Tuesday, August 31, 2010

RAND Study Finds Reserve Component Unit Instability

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

According to a recent study from the RAND National Defense Research Institute, Army Reserve Component (RC) units experience considerable personnel turbulence in the period leading up to mobilization and deployment, affecting unit stability and training prior to deployment.

The study, prepared for DoD, found that 40-50 percent of soldiers in 153 RC unit deployments from 2003 through 2008 were new arrivals who had been in the unit for less than a year. The primary causes of this instability were soldiers moving to another unit (including “cross-leveled” personnel to reach the unit’s target for deploying strength) soldiers leaving the service, and nondeployers.

Nondeployers made up about 30 percent of soldiers in the RC units on the deployment date. The study cites several explanations for this fact: some did not deploy with their unit but then moved to another unit, some deployed later, some stayed back as part of a rear detachment, some had prior activations and so were probably exempt from another near-term deployment, and some were new recruits who had not yet completed initial training.

Read the research brief

Notably, RC officer instability was higher than that of junior enlisted personnel and NCOs, due to the fact that officers tend to be transferred out of a deploying unit into another unit.

Because RC units often conduct important training a year or more before mobilization, and the rapid buildup of personnel doesn’t begin until four to six months before mobilization, new arrivals have to make up key training events. This affects training efficiency and scheduling. To adjust, many of the RC units observed pushed training closer to mobilization when unit manning was more stable.

Despite personnel instability and training inefficiencies, the study found that ninety-five percent of those who deployed were in place by the mobilization point, training was completed, and no theater arrival dates were missed. And although concentrating training in the short period of time before mobilization can be stressful for RC personnel, a possible alternative, postponing some training until after mobilization, could increase the duration of mobilization or reduce time in theater.

In summary, the study identified a problem, but found that no clear-cut policy solutions exist. Unit instability may be a fact of life for the RC. The RC has been resilient thus far, and will have to continue to be resilient in today’s Total Force environment.

Monday, August 30, 2010

National Guard Troops Arriving at U.S.-Mexican Border

NOGALES, AZ - JUNE 02: A U.S. Border Patrol agent drives along a fence which separates the cities of Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Sonora Mexico, a frequent crossing point for people entering the United States illegally, June 2, 2010 in Nogales, Arizona. During the 2009 fiscal year 540,865 undocumented immigrants were apprehended entering the United States illegally along the Mexican border, 241,000 of those were captured in the 262 mile stretch of the border known as the Tucson Sector. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
Content © 2010 Getty Images All rights reserved.

Austin Brigden
ROA Intern

The White House is beginning to execute its plan to deploy 532 National Guard troops along the U.S.-Mexican border. Their purpose during a yearlong deployment will be to monitor for illegal border crossers and smugglers and assist in criminal investigations. According to Gen. Craig McKinley, the troops will be armed and authorized to defend themselves. However, as U.S. National Guard Bureau Director of Communications Jack Harrison explained, they “will not be doing direct law enforcement.” The troops will instead be assisting border patrol agents and local law enforcement by providing intelligence and intelligence analysis, surveillance and reconnaissance support, and the ability to train additional Customs and Border Protection agents. McKinley has also noted that no overseas deployments are affected by the border duty.

According to msnbc.com the troops will be distributed among the four border states – Arizona, Texas, California, and New Mexico. Other troops will be assigned to a national liaison office. Additionally, Alan Bersin, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection revealed that the Homeland Security Department will provide six more aircraft, including helicopters, to assist in the border effort.  He also noted that at least 300 Customs and Border Protection agents and inspection officers would be sent to the Tucson, Arizona, area, along with mobile surveillance vans and additional technology.

Despite these numbers, there have been criticisms regarding the size and urgency of the deployment. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Arizona. Sens. McCain and Kyl of that state have requested $700 million in enhanced security measures, including 1,200 Border Patrol agents and 500 Customs and Border Protection officers. Additionally, U.S. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Gabrielle Giffords, both Arizona Democrats, separately called the announced actions welcome but insufficient and this sentiment has been echoed by the governors of Arizona and Texas.
    
The last major deployment of National Guard troops to the border occurred in 2006 under the name Operation Jump Start. At its height the border force numbered 6,000, but the majority of these troops' deployments ended in 2008. Sen. McCain has been quite vocal about his desire to get border troops up to the 6,000 mark again.
    
As it stands, this is already a major operation for the National Guard, but we shall see if the Obama administration yields to Arizona's pressure and commits more troops and equipment to the cause.

Sources:
National Guard to arrive at Arizona-Mexico border (USA Today)
National Guard to head to border states Aug. 1 (AP)
1,200 National Guard Troops Being Deployed to Border Will Not Be Used to Stop and Detain Illegal Aliens (CNS News)
National Guard Troops Begin Deployment Along Southwest Border (ABC News)
Guardsmen to Deploy to Southern Border (AirForce-Magazine.com)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Post-Korean War Generation and How My Outlook Changed

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - MAY 02:  10,000 South Korean protesters participate in a candlelight vigil against a recent Korea-U.S. agreement on the expansion of U.S. beef imports on May 2, 2008 in Seoul, South Korea. The South Korean government has reached the decision to resume imports of U.S.beef for the first time since cases of mad cow disease were found in American beef in 2003.  (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Protest in Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
Content © 2010 Getty Images All rights reserved

Eunyoung Kim
ROA Intern

We call ourselves the post-Korean War generation. The word “Post” reflects, among other things, a different attitude toward the United States and its involvement in the Korean Peninsula. Our grandfather and father’s generations, who experienced the war and witnessed how U.S. soldiers came to our land and sacrificed their lives for our freedom, feel the deepest sense of gratitude toward the United States. On the other hand, the post-Korean War generation knows we should be thankful to U.S. troops, but we find it difficult to feel that thankfulness in our hearts.

Sadly, the longer the peacetime in Korea has lasted, the more the importance of U.S. troops in South Korea has been diminished in Koreans’ minds. “It is sometimes viewed as more of a burden than a benefit, considering the shared cost of keeping troops stationed in Korea.”  And in recent years, there have been accusations of theft, rape, and violence committed by U.S. troops. Many troops have not been held accountable because of the protection afforded by the status of forces agreement (SOFA).

In one particular incident in 2002, an armored vehicle traveling to U.S. Army base Camp Red Wood crushed two young Korean girls, inflicting injuries so severe that their 14 year-old bodies could hardly be identified. This happened despite a radioed warning from the lead vehicle to proceed with caution. As news of the incident broke, outrage quickly spread, leading to a demonstration of nearly one hundred thousand Koreans in downtown Seoul which embodied anger felt throughout South Korean society.

Still, the United States has protected South Korea for over 50 years, and isolated incidents do not compare to the huge benefits South Korea gains from its strategic relationship with United States. So why do so many South Koreans have a daring, unappreciative attitude toward the United States?

My Change of Heart

Before beginning my internship with ROA here in the United States, I worked as an intern at Camp Walker, a U.S. Army base in Taegu, South Korea. One day my boss, Mr. Nho Won-hyun asked me to translate a letter sent to him by an old friend. The contents of the letter stick with me to this day.

When the friend was four years old, he lost his entire family in the war. He was orphaned and left to be raised by his neighbors on his home island of Kyodong. At age five, while playing alone with empty cartridges, bullets, and hand grenades that littered the ground, a cartridge exploded in his hands. He instantly lost his right arm and his eyesight. He laid there among the strewn refuse of war, dying, with no way to save his life.

A medevac helicopter from the U.S. army base in Kimpo came to his rescue, and transported him to the base hospital, where he received stabilizing treatment and rehabilitation for the next several months.

Once stable, and despite his injuries, he started playing the piano, ultimately finding both a passion and gift for the instrument. Commenting on his new-found talents, he said, “I believe God sent me angels to save my life, and God taught me how to feel the piano instead of looking at it. He also taught me how to make beautiful sounds with my left hand.”

The friend went on to earn a teaching certificate and serve as a piano instructor at his local middle school. For 30 years, he taught his students a passion for music and a sense of defiance against hardships. Over those years he helped students find their way towards inspiration and meaning in their own lives, just as he believed God had done for him when he was rescued from what seemed certain death.

After his retirement in February 2009, he sent a letter to President Obama, in the hopes that he could play a concert for U.S. veterans at the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War ceremony. I was there at the United States Capitol for the ceremony, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of this friend and his inspiring letter.

Conclusion

I and my generation of young Koreans have grown up in a very developed, abundant, and stable society. We only learn of the war from a few pages in our school textbooks. Many of us do not feel the constant threat of North Korea, nor do we realize the protection the United States provides us. But translating the friend’s letter depicting the life-changing help he received from U.S. soldiers, and being touched by his story, has changed my life as well. I sincerely hope that my fellow young Koreans may have a similar experience, too.

Senate Military Family Caucus Created

Last week Senators and co-chairs Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Richard Burr (R-S.C.), along with 18 of their colleagues, officially established the Senate Military Family Caucus. The caucus will work with the Congressional Military Family Caucus formed by the House last year to improve programs and services for military families as well as address the unique challenges that they face. Some issues to be focused on include childcare, education, employment, and the effects of multiple deployments on families. Already the members of the Senate Military Family Caucus have worked together to persuade Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to halt insurance companies from profiting from benefits owed to families that had a service member die in service.

Other senators in the caucus include Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Roland Burris (D-Ill.), Robert Casey, Jr. (D-Penn.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Tex.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.)

To read the press releases please visit the websites of Sen. Boxer or Sen. Burr.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Another Approach to Iran: Bolster Saudi Arabia's Defenses

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) meets with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington June 29, 2010.    REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS IMAGES OF THE DAY)
Photo by Larry Downing. Content © 2010 Reuters All rights reserved.
Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

With Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons still at the forefront of U.S. national security concerns, the Obama administration and its European partners are continuing on with a fresh round of sanctions and have declared the existence of a contingency strike plan in the hopes of getting Tehran to return to the bargaining table. To augment its multipronged approach, ROA also urges the Administration and Congress to force publicly-traded companies in the United States to disclose trade relationships with Iran, and advocates divestment of Iranian assests from portfolios to discourage nuclear weapon development by Iran.

A less publicized strategy to counter Iran is a $60 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, set to be announced by DoD when Congress returns from its summer recess after Labor Day. The sale is part of a strategy first seen in the George W. Bush administration to bolster the militaries of Arab allies. Saudi Arabia, a Sunni country and the birthplace of Islam, is a natural rival to predominantly Shia Iran, and it has become a top weapons buyer, spending $36.7 billion worldwide on arms between 2001 and 2008.

According to a Washington Institute for Near East Policy report, the proposed sale to Saudi Arabia includes the following:
  • Eighty-four new Boeing F-15 combat aircraft to replace aging F-15C and F-15D air defense variants purchased between 1978 and 1992.
  • Upgrades for seventy F-15S strike variants, potentially including advanced long-range munitions for the aircraft.
  • Seventy-two United Technologies Corporation UH-60 helicopters, to add to the twenty-two helicopters of the same type now held by the Saudis. Sixty Boeing AH-64D Longbow Apaches and upgrades to Saudi's twelve current AH-64A Apaches may also be included.
  • Up to $5 billion in advanced, helicopter-carrying offshore patrol vessels.
  • Upgrades to Saudi Arabia's ninety-six U.S.-supplied Raytheon Patriot Advanced Capability 2 missiles.
  • Riyadh is also considering large purchases of American transport aircraft, tanker aircraft, maritime patrol aircraft, and the replacement of its U.S.-supplied F-15s.
The Obama administration has also moved to sell sophisticated arms to the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf states, and to shore up the Lebanese Army against Iranian-backed Hezbollah.

Another U.S. goal is for Saudi Arabia to use its increasing military-to-military ties with other states, including Russia and China, to establish political leverage and discourage those countries' arms deals with Iran.

The arms deal with Saudi Arabia is yet another indication of U.S. efforts to pressure Iran on all fronts moving forward.

Prudential Clarifies SGLI Misunderstanding

ROA President RADM Paul Kayye, USN (Ret.) met last week with Mark B. Grier, Vice Chairman of Prudential Financial at the ROA's Minuteman Memorial Building. Prudential has faced charges in a series of articles published by Bloomberg News over how it administers its account for survivors of serving members who are killed in the line of duty. Servicemember's Group Life Insurance (SGLI) pays up to $400,000 and pay-out is administered by Prudential. Survivors are offered an option to keep the money in an account for the short term that is accessible by writing draft checks. This money is insured by state insurance plans for at least $250,000 and up to $500,000.

