

OMB notes that the CR provides limited authority (in Section 112) to mitigate civilian furloughs during the CR period   Apportionments for civilian personnel compensation and benefits can be apportioned at an “accelerated rate.”  However, OMB advises that agencies must receive written pre-approval to receive a higher rate, but expects few if any written apportionments using this authority.

The OMB memo addresses specific CR issues of interest in a “Frequently Asked Questions” format in Attachment A of the memo. 

Cost of U.S. military operations against ISIL is increasing

ASMC National News - Tue, 2014-09-30 15:50

The cost of military operations in Iraq and Syria to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is growing as Department of Defense (DoD) operations continue and expand.

The Pentagon announced a few weeks ago that the cost of the operations in Iraq were averaging $7.5 million dollars per day. Since then the air operations have been expanded to include strikes against ISIL forces in Syria and costs have increased. The U.S. and its partners have conducted 43 air strikes against ISIL forces in Syria, according to Hagel.

Last week, in a news conference Defense Secretary Hagel said the cost of DoD’s operations is now running between $7 and $10 million per day. A study prepared by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment (CSBA) estimated that DoD spent between $780 and $930 million through September 24.

Secretary Hagel stressed that the costs for these operations are being funded from the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) appropriations provided by Congress for FY2015.

Hagel also underscored that the U.S. is not acting alone in this effort. “A broad coalition has been and will continue to be a cornerstone of our strategy against ISI, he said.

But, he warned, the “diplomatic economic and military campaign will require a long-term commitment from the United States and all of our partners and allies.” “We are at the beginning, not the end of our effort to degrade and destroy ISIL” he cautioned. And, he said, the costs of ongoing operations will “require additional funding from Congress.” He said the administration is working with Congress to determine the source of this funding.

Some members of Congress have been calling for hearings to assess the cost as well as a debate on the goals and strategy underlying military operations against ISIL. However, the full Congress does not return until after the November elections so these hearings and congressional debate will probably not happen until mid-November.

Warrior Games Begin in Colorado

Defense News - Sun, 2014-09-28 00:00

The 2014 Warrior Games, bringing together more than 200 wounded, ill or injured U.S. service members and veterans opened here today, with a senior Defense Department official lauding all those competing as an inspiration to everyone who wears the uniform.

“Through these games we celebrate athletes -- the warriors -- and we recognize your service and your accomplishments and we applaud them,” said Jessica L. Garfola Wright, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness as she opened the six days of games.

The competition includes seven sports -- archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field and wheelchair basketball.

“Athletes, I will tell you -- you inspire me,” Wright said. “And you inspire your fellow service members, and your families and your friends. Americans everywhere, she said, will use one word and that’s just awesome. You are awesome.”

Wright said she was honored to represent Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who she said sent his best wishes to all the athletes.

“Your courage, your strength and your perseverance -- it is awesome,” she said. “Thank you for your service in uniform to the United States of America. Thank you for your sustained excellence in the face of adversity.”

Wright said the warrior-athletes had so much to be proud of and “it just simply gave me chills to see you march in” to the opening ceremony.

The undersecretary also expressed her gratitude to the families and friends of the competitors.

“It comes down to the support you give them. The support, the love, the motivation that you give them to get them through the very hard times that they have.”

Wright also thanked the U.S. Olympic Committee for its commitment to the athletes, and specifically, Charlie Huebner, vice president of paralympic development for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation.

She also thanked the games’ sponsors, including Deloitte and the the USO. “You are partners not only with the U.S. Olympic Committee, but with [the Defense Department] and I appreciate your support.”

(Follow Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone Marshall on Twitter:@MarshallDoDNews)
 

U.S. Military, Partner Nations Conduct Airstrikes Against ISIL in Iraq and Syria

Defense News - Sat, 2014-09-27 00:00

U.S. and partner nation military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in Syria Friday and today, using fighter and remotely piloted aircraft to conduct seven airstrikes. Separately, U.S. military forces used attack aircraft to conduct three airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq.

In Syria, an ISIL vehicle was destroyed south of Al-Hasakah. Also near Al-Hasakah several buildings that were part of an ISIL garrison were destroyed. An ISIL command and control facility near Manbij was damaged. An ISIL building and two armed vehicles at the Kobani border crossing were destroyed. An ISIL held airfield, an ISIL garrison and an ISIL training camp near Ar Raqqah were damaged.

To conduct these strikes, the U.S. employed U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy attack and fighter aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations. In addition, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates also participated in these strikes. All aircraft exited the strike areas safely.

In Iraq, three airstrikes southwest of Irbil destroyed four ISIL armed vehicles and destroyed an ISIL fighting position. All aircraft exited the strike areas safely.

The strikes were conducted as part of the President's comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.
 

DoD issues Better Buying Power 3.0 draft

ASMC National News - Thu, 2014-09-25 16:22

The Department of Defense (DoD) released a draft of Better Buying Power (BPP) 3.0, the latest step in DoD’s continuing effort to improve its acquisition process.

Frank Kendall, DoD’s Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, made the announcement at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a prominent think tank headed by John J. Hamre, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and DoD Comptroller.

Kendall warned that in the current security environment “our technical superiority is at risk, because we are not making the investment we should be making,” He implied the required cuts to DoD funding (sequestration) are a primary threat to continued technological dominance.

A DoD white paper on BBP 3.0 accompanying the announcement emphasized that the new version does not abandon earlier versions. BBP 1.0 stressed best practices and 2.0 emphasized critical thinking skills and better tools for the decisionmakers.

Many initiatives from 1.0 and 2.0 are “core” concepts of acquisition reform, the paper stressed. Affordability constraints, should-cost management, using data to inform policy development, and competition remain central to acquisition improvement. Along with a summary of BBP 3.0, the paper includes a status of the BBP 2.0 initiatives.

In describing BBP 3.0, Kendall said the new version “emphasizes innovation and technical excellence” and remains true to the concept of continual improvement in acquisition management.

BBP 3.0 is designed to strengthen the capabilities and “professionalism” of the acquisition workforce, Kendall said. It will stress better working relationships with industry by incentivizing innovation and removing barriers, but will still emphasize controlling total lifecycle costs, he added.

In his presentation, Kendal laid out eight focus areas for achieving dominant capabilities: Achieve affordable programs; Achieve dominant capabilities while controlling costs; Incentivize productivity in industry and government; Incentivize innovation in industry and government; Eliminate unproductive processes and bureaucracy; Promote effective competition; Improve tradecraft in acquisition of services; and Improve the professionalism of the acquisition workforce. Some of these areas are “core” initiatives from earlier versions, some are expanded, and some are new. These areas contains over 30 initiatives.

Kendall stressed that BBP 3.0 wants to stimulate research through programs to incentivize innovation. As described in the white paper, DoD is striving to increase the use of prototyping and experimentation to allow the exploration of innovative operational concepts, emphasize technology insertion to keep up with the pace of technology in certain areas, such as digital processing, and use modular open systems to stimulate innovation. DoD also wants to increase the return on Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and provide clear definitions of “best value” to allow industry to make better bids and enable DoD to make wiser decisions.

In the next three months, DoD will consult with industry, academia, Congress, customers, and other stakeholders on the BBP 3.0 draft. The final version should be released in January 2015, Kendall said.

More detailed information is available on the Better Buying Power program website.

President signs FY2015 Continuing Resolution funding government through Dec 11

ASMC National News - Tue, 2014-09-23 13:07

The president signed a FY2015 Continuing Resolution (CR)—H.J. Res 124—that will fund the government through December 11, 2014. The House passed the CR (319-108) last Wednesday and the Senate approved it (78-22) on Thursday, 78-22.

After the Senate passed CR, Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) said the goal of the CR “is to lay the groundwork for an omnibus funding bill in December that will include all 12 appropriations bills.” Mikulski said she supported the bill because it avoided a government shutdown, does not harm existing important programs, provides funding for the nation’s security, and will allow Congress time to negotiate an omnibus appropriations bill.

The bill sets the discretionary funding level for the federal government during CR period at an annual rate of $1.012 trillion.

Final action on the CR came after agreement was reached on a proposal to authorize the training and arming of Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces. The bill allows the Department of Defense (DoD) to reprogram funds provided to DoD in the CR to support this action.

The bill also extends expiring Department of Defense (DoD) activities, such as counterdrug activities and support of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, and provides State Department funding to counter regional aggression toward Ukraine. Additional Veterans Affairs funding is included to process disability claims and to investigate improper conduct, and the Customs and Border Protection receives funding flexibility to address urgent problems. The bill also includes $88 million requested by the administration to address the Ebola crisis, extends the operating authority of the Export-Import Bank through June 30, 2015 and extends the Internet Tax Freedom Act through Dec 11, 2014.

After passing the CR, the House and Senate adjourned for the November mid-term elections. The Senate may convene in October to conduct some business, but the full Congress will not return until after Veterans Day (Nov. 11). At that time Congress will begin a lame duck session to address unfinished business, including the passage of FY2015 appropriations.

To date the House has only passed seven FY2015 appropriations bills while the Senate has passed none. Congress will have less than one month to reach agreement on the details of all 12 appropriations bills, put them together in an omnibus bill, and get it to the president by December 11th. If Congress does not meet this deadline it will have to pass another CR to avert a government shutdown.

U.S. Military, Partner Nations Conduct Airstrikes in Syria

Defense News - Tue, 2014-09-23 00:00

U.S. military forces and partner nations, including Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, undertook military action against ISIL terrorists in Syria overnight, according to a U.S. Central Command news release.

A mix of fighters, bombers, remotely piloted aircraft and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles conducted 14 strikes against ISIL targets.

The strikes destroyed or damaged multiple ISIL targets in the vicinity of the towns of Ar Raqqah in north central Syria, Dayr az Zawr and Abu Kamal in eastern Syria and Al Hasakah in northeastern Syria. The targets included ISIL fighters, training compounds, headquarters and command and control facilities, storage facilities, a finance center, supply trucks and armed vehicles, the news release said.

The United States employed 47 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles, launched from the USS Arleigh Burke and USS Philippine Sea, which were operating from international waters in the Red Sea and North Arabian Gulf. In addition, U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps fighters, bombers and remotely piloted aircraft deployed to the U.S. Central Command area of operations participated in the airstrikes.

Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also participated in or supported the airstrikes against ISIL targets. All aircraft safely exited the strike areas.

Also, in Iraq yesterday, U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists, using attack aircraft to conduct four airstrikes. The airstrikes destroyed two ISIL Humvees, an ISIL armed vehicle and an ISIL fighting position southwest of Kirkuk. All aircraft exited the strike areas safely. To date, U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 194 airstrikes across Iraq against ISIL.

The United States conducted these strikes as part of the President's comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. Going forward, the U.S. military will continue to conduct targeted airstrikes against ISIL in Syria and Iraq as local forces go on the offensive against this terrorist group, the release said.

Separately, the United States also took action to disrupt the imminent attack plotting against the United States and Western interests conducted by a network of seasoned al-Qaida veterans known as the Khorasan Group. The group has established a safe haven in Syria to develop external attacks, construct and test improvised explosive devices and recruit Westerners to conduct operations, the release said. These strikes were undertaken only by U.S. assets.

In total, U.S. Central Command forces conducted eight strikes against Khorasan Group targets located west of Aleppo, to include training camps, an explosives and munitions production facility, a communication building and command and control facilities.

House passes Continuing Resolution to keep government running until December 11

ASMC National News - Wed, 2014-09-17 18:33

Today, the House passed (319-108) a FY2015 Continuing Resolution (CR), H.J. Res 124, which would fund the federal government until December 11. The bill sets the discretionary funding level for the federal government during CR period at an annual rate of $1.012 trillion.

The House passed the CR after debating and approving (273-156) an amendment that would authorize support (training and arming) for Syrian rebels fighting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces. “This amendment is of great importance to our national security, and attaching it to this Continuing Resolution will allow its enactment within a swift timeframe,” said House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY).

A CR is necessary because less than two weeks remain until the beginning of FY2015 and Congress has not passed any of the 12 appropriations bills. The House has passed seven appropriations bills (including DoD and Military Construction/VA) and approved another four through the full House Appropriations Committee (the HAC has not approved the Labor, HHS bill). The full Senate has not considered a single appropriations bill and the Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) has approved only eight bills (including DoD and Military Construction/VA).

