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U.S., Partner-nations Conduct Humanitarian Airdrop in Iraq

Defense News - Sat, 2014-08-30 00:00

American military planes along with Australian, French and British aircraft airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amirli in Iraq, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement issued today.

U.S. aircraft also conducted airstrikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support the humanitarian mission, Kirby said in his statement.

Kirby’s statement reads as follows:

“At the request of the Government of Iraq, the United States military today airdropped humanitarian aid to the town of Amirli, home to thousands of Shia Turkomen who have been cut off from receiving food, water, and medical supplies for two months by ISIL. The United States Air Force delivered this aid alongside aircraft from Australia, France and the United Kingdom who also dropped much needed supplies.

“In conjunction with this airdrop, U.S. aircraft conducted coordinated airstrikes against nearby ISIL terrorists in order to support this humanitarian assistance operation.

“These military operations were conducted under authorization from the Commander-in-Chief to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to prevent an ISIL attack on the civilians of Amirli. The operations will be limited in their scope and duration as necessary to address this emerging humanitarian crisis and protect the civilians trapped in Amirli.

“The U.S. military will continue to assess the effectiveness of these operations and work with the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as international partners including the Government of Iraq, the United Nations, and non-government organizations to provide humanitarian assistance in Iraq as needed.”
 

Marine Corps changes special duty assignment pay rates

ASMC National News - Fri, 2014-08-29 14:07

The Marine Corps has revised special duty assignment pay rates for FY2015. Starting on October 1, 2014 most Marines on special duty will receive lower rates than have been paid previously.

The new rates will apply to billets such as recruiters, drill instructors, combat instructors, and embassy security guards. However, special pays for Marines who began serving in special duty assignments before October 1 will not be affected.

The change, which will save the Marine Corps $35 million over five years, was made in response to ongoing budget limitations.

The Marine Corps (as well as the other services) have had to take a hard look at all programs, including some pay items, to meet budgetary constraints. “We spent a significant amount of time evaluating all relevant factors before making a final decision on the changes,” Marine Corps compensation chief 1st Lt. John Krahling said in a news release.

He pointed out that most of Military Pay cannot be changed because it is mandated by law. Only four percent of the Military Personnel Pay account, such as bonuses and special pays, can be adjusted to achieve cost savings.

Krahling emphasized that the Marine Corps is trying to maintain the integrity of the special pay program. “Every billet and assignment that receives special duty will continue to do so,” he said.

CBO projects deficit to decline to $506 billion in FY2014

ASMC National News - Wed, 2014-08-27 18:58

The baseline federal budget deficit for FY2014 is expected to be $506 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) latest report on the budget and economic outlook. CBO baseline estimates assume a continuation of current law for both expenditures and revenue.

This estimate is $14 billion more than CBO’s April estimate ($492 billion), but if realized would mark an improvement of over $170 billion from the 2013 deficit ($680 billion).

The slight increase in the projected FY2014 deficit reflects lower estimated revenue (-$24 billion), driven by a decline in estimated corporate income taxes, which will more than offset a projected $11 billion decline in expenditures.

For the period FY2015 to 2024, CBO expects the baseline deficit to be $422 billion lower than projected in April.  The deficit will drop to $469 billion in FY2015 before beginning to increase again due to rising mandatory spending and growing interest payments on the debt, according to the CBO report.  By FY2022, CBO projects the deficit will exceed $900 billion, unless changes are made to current law. 

CBO expects the deficit as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to drop to 2.9 percent, significantly lower than the 4.1 percent recorded in 2013. The deficit share of GDP will remain at or below 3 percent until 2019 according to CBO. For the period 2020-2020, the measure will approach 4 percent because deficits will begin to grow at a much faster rate than GDP, CBO reports.

But, while the deficit as a share of GDP will stay under 4 percent through 2024, CBO expresses concern about the growing size of the total federal debt. CBO estimates that federal debt held by the public will be 74 percent of GDP by the end of FY2014 and could grow to 77 percent by 2024. This is over twice that recorded in 2007 and “higher than in any year since 1950.”

CBO worries that a growing national debt will have “negative consequences” on federal spending (increased interest payments) and economic growth, and would restrain the flexibility policymakers need to be able to deal with future challenges and crises.

Air Force partners with GSA to improve buying efficiency

ASMC National News - Mon, 2014-08-25 17:45

In a move to achieve savings while buying products and services more efficiently, the Air Force has entered into a partnership agreement with the General Services Administration (GSA).

The Air Force’s Sustainment Center (AFSC) and GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) earlier this month. The MOU, announced by GSA on August 18, 2014, will “assist the AFSC to more effectively obtain the products and services they need to accomplish their mission and serve the American people,” according to a GSA Blog post.

The agreement sets up a working group to identify potential GSA contracts that the Air Force could use. Some of the FAS programs that might assist the Air Force include: professional services contracts; General Supplies and Services Fourth Party Logistics program; Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative (FSSI); and Global Supply Special Order Program (SOP).

This agreement follows the MOU the Air Force signed with GSA in December 2013. That agreement was for the AF use of the One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS) and OASIS small business contracts to buy complex professional services.

The AFSC , headquartered at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma City, “provides critical sustainment for the Air Force’s most sophisticated weapons systems, including: A-10 Thunderbolt II, AC-130, B-1 Lancer, B-52 Stratofortress, and C-5 Galaxy.”  

U.S. Conducts Airstrikes Against ISIL near Mosul Dam

Defense News - Thu, 2014-08-21 00:00

U.S. military forces continued to attack ISIL terrorists in support of Iraqi Security Force operations, using fighter and attack aircraft to conduct six airstrikes in the vicinity of the Mosul Dam, according to a U.S. Central Command news release issued today.

The strikes destroyed or damaged three ISIL Humvees, one ISIL vehicle, and multiple IED emplacements. All aircraft exited the strike area safely.

These strikes were conducted under authority to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defense force operations, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts.

Since Aug. 8, U.S. Central Command has conducted a total of 90 airstrikes across Iraq. Of those 90 strikes, 57 have been in support of Iraqi forces near the Mosul Dam.
 

Hagel, Ukrainian Minister Discuss Russian Aid Convoy

Defense News - Wed, 2014-08-20 00:00

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel today spoke via telephone with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Valeriy Heletey and discussed Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu’s recent remarks noting that the Russian aid convoy to Ukraine was not a military intervention, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.

Kirby’s statement reads as follows:

“Secretary Hagel spoke today by phone with Ukrainian Minister of Defense Valeriy Heletey.

“Secretary Hagel relayed Minister Shoygu’s recent remarks on the Russian aid convoy, and Minister Shoygu’s “guarantee” that the aid convoy was not a military intervention. Secretary Hagel conveyed that he told Minister Shoygu Russia’s vehicles and forces along the border continued to escalate tensions and stressed that any discussions about potential ceasefire agreements must include Ukraine.

“Minister Heletey reported increased violence in Ukraine’s east as a result of Russia’s ongoing supply of weapons and personnel into Ukraine, and spoke about recent attacks in which innocent civilians were killed and wounded.

“Finally, Secretary Hagel and Minister Heletey discussed the status of ongoing deliveries of United States military assistance to Ukraine. Minister Heletey thanked the secretary for the continued assistance of the United States.”
 

Per Diem rates for federal employees unchanged for FY2015

ASMC National News - Tue, 2014-08-19 14:15

The General Services Administration (GSA) has announced the daily Per Diem reimbursement rates for federal employees in FY2015.

Per Diem rates in Standard areas in the Continental United States (CONUS) for lodging will be $83 in FY2015, unchanged from rates in FY2014. Rates for and meals and incidental expenses (M&IE) will also remain unchanged at $46.  The Standard area rate covers most of the continental CONUS counties. 

GSA sets per diem rates for locations in CONUS.  These rates are the maximum amounts a federal employee can receive as reimbursement for allowable expenses while on official duty travel. 

The GSA Per Diem Bulletin FTR 15-01 states that Per  Diem rates for lodging for the some 400 Non-Standard areas (NSAs) will vary depending on local conditions. The MIE rate for NSAs will to range from $46 to $71, also unchanged from FY2014. 

All rates are effective on October 1, 2014.

There will be two new NSAs in FY2014: Kayenta, AZ (Navajo County) and San Angelo, TX (Tom Green County).

GSA also announced changes for some locations in FY2015. Elmore County, ID will be included with Sun Valley, ID NSA. Middlebury, VT (Addison County) NSA will be combined with the Burlington/St. Alban’s, VT (Chittenden/Franklin Counties) NSA. And, the Manhattan NSA has will be renamed New York City (NYC). GSA no longer sets rates for individual NYC boroughs.

In addition, the following NSAs will move to the Standard category: Glenwood Springs/Grand Junction, CO; Lakeville, CT; Chesapeake/Suffolk, VA; Lake Geneva, and WI; Sheridan, WY.

