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DoD Fy 2017 Budget Submission: Blended Retirement System

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

According to DoD, as part of their FY17 budget submission, “In general, the Department supports the blended retirement system established by the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016.  However, DoD is proposing some modifications now to ensure that, when the new system goes into effect, it best meets the retention needs of the Services and our men and women in uniform.”

DOD PROPOSAL

EXPLANATION

ROA POSITION

CONTINUATION PAY

The Department seeks flexibility in the application of continuation pays in order to shape the force vice the NDAA, which provides a minimum continuation payment to all members at 12 years-of-service (YOS)  (ROA Supports).

ROA Supports.

TSP MATCHING  - Increase Matching to 6%

The Department seeks to increase TSP matching to 5 percent for a total contribution of 6 percent. The NDAA provides a 1 percent automatic TSP contribution to the Service member and up to 4 percent in TSP matching contributions for a total of 5 percent.

ROA Neutral.  We have found out this will probably not be supported on the Hill because they would be pressured to increase the contribution for civil servants.

TSP MATCHING - Delay to the 5th YOS

The Department seeks to amend the start date for matching service member TSP contributions to the first day of the fifth YOS generally aligning the start date with a service member’s second enlistment. The NDAA begins matching the first day of the third YOS.

ROA does not Support.  This would put servicemembers too far behind their civilian counterparts and reduce their 20 year retirement earnings.  For example, in a 20 year period it reduces matching contributions to having occurred for only 15 years.  For individuals retiring at the 20 year mark this significantly reduces their retirement.

TSP MATCHING

 

(Extend to Retirement Date)

The Department seeks to extend TSP matching contributions until the member’s retirement, similar to civilians covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System, while the NDAA ceases TSP matching contributions at 26 YOS.

ROA does not Support.  This could be seen as a bargaining tool for getting Congress to agree to delaying matching contributions for the first five years.  In actuality it reduces contributions for 100% of the force in the first 5 years, and shifts to less than 17% of the force that retires.  It also reduces the TSP earning power from more almost 50 years of potential gains to only 18-25 years of potential gains.  To be fair, some of those years could show a loss.

Example Current Blended Retirement:  Contributions would begin at the 3rd year of service but would stop at the 26th year for those individuals staying in for retirement.

100 PERCENT OF THE FORCE – