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Congress can’t break impasse on FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, agrees to one-week CR

ASMC National News - Sat, 2015-02-28 09:36

The House and Senate, unable to break the stalemate over passage of the FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, decided to give themselves another week to try to reach agreement.

Approaching the midnight hour when the Continuing Resolution (CR) keeping the Department of Homeland Security open would run out, the House agreed to a CR until March 6 that was passed by the Senate earlier in the evening. This action continued the impasse on a funding bill for Homeland Security that began late last year.

In December, Congress approved a FY2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill that contained 11 of the 12 FY2015 appropriations bills. However, the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which was subject to intense debate after the president announced executive action on immigration, was funded under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through February 27, 20175

Last month the House passed a bill that would fund Homeland Security for the entire FY2015, but included provisions that block implementation of the president’s executive action on immigration. This bill immediately brought a veto threat from the White House and made it highly unlikely that the Senate would be able to pass it over objections by Senate Democrats.

The Republican-controlled Senate repeatedly attempted to pass the House version of the FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, but Senate Democrats kept the bill from coming to a vote. A Democrat-proposed a bill that stripped out the House immigration provisions also failed to make headway.

However, yesterday Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) allowed a “clean” appropriations bill (devoid on immigration provisions) to move forward long with a separate bill to defund actions to implement the president’s executive order on immigration. After passing a procedural hurdle that allowed the FY2015 Homeland Security appropriations bill to come up for a vote, the full Senate approved the bill 68-31. The separate bill to prohibit funds to implement the president’s action on immigration failed to achieve the required 60 votes to proceed to a final vote.

With the Midnight tonight expiration of the current CR deadline looming and the Department of Homeland Security beginning to prepare for a shutdown (which could involve the furloughing 30,000 employees), the House considered a stopgap measure (H.J. Res 35) that would keep the Department of Homeland Security operating for three weeks until March 19. However, with 52 Republicans opposing and only 12 Democrats supporting it, the three-week CR was defeated 203-224.

The Senate, seeing that the House could not pass “clean” version before or a three-week CR before the deadline, approved by a voice vote a one-week measure keeping the Department of Homeland Security running until March 6. And, as the eleventh hour approached, the House, perhaps reflecting increasing frustration and political anxiety with the lack of progress, overwhelmingly approved the one-week measure 357-60, with 55 Republicans and 5 Democrats in opposition.

The short-term CR gives both chambers a little more time to reach on how to break the impasse. However, with a group of House Republicans continuing their refusal to support a bill that doesn't’t defund the president’s executive action on immigration and the Democrat’s and the president’s staunch opposition to such a bill, one week seems precious little time to reach an agreement.  

U.S. Added Speed, Scale to West Africa Ebola Fight

Defense News - Fri, 2015-02-27 00:00

Since Sept. 2014, when U.S. Army Africa leadership arrived in Liberia to help contain the historic outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa, the United States is transitioning its contributions to civilian and nongovernmental organizations there as the World Health Organization reports a drop in confirmed cases.

Last month, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby described how the whole-of-government approach led by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, and the Defense Department had mobilized and adapted its resources in an austere environment while supporting a critical mission.

“Our rapid deployment of personnel, from engineers to logisticians, provided for the international civilian response by NGOs, USAID and the United Nations to grow their capability and capacity on the ground,” Kirby said.

The United States has backed more than 10,000 civilian responders on the ground in Ebola-affected areas, Kirby added, providing direct and indirect health care support and other functions handled by the military Operation United Assistance in Liberia.

DoD Critical Support

The Defense Department has critically supported the U.S. government Ebola response, he added, “bringing our unique capabilities, specifically speed and scale, to support the civilian-led response in West Africa.”

For the first time since the week ending June 29, 2014, fewer than 100 new confirmed cases have been reported in a week in the three most-affected countries, WHO officials wrote in an Ebola Situation Report.

“Together with our international partners, and the people of the three nations themselves, we have bent the curve of the epidemic and placed it on a much improved trajectory,” White House officials said in a Feb. 11 fact sheet.

DoD Accomplishments in West Africa

Accomplishments in West Africa are many –- the work performed by U.S. service members, DoD civilians, scientists from the U.S. Army Military Research Institute on Infectious Diseases, the Navy and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, with partners from USAID, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Public Health Service and many others.

For DoD, according to the White House fact sheet, $112 million will be allocated for Ebola vaccines and diagnostics.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will receive $33 million for phase I clinical trials of experimental vaccines and therapeutics. Diagnostic efforts will receive $12 million.

The Chemical and Biological Defense Program will receive $50 million to continue work on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic systems for mitigating the spread of Ebola. And $17 million will go to procure detection and diagnostic systems, mortuary supplies, and isolation transport units.

Adding Capability and Infrastructure in Liberia

In Liberia, U.S. civilian and military personnel trained more than 1,500 health care workers, helping them provide safe and direct medical care to Ebola patients.

In the region, the United States helped facilitate the building of 15 Ebola treatment units in the region, 10 of them built by DoD personnel. The facilities have made possible the testing and isolation of hundreds of patients.

DoD also provided to the region 1.4 million sets of personal protective equipment.

DoD personnel built the Monrovia Medical Unit to treat Ebola-infected health care workers, with staffing by members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. DoD is now transitioning nonclinical management to USAID.

DoD Medical Contributions

DoD also provided seven mobile laboratories to the region, reducing the time to diagnosis from days to hours. The labs have tested more than 4,000 samples since September.

The Defense Department also has made significant contributions to vaccine and drug development for Ebola virus disease.