White House establishes U.S. Digital Service

ASMC National News - Thu, 2014-08-14 12:27

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced this week the establishment of the U.S. Digital Service. OMB called this initiative a key component of efforts to improve and simplify the government’s delivery of services through information technology (IT).

This initiative follows on the successful efforts last fall by a group of IT experts brought into government to fix the HealthCare.gov. website.

According to a blog posted on the OMB website, “the Digital Service will be a small team made up of our country’s brightest digital talent that will work with agencies to remove barriers to exceptional service delivery and help remake the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government.”

The first administrator of the Digital Service will be Mikey Dickerson, who was an integral part of the group that worked to fix HealthCare.com. Dickerson, a former Google site reliability engineer, will also become the Deputy Federal Chief Information Officer. He has described himself not as a policy expert but as one who knows “how to make big distributed systems work technically.”

The new team expects to hire people who “have talent and expertise in a variety of disciplines, including procurement, human resources, and finance.”

OMB expects the Digital Service to achieve its mission by: 1) establishing standards to align the government’s digital services with best in the private sector; 2) identifying common technology patterns to scale services effectively; 3) collaborating with agencies to fix gaps in their ability to design, develop, deploy, and operate top-notch customer interface services; and 4) to provide accountability to ensure results.

Concurrent with this announcement, OMB released two critical components of the IT toolkit to support the work of the Digital Service. The Digital Services Playbook will guide leveraging private-sector best practices and the TechFAR Handbook will help ensure agencies get the right technical tools to buy digital services consistent with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).

OMB will fund the Digital Team in FY2014 with existing funds and “will scale in 2015 as outlined in the President’s FY 2015 Budget.”

OPM finalizes Phased Retirement rule

ASMC National News - Mon, 2014-08-11 16:11

Last week, the Office of Personnel Management OPM) issued the final rule for implementation of the phased retirement program for eligible federal employees.

Congress approved the phased retirement program (Sec. 100121 H.R. 4348) in July of 2012. Last year, OPM issued a draft rule for comments.

“Phased Retirement offers an innovative alternative to traditional retirement for the 21st century workforce,” OPM Director Katherine Archuleta said in announcing the final rule. Archuleta said the program also gives federal managers a new tool to “provide unique mentoring opportunities for employees while increasing access to the decades of institutional knowledge and experience that retirees can provide.”

Under the program, federal employees approaching retirement are able continue working part time, while beginning retirement. 

The final rule includes information on employee eligibility, benefits received during phased retirement, and how OPM will calculate the annuity during and after retirement, and how employees can fully retire after a phased retirement period.

To be eligible for the program employees must have been in full employment status for the previous three years and be eligible for immediate retirement under either the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Employees subject to mandatory retirement, such as law-enforcement officers, firefighters, air traffic controllers, and most Border Protection officers are not eligible for phased retirement. An employee in phased retirement status is considered a part-time employee, not a reemployed annuitant.

The eligible employee receives income from a combination of part-time salary (50%) and partial annuity payments (50%). The phased retiree also accrues future retirement benefits proportional to the time they work. Phased retirees are expected to spend 20 percent of their time mentoring other employees.

The final rule goes into effect in 90 days. Agencies can begin to submit phased retirement applications to OPM on November 6, 2014.

Sailor Shares Successful Mail Center Recovery Experience

Defense News - Thu, 2014-07-31 00:00

The U.S. Postal Service’s Atlanta-based Mail Recovery Center processes nearly 100 million pieces of lost mail a year.

As service members learn more about the center’s efforts to return belongings to their owners, success stories such as that of one veteran sailor’s experience in retrieving his mail will, perhaps, become more widespread.

Navy Petty Officer 1st Class James Stilipec, a mass communications specialist who serves as an American Forces Radio and Television Service radio liaison at the Defense Media Activity here, shared his story of discovering the Mail Recovery Center and how the committed professionals there assisted him in finding a box he had mailed while he was serving in Afghanistan.

“It was a fantastic experience for me after what I went through,” he said. “I had literally just given up on it. I made one more stab at contacting Kabul, and they said they hadn’t seen it. Nobody from my unit had seen it, and they had moved on to Qatar.”

Stilipec, initially deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, before transferring to Kabul and eventually redeploying home, said he had virtually given up hope of seeing his belongings after a frustrating and fruitless search.

