Wednesday, June 30, 2010

ROA Testifies on Arlington National Cemetery

ROA submitted testimony for the House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Army investigation of the Arlington National Cemetery (ANC).

Read the Statement for the Record

In the testimony, ROA expressed its appreciation for the office of the Secretary of the Army for undertaking proactive steps to correct the evident problems as well as Congressional oversight. ROA suggested that the Army needs to work closely with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to learn about record keeping and location identification, and expand its burial criteria to align with the VA’s.

Additionally, ROA highlighted differential treatment of the Reserve Components, that, “Given that over than 750,000 National Guard and Reserve service members have answered their nation's call to serve on active duty for both homeland defense and operational contingency operations overseas, it is ironic that by returning to Selective Reserve status, they are no longer eligible for burial at ANC unless they have been decorated with a purple heart, or a medal of valor or a Silver Star or higher.” Nor is qualifying for 20 years of active service enough. Only RC members retired in pay may be eligible for ANC burial.

ROA continues to support the codification of all the rules governing access to ANC and strongly recommends that the Committee takes up the issue of the overall codification of the rules governing ANC burial as soon as possible.

DEF Hosts BCT Commander for Afghanistan War Assessment

On June 25, DEF initiated a new relationship with the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) by hosting a program at the Minuteman Memorial Building. The program was kicked off by DEF Director Bob Feidler and the first speaker was Dr. Kimberly Kagan, the President of ISW and a frequent visitor to the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has served as an advisor to CENTCOM and also participated on the Joint Campaign Plan Assessment Team for the Multi-National Force-Iraq and also for the Civilian Advisory Team for the CENTCOM strategic review in 2009. She provided an overview of the Afghanistan campaign with a focus on the recent surge and events in Southern Afghanistan. She was joined by two senior advisors at the ISW who discussed issues specifically related to Helmand province and Kandahar.

The second portion of the program featured Colonel Randy George, Commander of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division (Task Force Mountain Warrior). His comments were off the record but focused on governance issues in
Eastern Afghanistan and the myriad factors that had to be considered by the USG team of military and civilians that were engaged in that area.

A key point made during the first discussion was that General McChrystal had conceptualized and reorganized the fight in the south that he had inherited from his predecessor. The Helmand River Valley was not necessarily a critical terrain, but both sides had reinforced it to such a degree that they did not wish to withdraw. The goal for the International Security Force (ISF) was to create a security zone from Helmand to Kandahar. Kandahar is a large city and the home of the Karzai family and is strategically significant. The local government there functions as a broad group of alliances that include criminal elements. One of the greatest challenges for the ISF is to overcome the perception (and probable reality) by the citizenry that that local governments are corrupt oligarchies. The average citizen will give his loyalty to a government that he feels a part of and that does not prey upon him.

There is no consensus on exactly how the locals want to be governed but there is agreement that a grand consensus must be achieved through negotiation between local governments and the national government in Kabul to create stability. A key difference between the war in Iraq and that in Afghanistan has been that power was centralized in Iraq under Hussein and people were accustomed to receiving direction from the central, national government. It is the opposite in Afghanistan, which is a loose affiliation of ethnic groups and tribes speak several major languages and are used to local governance through consensus. The people of Afghanistan were frustrated by the central government and hence have often given their support to insurgent entities such as the Taliban.

ISAF serves as a mediator between Karzai and the locals. We need to be perceived as a neutral party. There is nothing like the “awakening” that occurred in Iraq where locals in 2006 and 2007 allied themselves with the United States and the international force in Iraq to defeat Al-Qaeda in Iraq. Afghanis have been described as living in the 18th century – with cell phones. Critical to success in Afghanistan is finding the key local influencers/leaders and engaging them to connect in some way to the national government.

Local Afghanis have listed the following as enemies to progress:
1. Corrupt and ineffectual government
2. Criminal networks and graft
3. Lack of inclusiveness of respected leaders at the local level, and
4. The existence of a Taliban/Al Qaeda/militants “syndicate” that represses progress.

To address the problem ISAF is engaging in:
1. Reform at the local and national levels to enhance transparency
2. Supporting effective community leaders
3. Delivering absorbable development
4 Enhancing the human terrain networking/mapping and establishing civic training programs
5. Enhanced information operations and other techniques that focus on values, transparency, and fully understanding the problem.

DEF expects to continue to offer programs with ISW throughout the year that will feature candid, fresh comments from civilian and military leaders who are directly participating in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Think tank urges tough questions for Kagan on the role of international law in U.S. courts

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

As Elena Kagan’s Senate confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court continue today, the Heritage Foundation is urging tough questions for Kagan concerning her views on international law and American foreign policy.