USAMRIID and DTRA made medical countermeasure, funding and other major contributions to two vaccine candidates -- ChAd3 and VSV-ZEBOV –- that have completed phase 1 human clinical trials.

The First Ebola Therapeutics

USAMRIID and DTRA also have contributed to developing and funding several candidate drugs -– including ZMapp and TKM Ebola -- to treat patients infected with the disease. Some already have been used in patients under compassionate use in the United States, Western Europe and Africa.

TKM-Ebola was tested in nonhuman primates and has shown evidence of activity against Ebola. This candidate drug is produced by the Canadian company Tekmira Inc. under a contract from the DoD Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.

Transitioning Operation United Assistance

On Jan. 25, President Barack Obama approved a plan formulated by USAID, the U.S. government lead in West Africa, and the Defense Department to transition the Liberia-based Operation United Assistance to civilians and international organizations working there.

The plan includes follow-on activities and supporting staffs for a modified headquarters in Liberia and augmentation for Operation Onward Liberty, a State Department-funded U.S. Africa Command program aimed at building partnership capacity with the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The plan also outlines a defense preparedness program and other security-cooperation activities.

“DoD personnel are coming home but the United States is not leaving West Africa,” defense officials said. “The U.S. government civilian-led response will grow in size and number in the weeks ahead, and continue the fight against Ebola.”

Of the 2,800 troops deployed, about 1,500 are already back in the United States, and nearly all of those remaining will return home by April 30.

U.S.-Liberia Partnership

After April 30, a transition element of approximately 100 DoD personnel will remain in Liberia to respond to Ebola-related contingences and expand security cooperation efforts.

On March 2, military personnel will make the Operation United Assistance intermediate staging base in Dakar, Senegal, a cooperative security location, where it will be available to support a range of missions.

The Cooperative Threat Reduction, or CTR, Program plans to increase its biosurveillance capacity, including related biosecurity and biosafety capabilities in West Africa. Over time the program will expand its capacity, augmenting partner-country capability to detect and report outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases.

As DoD draws down its presence in Liberia, the United States will continue to support the regional governments alongside the international humanitarian and public health community, defense officials said.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)
 

Carter, sworn in as Secretary of Defense, sets priorities

ASMC National News - Wed, 2015-02-18 15:00

Ashton Carter was sworn in as the 25th secretary of defense yesterday. Last week Carter was confirmed by the U.S. Senate 93-5.

Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath of office in a ceremony at the White House. Biden characterized Carter as “a genuine expert on the acquisition and technical capabilities that are going to help guarantee the U.S. military is second to none in the world.”

Carter called becoming secretary of defense “the highest honor” and thanked President Obama and Vice President Biden for their trust and confidence.

In a letter to all DoD personnel, Secretary Carter laid out his three main priorities as secretary of defense: 1) making the best possible security decisions; 2) ensuring the strength and health of the men and women who serve the department; and 3) building the force of the future.

Carter promised to give the president his “most candid advice” as he addresses the security challenges in today’s “continuing turmoil.” He said that he would count on the experience and expertise of DoD’s personnel as he prepares his advice for the president.

He said he will ensure the strength and health of “our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, civilians, and contractors around the world” by “focusing on the well-being, safety, and dignity of each of you and your families.” Carter assured DoD personnel that they would have the best equipment and training and he would make decisions about the commitment of forces “with the greatest reflection and utmost care.”

Carter warned that DoD will have to “steer through the turmoil of sequestration.” Which he called a “risk to our nation’s defense.” He called for a balance in all parts of the budget to ensure that DoD remains “well-trained and well-equipped to execute our critical mission” and continues to attract “the best people.” Making the best use of available resources requires a “leaner organization, less overhead, and reforming our business and acquisition practice,” he said.

He cautioned that DoD must be “open to change” to be effective in the dynamic security environment. By embracing change DoD will be able to “keep pace with advances in technology and to attract new generations of talented and dedicated Americans to our calling.”

Carter confirmed as Secretary of Defense

ASMC National News - Fri, 2015-02-13 13:01

Yesterday, the Senate voted 93-5 to confirm Ashton Carter as the 25th Secretary of Defense. President Obama nominated Carter in December and the Senate Armed Services Committee cleared Carter’s nomination earlier this week 26-0.

Carter succeeds Chuck Hagel who announced his resignation in November, but has continued in service until a new secretary is confirmed and installed.

Carter served as Deputy Secretary of Defense from December 2011 to December 2013. Prior to becoming Deputy Secretary, he was Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, a post he held from 2009 to 2011. Carter also served in the Clinton administration as Assistant Secretary of Defense for international Security Policy from 1993 until 1996. 

During his Senate confirmation hearing (held February 4), Carter’s nomination was generally applauded by members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC). SASC chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called him “one of America’s most respected and experienced defense professionals.” Ranking SASC member Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) said Carter was “uniquely qualified to lead the Department of Defense.”

President Obama praised Carter’s confirmation in a statement from the White House. “With his decades of experience, Ash will help keep our military strong as we continue the fight against terrorist networks, modernize our alliances, and invest in new capabilities to keep our armed forces prepared for long-term threats, Obama said.

Carter is expected to be sworn in next week.

Proposed Senate legislation would penalize DoD for failure to achieve audit readiness by 2017

ASMC National News - Thu, 2015-02-12 10:21

A bill proposed by four Senators would impose penalties on the Department of Defense if the department does not meet its goal of being audit ready by the end of 2017.

The Audit the Pentagon Act of 2015 (S. 327) was introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WVA), Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) last week.