“I mailed it from Kandahar to Kabul in late October [or] early November [2013],” he said. “Then I went to Kabul, and my other boxes all showed up in four or five days -- maybe a week. So I called back to Kandahar, and they said, ‘Oh it came back.’ I think I had the wrong ZIP code on it or something like that, because the ZIP codes are really close together and [I have] bad handwriting.”

After providing his address again, Stilipec said, he waited and it was getting close to Christmas with no sign of his box. Then it was time to redeploy.

“I got back to the [United States] around Jan. 3 or 4,” he said. “So I’m home and I tried reaching back in late January, and I think I tried again in February.

“It was late March that I tried to reach back to Kandahar for the last time,” he continued. “I actually talked to the guy again who had spoken to me the first time.”

After making those calls, the veteran sailor said, he was just ready to give up when he received an email from the Mail Recovery Center. The sender wrote that she had a package that might belong to him and asked him to contact her.

“It was almost like it was going to be an April Fool’s joke or something,” Stilipec said. Because the email had no distinctive markings or information on it, he added, he was a little suspicious at first.

Stilipec said he found the Mail Recovery Center online and confirmed it did exist, although he noticed the email had provided a different phone number. “Neither number worked,” he said. “I tried calling both of these numbers and it wouldn’t connect, so now I’m really suspicious. I went, ‘OK, this is kind of weird.’ The next day, I did a little more research online. My wife and I are like, ‘It has to be it. What else could it possibly be?’”

Replying to the center’s email, Stilipec said, he asked for a description of the box’s contents, and he got an answer saying the box contained a Rubik’s Cube and a digital camera.

“I said, ‘That’s my stuff,’” he added. “I was just so thrilled.”

It was then that the North Pole, Alaska, native learned tips from the Mail Recovery Center staff member for preventing mail and packages from being lost from the MRC staff.

“She told me about … the little things that the military could to do to try and ensure that their stuff doesn’t get lost in the mail, like putting a better tag on it [and] putting contact or location information inside,” he said. “What they’ve got to do is crack these things open and try to figure out some information or where the information is from.”

Fortunately, Stilipec noted, he included his personal email address on his customs form, which the Mail Recovery Center used to get in touch with him.

“It was just thrilling to get the stuff back,” he said. “They repackaged it, so there’s this really nice box sitting on my porch when I got home. I brought it inside and cracked it open. There’s this box that has been to heck and back. I mean, it was so torn up.”

Nothing was missing, and nothing was broken, Stilipec said, and everything was in great condition.

Following his experience, Stilipec offered his own advice to assist other service members in avoiding the same situation.

“Make sure you write clearly on the exterior of the box,” he said. “Use a ballpoint pen so it gets through all those multiple copies. But have another address inside the box. My wife used to do that. I would get boxes in Afghanistan, and I’d be like, ‘Why did she put the address in here again?’ Now I know why.”

In addition, he said, make sure to include a good return address and have an awareness of where the box is being sent in case it does get sent back.

“Realize the military postal system is an extension of the U.S. postal system,” Stilipec said. People should be sure to include some identifying information with the package, he added, and should do the same if putting items in storage.

Stilipec expressed his gratitude to the Mail Recovery Center staff for their efforts to find him and return his personal belongings.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart,” he said. “This was my first digital SLR camera, which I purchased in Iceland. And my Rubik’s Cube -- it was my sister’s, She gave it to me. I’ve carted that thing all over the world throughout my career. I re-did the stickers on it one year. I’ve put some heart and soul into that Rubik’s Cube. I was so happy to get it back. They were some nice people.”

Stilipec said the center’s staff was “thrilled” to find him and get his items back to him.

“It’s just great to know that there’s these people dedicated to trying to get the mail where it needs to be,” he said. “They’re still trying to do their job, and they still care. They’ll do what they can to get the mail where it needs to be.”

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

New ASMC Homepage Poll

ASMC National News - Tue, 2014-07-29 13:17

How do you receive your electronic ASMC member communications?  Let us know!

View This Poll

DIA Chief: Transparency Builds Public Trust

Defense News - Sun, 2014-07-27 00:00

Transparency has to be a watchword for the intelligence community if it is to retain the public’s trust, Army Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said here yesterday.

“What transparency does is, transparency breeds trust,” Flynn told an audience at the Aspen Security Forum. And the intelligence community cannot afford to lose the trust of the American people, he added.

“When it happened in the past, this community got gutted and we failed the country again,” Flynn said.

The damage done by Edward Snowden was terrible, the director said. "This country can sustain big body blows, we will sustain this one, but … there will be risk,” Flynn said.

