Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2010 Defense Appropriations Bill Recap

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

The President signed into law the 2010 Defense Appropriations Act Dec. 19, after it passed in the Senate by a vote of 88-10.

In addition to providing appropriations for Department of Defense military programs, the $636.3 billion bill includes funding for Overseas Contingency Operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, though it does not address the President’s new Afghanistan security strategy.

The bill is advertised as “addressing issues raised by service members, their families, and Department of Defense Officials in testimony before Congress, and discovered through visits to military bases across the United States and overseas.”

The National Guard and Reserve Equipment appropriation is $950 million. This falls short of the Senate’s proposal of $1.5 billion, meaning the Reserve will not be able to purchase certain equipment that ROA believes is necessary to fully reset the force. However, the appropriation is an increase of $750 million from the 2009 budget.

There are several provisions in the bill which address ROA resolutions concerning wounded warrior support, family readiness and support programs, and modernizing the armed forces.

The bill provides $1 billion above the request for the Defense Health Program to provide quality medical care for servicemembers and their families, and fully funds the Department of Defense request of $372 million for military medical research. Also included is $120 million for Traumatic Brain Injury and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder research.

In addition, the bill provides $472.4 million for Family Advocacy programs and full funding for Family Support and Yellow Ribbon, which deliver child care services, job training for spouses, and counseling and outreach to families dealing with the separation and stress of war.

With regard to specific ROA resolutions, the bill provides $2.5 billion for 10 additional C-17s above the budget request (Read ROA Resolution No. 09-09), and $202 million, $49 million above the request, for Infrared Missile Countermeasures for the C-17 and C-130 aircraft (Read ROA Resolution No. 08-14).

The bill also funds the development of the Next Generation Aerial Refueling Aircraft (Read ROA resolution No. 08-08), and provides $68 million, $18.5 million above the request, for targeting pod modifications to increase the precision strike ability of U.S. military aircraft (Read ROA Resolution No. 07-01).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ROA comments on Obama's campaign promises

By David Small
ROA Director of Communications and Air Force Affairs

The Reserve Officers Association was asked by the St. Petersburg Times to comment on promises President Obama made while campaigning in 2008 for their Pulitzer Prize winning web site. There, the paper is tracking his statements and the progress the administration is making toward fulfilling them. To view President Obama’s statements on the military and Politifact’s research of them, click here.

ROA provided an expert assessment on a few of the administration’s activities. Each campaign promise is numbered on Politifact's web site.

No. 145: Ensure the Guard and Reserves can meet their homeland security missions: "The poor readiness of America's Guard and Reserve forces threatens our ability to respond to natural disasters or terrorist attacks at home. We saw this, sadly, after both Hurricane Katrina and the tornadoes in Kansas. Because of the depletion of its resources in Iraq, the National Guard is less ready today than it was on 9/11. Nearly 90 percent of units have serious equipment shortages; many have less than 1/3 of the equipment they require. A particular focus of Obama's plan will be to reverse the trend of "cross-leveling," the cannibalizing of soldiers and machines from units back home for missions abroad."

No. 148: Fully and properly equip troops "Fully Equip Our Troops for the Missions They Face: We must listen to our ground commanders when they tell us what kinds of technology and skills they need to fight most effectively. We cannot repeat the failure to swiftly deploy up-armored vehicles in response to insurgent tactics. We must prioritize getting vitally needed equipment to our Soldiers and Marines before lives are lost."

The Reserve Officers Association's response to these promises stated that while the ROA is pleased with the recent $950 million National Guard and Reserve Equipment appropriation, they were disappointed in the compromise that fell short of the Senate's proposal of $1.5 billion. This was, however, an increase from the 2009 budget of $750 million.

The breakdown is as follows:

Army National Guard $575 million
Air National Guard $135 million
Army Reserve $85 million
Navy Reserve $55 million
Air Force Reserve $55 million
Marine Corps Reserve $45 million
TOTAL $950 million

The White House's 2010 budget did not include any money the National Guard and Reserve Appropriation. As President Obama prepares his budget request for next year, we hope he will consider the fact the Guard and Reserve cannot purchase some of their bigger ticket necessities without greater funding of this account.