In a press release, Sen. Manchin said “it is simply unacceptable that the Department of Defense is the only major federal agency that has not completed a financial audit. Our bill will help to solve that problem.” Noting that DoD has consistently expressed its commitment to achieving a full audit, Manchin said “Congress should hold them to that.” A similar press release was issued by Sen. Wyden.

Both Manchin and Wyden expressed frustration that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) continues to label “the Department of Defense “High Risk” for waste, fraud abuse and mismanagement due to the agency’s inability to adequately manage its funds.”

Under the proposed bill, if DoD does not meet its audit goal in 2017, congress will increase its oversight every year thereafter leading to the termination of reprogramming a transfer authority of funds. However, If DoD achieves an unqualified audit “which analyzes both the internal systems of control and the details in the agency’s financial records,” the department will get additional transfer authority to use in the following year.

The bill would also require that any individual nominated to serve as DoD Comptroller or as a military department Assistant Secretary for Financial Management must have served as the chief financial officer, or the equivalent, of a federal or state agency or a public company that has received an unqualified audit opinion.

In addition, if DoD does not achieve an unqualified audit by December 31, 2018, the bill would require the Defense Accounting and Finance Service (DFAS) to be transferred from the Department of Defense to the Department of the Treasury on April 1, 2019.

DoD leaders have stressed that the department is on track to meet the 2017 goal. The FY2016 DoD budget overview emphasizes that “DoD Leadership is committed to achieving audit ready financial statements by the end of FY 2017.” The overview provides a detailed description of the various programs in place to ensure the department meets that goal. A press release on the FY21016 budget stated that “during 2015, 90 percent of Defense resources have budget statements under audit.”

The bill was referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) where it will be considered in conjunction with the FY2016 Defense Authorization bill.

Coast Guard FY2016 budget request totals $10 billion

ASMC National News - Fri, 2015-02-06 12:16

The FY2016 Coast Guard budget request (included in the Department of Homeland Security budget) totals $9.96 billion. This is $.2 billion less than the FY2015 president’s budget request (excluding Overseas Contingency Operations supplemental funding).

Congress has yet to enact the FY2015 Homeland Security budget due to the ongoing efforts by House Republicans to overturn the president’s immigration executive action. The House-passed Homeland Security appropriations bill included a provision prohibiting funds to be spent to implement the president’s immigration executive order. The Senate failed to move the bill forward as Democrat’s and three Republicans voted to deny a vote on a bill that included such a funding restriction. The current FY2015 Continuing Resolution (CR), which is funding Homeland Security appropriations (including the Coast Guard), expires on February 27.

The FY2016 budget request “preserves Coast Guard operations and continues recapitalization efforts for the cutters, boats, aircraft, systems and infrastructure,” according the Coast Guard budget overview.

The request includes $8.14 billion in discretionary funding (to be appropriated by Congress) and $1.82 billion in mandatory funding (including retired pay).

Operating expenses account for $6.82 billion of the FY 2016 discretionary budget request, slightly higher than the FY2015 request ($6.75 billion). These amounts fund Coast Guard operational activities worldwide, including personnel costs.

The acquisition, construction, and Improvements discretionary request of $1.02 billion ($0.1 billion lower than the FY2015 request) finances the acquisition of new assets and construction of new facilities and improvements to existing facilities.

The FY2016 Coast Guard budget request supports three priorities: Invest in the 21st century; sustain mission excellence; and maximize service to the nation.

The budget funds the purchase of six Fast Response Cutters (to replace the aging 110-foot patrol boat fleet), pre-acquisition review, analysis, and design for an Offshore Patrol Cutter (to replace the Medium Endurance Cutter classes), and projects for two Icebreaking Tugs and a Seagoing Buoy Tender. The budget also funds ongoing activities associated with the HC-27J Asset Project Office, spare parts for the HC-144A Ocean Sentry aircraft, and modernization and sustainment of the HH-65 (converting to MH-65 Short Range Recovery (SRR) helicopters). Acquisition funding will support design, development, and upgrades for the C4ISR systems and the Coast Guard unified logistics management system.

To sustain mission excellence, the FY2016 Coast Guard budget makes risk-based reductions, while pursuing critical recapitalization efforts, according to budget documents The Coast Guard plans to decommission two Island Class Patrol Boats, which will be replaced with Fast Response Cutters, and retire three HC-130Hs (to be reconditioned by DoD and transferred to the U.S. Forest Service). The budget also makes $60.9 million in operational adjustments, including a $45 million cut to professional services contracts (to be redirected to higher priorities), and a $5 million cut to headquarters overhead.

The budget preserves parity with the Department of Defense (DoD) in military pay (1.3 percent pay increase) and allowances, health care, and civilian pay (1.3 percent pay increase). The budget also includes $96 million for the operation of new assets and infrastructure.

Additional detail on the FY2016 Coast Guard budget request is available in the congressional justification material.

Annual ASMC/Grant Thornton Survey

ASMC National News - Fri, 2015-02-06 11:07

ASMC will award $300 to the local ASMC Chapter that has the highest response rate for this survey and lower amounts to the Chapters with the second and third highest rates. An additional $200 cash award will be given to the ASMC chapter with the absolute highest number of responses. To participate, please access the survey here.

Army Approves Purple Hearts for Fort Hood Shooting Victims

Defense News - Fri, 2015-02-06 00:00

Army Secretary John M. McHugh announced today that he has approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, following a change in the medals' eligibility criteria mandated by Congress.

Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 were wounded in the attack by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was convicted in August 2013, of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.

"The Purple Heart's strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood," McHugh explained. "Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe there is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized with either the Purple Heart or, in the case of civilians, the Defense of Freedom Medal. It's an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice."

