Friday, October 29, 2010

Air Force Discusses Efficiencies, C-5M

Gen. Carrol H. Chandler spoke Oct. 28
at the CSIS on Air Force efficiencies.
At a military strategy forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies Oct. 28, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Carrol H. Chandler, spoke about the Air Force’s approach to the Department of Defense’s savings and efficiencies initiative.
The department needs to become more efficient because it needs a 2-3 percent top line growth to maintain today’s level of output, yet only expects a 1 percent growth, Gen Chandler said. “That could mean negative growth given increasing personnel costs.”
The force is scouring for ideas from within to become more efficient and a few themes have emerged from their research such as eliminating wasteful spending and eliminating redundancies.
"I don't think anybody in the Air Force will argue that we can't be more efficient at what we do," said Gen. Chandler.

Gen. Chandler said we need to get past the idea that if you don’t spend your entire budget at the end of the year, that it will somehow be reduced the following year. Overcoming that instilled fear will prevent wasteful end-of-year spending.
He also applauded the younger generation’s reliance on online tools and said instead of carting things off to DRMO, the department should have a “craigslist” type service.

Some of the other inefficiencies he cited were redundancies formed through the Numbered Air Force construct and duplicative inspections.

On a greater scale, Gen. Chandler discussed some of the efficiencies that could be had across services. He applauded the Joint Fires Integration Interoperability Team at Joint Forces Command, which provides input to the Joint Requirements Oversight Council making acquisition recommendations. He gave two examples. Both the Army and Air Force both have precision munitions within their arsenals. Are there efficiencies to be had by looking at precision munitions development and acquisition holistically across the services? The other joint area he cited was the Air-Sea Battle concept between the Navy and Air Force.

This topic of discussion brought up the question about Secretary Gates’ dictum to delete JFCOM. Gen. Chandler posed the question that all the pieces of JFCOM came from somewhere, but the question is how well can DoD put those pieces back and can the joint staff manage those processes as efficiently as JFCOM.

ROA’s Air Force Director, David Small, asked about the efficiencies proven by the C-5M and the modernization program’s anticipated $9 billion savings over the life of the fleet. Since the Air Force recognized the C-5M’s enhanced capabilities and cost savings, and has also admitted the need to retain a portion of the C-5A fleet to meet its global mobility requirement, why then is it not investing in modernizing the remainder of the C-5A fleet to add to that $9 billion savings? The program essentially pays for itself and then some.

Gen. Chandler, in what might be the first for the Air Force from his level, admitted that indeed it would like to modernize the C-5A fleet, but it comes down to money and the service will be looking at that. He said he was extremely pleased with the C-5M and the mobility portfolio is in the best shape of his career.

With regard to modernizing the C-5A fleet, The Reserve Officer suggests the old adage, sometimes you have to invest in order to save, and that perhaps the Air Force needs to strongly force the C-5A modernization onto the department for the long term savings it will get. Just as Popeye’s gambling friend Wimpy said, “Can I pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today?”

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Supreme Court to Hear Argument in USERRA Case

This Tuesday, Nov. 2, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in the case Staub v. Proctor Hospital. Staub is the Court's first-ever case dealing with the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) and the first reemployment rights case since 1991.

Army Reserve Sergeant Vincent E. Staub claims that Proctor Hospital violated USERRA when it fired him in April 2004. Staub won in the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois, and the jury found that the firing was motivated, at least in part, by his military obligations. However, he lost on Proctor Hospital’s appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

ROA has been involved in the case from the start. In July, CAPT Sam Wright, director of ROA’s Service Members Law Center, filed an amicus brief in support of Staub. ROA believes the circuit court’s decision is contrary to the Supreme Court’s commandment to construe the reemployment statute liberally for the benefit of those who have set aside their civilian pursuits to serve their country.

CAPT Wright has also published two law reviews on the case: “Is Personal Animus Discrimination? A USERRA case may be headed to the Supreme Court.” and “Supreme Court Agrees to Review Unfavorable 7th Circuit Case.”

The oral argument will take place at 1 p.m., and each side will have 30 minutes. Public seating should be available for those interested in attending.

Expect more coverage from ROA in the coming days.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Veterans' Benefits Act Signed into Law

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

After two years of debate over which programs to include, H.R.3219, the Veterans’ Benefits Act of 2010, was signed into law by President Obama Oct. 13.

Included in the bill are key improvements to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) and Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).

In early 2009, ROA brought up the need for a private right of action under SCRA when it spoke to House Veterans Affairs Committee staffers about a Sergeant in Michigan who was told he couldn’t sue a bank that seized his house while he was deployed. With the new SCRA provisions, individuals can now sue violators of their rights through private right of action, and can be awarded damages plus attorney fees. This should heighten interest from the civilian bar in taking such cases and make potential violators more wary of violating service members’ rights.

Other improvements to SCRA include new penalties for violators - $55,000 for a first offense and up to $110,000 for subsequent violations.

Regarding USERRA, the bill reinforces the prohibition on wage discrimination against service members. It also clarifies the definition of “successor in interest,” which was not defined in USERRA but instead by employment litigation in the courts. In a USERRA case, the “successor in interest” is the company which merges with or takes over a service members’ employer while he or she is on duty. It is therefore obligated to reemploy the service member upon his or her return from service.

Successors in Interest Law Reviews

Other highlights of the bill are employment assistance for veterans, expanded life insurance for disabled veterans, childcare services for homeless veterans, and more research into health issues facing Gulf War veterans.

Monday, October 18, 2010

ROA in Veteran Businesses Task Force

With job placement as the number one concern of veterans returning from overseas deployment, ROA is working to improve employment opportunities.

ROA attended the first public meeting of the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development. Held Oct. 15, this task force was established by Executive Order 13540 on April 26, 2010. The group will be recommending improvements to coordination of efforts of various Federal agencies to improve capital, business development opportunities and federal contracting of small veteran businesses. ROA will be making a statement on veteran opportunities at a future meeting. It will make a report to the president by October 15, 2011.

William Elmore, Linda Oliver, and Jiyoung Park are co-chairs of the task force. Mr. Elmore is an associate administrator at the office of Veterans Business Development at the U.S. Small Business Administration. ROA worked with Mr. Elmore on veteran hiring issues when he worked at the Department of Labor.

Members consist of the SBA administrator, and senior level representatives from the Department of Defense, and General Services Administration who shall serve as co-chair the Task Force. The Department of the Treasury, the Department of Labor, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Office of Management and Budget are other agencies that provide representatives to sit on the task force.

ROA testified before the House committee on Veteran Affairs this past year regarding job placement for veterans. ROA also supports the Servicemembers Law Center which provides advice to serving active and reserve members, and members in the legal community about the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, and the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gen Schwartz Addresses Health Care Costs Again

Air Force Chief of Staff
Gen Norton Schwartz
ROA not only helps set the agenda, but also affects the news. At a Question and Answer session with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Norton Schwartz at the National Press Club last week, a question submitted by ROA legislative director CAPT Marshall Hanson was selected by John Donnelly, senior writer at the Congressional Quarterly and vice-chairman of the National Press Club Board of Governors, for Gen Schwartz. This question generated press around Washington D.C.

Q: "[Should] military families and a greater share than they are paying right now to address the growing health care bill DOD is paying?”

Gen: Schwartz' Answer: “A bit of background, health care for the department of defense at the moment is a $40 billion level of effort, and by 2015 it will probably be in the $60 to $65 billion level of effort. As you look at the DOD budget that is probably 12, 13, 14 percent of the entire defense budget. That is serious money. And the reality is that the co-pays for Tricare, which is a very good program certainly on par with many others in the country, have not changed since 1985. I think it is inescapable that a change will have to be made and clearly these are matters for the executive to propose and the legislative to dispose. But we collectively as a family of actively serving and formerly serving members and families have to recognize that if we’re not careful these that these unbounded costs can force out military content elsewhere in the DOD portfolio. That is worrisome and something that will have to be addressed. Do it compassionately, rationally, but it has to be addressed.”