Professor Jeremy Rabkin of the George Mason University School of Law explained at a recent Heritage event that a trend we are seeing in the courts and among commentators is an increasing willingness to embrace international institutions, customs and the “law of nations” in determining legal outcomes. Rabkin views this as a “disturbing” trend, and sees far-reaching implications for American sovereignty and national security.

To establish this trend, Rabkin referred to several recent court cases in which Supreme Court justices cited outside laws and customs as influencers for arriving at decisions. For example, in one case, the Court referred to a practice as being “overwhelmingly disapproved” in the international community. In another, the Court cited rulings of foreign courts as evidence of international support for abolishing a particular law.

While the Court’s actual holdings did not hinge on those citations, in each of those cases, previous rulings were reversed. According to Rabkin, this fact suggests two things: one, a desire among certain justices to create a good impression in the international community, and two, an attempt to reinforce legal arguments that may otherwise have been viewed as tenuous.

Getting to implications for American sovereignty and national security, Rabkin discussed judicial monitoring of military action abroad. In recent cases, he explained, the Court has granted Guantanamo detainees access to U.S. courts to appeal determinations of military hearings, and also told the military, for the first time, how to interpret the 1949 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War. Rabkin believes it is not a coincidence that the same justices who cited, or did not protest, appeals to international authority were those justices who went against precedents and granted enemy combatants the rights in question.

Looking to future challenges for the Court, Rabkin posed a couple questions: “If courts can say which military prisoners should be released, why leave the military a free hand in deciding which enemies can be targeted in missile strikes or infantry attacks? If courts must ensure that innocents are not detained, why not ensure that innocents are not killed in improper military actions?”

Robert Alt, Senior Legal Fellow and Deputy Director, Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, and Carrie Severino, Chief Counsel and Policy Director, Judicial Crisis Network, agreed that a Supreme Court which is trending towards international alignment is much more likely to look to international laws and customs in deciding the permissibility of such actions as targeted drone killings in Afghanistan and Pakistan and detainment practices, both of which have drawn criticism from the international community.

All of this, according to Rabkin, is why it is important to get Kagan to clarify her stance on these issues. Although it may be in her interest to be less-than-forthright, in the interest of protecting American sovereignty and security, senators must make every attempt to hold her to account.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Disabled Veteran Small Businesses Losing Parity

Elizabeth Cochran
Legislative Assistant

ROA participated in a meeting recently in which we learned that due to an interpretation of law Historically Underutilized business Zones (HUBZones) could receive priority over 8(a) Business Development Programs (BDP) which includes service disabled veteran small businesses (SDVSOBs).

Before this happened Federal contracting officers chose among the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) procurement and BDPs – 8(a) (minority-owned businesses), HUBZone, SDVOSBs, and women-owned small businesses (WOSBs) – not granting preference of one over another.

In Mission Critical Solutions v. U.S. the Court of Federal Claims held that SBA requires contract opportunities to be set aside for HUBZone firms whenever two HUBZone firms are available to perform the contract.

In a protest decision that rose from an Air Force contract, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) clearly believes HUBZone small businesses are entitled to absolute contracting priority over 8(a) in all cases where two or more HUBZones are available perform the contract. Without legislative intervention GAO may claim all HUBZone protests in favor of this priority.

Potential impact of these decisions include the following:
  • Undermining opportunities for 8(a), SDVOSBs and WOSBs
  • Substantial Federal contracting will not go to 8(a), SDVOSBs, and WOSBs
  • Tens of billions of dollars in Federal procurement money could be redirected
  • Absolute HUBZone preference could cause an overwhelming economic impact on 8(a), SDVOSBs, and WOSBs
  • A copious amount of protests could flood and choke up the procurement process
In addition to the prospective effects, SDVOSBs already do not receive as much funding as other groups. For example in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 $29.3 billion went to SDBs of which $16.2 billion went to 8(a) firms; $14.7 billion to WOSBs, and only $6.5 billion to SDVOSBs.

Between August and September each year about 65 percent of Federal contracts for small businesses are decided which amounts to the tens of billions of dollars in potential redirection as mention above.

Another albeit outside impact to minority small businesses and SDVOSBs is that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money is coming to a close.

What is to be done? The most important thing is a legislative fix. Senator Mary Landrieu (D, La.) introduced S.3190 Small Business Programs Parity Act of 2010 and HR.3729 was introduced by Congressman Wally Herger (R, Calif.). At this time both bills have five cosponsors. The Senate bill was referred to the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship in March and the House bill was referred to the Committee on Contracting and Technology in October 2009.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Legal Counsel for the Department of Justice (DoJ) both have issued opinions stating they are not in favor of GAO’s decisions.

OMB Director Peter Orszag stated in a memorandum about GAO’s decision concerning small business programs, that, “If agencies were to follow the GAO decisions, the Federal Government’s efforts to procure goods and services from 8(a) small businesses and from SDVOSB through the other statutory programs may be negatively impacted.”

The DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel opinion stated in August 2009, “In our view, SBA’s regulations permissibly authorize contracting officers to exercise their discretion to choose among the three programs in setting aside contracts to be awarded to qualified small business concerns. Further, in accord with this Office’s longstanding precedent, GAO’s decisions are not binding on the Executive Branch.”

Veterans job opportunities on the rise

Austin Brigden
Communications Intern

In the current economic climate job hunting can be a daunting task. The situation for past and present members of the armed forces is perhaps even more difficult when questions about work experience and work availability are raised.

It appears the federal government is making strides to fulfill the promises made by President Obama’s executive order November of last year regarding veterans employment. The newly-created Council of Veterans Employment has been tasked with “coordinating a government-wide effort to enhance the recruitment and training of vets to make them more employable by government agencies,” Reported the Washington Post’s Federal Diary June 22. One of the Council’s agendas is to “create advocates for veterans' employment within each federal agency." All 24 agencies covered by the order have established a Veterans Employment Program.

The administration also wants to create its own skills translator, similar to those found on the the following websites. This translator would help veterans realize that seemingly narrow-use military skills might have broad application in the civilian side of government.

For more information on this initiative, visit OPM's Veterans Employment Information website.

The website is a critical component of President Obama’s Veterans Employment Initiative. This website will be the main source for Veterans employment information and resources for both Veterans and Hiring Officials. The website's launch represents phase one of an ongoing effort to help the men and women who have served our country in the military and their families find employment in the Federal Civil Service.

In addition to government efforts, veterans have numerous job websites dedicated to their unique skills and needs, including partnerships through the Reserve Officers Association as benefits to our members.

No Fear Transitions

No Fear Transitions, an affinity partner with ROA, has a team of former military Officers and NCOs, all of whom have already succeeded in a second, civilian career, and have helped thousands of transitioning military personnel to optimize their potential. All have been professionally educated in career management and coaching and all are externally credentialed and all are members of both the Career Masters Institute and the Career Directors International. They employ personalized processes to help transitioning service members determine and then achieve their career goals. During the initial screening, NFT will determine if you were referred by ROA and if so will apply a discount to your services.

Corporate Gray

Also through ROA, people have access to Corporate Gray’s Civilian Job Bank that helps translate military expertise to civilian positions and connect with employers in need of these transferable skill sets. The ROA career center provides: Resume posting with search agent functionality (e-mail notification of matching job); Career advice, military skill code translator, job fair info, relocation assistance, etc.; Resume searching with candidate matching; Company profile pages, banner ads, and links to company home pages; and a variety of monthly newsletters with sponsorship opportunities for employers.

This website features a comprehensive list of military veteran organizations organized by branch and encourages visitors to join for the purposes of “camaraderie, networking and showing support of veteran causes.” The website also encourages people to send information about military service organizations not on their lists.

The employment assistance page on this website is a resources for veterans seeking jobs. This page is loaded with resume and interview tips, career planning advice, healthcare and employment information, and links to hundreds of job board sites organized by job type and location with a range of focus from very broad to very narrow. The website also features keyword searching assistance to make job searches faster and more specific, information about career opportunities in the armed forces, and training in Microsoft Excel and Access. also provides information and assistance to employers and spouses. Employers are provided a number of articles detailing the benefits of hiring veterans. Moreover, the employer resources page contains dozens of links to information regarding the government, the military, relocation, salary surveys, and much more. The spouse resources page features a number of links to websites which can help military families. As the site says, the list is not comprehensive, but a good start. (Job Opportunities For Disabled American Veterans)

This website is an example of one of the many niche job search websites on the internet, catering specifically to veterans with disabilities, and offers a selection of job opportunities. Links to other niche sites can also be accessed through the resources link on the right of the homepage. The main page also features browsing by job category and searching can be done by any combination of state, title, and description. The site is very user friendly. Unlike, this site is also connected to social media sites: facebook, twitter, and linkdin through its sister site

The site’s news and blog sections are a couple of areas that need improvement. These sections are not kept up to date as well as the equivalents on and the content (in the blogs at least) is often too generalized or limited to be of much help. That said, there are some blogs, such as one with tips for interview preparation that are well written. As with, there is information for employers on this site, but unfortunately it is not as well organized or consolidated and can be found mostly by sifting through the site’s blogs.