Law Expanded Eligibility

Under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, Congress expanded the eligibility for the Purple Heart by redefining what should be considered an attack by a "foreign terrorist organization" for purposes of determining eligibility for the Purple Heart. The legislation states that an event should now be considered an attack by a foreign terrorist organization if the perpetrator of the attack "was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack" and "the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization."

In a review of the Fort Hood incident and the new provisions of law, the Army determined that there was sufficient evidence to conclude Hasan "was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack," and that his radicalization and subsequent acts could reasonably be considered to have been "inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization."

Previous criteria required a finding that Hasan had been acting at the direction of a foreign terrorist organization.

Identifying and Notifying Those Now Eligible

McHugh directed Army officials to identify soldiers and civilians now eligible for the awards as soon as possible, and to contact them about presentation of the awards. Soldiers receiving the Purple Heart automatically qualify for combat-related special compensation upon retirement. Recipients also are eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Following his 2013 conviction, Hasan was sentenced to death by a general court-martial. He is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while post-trial and appellate processes continue.
 

FY2016 DoD base budget request totals $534.3 billion

ASMC National News - Tue, 2015-02-03 16:11

The FY2016 DoD base budget request totals $534.3 billion for discretionary budget authority, $38.2 billion higher than the amount enacted in FY2015 ($496.1 billion).

The budget request also includes $50.9 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), about $13.3 lower than the FY2015 enacted amount.  

While the FY2016 budget request is essentially the same as that included in the FY2015 budget plan, DoD’s five-year budget plan for FY2016 to FY2020 is $15.5 billion higher than planned last year.

DoD’s press statement stressed that the budget “supports the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) strategy, beginning with its three pillars: protect the homeland, build security globally, and project power and win decisively.”

Introducing the FY2016 DoD budget at the Pentagon yesterday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work described the budget as strategy driven and resource informed. Noting that the request is $36 billion above the sequestration caps, Work pressed for congressional action to block the return to sequestration. He warned that a return to full sequestration will guarantee a “resource-driven, strategy-deprived budget.”

The Army’s FY2016 base budget request totals $126.5 billion (23.7% of the total DoD base budget) up $7.0 billion from the FY2015 enacted level. The Navy’s budget (including the Marine Corps) totals $161.0 billion (30.1%) $11.8 billion above FY2015.  The Air Force base budget request is $152.9 billion (28.6%), up $16.0 billion. The budget request for Defense-wide accounts is $94.0 billion (17.6%), $3.4 billion higher than the previous year.

DoD’s budget overview states that the FY2016 DoD budget reflects six key themes: balance the force; manage enduring readiness challenges; continue focusing on institutional reform; pursue investments in military capabilities; provide for DoD’s people; and support Overseas Contingency Operations.

The QDR calls for rebalancing within the Army. The Army will lower its active end strength level to from 490,000 in 2015 to 450,000 by 2018. Army National Guard strength will drop from 350,200 in 2015 to 335,000 in 2017. DoD warns that if sequestration returns to full force the active Army will have to go down to 420,000.

The FY2016 budget provides significant funding for modernization programs. The budget funds procurement of 57 Joint Strike Fighters and 9 ships. Development funding is included for the KC-46 tanker and the Long Range Strike bomber. The Navy funds the overhaul of the George Washington and development of the Ohio replacement strategic submarine. And, the Army includes $4.5 billion for helicopter modernization.

The FY2016 budget would raise military pay by 1.3 percent. The budget also funds a 1.3 percent pay raise for civilians. The FY2015 pay raise was 1.0 percent. The 1.3 percent pay raise is a full percentage point below that which is called for in current law. Planned pay raises will also be limited in the FY2016-20 budget plan. The planned pay raises are 1.3 percent in 2017, 1.5 percent in 2018 and 2019, and 1.8 percent on 2020.

The budget also includes a number of proposals to slow growth in military compensation and benefits. The budget slows the growth in Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) costs by 4 percent until the BAH rates equal 95 percent of housing and utilities costs.

Reduced commissary subsidies will come from operating efficiencies rather than a direct cut to the commissary subsidy, as proposed last year. Commissary operating days and hours will be reduced and the budget requests approval to include second destination transportation costs in the cost of goods.

The budget proposes to streamline the TRICARE options (Prime, Standard, and Extra) into a more simplified structure that includes in-network and out-of-network cost sharing. Active duty personnel will continue to be exempt from co-pays and fees. Modest enrollment fees would be implemented for new TRICARE-for Life Medicare-eligible retirees and pharmacy co-pays would be increased under the budget proposal.

The FY2016 DOD budget again requests congressional authority to conduct a new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round to reduce excess infrastructure. Congress has repeatedly denied such requests in recent years.

The budget also renews other proposals that were rejected by the congress last year. The Air Force requests divestiture of the A-10 aircraft program to reallocate funds from supporting excess force structure to readiness needs. The Army requests, in its Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI) to divest the oldest, least capable aircraft and retain more capable aircraft.

Additional detail (including Military Service briefings) on the FY2015 DoD budget request is available on the DoD Comptroller website.   

FY 2016 federal budget will be released on Tuesday, Feb 2

ASMC National News - Thu, 2015-01-29 12:26

President Obama will release the FY2016 federal budget to the public and the Congress on Tuesday Feb 2, 2013. This will be the first budget submitted by the Obama administration on the required date. Previous Obama budgets have been submitted one week to two months later due to late congressional action on the prior budget.

After the FY2016 budget is released on Tuesday, senior administration officials will brief the press and begin testifying before congressional oversight committees.

OMB Director Shaun Donovan is scheduled to testify on the FY2016 budget at the Senate Budget Committee (SBC) on February 3rd at 10:00am. He will appear before the House Budget Committee on February 4th at 10:30am.