Gen Schwartz's response received coverage in
The Hill, DoD Buzz, and Air Force News.

In September The Reserve Officer blogged about an exchange between Gen Schwartz and an airman at a commander's call. The airman posed the question, "Since health care is the No. 1 concern for retirees, what is being done to expand the support to beneficiaries?" Gen Schwartz used that question as an opportunity to express his serious concerns about the spiraling costs of health care entitlements.  He has continued to voice his concerns at other venues, such as the National Press club.

On a technical point, Tricare Prime only came into effect in 1995. ROA is checking with Gen Schwartz' staff to see if he misspoke on the date or if DOD is including Tricare's predecessor, CHAMPUS, in its calculations as fuel for their position to increase payments.

ROA has been working hard to establish a continuity of health care for drilling and mobilized reservists, gray are retirees, and retirees in pay.  Does such service warrant military health care and at what cost?  Are there alternatives?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

VADM Debbink, ESGR Honor Outstanding Navy Reservist Employers

VADM Dirk Debbink, Chief of the Navy Reserve, and Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) members presented awards to Virginia employers Sept. 27 for their outstanding support of employed Navy Reservists. The presentation took place at the Navy Operational Support Center, Little Creek, Va.

ROA commends these employers, and all others deserving recognition, who continue to provide exceptional support to our nation's citizen-warriors.

Above: ESGR members (read L to R) Bob Holmes, CDR, USNR (Ret.); Regan Schutte; VADM Debbink; Leon Hill, CAPT, USMC (Ret.), and Doyle Quisenberry, CDR, USNR (Ret.). All except Ms. Schutte are members of ROA.

Above: VADM Debbink honors the following employers (read L to R): Lois Demerich (Sentara Healthcare), Kevin Old (STIHL Inc. USA), Meyera Oberndorf (former mayor of Virginia Beach), Mark Dreyfus (ECPI College of Technology), with Alfred Dreyfus and Bob Larned, and David Cobbs (Norfolk Southern).

Above: VADM Debbink presents "My Boss Is A Patriot " awards (read L to R): CAPT Snap Conger, David Cobbs, CE3 Ricky Sterling, Jennifer Trump, Tom Early, Michael Melo, Kenneth Griffin.

Don't Ask Don't Tell policy halted

A California federal judge Tuesday barred the military from enforcing its "don't ask, don't tell" policy. It's a move that impacts the entire nation and would stop any investigation or discharge proceedings on openly gay members of the military. Read more here:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

ROA Honors Rep. Tom Latham with its Highest Award

WASHINGTON – The Reserve Officers Association will honor Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) with its Minuteman of the Year Award for his contributions to national security and special efforts on behalf of America’s National Guard and Reserve members. ROA will present Latham the award at the association’s National Security Symposium here Jan. 31.

Congressman Tom Latham
“The ROA Minuteman of the Year Award truly is one of the greatest honors I’ve received during my service to Iowans in Congress. I extend my gratitude to the Reserve Officers Association for all the tireless and important advocacy work they do for our citizen-soldiers,” said Latham. “But most importantly, I want to thank the men and women of our armed services who, along with their families, have sacrificed so much for our country and freedom's cause. Their heroism is an inspiration for every American.”

In the 111th Congress, Rep. Latham introduced legislation to remove a fiscal year barrier to existing early retirement statutes permitting full credit for time spend on deployment. He also cosponsored legislation to extend TRICARE coverage to “gray-area” Reserve retirees and worked to make the changes to early retirement retroactive to cover all who served after Sept. 11, 2001. He introduced language to amend title 38, United States code, to provide veterans greater access to health services outside of those offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In previous Congresses, Latham authored and led bipartisan efforts to pass the Guard and Reserve Readiness Retention Act, which allows all Guard and Reserve members to purchase military health coverage for their families under the TRICARE Reserve Select program on a continuous basis, and the National Guard and Reserve Retirement Modernization Act to overhaul reserve retirement. In addition, he led the charge to increase funding and research on treating war injuries to the extremities suffered by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and has supported appropriations legislation that increased funding for VA medical care by 100 percent since 2001.