The CR “is merely a temporary, Band-Aid funding measure,” Rogers said. But, he stressed, now it is “the most clear path forward—allowing time to draft bicameral pieces of legislation that reflect our real and budgetary requirements.” Final action on FY2015 appropriations bills will have to occur in a lame duck session of Congress after the November mid-term elections. That session is expected to begin right after Veterans Day.

Other than the amendment to authorize support for the Syrian rebels, the House CR is relatively clean of controversial extraneous matters. But, it does include a number of provisions that the Appropriations Committee described as necessary” to prevent catastrophic, irreversible, or detrimental changes to government programs, to address current national or global crises, or to ensure good government.”

The bill would extend expiring Department of Defense (DoD) activities, such as counterdrug activities and support of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, and provide State Department funding to counter regional aggression toward Ukraine. Additional Veterans Affairs funding is included to process disability claims and to investigate improper conduct and the Customs and Border Protection would receive funding flexibility to address urgent problems. The bill also includes funding $88 million) requested by the administration to address the Ebola crisis.

Addressing two issues that Congress is currently debating, the House CR includes funds to extend the operating authority of the Export Import Bank through June 30, 2015 and to extend the Internet Tax Freedom Act through Dec 11, 2014.

Under the CR, agencies cannot start any new programs or increase production rates and could not initiate any multiyear procurements during the CR period.

The Senate is expected to consider the CR over the next week.  

Navy Identifies Missing Hornet Pilot

Defense News - Sun, 2014-09-14 00:00

The Navy today announced it has identified Lt. Nathan Poloski as the missing F/A-18C Hornet aviator and declared him presumed deceased.

Poloski, 26, hailed from Lake Arrowhead, California.

On Sept. 12, Poloski was involved in an apparent collision between the F/A-18C Hornet he was flying and another Hornet aircraft during routine flight operations in the western Pacific Ocean. The other pilot involved in the incident was rapidly located and received medical attention.

After an extensive search, the Navy yesterday ended search-and-rescue efforts for Poloski.

A 2009 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Poloski reported to Strike Fighter Squadron 94, based in Lemoore, California, in April, 2014.

"Nathan was an outstanding person, naval officer and aviator," said Navy Cmdr. Michael Langbehn, the commanding officer of Poloski’s squadron. "My personal thoughts and prayers are for his family, friends and shipmates as they endure this immeasurable loss."

Following the apparent collision the Navy conducted an extensive search for Poloski, covering more than 3,000 square miles using the USS Carl Vinson, guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill, guided-missile destroyers USS Gridley, USS Sterett, USS Dewey, helicopters assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73, P-8 Poseidon aircraft from Guam, and satellite imagery.

The search was unable to locate or recover any remains of the missing aviator.

Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94, Carrier Air Wing 17, and USS Carl Vinson will hold a memorial service on board USS Carl Vinson to honor the life and service of Lt. Poloski at a date and time to be determined.

The cause of the incident remains under investigation.
 

Onlookers Salute ‘Old Glory’ at Fort McHenry

Defense News - Sun, 2014-09-14 00:00

Visitors and special guests watched today as members of the U.S. Army’s 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), with the help of War of 1812 re-enactors, hoisted a 15-star, 15-stripe, full-size replica Star-Spangled Banner flag over Fort McHenry here at the “By Dawn’s Early Light” flag-raising ceremony.

Star-Spangled Banner replica

At precisely 9 a.m., guns blasted and the crowd of onlookers fell silent as service members raised a 30-foot by 42-foot replica of the flag that 200 years ago inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Defence of Fort McHenry,” which would later become America’s national anthem.

“It is a great pleasure for me to be here at this historic site and historic city of Baltimore as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of our Star-Spangle Banner,” said former Secretary of State and retired Army Gen. Colin L. Powell, the event’s guest speaker.

The American flag is “a piece of cloth I have loved all my life and have served under for over 40 years,’ Powell added.

Celebrating history

The special ceremony capped a weeklong series of events at the fort for Baltimore’s Star-Spangled Spectacular, a celebration commemorating the bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore and the national anthem.

The fort played host to a number of special events and activities including commemorative ceremonies, living history demonstrations and interpretive programs during the Star-Spangled Spectacular.

The city’s celebration, which concludes Sept. 16, also includes visits by more than 30 ships from the U.S. and foreign nations, as well as an airshow performance by U.S. Navy's Blue Angels.
 