Defense budget oversight committee hearings on the budget, normally held soon after the budget is released, will be delayed this year until after Ashton Carter is confirmed (as expected) as Secretary of Defense. Both the House (HASC) and Senate (SASC) Armed Services Committees leaders have said this delay will allow the committees more time to study the president’s proposals before the new secretary testifies.

SASC chairman Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) announced that the committee will hold a confirmation hearing on Carter’s nomination next week. While Carter will be grilled on the administration’s security policies, SASC approval and full Senate confirmation is expected to occur soon. In anticipation of a new secretary’s Senate confirmation, a farewell ceremony was held for outgoing secretary Chuck Hagel at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, VA yesterday.

Next week, Defense Highlights will include a brief overview of the FY2016 DoD budget request and identify links to official statements and available budget material.

Defense Business Board identifies $125 billion in potential DoD savings

ASMC National News - Wed, 2015-01-28 12:07

The Defense Business Board (DBB) has completed a study that demonstrates how the Department of Defense (DoD) can achieve savings of over $125 billion in the next five years through a series of productivity improvements. The study was directed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work.

The DBB report suggests that these savings could be used to help fulfill modernization plans or fund warfighter needs. Savings of $125 billion could fund operations for either 50 Army brigades, 10 Navy Carrier Strike Groups deployments, or 83 Air Force F-35 Fighter Wings, according to studies cited by the DBB.

In completing its work, the DBB interviewed more than 85 officials from private industry, DoD, and civilian experts in business process redesign and enterprise architecture. The panel also researched the best business practices with the private sector, academia, DOD, and other federal agencies.

The report leans heavily on the private sector assumption that productivity gains are driven by improvements in technology, processes, and innovation. The DBB points out that such productivity gains are considered “business as usual.”

The DBB identified recommendations for DoD productivity gains in four areas: 1) Contract Spend Optimization; 2) Labor Optimization; 3) IT Modernization; and 4) Business Process Re-engineering. Implementing these recommendations, according to the DBB, could achieve $75 to $150 in savings over the period 2016-20.

The bulk of the savings would come from contract optimization and labor optimization. The implementation of more vigorous vendor negotiations, gaining economies of scale, reducing contract fragmentation, increasing productivity in labor contracts and eliminating unneeded spending could achieve $46 to $89 billion over five years.

Optimizing the labor footprint by removing unnecessary or excess organization layers and increasing spans, reducing areas of complexity and redundancy, and optimizing the civilian-contractor mix could produce between $23 and $53 billion.

In addition, the DBB estimates that between $5 and $9 billion could be saved in Information Technology (IT) from application rationalization and consolidation, prioritizing requirements and eliminating programs with low return on investment (ROI), process redesign, and data center consolidation and cloud migration.

Successful implementation of best business practices starts with strong leadership and governance structure, the report asserts. This is best achieved by active and visible leadership at the highest level. Governance committees are led by senior leaders and functional leaders. The report stresses that priority accountability is the responsibility of all members and all efforts should be supported by the necessary budgetary resources and expertise.

The DBB asserts that “early mobilization” of these recommendations is the key to achieving these savings. “Every billion saved in 2016 is worth 5 billion [in] FY16-FY20 due to the compounding effect,” the briefing stresses.

Along with the importance of getting started on these recommendations now, the DBB cites several factors that are critical to the success its recommendations. Among these are: committed and visible leadership; a powerful vision statement; clear targets and metrics; implementing an early retirement program and incentives to retain critical talent; and organizational restructuring to create permanent efficiencies.

The final DBB report will include detailed discussion of the points made in the briefing parts.

DoD Launches Child Care Website to Ease Moving Transitions

Defense News - Wed, 2015-01-28 00:00

As military families move frequently and face a host of concerns, finding child care can be one of the greatest challenges, Barbara Thompson, director of military community and policy’s office of family policy/children and youth/special needs, said yesterday.

To streamline and standardize what can be a daunting search, the Defense Department unveiled MilitaryChildCare.com, an online resource to help military, DoD civilian and contractor families find an array of military-operated and military-subsidized child care options for children between the ages of 4 weeks and 12 years, Thompson said.

Child Care Affects the Force

“Child care is a workforce issue that impacts the readiness and retention of the force,” Thompson said. “As families relocate to other areas, it’s really challenging to make sure your child care needs are being met, and this tool gives parents an opportunity in advance to find those child care spots that will work for the family.”

MilitaryChildCare.com is a “single gateway” for families to enter as they request child care, she noted.

Of the 200,000 children DoD serves in child care, more than 50 percent are younger than age 3, Thompson said.

“It’s very difficult to find infant and toddler care in the civilian community,” she said. “[DoD has] young families with young children and we really feel that we’re providing a high-quality environment for those babies and toddlers [with the website].”

Families can customize their search, put their children on waiting lists and monitor requests for placement, Thompson said.

“The idea is that you have choices, and you see the array pictorially of what’s available at those locations,” she noted.

A help desk online and at 1-855-696-2934, toll-free, is also available to help personalize families’ searches, she added.

Pilot Program Expanding

The website initiative used focus groups comprising child care staff and parents, with a goal of making the website functional and intuitive to make sure families can easily navigate the system, Thompson said.

A pilot program was also conducted in the study at numerous installations over the past 18 months at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for the Air Force, Hawaii for the Army, Hawaii and San Diego for the Marine Corps, and Hawaii, San Diego, Key West, Bahrain, Meridian and Singapore for the Navy, she said.

Recently, 13 more installations were added to the website in addition to the pilots.