Since the leaks by Snowden, he said, the intelligence community has worked to correct itself.

“This is about transparency, security, civil liberties, our ability to protect this nation and trust. And I think the most [important] of all those is trust,” Flynn said.

The American public will regain its trust in the intelligence community if they know the community is abiding by laws approved by Congress, the executive branch and the judiciary, he said. There needs to be a national conversation about the role of intelligence, the general added.

Many of the threats and issues the intelligence community deals with every day are likely to be around for a long time, the director said. The nation is not safer for having been at war for the past 13 years, Flynn added.

“We have a whole gang of new actors out there that are far more extreme than al-Qaida,” he said, and they are involved in increasingly complex regional conflicts in places like Syria and Iraq.

And it is a mistake to underestimate these groups, Flynn noted.

"We look at some of these people as if they were in shower shoes and bathrobes, but twice they were defeating the most sophisticated military in the world -- in 2006 in Iraq and 2009 in Afghanistan,” he said. “And they're watching everything that's going on in Iraq as we transition out of Afghanistan."

These individuals have every intention to come to the United States and do damage, the general said.

One of the most dangerous threats that the U.S. faces, Flynn said, is the possibility of a group like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant getting their hands on chemical weapons in Syria.

“So, we're worried about foreign fighters coming out of there, doing attacks here in this country or maybe against our partners, but actually, there's still chemical capabilities in that part of the world and in the hands of people who I know have the intent to use them and we need to be concerned about that,” he said.

Nation-states around the world are being challenged, Flynn said. The world is in a period of prolonged societal conflict, the general continued, and the United States needs to recognize that it cannot win alone.

And while the U.S. will always play an important international role in addressing these failures, he said, it may not always be a deciding one.

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)
 

Intelligence Must be Applied to be Useful, Official Says

Defense News - Thu, 2014-07-24 00:00

Intelligence collection alone isn’t sufficient to secure the nation, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael G. Vickers said here today.

“What do you do with the intelligence?” he asked the audience at the Aspen Security Forum. It has to be applied to actions, Vickers said, and that falls into two categories: direct and indirect action.

Indirect action is when the United States works with international partners to build their capacity and to capture terrorists, the undersecretary explained. Examples run “from the French in Mali to individual host countries who help us critically,” Vickers said. “The Pakistanis and Yemenis, in particular, have done very important things in this regard.”

The Defense Department prefers to use indirect action because threats are distributed globally, he said, but it isn’t always possible.

“It depends on whether they're capable and then willing,” the undersecretary said. If a potential partner nation is willing, but not capable, capacity-building programs can come into play, he said.

Direct action involves special operations forces, such as those used in the bin Laden raid and capture operations in Libya, he said, as well as unmanned Predator strikes.

Since 2008, when the war against al-Qaida expanded into areas outside of armed hostilities, the single most important instrument in degrading al-Qaida has been Predator strikes, he said.

“Hands down,” the undersecretary said. “It doesn't mean it'll be the most important going forward in the future -- it's still essential today -- but it has been our most important.”

The Predator was instrumental in DoD’s single most important accomplishment over the past year, Vickers said.

“We had very, very serious threats emanating out of Yemen last summer, … and some very rapid action not only disrupted that threat, but set it back,” he said. “And again, that was largely Predator strikes that did that.”

The most significant threats to the United States emanate from Syria, Yemen and from the tribal areas of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region, Vickers said.

“And then ISIS or ISIL also has aspirations,” he said, using acronyms for an organization known alternatively as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. “It's focused on its area right now, but it is in a competition for leadership of the global jihad with al-Qaida, … and so they're a threat not to be discounted as well.”

But for now at least, most of the attacks attributed to groups holding Salafi jihadist ideology are focused on the “near enemy,” or the country they’re involved in, Vickers said.

Foreign fighters who hold Western passports -- including Americans -- pose a near-term threat, and they number in the thousands, the undersecretary noted. Many of them go overseas to fight a local war, but are “skimmed off” for external operations, he said.

Foreign fighters, both Western and non-Western, are going into Syria in much higher numbers than similar fighters were going to Iraq at the height of the Iraq war, Vickers said. It’s critical to take away these sanctuaries from groups who may be interested in attacking the United States, he added.

But military options generally are the last resort in counterterrorism, the undersecretary said.

“We prefer ‘capture and detain’ for intelligence purposes to lethal direct action,” he said. “We prefer indirect action -- working with partners -- to direct action. But when we have to do direct action, we do.”

