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President’s Budget FY2019 – Reductions and Eliminations

Posted By Susan Lukas, Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The President’s Budget included a document titled: AN AMERICAN BUDGET OF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET | OMB.GOV FISCAL YEAR 2019 MAJOR SAVINGS AND REFORMS. An extract of the document recommendations that outline reductions or elimination of government programs is provided for those items that would most likely affect National Guard and Reserve members.



Change Retirement Calculation from High-3 years to High-5 years—Currently, Federal retirement annuity calculations are based on the average of the Federal employee's three highest salary-earning years. Private sector pension companies commonly base employee annuity calculations on the employee's five highest salary-earning years, a formula more representative of an employee's career earnings track record. Switching the Federal employee annuity formula from a "High-3" to a "High-5" calculation would create greater alignment with the private sector.


Eliminate FERS COLA, Reduce CSRS COLA by 0.5 percent—FERS and CSRS COLAs for annuitants are currently determined based on statutory formulas tied to the Consumer Price Index. However, FERS annuitants are somewhat protected from economic effects, because their retirement packages include Social Security benefits and TSP, in addition to the FERS annuity. Eliminating the FERS COLA and reducing the CSRS COLA payments would reduce both FERS and CSRS annuity benefits, bringing compensation more in line with the private sector.



Reduce the G Fund Interest Rate—This proposal includes a change to the "G" fund, an investment vehicle available only through the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a defined contribution plan for Federal Government employees. G Fund investors currently benefit from receiving a medium-term rate of return on what is essentially a short-term security. Basing the yield on a short-term T-bill rate instead of the current rate (an average of medium and long-term Treasury bond rates) would reduce both the projected rate of return to investors and the cost of the fund to the Treasury.



USPS must also have the flexibility to raise the revenue necessary to support their operations. (i.e. increase postal rates)



Under this proposal, the Government contribution would range between 65-75 percent (currently 72%) depending on a plan's performance. This proposal would encourage enrollment in high-performing health plans. Under the current structure, enrollees have few incentives to choose less expensive, higher value plans. This proposal would incentivize enrollees to select high-performing, high-value plans by making them more affordable. The proposal would also provide carriers with greater incentive to compete on price and quality, help driving down overall program costs.



Increase employee contributions to 50 percent of cost, phased in at 1 percent per year. By increasing the employee share, the Federal Government's costs would be reduced. To mitigate the impact on employees, this provision would be phased in over several years, with individuals contributing an additional one percent of their salary each year.


Veteran Affairs

Each year, veterans in receipt of certain disability benefits receive a yearly COLA increase to ensure that the purchasing power of VA benefits is not eroded by inflation. For nearly 15 years, until 2013, VA rounded down payment rates to all disability compensation beneficiaries. This proposal would reinstate that round-down, which has only a minimal impact, estimated at no more than $12 per year on individual veterans. The savings from this proposal are designated to partially offset the costs of unifying the veterans community care program.


Post 9/11 GI Bill

The Post-9/11 GI Bill provides eligible veterans with full tuition and fees at public universities, and tuition and fees at private universities up to a cap of about $22,800 per year. Over the past several years, certain public schools have been offering flight training, often through contracts with private institutions at a cost significantly higher than other courses of study. Capping the benefit at the maximum benefit provided for private schools would maintain a robust benefit but would reduce the likelihood that VA would pay excessive amounts for these programs. The savings from this proposal are designated to partially offset the costs of unifying the veterans community care program.


Student Loans

To simplify student loan repayment, the Budget proposes a single IDR plan that provides a pathway to debt relief for struggling borrowers. All new borrowers would pay 12.5 percent of their discretionary income. For borrowers with undergraduate student debt only, any balance remaining after 15 years of repayment would be forgiven. For borrowers with any graduate debt, any balance remaining after 30 years of repayment would be forgiven.


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ROA National Chaplain's Thoughts: The War to End All Wars

Posted By ROA National Staff, Thursday, November 9, 2017



A Spiritual Fitness message from the ROA National Chaplain

Armistice Day

Veterans Day 2017

Psalm 27


Celebrating special events and days are part of American life. It is good that we mark those days not only in our history but for our future. It seems to me, there is a necessary connection between our history and knowing just who we are in the present to confidently face our future with more wisdom and fortitude.


In the “war events of history” one characteristic toward the destruction of the identity of a person has been for the “conquering” group to attempt to erase the past of a “conquered” people. The implications of that subject are for another time. This year America has been marking the one-hundred-year anniversary of the end of World War I. It was also known as the Great War and The War to End All Wars.


I can still hear my mother and father speaking of that historical moment when the world focused on the day when peace returned to the world. The fight had been long, hard, costly (in lives) and with the signing event, war would end. The hope was that organizations could be formed to aid in peaceful resolutions to the greed, selfishness, desire for control and violence of mankind. The world would change, peace for all, festivities and freedom would abound.


It happened on the 11th day, 11th month, the 11th hour. Church bells rang, radios blasted joyful music, ticker tape parades marched, horns blasted loudly and people laughed and filled churches. My mother reminded me that my great-grandfather died that day as a casualty of an epidemic of flu which swept our Nation. Later, after peace did not reign, that day was changed to Veterans Day to include all serving in America’s military.


I receive my hometown newspaper even though I have not lived there for many years. It is reflective of where I was born, trained and educated. There is a column in that newspaper of the news of 1917. Each week this year I have attempted to read that column.


It is a country town, small where nearly everyone there knows everyone else. To read that column today is a reminder to me of that local community’s support to WW I. There is hardly a week gone by but what I read of a particular traditional value, principle, code of conduct or act of support for the efforts to win in that war. Space would not allow me to even begin to highlight those reminders for this Spiritual Fitness column.


One thing that I could see was those values were reflected in my life giving me strength and standards held in my adult years today. There seems to have been a passing of values and traditions from that generation to my father’s generation to me. Unity of Service, singleness of purpose, Biblical foundation building blocks, prayer, patriotic actions, memorization of sections of history and literature with deep meaning, the modeling of my teachers and community leaders, skills, talents, resources, even beyond my limitations all gave me an optimism that I could achieve and dream which at the time might appear impossible.


My teachers instilled in me I could do this by getting an education beyond my high school, build a life in serving based upon Biblical principles, giving God permission to influence me from the inside out. Doing so would lead me in service to others and change the world not by protest but by example recognizing that we are people created by God.


We are special and I must get to know them as neighbors, becoming friends with those leading the American dream of a world shaped with principles of a republic and a democracy. The tried, true and traditional values of truth, honesty, morality, fairness, and dignity of life are real and necessary for a strong, respectful and prosperous society.


My teachers and elected governmental officials were expected to be models of what we were taught. Someone said long ago that when war comes, you go to war with what you have. While not all may agree, there is much truth in that statement. The World Wars of I and II are such examples.


History has recorded for us their sacrificial acts of preserving freedom, defeating anarchy and upholding respect for life. Men and women who answered the call to arms, not for the freedom for people to do as they please, but the freedom to do what is morally and ethically right.


Perhaps that is why the victories of WWI gave us the labels “War to end all Wars” and then WWII “The Greatest Generation”. They brought to war with them the ethics and moral principles of their families and communities.


I stand to attention and salute not only the men and women who served in those two wars but all who served and are still serving, in any capacity for the defeat of anarchy and dictatorships around the world. Oh, my, I humbly wonder what values I have passed on to my children and now my grandchildren!!


Grace and Peace,



Sherman Reed

CH (COL) Sherman R. Reed, USA, (ret)

Army Reserve Ambassador, Emeritus

ROA National Chaplain



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ROA analysis: Firing people won’t fix the Navy’s problems

Posted By Administration, Saturday, September 30, 2017
The Navy has a heritage of holding the senior-most officer personally responsible for any and all failures in their command.  However, in the current environment this may be exacerbating and hiding the actual causes of the problems.  Four collisions in PACOM, 17 Sailors dead.  Twnety Marines dead in aviation mishaps this year.  In total, since June, 56 uniformed members were killed or injured in training or regular operational maneuvers. Just since June!
Is it enough?  I hope so. READ MORE>

Tags:  captain  collisions  Navy 

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ROA Attends Meeting Outlining Arlington National Cemetery’s Future

Posted By Administration, Sunday, June 25, 2017
Arlington National Cemetery is set to reach maximum capacity by the early 2040s. A Congressionally mandated report by the Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery has proposed several options for extending that capacity well into the future in order to serve the nation’s servicemembers and veterans. The Reserve Officers Association presents a summary and analysis of that report, and offers its positions on the future of Arlington National Cemetery.