They are Naval Air Facility El Centro, California; Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada; Naval Air Station Joint Readiness Base Fort Worth, Texas; Naval Air Station Kingsville, Texas; Naval Air Station Joint Readiness Base, New Orleans, Louisiana; Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California; Naval Air Station Lemoore, California; Naval Support Activity Monterey, California; Naval Base Ventura County, California; Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, Texas; Naval Station Everett, Washington; Naval Base Kitsap, Washington; and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington.

The child care website is expected to be fully functional worldwide in September 2016, Thompson said, adding that it will remain a work in progress as it takes in feedback from parents for improvements.

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter:@MoonCronkDoD) 

House passes FY2015 Homeland Security appropriations bill, but amendments blocking immigration order draw veto threat

ASMC National News - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:58

This week, the House passed the FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill (236-191), the last FY2015 appropriations bill to be considered.

In December, Congress approved and the president signed an Omnibus Appropriations bill that contained 11 of the 12 FY2015 appropriations bills. However, the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which was subject to intense debate after the president announced executive action on immigration, was funded under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through February 27, 20175

The House action opens the bidding final action on what should prove to be difficult negotiations between the House and the Senate and the White House. The House bill includes two amendments that block the president’s action on immigration. This immediately brought a veto threat from the White House.

A Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) expressed support for the House-passed underlying FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, but strongly opposed the addition of the two immigration-related amendments. If the final bill includes these amendments, the SAP stated, the president’s senior advisors would recommend that the president veto the bill.

However to get to the president, the House bill would have to pass the Senate, which appears unlikely. Democrats, while in the minority, could still hold up the bill through a filibuster, which would require 60 votes to proceed on an up-or-down vote. But, the House bill is also problematic for some Senate Republicans. Several of them, including Sen. Lindsay Graham, have indicated that while they oppose the president’s actions on immigration, they are uncomfortable with forcing a showdown on Homeland Security funding over the issue. \

So, while House passage starts the process towards final action on the FY2015 Homeland Security bill, it will probably take much of the remaining time between now on February 27th to reach an agreement.

This means that the agencies funded in the bill (totaling about $40 billion), Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration, Transportation Security Agency (TSA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Coast Guard will continue to operate under a CR.

House passes FY2015 Homeland Security bill, but amendment blocking immigration order draws veto threat

ASMC National News - Fri, 2015-01-16 12:38

This week, the House passed the FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill (236-191), the last FY2015 appropriations bill to be considered.

In December, Congress approved and the president signed an Omnibus Appropriations bill that contained 11 of the 12 FY2015 appropriations bills. However, the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which was subject to intense debate after the president announced executive action on immigration, was funded under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through February 27, 20175

The House action opens the bidding final action on what should prove to be difficult negotiations between the House and the Senate and the White House. The House bill includes two amendments that block the president’s action on immigration. This immediately brought a veto threat from the White House.

A Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) expressed support for the House-passed underlying FY2015 Homeland Security Appropriations bill, but strongly opposed the addition of the two immigration-related amendments. If the final bill includes these amendments, the SAP stated, the president’s senior advisors would recommend that the president veto the bill.

However to get to the president, the House bill would have to pass the Senate, which appears unlikely. Democrats, while in the minority, could still hold up the bill through a filibuster, which would require 60 votes to proceed on an up-or-down vote. But, the House bill is also problematic for some Senate Republicans. Several of them, including Sen. Lindsay Graham, have indicated that while they oppose the president’s actions on immigration, they are uncomfortable with forcing a showdown on Homeland Security funding over the issue. \

So, while House passage starts the process towards final action on the FY2015 Homeland Security bill, it will probably take much of the remaining time between now on February 27th to reach an agreement.

This means that the agencies funded in the bill (totaling about $40 billion), Secret Service, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration, Transportation Security Agency (TSA), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Coast Guard will continue to operate under a CR.

President’s State of the Union address set for January 20th

ASMC National News - Thu, 2015-01-15 13:58

President Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, January 20.  In December, House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) had formally invited the president to address Congress.

By tradition, the president will report on the current condition of the nation and lays out a framework for the administration’s domestic and foreign policy plans and the FY2016 budget request. 

This annual address fulfills the constitutional requirement in Article II, Sec 3 of the Constitution that “The President shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union.”  President Obama’s speech this year will mark the 226th time presidents have reported to Congress, either in person or in written form, under this requirement. 

From 1790 until 1946 the speech was known as the ‘Annual Message.” During the period 1942-1946 it was referred to informally as the “state of the Union” address. In 1947 the speech began to be formally called the “State of the Union Address.”

President George Washington gave the first address on January 8, 1790.  Washington and his successor John Adams delivered their statements in person, but President Thomas Jefferson sent his message to Congress in writing.  This practice of sending Congress only a written submission continued until President Woodrow Wilson (in 1913) decided to go before Congress to deliver his message. 

Between 1913 and 1934 presidents held to no particular tradition, sometimes giving their statements in person and sometimes sending them to Congress only in writing.  However, since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first State of the Union Address in 1934, most presidents have appeared in person.  Notable exceptions have been written statements by President Eisenhower after his heart attack and by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Carter in the final year of their the presidency. 

President Calvin Coolidge delivered the first State of the Union address to a national audience on radio in 1923 and President Harry Truman’s 1947 address was the first to be broadcast on television.  President George W. Bush’s message in 2002 was the first State of the Union address to be webcast live on the internet.

Since 1966, a representative of the opposition party has delivered a response to the president’s address.  The first opposition response was given by Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-IL) and Rep. Gerald Ford (R-MI). Last year, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) gave the republican response in English and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) presented the response in Spanish. No announcement has been made for this year’s republican response.

