Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Post-9/11 GI Bill Success

The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 was passed by both chambers of Congress and is awaiting President Obama’s signature.

The legislation provides many improvements including Title 32 AGR eligibility; vocational, OJT, apprenticeship, flight training and other non-degree training; housing stipend for full-time distance learners; a book allowance for service members and their spouses enrolled while on active duty; upgraded subsistence allowance for disabled veterans using Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VRE) program benefits; coverage of multiple licensure and certification tests; and allowance of USPHS and NOAA Corps officers to transfer benefits to family members.

An unfortunate omission in an otherwise strong bill was Title 14 eligibility. ROA advocated for inclusion and will continue to push for its comprisal.

White House Afghanistan and Pakistan Report

In anticipation of the President Barack Obama’s report on Afghanistan and Pakistan, ROA’s legislative team attended the Center for a New American Security’s (CNAS) event “Responsible Transition: Securing U.S. Interests in Afghanistan Beyond 2011” early last week.

The presentation provided a fairly balanced assessment in which the speakers, LTG David Barno (Ret.), former commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, and Andrew Exum, former Army Ranger and civilian advisor to GEN Stanley McChrystal (Ret.), recommended that the key is for the U.S. to have a long-term strategic security relationship in the region and to ensure that our allies and partners in the region understand this.

When ROA asked what effects the deficit and inevitable budget cuts would have, the panel suggested that the reduction of force structure by transitioning to a residual force of about 25,000 to 30,000 as well as increasing special missions would help reduce the impact.

Further discussion revealed that there has been a lot of improvement in Afghanistan over the past year, such as in ground intelligence, and that the general forces and special operations have synced better. In President Obama’s annual report of Afghanistan and Pakistan, announced last Thursday, he also spoke about the achievements. The President stressed in his speech the importance of transition of security to the Afghan forces, increased cooperation with Pakistan, and the overarching goal to “…disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qa’ida."

Operational for what? Article examines future of Guard and Reserves

Andrew Gonyea
Communications Assistant

Since 2001 over 770,000 reserve component service members have been activated.  Winning in Iraq and Afghanistan has required a significant shift from a strategic to an operational reserve. As we move into an era of increasing defense budget constraints and internal competition for Pentagon resources, what role will the operational Guard and Reserves play?

ROA Current Issues: Operational Reserve

That question is the focus of a recent feature article in the National Defense University’s October 2010 Joint Forces Quarterly (JFQ).  Dr. John A. Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), and Travis Sharp, research associate at CNAS, see significant omissions in the 2010 U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) about what specific roles and missions the operational reserve will provide in the future.  This is a big problem, they note, because the longer it takes to address those omissions, the more likely it is that proper funding for maintaining an operational reserve will disappear.

The QDR cites the need for an operational reserve force for “preventing and deterring conflict” in the emerging international security environment, but fails to specify roles, missions, strength, capabilities, and necessary equipment.  To address those topics for the reserve components, a new review, to be completed by spring 2011, is being carried out by Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Dennis McCarthy, assistant secretary of defense for Reserve Affairs (and former ROA executive director).  It is expected that this review will be the subject of Secretary McCarthy’s presentation at ROA’s National Security Symposium Jan 31.

According to the article, Nagl and Sharp expect the review will recommend that the reserve components fulfill the following broad, significant missions:
•    Contribute to homeland defense and civil support capabilities
•    Assist partner nations in improving their own security capacity
•    Maintain awareness of capabilities, values, intent, and decision-making of potential adversaries
•    Support diplomatic and development efforts and strengthen governance
•    Extend global, forward defense posture
•    Protect defense infrastructure in space and cyberspace
•    Build tailored regional deterrence architectures and missile defenses
•    Overcome anti-access weaponry and tactics

The article states the reserve components already have a significant portion of the military’s capabilities in these areas. Among many contributions, the Army Reserve provides civil affairs capacity, expeditionary sustainment commands, military police commands, and information operations groups; the Air Force Reserve provides airlift, theater intelligence, and air operations center capacity; and the Navy Reserve provides Navy Expeditionary Combat Center forces for explosive ordinance disposal, construction and engineering, port and cargo handling, and building partner security capacity.

Despite these many important contributions, the reserve components, which make up 43 percent of the total force, consume just 9 percent of the Department of Defense (DoD) annual base budget. And with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down and competition for Pentagon resources increasing, Nagl and Sharp predict that some military leaders will suggest that the Reserves downsize and go back to a strategic status. Nagl and Sharp rightly point out that, especially after the past decade of serving side by side, it’s time to move past cross-component rivalries and focus on building a total force that utilizes properly-funded, properly-employed Guard and Reserves.

Read the full article – Operational for What? The Future of the Guard and Reserves.

ROA remains committed to appropriately funding and equipping the operational reserve needed to keep America safe in the 21st century.

ROA Resolution No. 09-04 – Management of Operational and Strategic Forces of the Reserve Components

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Post-9/11 GI Bill Improvements Pass in the Senate

CAPT Marshall Hanson
ROA Legislative Director

S.3447, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010, was passed by the Senate earlier this week and sent to the House for consideration. The bill streamlines the new GI Bill for those who have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001 and expands opportunities for training and education by paying benefits for on-job and vocational training. The office of the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has informed The Military Coalition that they intend to bring S.3447 to the House floor on the suspension calendar this week, likely on Thursday. To pass the bill off the suspension calendar, a two-thirds vote will be required.

ROA members can contact their House elected officials at if they wish to seek support. By placing your zip code in the light blue box, you can access the contact pages for your member of congress.