Examples of such defined requirements according to ROA testimony includes:

      • Army: Seven C-12 Huran Cargo Transport airplanes
      • Army: An incredible backlog of trucks (FMTV/LMTV Cargo Trucks, HMMWVs, HTV 8x8 Heavy Trucks and Tactical Trailers
      • Air Force Reserve: two KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft tankers
      • Cyber systems defense
      • Navy Reserve: One C-40A Intra-theater airlift airplane
      • Navy Reserve: KC-130J tankers
      • Marine Forces Reserve: Training allowance shortfalls
      • Additionally, there are over 300 items needed by all the services for individual combat clothing and equipment including protective vests, ponchos, liners, gloves, cold weather clothing, environmental test sets, tool kits, tents, camouflage netting, communications systems, engineering equipment, combat and logistics vehicles and weapons.

We have also seen the administration's pay-as-you-go proposal with $100 billion for equipment folded into the annual budget instead of through war supplementals. ROA's concern, however, is that such a proposal will not come with an increase in the bottom line affecting personnel costs such as health care and reenlistment bonuses that have helped Reserve retention during the war.

Many people are encouraged the administration is looking into the concept of using the Reserve for homeland security and National Disaster response. Currently under law, only the National Guard can be mobilized to respond at home, while federal troops are limited by their status in what they can do for Homeland Security. President Obama, while still protecting federal Reservists chain of authority, is seeking a good compromise to make them available at home in a time of need.

No. 142: Limit Guard and Reserve deployments to one year for every six years. Restore the Deployment Policies Under Which the Reserve and Guard Enlisted: America should recommit to the broken promises made to the men and women who serve in the Guard and Reserves. An Obama administration will:

      • Limit lengthy deployments to one year for every six years
      • Restore the 24-month limit on cumulative deployment time
      • End the "Stop-Loss" program of forcing troops to stay in service beyond their expected commitments.

Regarding stop-loss, DoD announced a phased out ending of the program for the Army and is providing special compensation for those who were affected.

Regarding Reserve deployments, it is a trend (at least as publicly stated by the Air Force Reserve) that for every year the Department reduces a Reservist's dwell time at home, they lose about 10 percent of the force to attrition. The Department of Defense's stated goal of maintaining a one-to-five dwell time seems sufficient; however they are not meeting that goal across the board.

ROA's primary concern is that there not be a blanket policy limiting the use of Reserves in such a way that the Reserve Components are not full partners in the total force. The Reserve has been in a surge capacity since America began fighting in 2001, to the point that the current rotation is now the new normal. In many cases, the capabilities that exist primarily in the Reserve, such as civil affairs in the Army, are the exact things a counterinsurgency requires, making lower dwell times difficult and progress toward the stated goal lacking.

The administration should focus on the services and career fields that are not currently meeting the one-to-five dwell time by ensuring there are enough people and resources available in critical capabilities. Achieving that requires a dedication to properly funding the personnel account and remembering any changes to the end-strength and equipment for the active component require a commensurate and equitable change in the end-strength or equipment beddown in the Reserve Components. Currently, that is not happening in some services and with some equipment. There are too many critically manned career fields in multiple services to achieve the one-to-five goal right now.

Even after the current deployment requirements go away when Afghanistan winds down, Reserve Component units should continue to maintain a one to five rotation, and be used to backfill active duty units in deployed locations. This will preserve a ready, operational Reserve rather than returning them to empty drill halls with insufficient training as in the past. ROA has seen no statements that support such a position from the Administration.

Friday, December 18, 2009

TRICARE Announces Coverage for Gray Area Reservists

Yesterday, TRICARE announced that it will implement a program to provide health care coverage access to "gray area" reservists.

The new program will allow certain members of the Retired Reserve who are not yet age 60 ("gray area" retirees) to purchase TRICARE Standard (and Extra) coverage.

Read the details of TRICARE's plan.

The new program, as written in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act, was supposed to start eligibility on Oct. 1, 2009. When the Department of Health Affairs notified ROA of a possible implementation delay of 11 to 18 months, ROA coordinated with other associations to send letters to congressional leadership highlighting that the Pentagon was not meeting congressional expectations for implementation.

After submitting a request, ROA leaders met with representatives from the TRICARE Management Activity to discuss the details and implementation of TRICARE's new program.

ROA recognizes TRICARE's responsiveness to expressed concerns about "gray area" retiree health coverage access implementation, and will continue to work with TRICARE and other associations as necessary to ensure the new program's success.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Determining Our Nuclear Course

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

The Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies presented its report titled “Triad, Dyad, Monad? Shaping the U.S. Nuclear Force for the Future” Dec. 9. The report seeks to answer the question: As the United States reduces the size and alters the makeup of its nuclear forces, how can U.S. planners ensure that our country remains safe from outside threats and effective in enforcing stability?