The CRS report “The President’s State of the Union Address: Tradition, Function, and Policy Implications" provides a comprehensive review of the State of the Union Address.

President’s State of the Union address set for January 20

ASMC National News - Thu, 2015-01-15 12:29

President Obama will deliver the annual State of the Union Address before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, January 20.  In December, House Speaker Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) had formally invited the president to address Congress.

By tradition, the president will report on the current condition of the nation and lays out a framework for the administration’s domestic and foreign policy plans and the FY2016 budget request. 

This annual address fulfills the constitutional requirement in Article II, Sec 3 of the Constitution that “The President shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union.”  President Obama’s speech this year will mark the 226th time presidents have reported to Congress, either in person or in written form, under this requirement. 

From 1790 until 1946 the speech was known as the ‘Annual Message.” During the period 1942-1946 it was referred to informally as the “state of the Union” address. In 1947 the speech began to be formally called the “State of the Union Address.”

President George Washington gave the first address on January 8, 1790.  Washington and his successor John Adams delivered their statements in person, but President Thomas Jefferson sent his message to Congress in writing.  This practice of sending Congress only a written submission continued until President Woodrow Wilson (in 1913) decided to go before Congress to deliver his message. 

Between 1913 and 1934 presidents held to no particular tradition, sometimes giving their statements in person and sometimes sending them to Congress only in writing.  However, since President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first State of the Union Address in 1934, most presidents have appeared in person.  Notable exceptions have been written statements by President Eisenhower after his heart attack and by Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Carter in the final year of their the presidency. 

President Calvin Coolidge delivered the first State of the Union address to a national audience on radio in 1923 and President Harry Truman’s 1947 address was the first to be broadcast on television.  President George W. Bush’s message in 2002 was the first State of the Union address to be webcast live on the internet.

Since 1966, a representative of the opposition party has delivered a response to the president’s address.  The first opposition response was given by Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-IL) and Rep. Gerald Ford (R-MI). Last year, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) gave the republican response in English and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) presented the response in Spanish. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-NE) will give the Republican response.

The CRS report “The President’s State of the Union Address: Tradition, Function, and Policy Implications" provides a comprehensive review of the State of the Union Address.

Nominations currently being accepted for ASMC National Awards

ASMC National News - Tue, 2015-01-13 09:23
Alexandria Virginia - Each year the American Society of Military Comptrollers recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of its Chapters, membership and the defense financial management community through the awards program. The program encompasses individual, team and scholarship awards and an annual chapter program report for chapter recognition.  The ASMC Awards program is open to the public and any military or civilian employed by DoD or the U.S Coast Guard is eligible.  Read more about the ASMC Awards program here.     If you are experiencing technical difficulty viewing the website, please note that you must be using a current web browser or have your compatibility view turned on in your browser settings. If you continue to have technical difficulty, please check with your IT department or email awards@asmconline.org.

114th Congress convenes, eyes Homeland Security CR and FY2016 appropriations process

ASMC National News - Fri, 2015-01-09 16:27

The 114th Congress convened this week with Republicans controlling both the House (246R to 188D, 1 vacancy) and the Senate (54R to 44D, with 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats) as a result of the 2014 Mid-term elections.

The House re-elected Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) Speaker of the House despite the defection of 25 Republicans, twenty-four of whom voted for other candidates, while one voted present. In his brief acceptance speech, Boehner acknowledged these dissenters who disagreed with his perceived lack of commitment to overturning Obamacare and the president’s executive order on immigration. He urged his Republican colleagues to “disagree without being disagreeable.”

In the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) became Senate Majority Leader as Republicans took control for the first time since the 109th Congress (2005-2007) when their majority was 55R to 44D with one Independent.

The 114th Congress has some unfinished FY2015 appropriations business. In December, the 113th Congress passed the FY2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill that funded 11 appropriations bills for the full year. However, the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which was subject to intense debate after the president announced executive action on immigration, was funded under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through February 27, 2017.

The House will open the bidding on the Homeland Security bill next week by moving to pass its version that will include a provision to block the president’s executive action. The House bill may not be acceptable to the Senate and is sure to draw a presidential veto. However, acting almost seven weeks before the CR expires should give Congress time to construct a bill that avoids a shutdown on the Department of Homeland Security.

Regarding FY2016 appropriations bills, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders have expressed their commitment to proceed under regular order. This would mean a process that includes committee hearings, markups, and passage in each chamber followed by a conference agreement for each of the 12 appropriations bills. If this happens, it would be a significant departure from recent years, in which the congressional appropriations review process has been marked by intermittent action that most often concluded with omnibus and mini-omnibus appropriations bills.

However, this enthusiasm for regular order for appropriations bills could be dashed by the specter of sequestration (automatic cuts), which is set to restart again in FY2016. The budget agreement completed in 2013 established budget targets for 2014 and 2015 that set aside sequestration. But, in 2016 sequestration returns and, once again, Republicans and Democrats will have to try to reach a new budget agreement that addresses sequestration.

While there is general agreement on the Hill that sequestration is a bad idea that should be fixed, there continues to be little agreement on how that should be done. Many want to protect defense from significant cuts and others are concerned about the effect of sequestration on nondefense budgets. Speaker Boehner will have problems within his own party in efforts to reach a deal with Democrats. The Tea Party faction of the Republican Caucus will will press hard for additional spending cuts, while pushing for defense increases. It will take more than good intentions to conclude an agreement that can be passed in Congress and be acceptable to the president.

