Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Maintaining and Protecting U.S. Defense Industrial Base

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

What can we do about the declining U.S. defense industrial base?

The question was brought to the forefront once more at a Sept. 22 House hearing held by the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Subcommittee Chairman John F. Tierney noted that in 2003, a Swiss company delayed delivery of parts for Joint Direct Attack Munitions (“smart bombs”) because of the Swiss government’s disapproval of the Iraq War, forcing DoD to acquire the parts at a higher price and delaying the delivery of those parts to our forces overseas. He also noted cases where poor-quality equipment was delivered, including seatbelt clasps for the Army which were fabricated from a substandard grade of aluminum and would break when dropped.

Witness Robert Baugh of the AFL-CIO discussed the loss of critical industries to foreign companies including propellant chemical, space qualified electronics, advanced battery, specialty metal, hard disk drive, and LCD production. He also lamented the erosion of U.S. leadership in research and development of metals, superalloys, composites, and electronic and opto-photonic materials, which are all essential to advanced production.

High-power lithium-ion HEV batteries at Argonne National Laboratory
Also highlighted were China’s unfair trade practices, including currency manipulation, export subsidies, and tariff and non-tariff barriers, which have allowed it to build powerful export markets and decrease U.S. competitiveness in key industries, sectors, and technologies.

Ideas proposed by the witnesses included removing incentives for companies to move jobs overseas, reducing the U.S. trade deficit, pushing China to end its currency manipulation, and reforming DoD procurement practices to encourage domestic production.

ROA recognizes that the defense industrial base provides the “cutting edge defense and aerospace technology and manufacturing capabilities” necessary to deter potential adversaries, and is essential for power projection capabilities such as strategic airlift, sealift, tactical fighter aircraft, space and missile propulsion, satellites, directed energy weapons, and long range strike aircraft.


More importantly, ROA is greatly concerned that key production lines which provide those capabilities are being threatened by shrinking budgets and production decisions at DoD. And so ROA urges Congress, the President, and DoD to carefully consider the effects future budget and program decisions will have on the industrial base, and more specifically, to protect military equipment production lines that once shut down would be extremely costly and time-consuming to get running again.

DoD laid out its approach to handling a declining defense industrial base in its annual industrial capabilities report submitted in May. The report explains the fine line DoD must walk between relying on market forces in its activities, and when absolutely necessary, intervening to create and/or sustain competition, innovation, and essential industrial capabilities. It also describes recent policy changes at DoD, including conducting assessments of the effects of terminating acquisition programs on the defense industrial base, and aggressively targeting acquisition programs that have issues with performance, cost, or rationale, in order to save money for essential programs.

While different parties may disagree on concrete solutions, all can agree on the need to halt, and eventually reverse, the relative decline in industrial and technological capabilities. DoD has to take its own report seriously when making future program decisions.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stolen Valor

MG David Bockel
ROA Executive Director

“The 9th Circuit Appeals Court reversed the conviction in a case involving a Southern California man who claimed to have won the Medal of Honor. The court found that simply claiming to have won the medal is protected speech under the First Amendment, even if it is false.” – Huntsville Times

“A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with him in a 2-1 decision Tuesday, agreeing that the law was a violation of his free-speech rights. The majority said there's no evidence that such lies harm anybody, and there's no compelling reason for the government to ban such lies.” – Associated Press


Are you mad yet? If not, you should be. Of particular note was the majority’s statement that “there's no evidence that such lies harm anybody and there's no compelling reason for the government to ban such lies.” No compelling reason? No harm? For the millions of currently serving and former service members, their widows, widowers, orphans, brothers, sisters, friends, and probably the majority of this country, not to mention our country’s history, there is SERIOUS harm that has been done. These frauds have trampled on the memory, heroism, patriotism…..you name it…of the brave men and women who have served. Most of them served with very little to show for their service in the way of awards. But they all respected what those awards represented. Frankly, Mr. Xavier Alvarez and other impostors should be locked up at the disciplinary barracks at Fort Leavenworth for life.

Unfortunately, there are some still serving who have “stolen valor." Recently, a sergeant major, the senior enlisted advisor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, claimed a chest full of awards he never earned. And there are public figures who have claimed heroic service even though their service was questionable.

What about the 2 (out of 3) judges who came up with this ridiculous ruling? It's too bad they've been appointed for life and can't be fired. The majority decision was rendered by Judge Thomas D. Nelson and Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. They should be shamed in all the media. The lone dissenting judge, Jay S. Bybee, deserves credit for standing his ground.

And, if the U. S Attorney does not pursue this in the Supreme Court, he should be rebuked. Let your elected representatives know how you feel. Ask them to contact Attorney General Holder and demand that this case be taken to the highest court in the land.