Bloomberg published an account of a SGLI beneficiary who had a draft check refused by a merchant, and challenged what appeared to be low interest rates paid on the money by Prudential. Vice Chairman Grier demonstrated to ROA that the interest rates were within the range of what is paid by banks and credit unions on checking and money market accounts, and that most beneficiaries withdraw the majority of their money within 90 days after getting the service member's estate in order. ROA's Executive Director, MG David Bockel, USA (Ret.) joined the president in the meeting with Prudential.

Read Prudential's press release about addressing concerns with the Department of Veterans Affairs

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

ROA Working to Get TRR Rates Fixed

Last week, ROA sent an alert regarding Pentagon plans to overcharge gray area retirees from the Guard and Reserve as they implement the new TRICARE Retiree Reserve (TRR) health care plan.

While the announcement on the new program is not scheduled to be made until Sept. 1, ROA received an advanced copy about the program that was sent to members of Congress and quickly reacted.

Within hours of sending out the TRR alert, ROA visited Senator John Cornyn's (R-Texas) office to discuss strategies on fixing the TRR rates with his staff.

ROA is working with other members of The Military Coalition and the National Military and Veterans Alliance will try to get language included in the National Defense Authorization Act reflecting the fact that how the Pentagon implemented TRR is not what Congress intended.

Another option will be to request a review of the calculation of the premium costs by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). In 2007, GAO reviewed the premiums for TRICARE Reserve Select and highlighted that DoD was overcharging Reservists on that program. The report resulted in congressional action which reduced premiums. Comments about TRR have already been submitted to GAO by ROA and other associations.

Early Retirement Discussed During Congress' Break

As the National Defense Authorization Act is idle until September, when the Senate as a whole will take it up for business, there is still opportunity to help shape legislation. ROA met with other associations to discuss what approaches to take to obtain passage of early retirement. Bills such as H.R. 208 and S.831 have met resistance because of the cost of $2.1 billion over the next ten years.

Being discussed is a phased in approach which has worked for concurrent receipt of disabilities and reducing the offset of Dependency and Indemnity Compensation from those survivors who also had the Survivor Benefit Plan. A proposal is being studied to break the 2001 - 2007 time period into smaller blocks which will cost less. ROA continues to advocate that no individual who has served since Sept. 11 be left out, and phase-in be structured in such a way to encourage Congress to continue to pass legislation for the next groups.

ROA is not giving up on finding alternatives to expanding early retirement to an even broader population. The challenge increases as Congress looks ahead to the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, as this will reduce the visibility of serving National Guard and Reserve members. Traditionally, though, it is the Active Duty component that is brought home, leaving the Guard and Reserve to do the peace keeping role.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Roundtable explores effects of deployment on military children

2nd Infantry Division photo
Andrew Gonyea 
Communications Assistant

DoD Live recently hosted a bloggers roundtable with Alex Baird, Chief of Family Programs for the National Guard Bureau (NGB), who discussed the changing needs and new challenges of National Guard families experiencing multiple deployments. ROA posed two questions, which got to the heart of the matter: Do we have statistics regarding the stress military children experience as a result of constant use of Guard and Reserve personnel in today’s contingency operations? And what are some programs helping to address that issue?

Regarding the first question, there has been some preliminary research into military children’s difficulties with deployments, but there needs to be more. In 2009, a RAND study, commissioned by the National Military Family Association (NMFA), was released. The study, titled “Children on the Homefront: The Experience of Children from Military Families,” involved a survey of 1,500 military children and each child’s non-deployed parent by phone, and explored how those children were faring academically, socially, and emotionally during an extended period of wartime. Of those children, 95 percent had experienced at least one parental deployment in the previous three years, and 40 percent were experiencing deployment at the time of the interview. Thirty-seven percent were children of Guard and Reserve members.

The results indicate that rates of anxiety and emotional and behavioral difficulties are higher among military children than non-military children. Also, self-reported problems varied by age and gender. Older children and boys reported more difficulties with school and more behavioral problems, such as fighting. Younger children and girls reported more anxiety symptoms. And longer periods of parental deployment had a negative effect across the board.

The study concludes that more research is necessary. Among other things, it identifies a significant need to research the link between caregiver mental health and child well-being, and suggests that families in which caregivers experience mental health difficulties may need more support for both caregiver and child.

Programs that are helping military children cope with the difficulties of parental deployment have one important aspect in common: an emphasis on engagement. The National Guard Bureau’s Family Programs team has formed teen panels within states and the District of Columbia to be advisory groups and provide direct insight into the lives and challenges of teenaged military children. And Operation Purple Camp is an initiative which provides military children, through free summer camps, an opportunity to build relationships with other military children, boost morale and gain a better understanding of what their military parent does in preparing to deploy.