President Slates Commanders’ Meeting at Centcom

Defense News - Sun, 2014-09-14 00:00

President Barack Obama is slated to visit U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, Sept. 17.

Centcom’s area of responsibility includes 20 countries in the Middle East and Central and South Asia, including Iraq and Syria.

At Centcom, the president will receive a briefing from his top commanders, and thank the men and women who will partner with others in the region to carry out the counterterror strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL.

Following the president’s meetings, he will deliver a statement to the press.
 

Dr. Biden Cheers-on Athletes at Invictus Games

Defense News - Sat, 2014-09-13 00:00

Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, traveled to London to cheer on Team USA athletes as they compete in the 2014 Invictus Games.

More than 400 competitors from 14 nations are participating in the inaugural Invictus Games, an international sporting event for wounded warriors to inspire recovery, support rehabilitation and generate a wider understanding and respect for those who serve their countries.

Games named after English poet’s work

The games are named after William Earnest Henley’s 1875 poem titled “Invictus,” which he wrote while recovering from an intensive surgery that saved his second leg from being amputated. The games, which are taking place at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and the Lee Valley Athletics Centre, began Sept. 10 and run through tomorrow.

The United States is one of 14 teams participating, and includes 98 military athletes: 22 from the Army, 20 from the Marine Corps, 22 from the Navy, 22 from the Air Force and 12 from U.S. Special Operations Command. Of the service members, 53 are active duty and 45 are veterans.

Praising athletes’ energy, spirit, resilience

Team USA’s athletes “are incredible,” Dr. Biden told NBC “Today” show host Lester Holt this morning.

She praised the athletes’ “energy, and their positive spirit and their resilience.”

“They make Americans so proud,” she added.

Meeting Prince Harry

Dr. Biden watched some basketball at the Invictus Games today with Britain’s Prince Harry.

After attending the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Prince Harry was inspired to host an international adaptive sports event in the United Kingdom. The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who holds the rank of captain and continues to serve in Britain's armed forces, announced the 2014 Invictus Games in March.

Dr. Biden commented on Prince Harry's role in founding the Invictus Games. The prince, she said, “saw our Warrior Games in Colorado, and so now he's brought it to a global scale, and we have 14 countries and 400 athletes competing and it's been great.”

Pre-games barbecue for USA athletes

Last week, Dr. Biden and the Vice President hosted a barbecue for Team USA athletes at their Naval Observatory home in Washington, D.C. In her welcoming remarks, Dr. Biden told the athletes that the barbecue “is not just a way to celebrate your achievements in making the U.S. Team; it is also a small way of saying thank you -- to our heroes -- thank you for your service and your sacrifice.”

“You inspire me ... you inspire all Americans,” she added.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Biden launched the “Joining Forces” initiative that supports U.S. service members, military veterans, and their families.
 

Navy Suspends Search for Hornet Jet Pilot

Defense News - Sat, 2014-09-13 00:00

After an extensive search, the Navy today has ended search-and-rescue efforts for the pilot of one of the F/A-18C Hornet aircraft that crashed Sept. 12 approximately 250 nautical miles off the coast of Wake Island.

The pilot assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 94 has been presumed deceased.

"This is an exceptionally difficult time for the friends and family of the missing pilot and the Navy community," said Navy Rear Adm. Christopher Grady, commander of the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group. "We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support from the community. Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this tragedy."

The identity of the pilot will not be released until the family notification process is complete.

Navy units involved in the search-and-rescue efforts included USS Carl Vinson, USS Bunker Hill, USS Gridley, USS Sterett, and USS Dewey, along with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 15 and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 73 and P-8s from Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Squadron 5 in Guam.

The two F/A-18C aircraft, one assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron 94 and the other assigned to VFA 113, had launched from the flight deck and were in the process of proceeding to their initial stations when they apparently collided approximately seven miles from the ship.

One pilot was recovered by helicopter shortly after the crash and transported to USS Carl Vinson for medical care. The rescued pilot has since been released from medical facilities aboard the ship.

VFA 94 and VFA 113, both based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, are part of Carrier Air Wing 17, assigned to the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group.

The cause of the accident remains under investigation.
 

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