Click here to find out more about ROA’s positions and counter proposals.

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Federal and State Laws Protect Military Students on Orders

Posted By Cdr. Wayne L. Johnson, JAGC, Navy (Ret.), Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017

Federal law and regulations (in some states) protect active duty, guard and Reserve military personnel who are attending post-secondary education schools if they must miss school due to military orders.

Federal law and regulation have the greatest protective impact on a “veteran” who is now attending school and who is also in the Guard or Reserves. The only time the federal law would not directly protect a veteran is when the veteran is not in any reserve or active duty military status.  (It’s conceivable that knowledge of the law might encourage a person, veteran or not, to join the military in some capacity, knowing that many disruptions to one’s education due to service on military orders would now be ameliorated to some degree.

In 2010, the Department of Education published regulations implementing the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008.  The regulations, 34 Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R) section 668.18, went into effect July 1, 2010.  The law is codified under 20 United States Code (U.S.C.) Section 1091c 

The law and regulations accord the post-secondary education student whose education was interrupted by voluntary or involuntary military service the right to readmission to the educational program. These requirements apply to any educational institution that participates in title IV federal student financial aid programs, including Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and the Federal Work-Study Program.

This applies to the student who is a member of the National Guard or Reserve and who is called to active duty involuntarily or volunteers for an extended period of active duty. It applies to the student who starts an educational program (often part-time) while on active duty and who then must interrupt the educational program because of a deployment or a Permanent Change of Station (PCS). It also applies to a student who interrupts his or her education to enlist in a regular component of the armed forces. Such a person is entitled, as a matter of federal law, to resume the educational program later, either during or after the person’s active duty service.

EXTRA NOTE FOR RESERVE AND GUARD PERSONNEL:  There may be instances where your active military service due to its short duration (or, for National Guard personnel, how one is mobilized) does not receive federal education protection -- see the April 2012 Executive Order below.  In those cases, check your state government laws, as they often provide additional protections. Some states even give the service member the ability to sue the school for violating the state’s law.  Currently 21 states have their own laws in this area:  Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.


Servicemembers Opportunities Colleges

Policy Letters, Federal Law, State Laws, and Governing Policies   SOC was established in 1972 to help meet the voluntary higher education needs of servicemembers.  SOC is a Department of Defense (DoD) contractor supporting government-sponsored education programs funded through a DoD-managed contract with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). 

U.S. Department of Education

Readmission of Servicemembers to Postsecondary Institutions

Frequently Asked Questions: Institutional Readmission Requirements for Servicemembers

Reserve Officers Association (ROA)

ROA LAW REVIEW  No. 17019, March 2017:  Presidential Executive Order 13607 Establishes Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members, April 27, 2012: Expanded Coverage of 34 CFR 668.18 To Include Mobilizations of 30 Days or Fewer 

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 15039, May 2015:  Federal Law Protects Students Called to the Colors during a Semester, But it Does not Help the Student who Must Miss a few Days for Drills or Annual Training

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 15038, May 2015:  Federal and State Laws Protect Students whose Educational Careers Are Interrupted by Military Service  (updates No. 13070)

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 13071, May 2013:  New Washington State Law Protects Students who Are Members of the National Guard or Reserve 

ROA LAW REVIEW No. 10052March 2017 (previously No. 1052):  Readmission of Servicemembers to Postsecondary Institutions -- Details Regarding the Department of Education (DOE) Regulations Implementing the New Law on Mandatory Readmission of Mobilized Reserve and Guard and Active Duty Students

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Reservists and Veterans in Support of New Americans

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 18, 2017

By Lt. Col. L. Carter Crewe III, USAF (Ret.)

“We do not have you in our database as a U.S. citizen.”

The retired two-star Army general who quoted these words was sitting next to me during a recent veterans panel discussion calling for immigration policies that enhance military readiness. He got that frustrating answer, one that inaccurately reflected his citizenship status, when applying for Medicare benefits. One of our nation’s highest-ranking immigrant officers, with a distinguished military career spanning more than 34 years, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, USA (Ret.), had to prove his citizenship so that he could receive the benefits he earned as a naturalized citizen.

But clerical errors are the least of the unforeseen challenges and obstacles encountered by immigrant service members and their families. Continued inaction on the part of Congress to reform our outdated federal immigration system is also weakening our ability to strengthen our national security and our efforts to enhance our military readiness as we prepare to face global challenges.

Immigration laws are relevant to everyone who serves our country in uniform. Immigrant soldiers have served in every conflict since our nation was founded. Consequently, both reservist’s and veteran’s communities must find a unified voice on this issue.

To seek answers on the many challenges faced by our immigrant service members, a new group, Veterans for New Americans, supports immigration policies that will benefit our veterans, service members and the military overall. A project of the National Immigration Forum, Veterans for New Americans is a national network of veterans from each branch of the military who are committed to ensuring that immigrants are fully included in our military readiness plans, to effectively meet any global or national security challenges.

In addition, we support immigrant service members by advocating for stronger efforts to inform them about how they can become citizens -- and encourage them to do so.

Finally, we support measures to ensure that new American veterans receive the care they deserve for service-related conditions, as well as support to reduce the risk of behaviors that may lead to deportation for the approximately 82,000 veterans who are legal permanent residents.

Recruitment, retention and developing the cultural intelligence required for global operations are continuing challenges for our armed forces. For example, the U.S. Army is now challenged to recruit 80,000 new soldiers, including the 15,400 needed for the U.S. Army Reserve. Each year, about 80,000 undocumented youth come of age without a clear path to legalize their immigration status. Many graduate from our high schools with strong academic records, have no criminal record and are able meet and exceed the physical requirements needed to join our military. Legislation like the ENLIST Act, introduced by U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham (CA-10), would allow undocumented youth to earn legalized status with military service, would help them fully integrate into and contribute to American society.

Given the dual role reservists have in society as citizen soldiers, we have an opportunity to voice our concerns on issues and situations connected with national security and military readiness that have a direct impact on the Reserve Component.

Immigration is no exception: reservists have the opportunity to support, encourage and educate our immigrant communities on the importance of supporting our men and women in uniform. As reservists and veterans, we can have a positive impact on our communities by serving as role models for immigrant youth and encouraging them to pursue military service as a rewarding way to stand up and contribute to their new country.

As a retired Air Force officer and reservist, I have gained a special appreciation for my immigrant brothers and sisters in uniform who have put themselves in harm’s way on behalf of all Americans. We should all be proud of the countless contributions and acts of selfless sacrifice made by immigrants on active duty, in the reserves and National Guard, as well as veterans and their families. Today, more than ever, we must honor their tremendous contributions by updating our national immigration laws to fully address the unique immigration challenges new American veterans and their families face — and to help ensure our continuing force readiness. 

Lt. Col. L. Carter Crewe III, USAF (Ret.), is Co-Chair, Veterans Advisory Committee for Veterans Association of North County (Oceanside, California) and a member of ROA and Veterans for New Americans.

To join Veterans for New Americans as a Reservist and veteran, please contact Octavio Hinojosa, National Coordinator, at ohinojosamier@bbbimmigration.org.

Tags:  naturalized citizens 

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SIANC-NCS Spotlights Reserve Capacities

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, January 11, 2017

By  U.S. Fleet Forces Command Public Affairs Reserve Component

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (NNS) – This past August, U.S. Fleet Forces Command (USFFC) Reservists welcomed eight foreign navies to Naval Air Station (NAS) Jacksonville, Florida, for the Specialized Inter-American Naval Conference on Naval Control of Shipping (SIANC-NCS), an off-set of the bi-annual Inter-American Naval Conference (IANC), usually held by rotating host nations every other year.  The directives produced by the IANC are exclusively managed by the Navy Reserve through the Navy’s Naval Cooperation for Guidance and Shipping (NCAGS) organizations. In keeping with that precedent, and to showcase of the breadth of skill and capacity in the reserve force, the conference itself was managed entirely by reservists from Buffalo, Chicago, Houston, New York, Norfolk and Washington, DC among other cities across the nation.

The reservists, who had been planning every aspect of the international conference since February of 2016, fully embodied the mission of the Navy Reserve to “deliver strategic depth and operational capability.”  As testament to that diverse experience, the 23-person team included industry executives, New York City police officers, an exotic pet distributor, a Harvard graduate, an aesthetician, a Notre Dame alumni association board member, a food service staffer, a former Fulbright Scholar, and a champion runner.

Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Bravo, a Broken Hill Proprietary Billiton Completions Engineer, remarked:  “The skillsets we develop in our civilian roles enhance our military training and enable us to quickly adapt to any scenario.  We are ready now, anytime, anywhere.”

The reservists’ broad base of experience was immediately recognized and appreciated by the naval delegations in attendance.  Capt. Jesus Lopez Vallejo of the Mexican Navy explains, “Lt. Anthony Bravo is an excellent example – he was there the moment I arrived in Florida, helped us overcome a tri-lingual language barrier throughout the conference, and ensured I had a positive firsthand experience with the U.S. Navy.”  Lopez Vallejo was surprised to learn that Bravo was a reservist, due to Bravo’s depth of Navy knowledge.  “Reservists’ ability to be a civilian and then a navy officer the next day is very impressive. If reservists didn’t exist our national friendships wouldn’t exist.”

This year marked the first time in more than 12 years the U.S. has hosted the conference, which first convened in 1959. NAS Jacksonville was selected due to its importance to the U.S. Navy, waterway shipping, and all that it offers as a destination conference city. The conference underscores the U.S. Navy’s position as a key contributor to inter-American shipping as well as the value the Navy places on its productive maritime partnerships.

Accordingly, this year’s conference focused on the sharing of knowledge, the exchange of ideas, and the development of insights among each country’s navy towards greater hemispheric solidarity. In addition to the U.S., navies represented include those of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. Over the course of the conference, each attending nation delivered a presentation focused on this year’s theme, “Exchanging Information to Strengthen Partnerships.”

Rear Adm. Chris Sadler, USFFC reserve deputy director of maritime operations served as senior U.S. Navy representative. 

“This conference is a great example of how we support the Fleet. Since NCAGS is a 100 percent reserve mission, it only makes sense that we should play such a large role in this conference,” said Sadler. “The maritime shipping and language expertise our reservists bring to the plate are essential to getting the job done and building the relationships that are so valuable in working with our partner navies.” 

While they were in Jacksonville, conference organizers also arranged for delegates to visit a static display of the P8 Poseidon aircraft hosted by  Patrol Squadron Sixteen (VP-16), a trip to American retail shops, and eating American hot dogs at a Jacksonville Suns baseball game.

In the Reserve and among our international partners, “trust cannot be surged,” concluded Sadler, quoting a familiar saying.

So, as intended, with the help of reservists, the conference reinforced participants’ and organizers’ appreciation for and trust in each other, well in advance of need.

Tags:  Reserve Capabilities  SIANC 

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A Proposed Model for a Public Health Service Officer Reserve

Posted By ROA, Tuesday, November 22, 2016


By Col. James T. Currie, USA (Ret.), Ph.D.
There has been considerable discussion about the need to create a true reserve corps for the U.S. Public Health Service. The current PHS reserve does not provide the augmentation to active duty forces that are afforded to the federal military services by their reserve components. This paper represents an attempt by someone who is familiar with military reserve forces, especially those of the U.S. Army, to suggest a workable structure for a true PHS reserve corps.

I spent most of my thirty years of Army service as a member of the United States Army Reserve, including the Selected Reserve (troop program units and the Individual Mobilization Augmentee program) and the Individual Ready Reserve. I am also co-author of the official history of the U.S. Army Reserve: Twice the Citizen: A History of the United States Army Reserve, 1908-1995 (Washington, DC: Chief of the U.S. Army Reserve, 1997). Researching and writing this book afforded me a unique perspective from which to understand the rationale behind the creation of the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC), which was the first federal military reserve organization. (The National Guard traces its lineage to a Massachusetts unit that was organized in the early seventeenth century, but these are state forces, and in 1908 there was some question about whether they could be accessed by national authorities). It also gives historical lessons as to how a reserve component for the USPHS might be structured.

The U.S. Army Medical Reserve Corps, predecessor to today’s Army Reserve, was created in 1908 as a result of lessons learned from the Spanish-American War. In 1898 the Army had a complement of physicians that was sufficient in number to take care of its needs in peacetime. When war with Spain occurred in, however, the Army grew in size, injuries from combat and disease suddenly became an issue, and the Army recognized that it did not have enough physicians on its rolls. “Contract surgeons” augmented those in the Army ranks, just as they had during the Civil War (1861-1865), but these civilian doctors were not as flexible in their assignments as were those in uniform. They could not necessarily be sent where they were most needed, as could doctors in uniform.

The Army leadership of the time decided that the answer to a wartime physician shortage was to reach into the civilian community and offer Reserve commissions to physicians who would agree to come onto active duty in time of war. To attract civilian doctors, the Army contacted the most prominent among them: the Mayo brothers, offering them commissions as lieutenant colonels (O-5s) in the Medical Reserve Corps. Recruitment into the Medical Reserve Corps went so well that it was soon expanded to include nurses and ambulance drivers. The ranks of the MRC had reached 160,000 by the time the United States entered World War I in 1917. From this modest beginning has come today’s U.S. Army Reserve, a force of about 450,000, including 4,000 Individual Mobilization Augmentees.

It is this last category of reservists—IMAs—which I believe offers the best model for a USPHS reserve. IMA soldiers are assigned to a particular Army unit or organization and perform 12 days of active duty a year. If they fall into the category of “Drilling IMA,” they also perform two days of duty a month at their assigned station. There are both commissioned officer and enlisted soldier IMAs in the Army, but for now, I will focus only on the officer side. Many of these IMAs previously served on active duty and then embarked on civilian careers that develop skills needed by the Army but for which enough active duty positions have not been provided. The author, for example, was for five years a drilling IMA with the Army’s Office of Legislative Liaison in the Pentagon. This is the office that represents the Army to Capitol Hill, and as a former Hill staffer, I was a logical fit to augment the active duty soldiers and civilians who worked there. As a Reserve colonel, I performed active duty each year when an active duty colonel in the office wanted to take a vacation. I was as knowledgeable about the Congress as were the officers who served regularly in OCLL, thus the office did not lose capacity because a Reserve officer had taken a position there.

This could be the model for the Commissioned Corps of the USPHS. The idea would be to contact civilians who have the skills required to be an officer in the Commissioned Corps of the USPHS and offer them Reserve commissions, the rank to be determined in the same manner as active duty PHS accessions. These officers would go through the Officer Basic Course with active duty PHS officers and would be assigned to fill a billet that would correspond with one held by an active duty PHS officer.

The benefits would be immediate. Using the Indian Health Service as an example, a Reserve physician or dentist or nurse or pharmacist would be called to active duty whenever one of the clinicians at a particular IHS facility wanted to take two weeks of vacation time or depart their job at the IHS to go on a deployment. As the system works now, officers assigned to the IHS are frequently denied the opportunity to deploy because the leadership of the IHS feels that they cannot endure the shortage of that particular officer’s skills. Having a Reserve physician or dentist or nurse or pharmacist available to fill the billet occupied by the active duty PHS officer would allow the active duty officer to deploy or take vacation without degrading the quality of care provided at the IHS facility to which they are assigned. This would be particularly effective if the PHS Reserve IMA regularly completed 12-day tours at the facility to which they were assigned.

Exact costs of implementing a PHS Reserve IMA program are hard to estimate, as there are many variables. It is anticipated that the cost of the program would largely fall onto the agency or department to which the Reserve PHS augmentee was assigned, as that is where most of the benefits would accrue. Even if Reserve PHS officers were afforded the same benefits as federal military IMA officers, the costs would not be great.

The benefit to the employing agency is that they would have the services of a qualified clinician who could augment the full-time staff, filling in when an active duty PHS officer was absent. The benefit for the Commissioned Corps officers would be palpable. Agencies would not be reluctant to release an officer for deployment if they knew that a qualified replacement would be immediately available. The benefit to the augmentee would be the privilege of serving in uniform, qualifying for some no-cost benefits like exchange and commissary, and perhaps ultimately qualifying for a modest retirement. The benefit for the Public Health Service itself would be enormous. It would instantly create a corps of prominent civilian supporters in every state, thus increasing understanding of the Commissioned Corps and its mission at the local level and greatly increasing the corps’ recognition and acceptance in the Congress.

We know that there has been some discussion of using the Coast Guard Reserve as a model for the USPHS. We think that the Army IMA model might be a better fit for the Commissioned Corps, and we urge the Office of the Surgeon General to explore such as an alternative to a Coast Guard model.

Tags:  Officer Reserve  Proposed Reserve Model  USPHS 

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‘Lateral entry’: Direct commissioning of civilians, a pro and con

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, August 3, 2016



Jeffrey E. Phillips, Maj. Gen., USA (Ret.)
ROA Executive Director

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in June announced a second “tranche” of initiatives in his Force of the Future program designed to position the department for, well, the future.  Among those initiatives was the reliably controversial “lateral entry” proposal.  Secretary Carter recognizes that the military doesn’t always produce every type of expert it needs.  He wants the ability to “laterally” bring volunteers with the needed skills into uniformed service at an appropriate rank (and subject to the UCMJ and rigor of military command).

“In situations where, for example, a network defense or encryption expert from a tech company feels a call to serve and is willing to contribute to the DoD mission as a reservist or on active duty, the department needs a way to harness their expertise and put it to use,” Carter said, according to a June 2016 DoD release. “Allowing the military services to commission a wider segment of specialized outside talent … who can meet our standards, who provide unique skills we need and who are willing to serve in uniform will help fill critical gaps in our force and will make us more effective.”

I specifically advocated this innovation to Secretary Carter in an early 2016 meeting, noting that the idea of lateral entry is not new.  Just months after Pearl Harbor, Army Chief of Staff Gen. George C. Marshall made film director Frank Capra a major.  Marshall needed a skilled filmmaker to help the war effort and the Army had no such expertise. Major Capra produced the Why We Fight series showing troops why America was going to war and why they were being called on to risk their necks. 


“Now, Capra, I want to nail down with you a plan to make a series of documented, factual-information films – the first in our history – that will explain to our boys in the Army why we are fighting, and the principles for which we are fighting,” Marshall told the filmmaker. “You have an opportunity to contribute enormously to your country and the cause of freedom. Are you aware of that, sir?”


The 1943 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Capra an Academy Award (later the “Oscar”) for Best Documentary film of 1942 for the Why We Fight film Prelude to War. 

It is worth noting that in 1942, conscription gave the nation access to any able-bodied adult, yet the Army still had to “reach out” for a specific expert – and recognized that such an expert needed significant commissioned rank.

In his book, Bleeding Talent, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Tim Kane explores the military’s centralized personnel systems and what he sees as their corrosive effect on retention.  Kane criticizes the inability of the military to accommodate lateral entry from outside, as it has done before with good effect.

One obvious objection (one I considered in helping develop ROA’s position on the matter) involves the integrity of the culture.  The concern is that a civilian injected into the military, especially as a field grade officer, without acculturation and years of training, will weaken the integrity of the military culture.  After all, being an officer is more than learning how to salute (and what to salute) and so forth . . .

And yet, and yet, we already do this: our doctors come in as officers with less military training and seasoning than a “line” officer of equivalent rank; the same might be said of our lawyers.  Yet their performance – or effect on military culture – is rarely the subject of serious criticism.

Consider the United States Marine Band, “The President’s Own.”  By all accounts, it is an integral and even beloved component of the Corps.  But Marine bandsmen don’t go through “Parris Island” basic training; they are expert musicians recruited directly into the Marine Corps.  With minimal training, they don the uniform and perform to the adulation and respect of all, including their Corps brethren. 

The Reserve could be home to a revival of this enlightened way of selectively accessing specialized expertise; the Reserve could even be responsible for identifying capabilities needed and candidates for accession. For example, in addition to cyber and with the evolving nature of military operations, experts in macroeconomics and advanced finance may well be critical to a combatant commander; there is no military occupational specialty for these skills. 


The implementation of this proposal would dramatically expand both the expertise available to the military and the types of people potentially amenable to service.  Lateral entry would be a solid move toward enhancing civil-military relations; and most important, would increase the readiness of the total force.


Who knows, maybe we’d get another Oscar . . .



Dennis Laich, Maj. Gen., USA (Ret.)
Author of
Skin in the Game

I fully understand that the Department of Defense has a major problem attracting and retaining cyber talent.  I also understand that the problem is the result of the failure of senior civilian and uniformed bureaucrats at the Pentagon to anticipate and address the problem in a timely manner.  Globalization, the Internet, and social media did not suddenly appear.  Furthermore, this problem is a reflection of the limitations and failure of the All-Volunteer Force model of manning our military which gives an exemption from service to every citizen.


