Feed aggregator

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)
 

U.S., Partner Nations Continue Airstrikes Against ISIL

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

U.S. and partner-nation military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials provided details on the following strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports:

Airstrikes in Syria

Fighter and bomber aircraft conducted six airstrikes in Syria:

-- Near Kobani, five airstrikes struck two ISIL fighting positions and an ISIL staging area and destroyed four ISIL fighting positions.

-- Near Hasakah, an airstrike struck four ISIL crude oil pumps and five ISIL crude oil well heads.

Airstrikes in Iraq

Bomber and fighter aircraft conducted seven airstrikes in Iraq:

-- Near Rutbah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Tal Afar, two airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL vehicle-borne bomb and an ISIL vehicle.

-- Near Kirkuk, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL checkpoint.

-- Near Fallujah, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

-- Near Asad, an airstrike struck a large ISIL unit.

-- Near Sinjar, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

Part of Operation Inherent Resolve

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
 

GSA increases mileage reimbursement rate for official travel in 2015

ASMC National News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:46

The General Services Administration (GSA) announced that the mileage reimbursement rate for federal employees using privately –owned vehicles during official travel will increase to 57.5 cents per mile from the current level of 56 cents.  The new rate went into effect on January 1, 2015. 

Mileage reimbursable rates also increased for official travel by motorcycle (to 54.5 cents from 53 cents), but decreased for official airplane travel (to $1.29 from $1.31).

GSA annually reviews mileage reimbursement rates.  GSA rates cannot exceed the rate set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for calculating business mileage expenses on tax returns.  

GSA increases mileage reimbursement rate for official travel in 2015

ASMC National News - Tue, 2015-01-06 12:06

The General Services Administration (GSA) announced that the mileage reimbursement rate for federal employees using privately –owned vehicles during official travel will increase to 57.5 cents per mile from the current level of 56 cents.  The new rate went into effect on January 1, 2015. 

Mileage reimbursable rates also increased for official travel by motorcycle (to 54.5 cents from 53 cents), but decreased for official airplane travel (to $1.29 from $1.31).

GSA annually reviews mileage reimbursement rates.  GSA rates cannot exceed the rate set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for calculating business mileage expenses on tax returns.  

USS Fort Worth Joins Sampson in Search Efforts

Defense News - Sun, 2015-01-04 00:00

The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth has joined the guided missile destroyer USS Sampson in the Java Sea to assist in the Indonesian-led international search-and-recovery effort for downed AirAsia Flight 8501, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release issued yesterday.

This morning the Sampson’s commander, Navy Cmdr. Steven M. Foley, discussed current search efforts with ABC’s “This Week” weekend news program host Martha Raddatz.

“We've been searching using lookouts, using optical search equipment and scanning the horizon and using our helicopters in tandem to search a wide area,” Foley told Raddatz today.

Rough Weather

“The weather has been a little rough with scattered thunderstorms,” the commander said. “The seas have been about two to four feet, increasing to about four to six feet when the rain swells come in. And we've been operating in three specified areas that the Indonesian authorities have assigned to us.

“And you have to remember,” Foley added, “this is their search effort and we're here to assist.”

Ships are being employed to search for the downed aircraft’s black box and the helicopters are looking for debris, Foley told Raddatz. Rigid-hull inflatable boats are also participating in the search effort, he added.

The Indonesian government requested U.S. assistance to help in the search for Air Asia Flight 8501, which disappeared Dec. 28 during its route from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore with 162 passengers and crew aboard.

The San Diego-based USS Sampson, an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis guided missile destroyer, was deployed Dec. 29 to assist in the search efforts for the Airbus A320-216 aircraft, according to a U.S. Navy news release. Since then, searchers have found debris and passenger remains from the aircraft, which apparently crashed during its flight during bad weather.

Remains, Debris Found

The Sampson arrived in the Java Sea search area on Dec. 30, according to a U.S. Navy release. Later that day, the Sampson’s helicopters and Indonesian navy assets discovered aircraft debris.

The Sampson’s crew also removed six remains from the sea Jan. 1 and six others Jan. 2, according to a U.S. Navy release.

“We find great gratification in being able to assist the Indonesian government in this ongoing effort and to bring closure to the family and friends of the passengers of AirAsia Flight 8501,” Foley told Raddatz.
 

Airstrikes Continue Against ISIL in Syria and Iraq

Defense News - Sun, 2015-01-04 00:00

U.S. and partner-nation fighter and bomber aircraft conducted six airstrikes against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria yesterday, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported.