This website’s strength lies in its advanced job search engine function which features modifiers for security clearance, branch of the armed forces, military status, rank, and separation date. Moreover, there are extensive drop-down menus to help the searcher find specific job categories and work locations. The main page also features a long list of military-friendly employers, though unfortunately these aren’t categorized in any way.

Further exploration of the website confirms its claim to be the largest veteran job board in the world. For example, the site devotes a page to career expos and informs visitors where and when to attend these events. Another impressive feature of the website is the internal veteran career network which allows users to create profiles and “connect with members in specific companies, industries or locations.” Basically, it functions as an internal Linkdin, which explains the absence of that site while Facebook and Twitter are present. Added to this are the site’s resume center, salary calculator, skills translator, and spouse and employer pages. The latter two function much in the same way as those on However, the family resource links on the spouse page deal with family changes resulting from a new job such as finding schools for the children and relocating.

While this blog hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of good job finding sites out there, these three will provide comprehensive, detailed, and specialized aid for veterans. Furthermore, the number of links to other sites between them will satisfy anyone seeking another veteran-specific job website.

Monday, June 14, 2010

VADM Dirk Debbink Details Objectives for Navy Reserves

Austin Brigden
Communications Intern

Chief of the Navy Reserves (CNR), VADM Dirk Debbink, gave a lecture to Capitol Hill Reservists at ROA’s Minuteman Memorial Building headquarters June 9 detailing the Navy Reserves’ new Strategic Plan. VADM Debbink began by asking some elementary, though important, questions: “What is the Navy Reserves? What does it do? Why do taxpayers fund it?”

To these questions, VADM Debbink offered a number of responses. The fundamental explanation for the Reserves’ existence is its function as an armed forces group which provides “strategic depth” and can be deployed in emergency situations. However, the CNR also stressed the Reserves’ importance as a cost-effective alternative to the Navy that helps retain skill sets, test future capabilities, and conduct predictable operational work. VADM Debbink noted the Reserves also compliment the Active Duty in a “Continuum of Service” and lent time to the common sentiment that the Reserves help connect the armed forces to the general population. The CNR felt those basic questions could be answered – and the Reserves explained – by the slogan “Ready Now. Anytime, Anywhere.” As VADM Debbink phrased it, “it’s not our job to be everywhere, all the time. Just call us when you need us and the Navy Reserves will be there.”

During the Q & A period, VADM Debbink also detailed some of his priorities for the Navy Reserves. For instance, he wants to apply pressure to get a bigger allotment from the National Guard and Reserves Equipment Appropriation (NGREA). In the January 2010 NGREA the Navy Reserves were administered $55 million of the $950 million budget which VADM Debbink sees as severely insufficient. Moreover, he believes that his group could make good use of that money, and in turn, save much more in the long run as a return on the investment.

He also sees a bright future for the Reserves’ recruitment as Generation Y comes of age. The Reserves, he believes, could be very appealing to a generation characterized by its aversion to monotony and routine. In the Reserves, many Gen Y-ers could find excitement, purpose, and pride, so VADM Debbink has plans to step up the Navy Reserves’ recruitment techniques to cater to this group.

The limitations regarding problems with being promoted out of paid positions are another thing the CNR wishes to tackle. On the flip side, he wants to eliminate the restrictions that force officers who aren’t promoted to leave the Reserves. After all, why should Reservists have to leave when they love what they do, and more importantly, are skilled at what they doing? It is unfair to good serving men and women and a tremendously inefficient policy. It cuts loose years of potential training expertise and overall experience which would be a vital asset to the Reserves’ forces, so the CNR plans to do whatever he can to amend this section of the ROPMA policy.

Additionally, VADM Debbink wants to improve public perception and understanding of the Navy as a whole. During the lecture he jokingly referred to an occasion where he had to explain that, “yes, admirals have desks just like generals.” But in all seriousness, he has found that many people are interested in learning about the Navy and often their queries are extremely straightforward and easy to answer.