Every situation requires its own response, Vickers said.

“When you look at our counterterrorism strategies as applied to specific groups or countries or a region, they're very tailored approaches,” he explained.

For example, in Mali, after al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb took over the northern half of the country, the French intervened, and the United States provided an important enabling role.

“That was the right solution for that,” Vickers said. “In other cases, it's a different set of instruments.”

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)
 

Air Guardsmen, Reservists Help Battle Western Wildfires

Defense News - Thu, 2014-07-24 00:00

Air reserve components are providing crews and planes to support civilian firefighting efforts in the West, the commander of the effort said in a DoD News interview.

When civilian authorities are strained, they can call on eight C-130 aircraft equipped with the modular airborne firefighting system, said Air Force Col. Charles D. Davis III, commander of Air Expeditionary Wing Wildland Firefighting. Davis is with the North Carolina Air National Guard, is based at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, for the effort.

When civilian firefighters “need a surge capability, they call on us,” Davis said.

The aircraft come from four different wings -- three from the Air Guard and one from the Air Force Reserve.

For the last few days, crews have battled forest fires in Northern Utah. The aircraft launched from Boise and flew six sorties. The aircraft carry a 3,000-gallon tank filled with fire retardant. “We fall right in line and drop the liquid,” Davis said.

The aircraft use prearranged tanker bases to reload. So while the aircraft launch from Boise, by using the tanker bases they are able to “fight the fire all day long,” he said.

The aircraft don’t put the fires out, Davis said, noting that rain is the only thing that will end the danger. “We’re more containment,” he said. “We do not put [the retardant] on the flames. We put it around the fire to stop it from expanding.”

The aircraft and crews come from the 145th Airlift Wing of the North Carolina Air National Guard, the 146th Airlift Wing from the California Air Guard, the 153rd Airlift Wing from Wyoming and the Air Force Reserve’s 302nd Airlift Wing based at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @garamoneDoDNews)
 

Senate committee approves FY2015 DoD appropriations bill

ASMC National News - Wed, 2014-07-23 16:31

The Senate Appropriations Committee (SAC) approved its version of the FY2015 DoD Appropriations bill last week.

The SAC bill provides $490 billion for DoD appropriations in the base budget (excluding military construction, which is provided in a separate bill), $1 billion below the request. The bill also includes $58.3 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), $200 million below the president’s request.

Sen. Barbara Milkulski (D-MD) called the bill “a good bill for our men and women in uniform.” “It emphasizes readiness, cares for our wounded warriors, takes steps to improve health on our military bases and provides resources needed to keep our nation secure”, she said.

The House bill, passed last month, provides $491 billion for the base DoD budget and $79.4 billion for OCO.

The SAC bill would provide funding for 1 percent military pay raise as proposed by the president. The House-passed bill funds a 1.8 percent military pay raise as authorized under the House-passed FY2015 Defense Authorization bill. The SAC also approves the administration request to freeze pay for general and flag officers and allow for slower Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) growth.

The bill also funds a 1 percent civilian pay raise requested by the president.

The SAC bill would fund the Defense Health Program (DHP) at $31.6 billion ($400 million below the request), essentially the same level as the House-passed bill. The bill would add $200 million to the Defense Commissary Agency funding request to maintain operations and block the president’s proposed cut to the commissary subsidy. The bill also cuts $20 million from Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) funding to reflect a five percent personnel reduction.

Operations and Maintenance (O&M) funding in the SAC bill would total $165.8 billion, only slightly below the administration’s request, but $1 billion more than the House-passed bill. The SAC includes funding increases for facility sustainment (+$1 billion) and depot maintenance ($+360 million).

The SAC bill includes about $850 million to refuel the USS George Washington, denying the administration’s plan to defer a decision on refueling until the FY2016 budget. The House also provided funding for refueling. The SAC also funds continued operations of A-10 aircraft, blocking (like the House) the administration proposal to retire the A-10 fleet.

Procurement funding in the bill totals $91.4 billion, $1.7 billion higher than the request and about $200 million over the House-passed bill. Included in the SAC procurement funding are: two attack submarines and three Littoral Combat Ships; 34 F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) and 7 KC-46A tankers, 12 EA-18G Growlers, and 79 H-60 Blackhawk and 37 MH-60S/R helicopters.