Separately, U.S. and partner-nation fighter aircraft conducted one airstrike against ISIL terrorists in Iraq yesterday, officials said.

Airstrikes in Syria

-- Near Kobani, six airstrikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and an ISIL fighting position and destroyed three ISIL vehicles, four ISIL buildings, three ISIL fighting positions, and two ISIL staging areas.

Airstrike in Iraq

-- Near Mosul, one airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit.

The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations.

Coalition-nation Participation

Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the U.S., Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the U.S., Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
 

Presidential order implements 1% pay raise for federal civilian employees and military personnel

ASMC National News - Tue, 2014-12-30 14:03

Beginning January 1, 2015 federal civilian employees and uniformed military personnel will receive a 1 percent pay raise under an executive order issued earlier this month.

The executive order sets pay levels for federal civilian employees (executive level, senior executives, and general schedule employees), uniformed military personnel, and judges.  

Tables from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) supporting the executive order list the pay levels by grade/rank and by years of service for each category of pay plan.  The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website includes detailed explanations of each pay plan and their originating authorities.

In September, the president recommended a 1 percent pay raise for federal civilian and military personnel, reaffirming the raise included in his FY2015 budget request. Congress allowed that raise to go into effect because it did not specifically act to change it in legislation. However, Congress did authorize a 1 percent pay raise for military personnel in the FY2015 Defense Authorization Act.

President announces SES program initiatives

ASMC National News - Fri, 2014-12-19 12:06

The White House has announced three new initiatives to enhance and reform the Senior Executive Service (SES).

Speaking at a gathering in Washington, D.C. honoring as many as 3,000 of the federal workforce’s senior leaders, the president thanked them for their “extraordinary sacrifice” and called today’s federal leaders “the best of the best.”

Obama acknowledged the challenges faced by federal leaders. “You work under tough circumstances, whether it’s sequestration, pay freeze, shutdown, and more importantly a political climate where folks too often talk down government for cheap applause.” But, the president said in this environment, the government must adapt to the demands of the 21st century.

He said it was his job to give leaders “a little more support to keep attracting the new talent that we are going to need in the future.”

The president announced three initiatives that would recognize outstanding service and give leaders new opportunities to develop their skills.

The administration will launch a White House Leadership Program. Under this program top leaders and SES candidates will have the opportunity to “rotate through different agencies on high-priority assignments” and bring back new expertise their agency. The goal is to reenergize and reinvigorate leaders and cross-pollinate ideas across agencies.

A White House Advisory Group on Senior Executive Service Reform will study ways to better recruit, develop, and retain exceptional civil servants. Members will include Senior Level and Senior Technical professionals from all agencies, as well as rising leaders. The Group will have access, via a special website, to information collected from annual employee surveys and will also emphasize accountability mechanisms to identify management improvements.

The White House is also creating an award to recognize outstanding customer service by individuals and teams. This non-monetary Customer Service Awards Program will recognize those leaders “who make enormous differences in the lives of individual Americans every single day,” the president said. There will be two classes: Presidential Customer Service Awards and Secretary Customer Service Awards (agency awards).

Senate passes and sends FY2015 Appropriations and Defense Authorization bills to president

ASMC National News - Mon, 2014-12-15 11:08

The Senate has passed and sent to the president the FY2015 Appropriations bill that funds the Department of Defense Appropriations bill and 10 other bills (including Military Construction /VA) through the end of FY2015. The bill also funds the Homeland Security Appropriations bill under a continuing resolution (CR) through February 27, 20015.

The Senate passed the $1.013 trillion government funding bill 56-40 Saturday after defeating moves by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) designed to stop the bill from proceeding to a final vote. The House had passed the bill 219-206 on Thursday. The president indicated he will sign the bill, thus averting a government shutdown.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) acknowledging the compromise cooperation between Democrats and Republicans needed to finish the bill said “this bill is not perfect, but we can all be proud that we voted tonight to make America more secure, put our government on more sound footing than when this Congress began.”

Funding in the bill for DoD base appropriations, less Military Construction, totals almost $490.2 billion, about $1 billion less than the request. Military Construction appropriations funding (in the MilCon/VA bill) is $6.6 billion, essentially the same as the request.The bill also provides $64 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

The bill provides funding for a 1% percent military pay raise. But, it freezes freeze pay for general and flag officers and makes a 1 percent reduction in the Basic Housing Allowance (BAH). The conference agreement adds about $200 million to the Defense Commissary Agency funding request to maintain operations.