114th Congress convenes, eyes Homeland Security CR and FY2016 appropriations process

ASMC National News - Fri, 2015-01-09 12:19

The 114th Congress convened this week with Republicans controlling both the House (246R to 188D, 1 vacancy) and the Senate (54R to 44D, with 2 Independents who caucus with the Democrats) as a result of the 2014 Mid-term elections.

The House re-elected Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) Speaker of the House despite the defection of 25 Republicans, twenty-four of whom voted for other candidates, while one voted present. In his brief acceptance speech, Boehner acknowledged these dissenters who disagreed with his perceived lack of commitment to overturning Obamacare and the president’s executive order on immigration. He urged his Republican colleagues to “disagree without being disagreeable.”

In the Senate, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) became Senate Majority Leader as Republicans took control for the first time since the 109th Congress (2005-2007) when their majority was 55R to 44D with one Independent.

The 114th Congress has some unfinished FY2015 appropriations business. In December, the 113th Congress passed the FY2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill that funded 11 appropriations bills for the full year. However, the Homeland Security Appropriations bill, which was subject to intense debate after the president announced executive action on immigration, was funded under a Continuing Resolution (CR) through February 27, 2017.

The House will open the bidding on the Homeland Security bill next week by moving to pass its version that will include a provision to block the president’s executive action. The House bill may not be acceptable to the Senate and is sure to draw a presidential veto. However, acting almost seven weeks before the CR expires should give Congress time to construct a bill that avoids a shutdown on the Department of Homeland Security.

Regarding FY2016 appropriations bills, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders have expressed their commitment to proceed under regular order. This would mean a process that includes committee hearings, markups, and passage in each chamber followed by a conference agreement for each of the 12 appropriations bills. If this happens, it would be a significant departure from recent years, in which the congressional appropriations review process has been marked by intermittent action that most often concluded with omnibus and mini-omnibus appropriations bills.

However, this enthusiasm for regular order for appropriations bills could be dashed by the specter of sequestration (automatic cuts), which is set to restart again in FY2016. The budget agreement completed in 2013 established budget targets for 2014 and 2015 that set aside sequestration. But, in 2016 sequestration returns and, once again, Republicans and Democrats will have to try to reach a new budget agreement that addresses sequestration.

While there is general agreement on the Hill that sequestration is a bad idea that should be fixed, there continues to be little agreement on how that should be done. Many want to protect defense from significant cuts and others are concerned about the effect of sequestration on nondefense budgets. Speaker Boehner will have problems within his own party in efforts to reach a deal with Democrats. The Tea Party faction of the Republican Caucus will will press hard for additional spending cuts, while pushing for defense increases. It will take more than good intentions to conclude an agreement that can be passed in Congress and be acceptable to the president.

DoD Officials Announce European Infrastructure Consolidation

Defense News - Thu, 2015-01-08 00:00

Defense Department officials today announced plans to consolidate some military infrastructure in Europe to save the U.S. government more than $500 million annually while maintaining capability and commitments.

The plans represent the culmination of the European Infrastructure Consolidation process, a two-year effort that was designed to ensure long-term efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. presence in Europe, officials said.

The consolidation incorporates the return of 15 sites to their host nations, part of U.S. European Command’s continued effort to remove nonenduring sites from its real-property inventory and allow more resources to be focused on other Eucom mission requirements.

Not Affecting Capability

“In the end, this transformation of our infrastructure will help maximize our military capabilities in Europe and help strengthen our important European partnerships so that we can best support our NATO allies and partners in the region,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said. Hagel discussed the decisions yesterday with his counterparts in the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Portugal -- the four countries affected most by the actions.

Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs told reporters at the Pentagon today that European and trans-Atlantic security is more important than ever.

“We are not affecting our operational capability,” Chollet said. “The EIC adjustments do not diminish our ability to meet our commitments to allies and partners. In fact, these decisions will produce savings that will enable us to maintain a robust force presence in Europe.”

Throughout the process, Chollet said, the department maintained a close and consistent engagement with Congress, the State Department, the Joint Staff, the individual services, Eucom and European partners.

Personnel Impacts

Divestiture of the Royal Air Force Mildenhall facility represents the largest reduction in U.S. personnel among all the actions. That base’s closure will pave the way for the stationing of two squadrons of F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter jets at RAF Lakenheath starting in 2020, defense officials said.

The basing decisions will result in a net decrease of roughly 2,000 U.S. service members and civilians in the United Kingdom over the next several years. About 3,200 U.S. personnel will relocate from RAF Mildenhall, and that will be offset by the addition of about 1,200 people who will be permanently assigned to the two F-35 squadrons slated to open at RAF Lakenheath.

Pentagon officials anticipate several hundred additional U.S. military personnel being assigned to Germany in the coming years, and about 200 more in Italy. Roughly 500 will be reassigned from Lajes Field in the Azores, Portugal, as part of streamlining efforts approved and announced in 2012.

John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment, managed the EIC effort for DoD. He said the bottom line was that the department wanted to preserve its operational capability while reducing the cost of supporting it.

Reduced Need for Support Infrastructure

“As a result, we will not need as many support personnel to maintain a reduced infrastructure, in terms of both U.S. military and civilian personnel and host-nation employees,” Conger said. “Approximately 1,200 U.S. military and civilian support positions will be eliminated, and about 6,000 more U.S. personnel will be relocated within Europe.

“Up to 1,100 host-nation positions could also be eliminated,” he continued, “and approximately 1,500 additional Europeans working for the U.S. could end up being impacted over the next several years, as many of their positions are relocated to areas we need to maintain for the long term.”

(Follow Tech. Sgt. Jake Richmond on Twitter: @RichmondDoDNews)
 

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