The SAC bill includes $62.6 billion for research and development, almost $1 billion less than the request and about $200 less than the House. Among the programs receiving R&D funding are: the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle (AMPV); the long-range strike bomber; and the KC-tanker. The SAC also added almost $800 million for medical research with a special focus on Peer-Reviewed Medical Research and Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research.

To reallocate funding to higher priorities identified by the Committee, the SAC made 517 separate program cuts totaling $11.7 billion. The funding reductions include: $6.6 billion for excess prior-year unobligated balances and forward financing; $2.7 billion due to schedule delays, cost growth, program concurrency and poor contractor performance; $1.3 billion to eliminate unnecessary program growth; and $1.1 billion for program redundancy, insufficient documentation, and program terminations. The SAC bill also cuts $500 million (3 percent) form the IT budget request to encourage prioritization of non-cybersecurity investments.

Given the Senate’s stalemate over the amendment process for floor action on appropriations bills, it is unclear when the defense bill will be considered on the Senate floor. To date the full Senate has not considered any FY2015 appropriations bill, while the House has passed seven (including the DOD bill). It is also unclear whether the defense bill will be a stand-alone bill or will be included in a continuing resolution (CR). With the August recess less than two weeks away and the mid-term congressional elections looming, it is becoming more likely that a CR may be considered sooner rather than later and final congressional action on most appropriations bills will be deferred until after the election.

FAX Issues

ASMC National News - Mon, 2014-07-14 12:32

We are currently experiencing issues with our FAX machine. While we are working on it, could you email certification documents to certification@asmconline.org and membership documents to gibson@asmconline.org.

OMB Mid-Session Review shows short-term improvement in budget deficit

ASMC National News - Mon, 2014-07-14 11:26

The FY2014 federal budget deficit will be $66 billion lower than the previous administration estimate, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). 

In its annual Mid-Session Review of the budget and the administration’s economic projections, OMB now expects the FY2014 deficit to be $583 billion compared to $649 billion projection made when the FY2014 budget was released in March.  

Measured as a share of total Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the deficit will decline from 3.7 percent in FY2014 (down from the previous estimate of 3.4 percent) to 2.2 percent by 2018. OMB projects the deficit share of GDP to rise to 2.6 percent through FY2022 before falling again to 2.1 percent by FY2024.

The lower deficit estimate in FY2014 is due almost entirely to lower estimated mandatory (-$53 billion) and discretionary (-$27 billion) spending. Total discretionary outlays are expected decline due to slower spending patterns for defense and nondefense programs and reduced expenditures for Overseas Contingency Operations (-$6 billion).

However, this improvement will be short-lived according to OMB estimates. While the FY2014-16 deficits are lower than OMB previously projected, deficits for FY2017-24 are estimated to be $600 billion higher than OMB’s March projections. This adjustment is due primarily to lower revenue (-$745 billion), resulting mostly from a lower economic growth forecast, offset slightly by higher projected outlays (+$31 billion) and lower interest payments (+$123 billion). Discretionary outlays are expected to stay essentially flat between 2017 based on administration long-term spending plans.

The OMB projections are based on the administration’s economic assumptions and its proposed spending and revenue proposals. The unemployment rate is expected to average 6.3 percent in 2014 and is projected to decline to 5.4 percent in 2017 and stay 5.4 percent through 2024. OMB expects the annual change in consumer prices (CPI-U) to be 1.8 percent in 2014, increase to 2.2 percent by 2017 and level off at 2.3 percent for the period 2018 to 2024.

Shaun Donovan confirmed a new OMB director

ASMC National News - Fri, 2014-07-11 12:29

The Senate has confirmed (72-22) Shaun Donovan to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the government’s chief budget officer.

Donovan has been Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) since 2009 and replaces Sylvia Mathews who recently became the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).

When President Obama announced Donovan’s nomination in May for the OMB post he said Donovan “has earned a reputation as a great manager, a fiscally responsible leader, and somebody who knows how the decisions we make here in Washington affect people’s lives all across the country.” 

While serving as HUD secretary, Donovan chaired the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, which was charged with developing a regional plan to guide future disaster recovery. Along with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Donovan headed the Long-Term Disaster Working Group that developed the National Disaster Recovery Framework.

Prior to becoming HUD secretary, Donovan served as commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD). Before that he worked in the private sector on financing affordable housing and was a visiting scholar on the preservation of federally-assisted housing at New York University. Donovan also was a consultant to the Millennial Housing Commission established by Congress to expand housing opportunities.

During the Clinton administration, Donovan served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Multifamily Housing at HUD. He has also worked at the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) in New York City and earlier as an architect.

Donovan becomes the government’s 40th budget head. In 1921, the Bureau of the Budget was established in the Treasury department under the Budget and Accounting Act. In 1939, it moved to the Executive Office of the President and in 1970 became the Office of Management and Budget.

DoD Officials Discuss Housing More Unaccompanied Children

Defense News - Tue, 2014-07-08 00:00

Defense Department officials are in discussions with Department of Health and Human Services officials to house more children who have entered the United States unaccompanied, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.

During a Pentagon news conference, Kirby said the department is processing requests right now from HHS to house more children.

“I wouldn’t put an exact number on it, because that's still in discussion,” the admiral said.

Three bases already are housing these unaccompanied children – Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Lackland Air Force Base, Texas; and Naval Base Ventura, California. Currently, DoD facilities can accommodate 2,375 of these children.

The facilities being used are excess to DoD needs, Kirby said. “We’re providing access to certain facilities that were already vacant and not being used and are, therefore, available, and in the first three cases are relatively close to the border itself,” he said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel supports the mission, the admiral said, and is assured that housing these young people will not impinge on troops. “He understands the importance of making sure that these children get the care that they need once they get inside the country,” Kirby said.

HHS owns this mission, and while DoD is providing the facilities, “we are not responsible for the children themselves,” the press secretary said.

The original agreement between DoD and HHS places a 120-day cap on the time the children can be housed on the bases. Lackland has housed the children for about two months, and Kirby would not speculate on whether that cap will be extended. “It’s certainly something that could be discussed,” he said.

HHS will reimburse DoD for the facilities, Kirby said.

Some 60,000 unaccompanied children could enter the United States this year, officials said. For many, transnational criminal networks play a role in getting them to the United States.

In addition, officials said, these transnational criminal networks create much of the instability that causes many of these children to flee from Central and South America. The networks smuggle humans, drugs and weapons for a price.

The threat these groups pose cannot be countered solely by the military, officials noted, adding that Marine Corps Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson are working together on the threat.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

Hagel to Visit Submarine, Aviation Bases in South

Defense News - Tue, 2014-07-08 00:00

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will depart tomorrow for a two-day trip to military bases in Georgia, Florida and Alabama, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.

The trip is intended to ensure that the Defense Department stays focused on the long-term concerns affecting U.S. interests and allies in Asia, Europe and around the world, he said.

“Throughout this trip, the secretary will highlight and see firsthand some of the core capabilities that he prioritized in our budget submission earlier this year to ensure that our force is ready, agile, modern and effective to confront the full range of challenges that we'll face in the future,” Kirby said.

Hagel’s first stop will be at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in southeastern Georgia. The base is home to some of the Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic and guided-missile submarines.

“The secretary has made a longstanding personal commitment to the health of our nuclear force and has made it one of his highest priorities to ensure that the United States maintains a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrence force,” the admiral said.

The visit is part of Hagel’s ongoing review of the nuclear enterprise, which included visits to several intercontinental ballistic missile sites earlier this year, Kirby said. At Kings Bay, Hagel will tour the ballistic missile submarine USS Tennessee and visit a Trident submarine refit facility, and he’ll also speak with submariners, the admiral added.

July 10, the secretary will travel to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, which is home to the Air Force’s first full squadron of F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter aircraft and is where the next generation of Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps F-35 pilots and maintainers are being trained.

“The secretary's visit, particularly at this time, sends a strong message to our international partners that the United States remains fully committed to the F-35 program,” the admiral said. The F-35 fleet was grounded July 3 following a fire that occurred in an aircraft still on the runway at Eglin. The incident remains under investigation.

Hagel is confident that the investigation will help the F-35 return to flight, Kirby said, adding that the secretary is looking forward to hearing more firsthand from the personnel at Eglin.

Hagel’s final stop is at Fort Rucker, Alabama, the home of Army aviation. The visit is a chance to highlight the Army’s aviation restructure initiative, the admiral said, and to thank Army aviators for their hard work over 13 years of demanding operations that include airlift, close air support and casualty evacuation.

July 11, the secretary will welcome Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera to the Pentagon, Kirby said.

The secretary met most recently with Onodera at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Among the issues the two defense leaders are expected to discuss are Japan's recent announcement on collective self-defense, the current process of reviewing and revising Japan-U.S. defense guidelines, and ongoing efforts to strengthen the joint alliance -- including trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Australia -- as the region confronts an evolving range of security challenges, including threats from North Korea, Kirby said.

(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)

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