The   proposed “fix” by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to allow more “lateral entry” of lifelong civilians with “cyber skills” into the officer corps at ranks as high as O-6 is a monumental mistake with negative secondary and tertiary effects.  First, it weakens the military’s longstanding tradition of growing its own force, which is the foundation of its culture and social fabric, and the source of its effectiveness.  Lateral entry creates a tribe of outsiders disconnected from the career force.


Second, this initiative opens the door to a slippery slope that threatens the longstanding rank structure and organization of the military.  The “cyber-logic” could be applied to logistics, military police, and civil affairs, thereby demoralizing traditional careerists in these fields.  Third, a quick internet search reveals that the average annual salary of an undergraduate computer science or software engineering major is $86,000 per year (Monster.com).  The base pay of an O-6 with 10 years of service is $88,000 per year. 


“Financial patriotism” is not a factor in this situation.  If the lifelong civilian was not motivated to “volunteer” as an E-4 why would he or she be motivated to volunteer as an O-6?  Is the Pentagon selling rank and cheapening it at the same time?  It is unrealistic to think that a civilian with these skill sets would surrender his or her personal and professional autonomy for this tradeoff.


I suspect that very few would respond to this trumpet’s call, but the Pentagon would invite the unintended consequences of placing two centuries of tradition, culture, and effectiveness at risk.


The authors invite your comments using the blog site comment function.

Tags:  Direct commission Civilians  Pro/Con 

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Shouting Down Ideas And Shutting Down Options

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Wednesday, April 13, 2016
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Jeffrey Phillips, Executive Director

For those not familiar with Washington dysfunction: here is a prime example: a commission grappling with a tough issue (veterans’ health care) discusses some controversial ideas that don’t go over well with someone (in this case some veterans’ groups).  These advocates, who have for decades done good and dedicated work for veterans, nonetheless essentially disapprove of outsourcing veterans’ care, with some exceptions.  Yet, in a manner of speaking, veterans themselves have already shown readiness to make some decisions in this regard: only 9 million of the nation’s nearly 22 million veterans are enrolled in VA health care, and about 6 million vets are actually patients.  Thus about 16 million vets get their care elsewhere, many presumably eligible for VA enrollment but satisfied where they are. (Ever hear of a congressman, senator or president getting care at a VA hospital for anything more than a publicity shot?  – Pardon the pun . . .)  

From its website, the Commission on Care, established by Congress, is charged “to examine veterans’ access to VA health care and to examine strategically how best to organize the VHA [Veterans Health Administration], locate health resources, and deliver health care to veterans during the next 20 years.”  We have not taken any position on the commission’s work so far.  We are, however, deeply interested in a robust and open exploration of ways to improve veterans’ health care and benefits administration and delivery.  Many members of the reserve components use VA’s services and they deserve the best. 

One valid concern is that if you bleed VA hospitals of patients, doctor skills get rusty (this fear, by the way, is largely why DoD is letting retirees back into its military hospitals and clinics: fear of rusty doc).  VA health care is good care, once you get past the bureaucrats, secret wait lists, and so forth, to the actual clinicians -- who often also work at good private-sector hospitals (I once had excellent VA inpatient care from a VA doctor who also worked at a highly regarded DC hospital).  But like everything else in the country, VA care would benefit from competition.  (You should see the change in DC’s taxis after the arrival of a certain app-based transportation company that is helping transform the “taxi” business internationally.)

So forget ideas: instead of allowing the exploration and development of ideas – even ideas with which one may not agree – all too often the approach is to politicize, demonize, and smash the idea, insinuate it to death or discredit those associated with the idea.  In this case the idea is attacked in part because it arose allegedly outside some narrowly prescribed commission process (if you want ideas to consider, who really cares how they arose?).  Where would we be if the private sector worked this way? We’d still be using the abacus, the earth would still be flat, I’d be driving a Pinto . . .

Decreasing the brick-and-mortar component of a $182 billion-per-year federal system (it was under $50 billion in 2001) that now inhales well over $1 billion to build a hospital the private sector could likely build for half that (in less time), and allowing veterans more choice may indeed be a lousy idea; let a free, full, and public airing convince us of that. 

Otherwise the shout-down drill so characteristic of this polarized and paralyzed town shuts down options, choice, potential, and the very liberty that vets served in harm’s way expressly to preserve.

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