Is this the way our veterans and our country are honored? There is no glory in stealing valor not earned or in excusing those who steal it. Only shame.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ROA Comments on Center for a New American Security Study


The Center for a New American Security issued a report, “An Indispensable Force: Investing in America’s National Guard and Reserves," which will be presented by panelists at an event this week. The report can be downloaded here: http://www.cnas.org/node/4997

The Reserve Officers Association agrees with the report that on balance, the government has come a long way in developing a ready, capable and available operational Guard and Reserves, and that policymakers deserve praise for their improvements toward that goal. Of the areas mentioned in the report that need addressing, ROA supports many of the things said, with a few caveats: 

We must figure out a way to use federal Reservists efficiently during federal homeland responses. There is simply no good reason that the President should not have access to the 400,000 members of the federal Reserve during a homeland emergency.

Funding for Reserve manpower must be baselined in a separate Congressional appropriation instead of through war supplementals if the Reserve and Guard are to continue to be a factor in the Operational Force.

While the comments made in the report about equipment issues are broad brush, the Congress has consistently funded the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Appropriation. Having said that, a disproportionate amount of these funds is directed to the National Guard versus the Reserve, exacerbating the equipment disparity between the Active Components and the Reserve. ROA feels the federal Reserve components should get a greater share of NGREA.

While the emotional issues afflicting troops from these two wars is an ever present concern, the numbers are not huge trend indicators. Great strides have been made toward recognizing and treating mental health wounds of war. Having said that, more needs to be done to ensure a Reservist or Guardsman is able to get follow-on treatment after they've returned and fully reintegrated into their civilian life, particularly with facilitating putting them in some kind of military status for follow-up appointments so they can have time off of their civilian job. Just as there is a capital investment for equipment during reset after a deployment, so too must there be an investment for human capital for a couple of years after deployment.

While no great strides of outward progress have been released on the continuum of service concept, ROA is aware of the background operations and plans occurring in the Pentagon and is impressed with the level of effort that is occurring. This particular issue will take a significant amount of time to complete, if it is ever completed. One thing to highlight is the Navy's marked improvement in the amount of time it takes to go from full time Active Duty to Reserve status.

The comment in the report regarding the fact that Active Duty do not understand the Reserve Components and this leads to disparities for things like professional military education is relevant. ROA is actively lobbying to ensure joint PME is credited properly for the Reserve Components and is visiting the House Armed Services Committee this Friday to discuss this very issue. ROA highly endorses giving full JPME II credit to distance learning school students of the various war colleges similar to what their active component counterparts get who attend the residence course. We further suggest that Active Component members be able to attend the Advanced JPME, which currently only admits Reserve Component members.

Regarding the citation in the report about the QDR requiring an assessment of the future roles and missions of the Guard and Reserve: this report is being prepared by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. LtGen Charles Stenner, Chief of the Air Force Reserve, issued his own white paper as input to this larger, joint report calling for a rebalance of roles and missions among the Air Components, which has merit.

While there is some confusion over the method for comparing the relative costs of full-time active duty and reserve personnel, it is not questioned that the Reserve and Guard are a less expensive alternative when balanced correctly within the total force. Each of the Reserve components is a little bit different than the other and they must be compared within each service correctly. According to Lt. Gen. Stenner the Reserve, on average, can buy 2.7 people for the cost of one active component Airman. With some missions, the ratio gets better, others worse. These rates, he said, are inclusive of all costs associated with a Reservist: from basic pay and training to retirement and health care costs.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Air Force’s Top Officer Provides Tough Talk on Health Care Entitlement

At a recent hourlong commander’s call with Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Roy, airmen were encouraged to ask real, tough questions. Among them was a question about expanding support to health care beneficiaries. Please see the exchange below, reported in an Air Force Times article, “Leaders address airmen’s concerns”:

Gen Norton Schwartz, Air Force Chief of Staff
Airman 1: Since health care is the No. 1 concern for retirees, what is being done to expand the support to beneficiaries?

Schwartz: Can I give you the straight story? I am not looking to expand the entitlement. Here is the problem we got and it’s a serious-ass problem.

Roy: That’s serious.

Schwartz: We’re talking a big number. The Department of Defense health care bill for active-duty [airmen] and retirees this year is about $40 billion. By the middle of the decade, or 2015, it will be about $60 billion. That’s more than 10 percent of the entire DoD budget just for health care. If we are not careful, we could end up like General Motors, where General Motors had personnel costs – including health care – that were so great that they stopped making good cars for awhile. So, here is the problem: If General Motors didn’t make good cars, you had other choices. What happens, though, if the Air Force or the other services aren’t able to produce the national security product that the American people expect? Where else do you go? This is a real problem.