In responding to these important questions, Baird observed that DoD has done a superb job building battle minds to prepare soldiers for deployment, and then they focused on preparing spouses. He predicted that their next great challenge will be to find ways to make military children more resilient and able to cope with deployment.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Senate needs your push on new START Treaty

The Reserve Officers Association was briefed at Heritage Foundation about the New Start Treaty. One issue that was highlighted in the discussion is that a number of Senators from both parties have requested the record of negotiation from the White House. Based on precedent, past administrations have provided this information as part of the ratification process (e.g. Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) and The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaties.) These records are 1000s of page in length and will require time for Senate staffers to review. The earlier that copies are received, the quicker a resolution of ratification can be considered by the Senate Foreign Affairs committee. ROA members can contact their home state Senators to request that they make similar requests for a copy of the record of negotiation on the New Start Treaty to be sent to the Senate from the Obama Administration.

This Treaty is a complex issue and ROA hopes to have treaty experts on both side of the debate to publish articles in our November issue of The Officer.

Veterans Status - Senate visit.

ROA and other associations met with the staff of Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) to discuss strategies of getting the veterans status legislation passed in the Senate. This legislation would recognize retired Guard and Reserve members who were never activated long enough to be defined as veterans.
Last week, the House Veterans Subcommittee on Disability Assistance & Memorial Affairs accepted an amendment for inclusion in this year’s Veterans Affairs bill. This mark-up will be sent to the House Veterans Affairs committee, and it is hoped that the House will pass the final bill in September. The legislation will still have to go through the Senate Veterans Affairs committee, and be passed by the Senate as a whole, likely in the lame duck session after the November election.

Future UAV Strategy Needs Improvements


At his most recent public engagement, the Air Force's top intelligence official gave a sobering reality check regarding the future of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) Aug. 2.

After reading
comments published by the Air Force Times regarding UAVs in future conflicts and quoting U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander Gen. Roger Brady, some people have the impression the Air Force is backing away from its historical praise of UAVs such as the Predator and Reaper.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Given the high volume of reserve component units working in this emerging mission area, ROA staff participated in an exit interview with retiring Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the Air Force’s first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, who clarified the comments published in the Air Force Times.

The article quoted Gen. Brady saying, “Remotely piloted planes won’t be as effective in future wars as they are in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As Gen. Deptula points out, this statement recognizes today’s wars are being fought in uncontested airspace. Vulnerabilities exist, particularly in the datalinks between aircraft and ground controllers, in current remotely piloted platforms of which a more sophisticated enemy could take advantage.

Future wars could be fought in contested airspace where a slow-moving, unstealthy UAV prone to surface-to-air threats could be shot down.

The statements by both generals were meant to remind leaders that those engaging in warfare must be careful with unrestrained enthusiasm for unmanned aircraft. And while Gen. Deptula said that these maturing technologies must normalize across the spectrum of the Air Force’s core capabilities, that future use of UAVs in a different operational environment must adapt.

Any future UAVs must have modularity, varying degrees of autonomy and survivability.

Modularity means the aircraft must adapt to its environment. The closest example in today’s technology to describe modularity is the swept wing B-1 bomber, which can alter its wing stance depending on its flight parameters. Future modular technologies could be aircraft skin transforming based on light, speed or stealth requirements.

With regard to autonomy, UAVs are prone to datalink vulnerabilities. The more ground controllers communicate with the aircraft, the more vulnerable the aircraft are. Today, ground controllers give UAVs some level of autonomy when conducting combat air patrols, persistently hovering over an area, but they focus their control when the UAV must engage. Future UAVs might need the ability to reassess a target and react accordingly.

A recent ROA Defense Education Forum discussed the interesting legalities of drone warfare in targeted killings.


With regard to survivability, this boils down to speed and concept of operations. An MQ-1 Predator is no more than an overgrown snow mobile with missiles. Future UAVs need to be faster and stealthier. Those employing them also need to consider their concepts of operation. During World War II, hundreds of bombers were sent en mass against targets not only to ensure target success, but to protect each other. With a mass formation of UAVs concentrated in any given spot, there is a level of acceptable loss available.