Today, the United States employs a nuclear triad consisting of land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and strategic bombers. But as the United States moves to comply with nuclear arms reduction treaties and agreements with Russia, which (as of now) will eventually lower each country’s number of operationally deployed nuclear warheads to between 1,500 and 1,675 and delivery vehicles to between 500 and 1,100, it must attempt to find a course which will maximize deterrence and stability with a diminished nuclear force.

The Mitchell Institute report breaks down “deterrence” and “stability” capabilities into several criteria: Warheads on Alert, Survivability (Day-to-Day), Survivability (Generated), Aimpoints, Ability to Penetrate, Promptness, Signal of Alert Readiness Changes, Crisis Stability, and Connectivity/Retargetability. These criteria encompass such factors as vulnerability to “bolt out of the blue” strikes, geographical distribution of nuclear forces, quickness to strike after launch, etc.

According to Mitchell Institute analyses, each triad leg (ICBMs, SLBMs, bombers) fulfills varying levels of the individual criteria, so the goal for U.S. planners is to find the best distribution of 1,500 operationally deployed nuclear warheads and 500 delivery vehicles among the three triad legs.

Taking into account the projected limits on deployed warheads and delivery vehicles, the maximization of deterrence and stability, and also cost, the Mitchell Institute’s finding is that the United States is already shifting to a de facto nuclear dyad of ICBMs and SLBMs. Based on this finding, the report recommends that the United States maintain and modernize its small B-2 force for selective nuclear strikes, phase out the B-52 from a nuclear role as Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCMs) are retired from service, and divert any planned investments in the B-52 and a new ALCM into a new conventional bomber.

Such a recommendation, if adopted, could have an impact on funding for the next generation of long-range strike aircraft, which will be included in next year’s Presidential budget. See ROA Blog on this topic.

Like the Mitchell Institute report, ROA acknowledges that the costs of maintaining the B-52 bomber fleet and researching and developing a new ALCM would be great. However, as ROA’s resolution states, ROA currently advocates an operational need for a new, stealthy long-range strike system or heavy bomber with conventional and nuclear capabilities and survivability during persistent presence in hostile airspace. However, this belief is based largely on the 2005-2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), in which the Department of Defense determined that the U.S. Air Force should develop a new long-range strike system to surpass today’s fleet of B-52, B-1B and B-2 bombers.

Despite the Mitchell Institute recommendations, we are likely to see more come out of the 2010 QDR on this topic. The 2010 QDR process has already indicated the potential need for a new bomber. This review will likely include focus on possible rogue threats such as Iran and responses to terrorist access to nuclear weapons – threats that the Mitchell paper admittedly does not consider. The paper focuses only on potential threats from nuclear-capable peer countries Russia and China. A review of comprehensive threats may determine a need to retain a nuclear triad.

Eligibility Criteria for Reemployment

By Captain Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN (Ret.)

To have the right to reemployment under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act, after a period of service in the uniformed services, you must meet (and be prepared to document that you meet) these six conditions:

      1. You must have held a civilian position of employment.
      2. You must have left that position for the purpose of performing service in the uniformed services.
      3. You must have given the employer prior oral or written notice.
      4. Your cumulative period or periods of uniformed service, relating to the position for which you seek reemployment, must not have exceeded five years.
      5. You must have been released from the period of service without having received a punitive (by court martial) or other-than-honorable discharge.
      6. You must have reported back to work in a timely manner or have made a timely application for reemployment.

A period of uniformed service can be anything from five hours (one drill period for a National Guard or Reserve member) to five years (or in some cases longer) of full-time voluntary active duty. Whether your period of service is short or long, you must meet all six criteria to have the right to reemployment. If you must sue to enforce your reemployment rights, you will have the burden of proof on these criteria.

This year, I joined ROA’s full-time staff as the first Director of the Servicemembers Law Center. One of the principal goals of the Law Center is to educate National Guard and Reserve personnel about the conditions that they need to meet (and document) to preserve their reemployment rights. I find it disconcerting to hear from personnel who have lost their rights because they failed to meet one or more of the criteria. As we conclude the first decade of the 21st Century, I will write a definitive article about each of the conditions that you must meet to have the right to return to your pre-service job after a period of uniformed service. These articles can be found through ROA's Servicemembers Law Center. Please visit the law review at and read this series beginning with #0964.