The Minuteman of the Year Award is presented annually to one who has contributed most to National Security. It is customarily given to a member of the Congress or Executive Branch.

The Reserve Officers Association is the 60,000-member professional association for all uniformed services of the United States. Chartered by Congress and in existence since 1922, ROA advises and educates the Congress, the President, and the American people on national security, with unique expertise on issues that affect the 1.5 million men and women now serving in America’s Reserve Components.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Congress Recesses

Last week, Congress recessed from session for the fall break and to prepare for the Nov. 2 national elections. All of the members of Congress and about 1/3 of the Senate will be up for re-election. Congress is expected to return Nov. 15 for a lame duck session, with just 10 days until Thanksgiving.

The results of the election will determine the nature of the legislation being considered during the lame duck session. Neither the National Defense Authorization nor the Defense Appropriations bills have been passed. Funding the government will be one of the topics that will be approached, but whether this is done in a single omnibus bill or the separate bills for federal agencies is not yet determined, if any budget appropriations are passed at all. Earlier Congresses have used continuing resolutions that have passed budgeting from one Congress to the next.

While the only lame duck session that has been discussed is in November, it is likely that Congress will continue into December. Affecting the Senate in the lame duck is the fact that Illinois, West Virginia, and Deleware will be sending new Senators to the lame duck, as the current members filling those seats are appointees. If party affiliations change with any of those seats, the delegate balance between majority and minority will be further affected. The Senate requires a 60 vote majority on bills to limit debate, which becomes crucial when there is little time left before the end of the year.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Air Force Receives First Production C-5M

MARIETTA, Ga. – The first modernized production-rate C-5M Super Galaxy flew into the Air Force inventory at a ceremony here Sept. 30, permanently changing the capabilities of long haul strategic airlift.
After an avionics upgrade, a new set of engines and a total of 70 other improvements, legacy C-5A and B models are re-designated as C-5Ms. Lockheed Martin, the aircraft’s manufacturer, invited The Reserve Officer to Marietta to attend the ceremony and climb around the production line.

To date, three system development and demonstration C-5s have gone through the modernization process, one A-model and 2 B-models. These aircraft along with 2 C-17s conducted a series of tests to compare the enhanced capabilities of the C-5Ms, performing with higher than expected results and breaking 42 world records.

Because of the increased performance of their new General-Electric engines in both thrust capacity and fuel consumption, the C-5M has a steeply higher climb rate, greater range and can carry more payload than its legacy. All of those stats cut the time it takes to deliver the same amount of cargo in half, and do so more efficiently, quieter, and with a reduced carbon footprint.

Inside the Air Force reports the Defense Acquisition Board plans to review the C-5 Reliability Enhancement and Re-engining program Oct. 7 to go into full production.

Current planning has a total of 52 C-5s slated for modernization on a fixed-cost contract, each costing the Air Force $82 million. Modernizing causes a reduced total ownership cost over the life of the aircraft, which are expected to fly until 2040. The program essentially pays for itself and then saves an additional $9 billion, said Lockheed officials.

At this time, the service only plans to modernize its C-5B fleet, retiring 22 C-5As due to capacity issues with the strategic airlift fleet. This will leave 37 A-models required to meet mobility needs still flying, all of which will get an avionics upgrade to comply with regulations.

The Reserve and Guard primarily fly A-models, however there are associate wings that will get the new Super Galaxies as well as the 439th Airlift Wing at Westover Air Reserve Base.

Lorraine Martin, Lockheed's C-5M program manager, told The Reserve Officer there are discussions to reconsider re-engining the A-model aircraft as well.

LtGen Thomas Owen, Aeronautical Systems Center commander, said, "I think that's a good idea, but we're operating in a very fiscally constrained environment… Air Force leadership as well as Department of Defense leadership will be evaluating options in future years to see whether the dollars are available to modernize more than just the C-5B fleet."

The department would need to plan for such an upgrade in its fiscal year 2014 program objective memorandum to lock in current pricing, primarily because of the lead time the GE-built engines require, said Ms. Martin.
First Production C-5M takes its first flight Sept. 22