Introduced by Senate Veterans Affairs Chairman Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), committee members and veterans service organizations worked together to bring improvements to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. ROA has been told that these changes will actually save about $700 million over ten years. "Today the Senate reaffirmed our commitment to assisting veterans pursuing education, for the benefit of the young men and women in the armed services and as an investment in the future of our nation," Akaka said.

Veteran status bill fails in the Senate

CAPT Marshall Hanson
ROA Legislative Director

The Veteran Status bill (H.R.3787) appears to have died with a wimper in the Senate. This was the bill that would have extended veteran status to Guard and Reserve members who have qualified for retirement after 20 years of service, but who have never been activated long enough to satisfy VA requirements to be recognized as a veterans. Hotlined for passage in the Senate by Majority Leader Harry Reid, one senator, Jim Webb (D-Va.) blocked its passage in 2010, as the Senate rules require unanimous consent.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), passed the House on Sept. 28, 2010 and was then sent to the Senate. ROA and other associations worked to get the bill up for consideration. Contacts were made with Veterans Affairs Chairman Daniel Akaka, who permitted it to pass through his committee without consideration, which enabled Reid to put in on a fast track. Webb’s office was hesitant to release the hold, fearing that there was a cost behind the bill, even though the Congressional Budget Office said that any cost would be negligible. Further concerns were that the Veteran Service Organizations might object, but this proved to be a non-issue as well. Webb still insists that this issue can’t come to a vote without there first being hearings. Unfortunately, hearings can’t be scheduled until 2011. Webb is the chairman of the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee, and a committee member on Veterans Affairs.

ROA Current Issues: Veterans Affairs

Walz has reassured ROA that he will be reintroducing the bill in January. Rep. Joe Miller (R-Fla.) will be the new chairman of the House Veterans Affairs committee in the 112th Congress, and was a cosponsor of Walz’s bill this past year. Passage in the Senate remains an important priority for ROA next year, but a new champion will be need to work the bill in that chamber.

ROA and members of The Military Coalition worked with Senator Blanche Lincoln’s (D-Ark.) office on this bill throughout the year. In support of the issue the senator introduced S.1780 and S.3875 which were cosponsored by Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) , Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). Lincoln was ROA’s Minute Man of the Year in 2010, but was not reelected in last November’s election.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

House Armed Services Committee Holds Hearings on PME

Bob Feidler
Director, Defense Education Forum

On November 28, the Investigations and Oversight Committee of the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing to review Professional Military Education issues and receive reaction to a House report on that topic issued earlier this year. A panel of witnesses reflecting various elements of the Department of Defense and the services broadly praised the House report for documenting the evolution of PME and citing various problems that still existed and potential solutions.

ROA White Paper: Senior service school distance education program graduates, who meet JCS accreditation standards, should receive Joint Professional Military Education Phase II credit

The panel noted that the military has a range of evaluation techniques they now employ to ascertain if the substance and methodologies of PME meet the needs of both the students and the Combatant Commands. DoD requested support for an amendment to the law that would extend the number of sites at which the Joint Military Professional Education (JPME) program now presented at the Joint Forces Staff College (JFSC) might be given. Each COCOM as well as the Pentagon would become sites where the JPME program might be offered. This would enhance, marginally, the ability of RC officers who might be serving at these locations to more easily take the JPME program and receive Phase II credit toward attaining their Joint Qualified Officer (JQO) status.

Retired Maj. Gen. David R. Bockel, executive director of ROA, visits the Gettysburg
battlefield with expert guides provided by the U.S. Army War College as part of the
College's 2010 Distance Learning residency final week.
For RC officers today, it is difficult to obtain the Phase II credit. Phase II credit is extended only to in-residence graduates of the senior service schools, not to the distance learning graduates despite the fact that they often have a similar curriculum and also receive a Masters degree as do their AC counterparts. The DL students take roughly two years of non-resident distance learning programs as well as four weeks in residence for which they only receive Phase I credit. To achieve Phase II-like credit, they must also attend the JFSC non-resident program entitled AJPME – ten months of distance learning and four weeks in residence. For many RC officers, this is asking too much in terms of time and commitment.

ROA has been pushing to award senior service school graduates the Phase II credit in recognition that their educational experience is very similar to that of the resident graduates. If it is felt that the “affected” learning – being in close contact for 9 months with classmates from other services – is essential, perhaps adding a couple of weeks of intense Joint related training for the RC students, in addition to their four weeks in residence, might satisfy the need joint interaction. It would qualify many more RC officers and at minimal cost. Right now, RC officers serve on many Joint staffs and do so with distinction – there is no evidence that a non-resident graduate of the senior service schools is lacking in any way.

The committee did inquire about issues faced by RC officers in achieving JPME Phase II credit. It was acknowledged by the panel that there were issues in getting sufficient numbers of RC students into residence “seats” for the two highest educational levels – senior service school and CAPSTONE. The witness panel also suggested that distance learning had come a long way over the past ten years and now offered many opportunities for the non-resident students to interact with classmates from other services. One of the panelists was going to be at the Naval War College next week to review the various creative ways that distance learning students might receive their education in a way that provided them the joint experience.

Although the Subcommittee appeared to have some interest in the issue of RC officers having a greater opportunity to obtain the Phase II credit, they also appeared to wish to proceed methodically. A comment from one member was that “an Army institution teaching joint methods might be a bridge too far.” The likely outcome is that no substantial progress – either with a permanent change to the law to ease the requirement that JPME II can only be obtained by a resident student or calling for a pilot program re: the RC – is likely to be adopted in the upcoming NDAA11. It is possible that the committee will agree to expand the number of sites the JPME course can be given by the JFSC. But all is dependent upon passing an NDAA this year. No NDAA, no change.