I have been speaking and writing about reemployment rights since 1982, in one capacity or another. I worked for the United States Department of Labor (DOL) as an attorney for ten years. Together with another DOL attorney (Susan M. Webman), I largely drafted the interagency task force work product that Congress enacted (with only a few changes) in 1994, as the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), a comprehensive rewrite of the Veterans’ Reemployment Rights Act (VRRA), which can be traced back to 1940. I have also dealt with the VRRA and USERRA as a judge advocate in the Navy and Navy Reserve, as an attorney for the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), as an attorney for the United States Office of Special Counsel (OSC), and as an attorney in private practice.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Has the QDR process approved a new bomber?

By David Small
ROA Director of Communications and Air Force Affairs

Reuters reported last week Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came out with plans to fund a next generation bomber.

This announcement is after he cancelled plans last April to continue the project, wanting the quadrennial defense review to look at the need for one. Such a move signifies that perhaps the QDR process has endorsed the need for a new long range strike platform.

Gates was quoted in Reuters saying, “We are probably going to proceed with a long-range strike initiative coming out of the Quadrennial Defense Review and various other reviews going on.”

He also said the department is possibly looking into an unmanned platform for this capability, which is interesting given the recent confirmation of the Air Force that they’ve been flying a new stealth remotely piloted vehicle called the RQ-170 Sentinel a.k.a “Beast of Kandahar.” The RQ-170 was developed by Lockheed Martin’s secret Skunk Works and has deployed to Afghanistan. Perhaps the missions of the U-2 and the B-2 will combine onto a single platform?

ROA staffers were invited to a live audience taping of Defense News recently where Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance joined his service counterparts to discuss remotely piloted technologies. There, I asked the question about future technologies affecting the next generation bomber requirement. Gen. Deptula’s response involved the ability for an aircraft to morph into whatever the mission required.

His answer sounded a bit like the movie Transformers, but a brief Google search found that the technology is being researched.

According to the aeronautics department of Purdue Univ. in a report posted to the Defense Technical Information Center, “Morphing aircraft are multi-role aircraft that change their external shape substantially to adapt to a changing mission environment during flight. This creates superior system capabilities not possible without morphing shape changes. The objective of morphing activities is to develop high performance aircraft with wings designed to change shape and performance substantially during flight to create multiple-regime, aerodynamically-efficient, shape-changing aircraft.”

The concept is not new, but future iterations will go beyond what is currently out there in variable sweep wings, retractable landing gear, landing and take-off flaps and variable incidence noses (think Concorde).

The new bomber will cost between $10 and $40 billion to develop according to quotes from both Secretary Gates and think tanks. Next year’s Pentagon spending bill will likely include a request for $1 billion to get the process started as reported by Reuters. Such a request follows language in the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act to support the development of next generation long range strike technologies.

The news brings welcome funding to the critical aerospace industrial base, which will be analyzed further by ROA’s Officer Magazine Air Force column in the February 2010 edition.

The last active bomber production line in the United States was the B-2 Spirit, which first flew in 1989 and shut its production line down in 1997. It has been more than a decade since the United States has had a bomber line open. At the time the B-2 line closed, it was determined that there were no unique features of the line and hence little risk in shutting it down. The new bomber will have a gap of over ten years in technology and industry expertise in building a bomber, however much of the lessons learned over those ten years can be garnered from the fighter production lines still open (although not for much longer).

ROA maintains a legislative resolution to support the fielding of a new bomber. Read that resolution here.

Before Sec. Gates halted the program in April, the new bomber had a goal of 2018 for fielding a first aircraft. Nothing has been said publicly about a new goal date.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Update: Possible Postponement of TRICARE Access for Gray Area Retirees

By CAPT Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret)
Director of Legislation and Naval Services

Last week ROA met with representatives from the TRICARE Management Activity, where the Association and other organizations were briefed on the implementation of TRICARE Standard for Gray Area retirees. This was in response to a request by ROA, and a follow-up to an article published in Military Times, where ROA was quoted on its disappointment about a proposed DoD time schedule announced by DoD Health Affairs that would have implementation complete in 11 to 18 months.

The briefing shared that the new benefit should not be referred to as TRICARE Reserve Select (TRS) for Gray Area Retirees, as TRS is viewed as a separate program. This new benefit will be given a new name, and is viewed as a major implementation process, because it affects many different aspects of the military health program and military data collection such as Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Reassurances were made that the timetable is not linked to the new TRICARE contracts that will begin in about a year, and that the implementation team is being proactive. A draft of the interim federal rules have already been completed, and will be reviewed by the leadership of the various offices being affected by this new program.

The legislative language enacting TRICARE Standard for Gray Area retirees said "that the monthly amount of the premium ...shall be the amount equal to the cost of coverage that the Secretary determines on an appropriate actuarial basis." A number of sources, including the briefing, have indicated that the gray area population is a higher health risk, and the premiums will likely be higher than the estimates published by ROA earlier. The current premiums for drilling Reservists are $47.51 for individuals and $180.17 for families. ROA was warned that at a minimum the Gray Area premiums will be at least 4 times that amount. The drilling premiums could also be increased by DoD in January as is allowed by the original law.

ROA continues to voice its concern over the delays in implementation and feels that actuarial adjustments for an older group are not what was intended. This group doesn't have a lot of the health care costs that younger serving members do who are just starting their families. One of the intentions of including the gray area into the TRICARE system was to take advantage of the group risk pool reduction to save premium costs. National Guard and Reserve retirees should not be paying extra to cover DoD health care costs, when the Pentagon has yet to analyze where its health care money is being spent.

ROA has also voiced the concern to members of The Military Coalition and the National Military and Veterans Alliance that if one group is allowed by Congress to be targeted for higher TRICARE premiums, the other active retirees groups will be targeted for TRICARE fee increases as well.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Navy SEALs Accused of Assault in Capturing Terrorist

According to a November 30, 2009 story, three Navy SEALs who captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq are now facing assault and other criminal charges.

Ahmed Hashim Abed, who alleges he was "punched" by his captors, was apprehended for his suspected involvement in directing the murder and mutiliation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004.

While few of the facts of this incident are known, we encourage discussion on the rights of high-profile detainees, soldier accountability and the role of the military courts in this matter.

National Health Care Reform

By CAPT Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret)
Director of Legislation and Naval Services

At the December meeting of The Military Coalition (TMC) legislative goals for Calendar Year 2010 were discussed. Included in the Health Care Section goals was National Health Reform. The goals state that “The Coalition opposes any effort to integrate TRICARE and VA health care systems in any proposal that Congress may develop as part of national health care reform. These two programs are integral to military readiness and serve the unique needs of service members, military retirees, veterans, wounded service members, Guardsmen and Reservists, and their families and survivors.”

TMC will work to ensure that any national health reform legislation:
  • Protects unique TRICARE, TRICARE For Life, and VA health care benefits from unintended consequences.
  • Opposes any cuts or “savings” in Medicare to fund a national health care program that will have an adverse impact on TRICARE for Life.
  • Bars any form of taxation of TRICARE, TRICARE For Life, or VA health care benefits.
  • Preserves military and VA beneficiaries’ choices.
ROA is a signee to these and other TMC goals.

P.S. These goals will be updated from 2009 to 2010, hopefully before next Wednesday.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Selected Reserve for the Public Health Service?

By CAPT Marshall Hanson, USNR (Ret)
Director of Legislation and Naval Services

ROA met with professional staff members on the Senate Homeland Security Committee last week to discuss the need for a Selected Reserve for the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS). Establishing a Selected Reserve for USPHS has been a ROA legislative agenda item for a number of years. Click here to read ROA’s position paper on this topic.

The staffers shared with ROA that the Senate version of the National Health Care Plan includes a provision for a USPHS Ready Reserve. Sec. 5210 would establish a Ready Reserve Corps by replacing all mentions of the U.S. Public Health Service Reserve Corps with “Ready Reserve Corps.”

In addition, members of the Reserve Corps serving on active duty would be deemed to be members of the Regular Corps. The Ready Reserve Corps would address a number of specified needs for additional commissioned personnel to assist the Regular Corps on short notice, for both routine public health and emergency response missions. The section would authorize the appropriation, for each of FY2010 through FY2014, of $5 million for recruitment and training, and $12.5 million for the Ready Reserve Corps.

Earlier legislation was drafted, recommending a USPHS Selected Reserve during the Bush Administration, but this legislation was never approved for release by the Office of Budget and Management. Instead the Bush White House recommended a civilian volunteer Medical Reserve Corps, which would call up medical professionals during periods of disaster or pandemic.

Tested during Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005, the Medical Reserve Corps responded with mixed results. Published lessons learned indicated that many medical professionals became frustrated with the lack of support equipment, the lack of organization and communications, or the duration of deployment. Some even left the disaster sites, because as volunteers, there was no authority to keep them “on station.”

The Department of Homeland Security suggested to the Senate staffers that they might look into establishing a USPHS Selected Reserve. The USPHS is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. ROA is looking forward to working on this agenda item.