And so I think what’s likely – and this won’t be popular and it won’t be easy to do – but we have not changed co-pays in Tricare since 1985. And health care costs have exploded since 1985. My take is that there is going to have to be a change that allows higher co-pays, more participation and so on. The bottom line is I am not an advocate for expanding yet again an already very lucrative Tricare entitlement. …You won’t be able to make it cheaper, but at least you can keep it from escalating. The deal is we can’t afford it or we’re going to stop flying F-16s or B-2s or C-17s or satellites or HH-60 helicopters, you name it. And that’s not where I want to be and – I’ll tell you what – I know it’s an emotional issue, but I don’t think the retiree community wants to be there either. Now we don’t want to put people in dire need on the street because that’s not what we are about because this is still a family.

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ROA’s advocacy focuses on a number of entitlements such as Tricare with the caveat that they are connected to protecting National Security, our mission, by ensuring recruiting and retention are strong.

What are your thoughts on Gen Schwartz's comments? What are your thoughts on ROA’s continued advocacy for such entitlement programs?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Gen. McChrystal Discusses Leadership, Change in the Military

Bob Feidler
Director, Defense Education Forum & Army Section

At a recent event sponsored by Leading Authorities, General Stanley McChrystal, USA (Ret.) shared his thoughts on leadership. General McCrystal is the former Commander of the Joint Special Operations Command and also of all U.S. and international forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan. He was removed from his position in June, 2010 by President Obama following a Rolling Stone magazine article that portrayed he and his staff as being out of step with Administration policy. McCrystal retired shortly thereafter and is now a Senior Fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University.
GEN Stanley McChrystal, USA (Ret.)

General McChrystal opened his talk by stating that he agreed with President Obama’s decision to remove him, painful as it was. He did not comment any further on the Administration, civilian leadership of the military, Afghan policy, or the waging of the war. His talk focused on leadership and featured anecdotes from his thirty plus years of service, during which he became a warrior legend.

McChrystal addressed several principles relative to change that could apply to the military or any organization:
  • Change is how an organization thinks, reacts and operates. He advocates as many people in an organization knowing as much about the “environment/problem” as possible, so that as a team they can be aware of developing situations and contribute in real time from their various perspectives.
  • A flat organizational structure that is transparent and inclusive in its decision making. In his operation center as Commander, he often sat in the middle of the room with his staff on all sides with easy access to him and he to them.
  • Decentralized decision making and pushing down the authority to do things to those with “skin in the game.” He determined the goal but let his subordinates determine the when and where of how to “win.”
  • Quick decision making. He stated a modern decision maker should think in terms of his or her watch – not a calendar.
  • A well-built, tightly-bonded team. When he was briefed, he often asked the briefer for their thoughts, not just the facts. When possible, he sent a handwritten note to a deserving individual and imparted his personal connection and admiration for them. He also had his field headquarters made out of plywood – it was cheap, could be changed quickly, and was very strong with thin sheets of wood bonded by good glue - to analogize his inclusive, no-nonsense, the-team-is-stronger-than-the-individual command style.
General McChrystal is one of the great military leaders of our time – a true warrior deserving of our eternal gratitude for his service to our country. One is left to wonder, however, about the reasons for his downfall. How could he and his senior staff have been so foolish as to allow a reporter from a publication like Rolling Stone into his inner circle? It might have been just an unlucky break for an otherwise savvy leader. Or, it might be reflective a military leadership that is unprepared for dealing with elements of the media and the modern civilian/political world in which we live. If the latter, the military must reassess how it is preparing its leaders, not just for war on the battle field, but also for engaging the media, various cultures, diplomatic issues, and the other realities of the civilian world in which the rules of engagement may be far removed from the military person’s frame of reference.

Monday, September 13, 2010

SECAF briefs on Air Force Acquisitions

Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley
The Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Donley, was tight-lipped at the Air Force Association Conference with regard to the ongoing Tanker source selection process. In particular, he would not respond to questions regarding Boeing's possible offer to lower their bid price. Secretary Donley only referenced the ability of the process to have dialog with bidders to refine their proposals.

In other equipment news, the Air Force, as the lead agent for the F-35 program, is close to striking a deal on the next batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Having said that, there is talk of rebaselining the F-35 program after cost overruns, particularly due to the Marine Corps vertical take-off variant.

ROA's interest in this program is to ensure concurrent and proportional basing of the F-35 in the Reserve Component, particularly to units affected by BRAC and the retirement of legacy fighter aircraft. The Air Force announced in July that Burlington Air National Guard Station is a candidate for the first beddown of F-35s.

As for Long Range Strike, the Secretary alluded to progress made since the Secretary of Defense cancelled the Next Generation Bomber program more than a year ago. Details of the Long Range Strike program should be expected in February with the President's budget release. ROA maintains a legislative resolution advocating funding of a new bomber aircraft.