The legislation 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 bill also funds continued operations of A-10 aircraft and continues operations of the full Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS). The administration had proposed retiring both of these aircraft.

The Senate also approved (89-11) the FY2015 Defense Authorization bill, which the House passed earlier this month. The president is expected to sign the bill.

The Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015,” named after the Senate and House Armed Services Committee chairmen, authorizes $495.9 billion for the Department of Defense (DoD) and $17.5 billion for the Department of Energy (DoE) nuclear weapons program.  The bill authorizes an additional $63.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

The legislation authorizes a 1 percent military pay raise, requested by the president. However, the bill rejects proposed changes to TRICARE fees, deductibles, and pharmacy co-pays, but does authorize a $3 increase in pharmacy co-pays for prescriptions filled in non-military treatment facilities by non-Active Duty TRICARE beneficiaries.

The authorization bill rejects the administration-proposed 5 percent cut to Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), opting instead for a 1 percent reduction in BAH. The bill also rejects another Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round in 2017 that was urged by the administration. In recent years Congress has repeatedly rejected administration requests for another BRAC round.

The bill also denies the administration proposal to defer a decision on refueling the USS George Washington, providing almost $800 million for support and advance planning for refueling the aircraft carrier, prohibits the Air Force from retiring or preparing to retire the A-10 aircraft fleet in FY2015, and stops the Air Force from retiring any Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) in FY2015.

In a major organizational move, the conference agreement creates an Under Secretary of Defense for Business Management and Information that combines the positions of Deputy Chief Management Officer (DCMO) and Chief Information Officer (CIO).

Before adjourning this week, the Senate will move to complete action on a number of pending nominations proposed by the president and legislation extending for one year tax provisions set to expire at the end of the year. These so-called “tax extenders” include research and development tax credits (highly popular with business), state and local sales tax deductions, tax credits for energy efficient homes, and bonus depreciation tax credits. 

Thousands Gather to Honor Fallen Veterans for Wreaths Across America Day

Defense News - Sat, 2014-12-13 00:00

Amid crisp air and the aroma of pine needles, thousands gathered to lay remembrance wreaths on veterans’ headstones here to mark National Wreaths Across America Day, and in doing so drew one of the annual event’s largest turnouts in its 23 year history.

“We’re grateful for the sacrifice, bravery, courage and tenacity of members of our armed forces who currently serve in harms way; we’re grateful for the freedoms that we have as Americans,” Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan Battaglia, the senior enlisted advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told those gathered on a sun drenched but cold day in the shadow of the Pentagon.

How wreaths began

He said he’s particularly grateful to one couple, Morrill and Karen Worcester, who he said seek no fanfare as they continue to make a difference in society through Wreaths Across America, the non-profit organization they founded in 2007.

“Because of the great efforts of Morrill and Karen Worcester, we’re able to cover every eligible gravesite with a holiday wreath, symbolic because it’s a circle that never ends – so their service still continues as well.”

A Maine businessman, Morrill Worcester donated 5,000 wreaths in 1992 and arranged for trucks to carry them during their pilgrimage from his home state to Arlington National Cemetery. In 2005, Air Force photographer Jim Varhegyi snapped the iconic photo of wreaths in snow, bringing WAA unprecedented attention and acclaim.

Later, Congress proclaimed Dec. 13th as “Wreaths Across America Day” and at this year’s event, Morill Worcester placed the two-millionth wreath laid nationwide to honor U.S. Army Pvt. William Christman, the first soldier to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

The organization has since expanded to include more than 1,000 fundraising groups in all 50 states representing more than 900 cemeteries, military memorials and other sites.  More than 80 volunteer trucking companies have stepped up to help deliver the wreaths.

Thanks from the Chairman

“Throughout our country’s history, the men and women of the U.S. forces have served with the utmost patriotism and allegiance,” Battaglia read to the Worcesters in a personal letter from Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The hundreds of thousands of wreaths that volunteers across America place at the gravesites of our veterans were shining testimonies that freedom is not free.”

Battaglia explained what the diverse and robust turnout means to the military and the nation.

“It means the world; we are so fortunate to have not just a great community – but a great society that would come out here in droves to honor our veterans,” Battaglia said. “
As for the new generation, Battaglia said the event’s 2014 theme “Remember, Honor, Teach” personifies that message.

“Our youth are learning some valuable lessons about how great our country really is and how we as an armed forces respect and honor both our wounded and our killed in action. When these kids are grown up, they too will be bringing their children and grandchildren our here as well – it’s a tradition the Worcesters started, and it’s long-lasting.”

(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDODNews)
 

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