ROA sympathizes with VADM Debbink’s concerns and goals. Therefore, we urge our readership to pressure Congress for a larger Reserves allotment in the NGREA and for revisions to ROPMA to prevent the depletion of quality officers.

Friday, June 11, 2010

SVAC Chair Introduces Act to Improve the Post-9/11 GI Bill

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) introduced a bill to improve educational assistance for veterans who served after September 11. S.3447, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, contains several major fixes to the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

The text of the bill can be found here.

Especially notable are the proposed fixes to the definition of active duty in the Post-9/11 GI Bill. To remedy the unintended exclusion of certain Guard and Reserve members, the bill would modify and expand the definition to make those members fully eligible for GI Bill benefits.

Additionally, the bill contains provisions to increase the approved programs of education to include on-job, apprenticeship, flight, and non-college degree training, and to eliminate some of the bureaucratic hurdles to obtaining the appropriate benefits.

Akaka intends S. 3447 to be a rough framework and starting point for improving the Post-9/11 GI Bill, signed into law in 2008.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

ROA Meets with Deputy Director for TMA

ROA met with Rear Admiral Christine Hunter, Deputy Director for the TRICARE Management Activity (TMA), June 8. Three important topics were discussed.

Gray Area Access to TRICARE

While a quarterly meeting, ROA did ask for a briefing on TRICARE Retired Reserve (TRR) as part of the agenda. RADM Hunter reassured ROA and the other associations in attendance that implementation still looks good for an October 1 start time. ROA reminded the admiral that there is a need for an enrollment period prior to commencement of this benefit, and mentioned that the TRICARE contractors have concerns that they haven't been given a go ahead and are nearing their milestone for an October 1 start date. RADM Hunter said she would contact the contractors and follow-up on this. Per the law, Gray Area retirees can buy into the TRR program, paying a premium equal to the full cost.


Also discussed was the implementation for access of TRICARE for dependents through age 25. Included as part of the National Defense Authorization bill, DoD health affairs cannot fully implement this program until it is signed into law. While the House has passed a provision, the Senate version could differ, affecting how things are implemented. TMA is moving ahead in advance of legislation to have much of the process in place, so that they can move ahead promptly.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released an interim final rule about the expansion of health care to dependents under age 26 for commercial plans. The rule is 67 pages long. While DoD is not affected by this rule, TMA is studying it to determine if the TRICARE plan could include elements of the National Reform program.

Of note, the cost to include a dependent under the National Plan would be $3300 a year. Under the HHS rule, companies do not have to charge a separate premium, but this doesn't mean the benefit is free. It is expected that the cost of dependents on commercial plans will be spread across all health care beneficiaries, raising every plan's cost. One area of discussion is how a "dependent" will be defined. Under the HHS program, even if a child is married, a parent can include them as a dependent for health care plans.

TRICARE doesn't have as wide a base and up to a 1/4 of a million dependents could become eligible. Under the House language a separate premium would be charged. Using TRICARE Reserve Select as a bench mark, the anticipated cost as calculated by the Congressional Budget Office would be $2000 per year. One thing being resolved is how an above-threshold dependent will be identified in the system. While TRICARE may be extended, these young adults will not retain any of the other "dependent" benefits. It is likely that a TRICARE health card will be issued, in lieu of military ID.

Medicare/TRICARE 21 percent Doc Fee on Hold

Congress has yet to change the law, with a 21 percent cut to physician fees paid by Medicare and TRICARE still unresolved. Before the Memorial Day recess the House did pass a version which would prohibit these cuts for 19 months (until December 2011), but no action was taken in the Senate. The Senate is expected to pass legislation this week, but agreement between the two chambers is needed before it can become law. Medicare payments to doctors are on hold for the third time this year. TRICARE continues to pay, because adjustments within their system have a longer lead-time, and Congress normally delays the cuts before action by DoD is necessary.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Reservist Differential Pay Goes Out to DoD Workers

Lt. Col. Matt Leonard

The Department of Defense has recently begun making payments to its workers who lost income while activated as a member of the Reserve component. Since mid-April, Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) has distributed more than $880,000 to make up for income differences.

The “reservist differential” payment was authorized by Section 5538 of Title 5 U.S. Code. Under this law, Federal employees who experienced a loss of pay while performing Federal active military service as a guardsman or reservist on or after March 11, 2009 are eligible.

“For many years DoD has been recognizing and celebrating those civilian employers who provide exceptional support to their employees who serve in the National Guard and Reserve,” said Dennis M. McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. “One of the ways in which employers may do this is by providing differential pay.”