To meet these future needs, though, the defense acquisition process based on organizations, processes and architectures formed during an industrial period of warfare need to change, Gen. Deptula said. In today’s world, in terms of threat capabilities and needs of commanders on the ground, the timeframe for providing capabilities has increase exponentially. The acquisition architecture needs to be more responsive, Gen. Deptula said.

If we were to make all the deliberate and informed decisions that today’s process requires for a requirement identified today, initial operating capability wouldn’t be until 2021, he said. “We cannot afford such a process.”

ROA Testifies in the Senate on Arlington Cemetery

ROA submitted testimony to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight on the current Army investigation, as well as codifying rules to include Guard and Reserve interment, at Arlington National Cemetery. (ANC).

In the testimony, ROA expressed its appreciation for the office of the Secretary of the Army for undertaking proactive steps to correct the growing problems evident win burials at ANC as well as Congressional follow-up. 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." ROA suggest including those who die on Active Duty Training (ADT) for less than 30 days or on Inactive Duty for Training (IDT). As a first step to include Inactive Duty for Training, ROA suggested a series of qualifications for serving Guard or Reserve who are killed in the line of duty, suggesting that those members killed while on hazardous assignment, while training under conditions simulating war, or by an instrumentality of war.

Currently, only Reserve Component members who retire in pay may be eligible for ANC burial. Another part of ROA's testimony recommended including eligibility for gray-are retirees. 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.

DoJ Must Enforce MOVE Act, Contact your local election officials

by Austin Brigden
Washington Scholars Intern to the Service Members Law Center


Military and overseas votes in the upcoming general election may be in jeopardy if the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) fails to enforce the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act (MOVE Act).
For those unaware of the MOVE Act, it requires states to send overseas voters (military and civilian) their unmarked absentee ballots at least 45 days before Election Day. As co-author Senator John Cornyn (R – Texas) noted in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, this 45-day standard was statutorily mandated based on extensive Congressional evidence that any shorter period of time significantly burdens military and overseas voting rights. Click here to view the full letter.
There are, however, three specific situations of “undue hardship” which are considered adequate excuses for states to seek a special waiver exempting them from the 45-day standard of the bill:
(i) The state's primary election date prohibits the state from complying;
(ii) The state has suffered a delay in generating ballots due to a legal contest; or
(iii) The state constitution prohibits the state from complying.
If none of these situations exists, then the state may not apply for a waiver, and the federal government may not grant one.
The parameters for exemption are evidently quite clear. However, the minutes of the 2010 Winter meeting of the National Association of Secretaries of State have revealed the DoJ’s stance on the matter. The Deputy Chief of DOJ’s Voting Section stated during that meeting that the provisions of the law are “fairly general,” that it is “somewhat of an open question as to what type of information” a state must submit to be granted a waiver.
This language is quite shocking as it clearly violates the provisions of the law, disregards explicit and concise statutory language, and threatens the voting rights of service members. Senator Cornyn’s letter to Attorney General Holden will hopefully change this faulty way of thinking. Near the end of his letter, Senator Cornyn requested that the Attorney General remind state officials and the DoJ’s Voting Section of the MOVE Act’s provisions and issue directions to the Voting Section to bring non-compliant states into compliance through litigation if necessary.
Cornyn’s sense of urgency is entirely justified with all waivers currently under review. Bob Carey, director of the Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP), has explained to Fox news that “the Defense Department must respond, under the law, after consultation with the Department of Justice, no later than 65 days before the election, which is August 29, 2010.”
DOJ’s Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs (Ronald Welch) responded to Senator Cornyn’s July 26 letter on July 30 and assured Senator Cornyn that “The Department of Justice is firmly committed to ensuring that our men and women serving in the uniformed services and living overseas have the opportunity to vote and have their ballots counted.” The reassurance is welcome, but the proof is in the pudding.
Please contact your Local Election Official (LEO)—County Clerk, County Supervisor of Elections, Town Clerk, etc. The titles vary, but you can figure it out. Please remind the LEO that federal law now requires him or her to mail absentee ballots to overseas voters (military and civilian) by Saturday, September 18, 2010, for voters who have applied that early. Please contact the LEO again on Monday, September 20, to determine if the ballots have been mailed. If the ballots have not been mailed, for whatever reason, please contact ROA life member Bob Carey, the FVAP Director, at 703-588-8118 or Robert.Carey@fvap.gov.