McCarthy points to Title 38 U. S. Code, Chapter 43 “Employment and Reemployment Rights of Members of the Uniformed Services”, which states: “It is the sense of Congress that the Federal Government should be a model employer…” McCarthy says, “This program represents the Federal Government making a big step towards becoming one of our nation’s model employers.”

For each civilian pay period, DoD will compare the projected civilian basic pay to the allocated military pay and allowances. If the projected civilian basic pay is greater than the allocated military pay and allowances, the difference represents the unadjusted reservist differential.

The DoD employee-reservist must provide his or her employing agency with a copy of his monthly military leave and earnings statement for each affected month. Based on those statements, the employing agency must determine the actual paid gross amount of military pay and allowances allocatable to each pay period in a qualifying period. A definition of "military pay and allowances" is included in OPM guidance.

For each affected month, a daily rate will be computed by dividing the monthly total by 30 days for full months or by the actual number of days for partial months. Military pay and allowances will be allocated to a civilian pay period (usually a 2-week period) based on the applicable daily rate for days within the pay period.

For more information on the reservist differential for Federal employees, please visit the following U.S. Office of Personnel Management web page:

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Highlights from the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act

Here are some of the highlights from the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act:
  • TRICARE 26; to provide dependents over 21/23 an option to remain on TRICARE by an additional paid premium.
  • Maintains President's request for full funding of TRICARE - NO increase in TRICARE fees for retirees under 65.
  • National Health Care; clarifies that the Secretary of Defense has sole jurisdiction over the administration of military health care under H.R. 3590 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
  • Mental Health, TBI, PTSD; includes a 25 percent increase in mental healthcare providers.
  • Provides a pay raise of 1.9 percent, which is ½ percent higher than requested by the President.
  • Increases family separation allowance for service members who are deployed away.
  • Increases hostile fire and imminent danger pay for the first time since 2004.
  • Authorizes combat benefits for serving members and their family survivors of those killed or wounded at Fort Hood and Little Rock shooting attacks.
  • Sets the stage for a unified medical command to increase military health care efficiency.
  • Develops an alternative commission officer’s career track pilot program.
  • Authorizes an increase in end strength for the Army in FY-2011, and permits the Air Force and Navy to temporarily remain at a higher level.
  • A delayed repeal of the prohibition to homosexuals in the armed forces, allowing the Pentagon to first conclude its study on the effects of the repeal, and then certify that it will not impact defense readiness.

Repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” not on fast track

Marshall Hanson
Legislative Director

With a late night vote, the House voted to repeal the ban on homosexuals serving in the armed forces, as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. In a 234-194 vote, an amendment offered by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-PA) was passed pretty much along party lines with five Republicans voting in favor, and 26 Democrats voting against. The House later on Friday voted 229-186 to pass the defense bill, H.R.5136.

Also on Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee passed 16-12 a companion amendment to repeal DADT. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the lone Republican on the committee joining 15 of her Democratic colleagues to approve the measure. Sen. Jim Webb (Va.) was the only Democrat to vote against it. The marked-up version of the National Defense Authorization Act, S.3280, was voted out of committee. Chairman Carl Levin hopes that the bill will go to a floor vote before the summer recess in August.

Based on a compromise between the White House and the Pentagon, if the repeal is signed into law as part of the defense funding bill, the measure would not immediately take effect. DADT would continue as the official policy of the military until two actions occur: the Pentagon completes a study due in December to determine the impact of the repeal on the military, and the President, secretary of defense, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs must certify that repeal will not weaken military discipline and readiness. Once these two events occur, it will take another 60 days to implement the repeal.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a Memorial Day message to the troops reassured serving members that even though Congress voted to repeal DADT, that it was a deferred action, and will take months before there is any change. “The Department of Defense review on this issue that I initiated earlier this year will continue as before and is more important than ever,” Secretary Gates said. “This review is charged with conducting the first thorough and fact-based assessment of the impact of this policy change and developing an implementation plan that minimizes any possible disruption to the Department’s mission and ongoing operations.”

Other issues could delay DADT even further. The Politico reports that the Senate is full of unrelated controversial provisions that have to be reconciled with the House version. This includes a “pull authority” to fund construction of a military detention facility in Illinois to replace the prison at Guantanamo, where House language blocks such money. The Senate bill would cut half the amount of money requested to assist the Iraqi security forces during US withdrawal. The House included dollars for an alternative engine for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. If the Senate agrees, the White House has threatened to veto the National Defense Bill over the inclusion of an alternative engine.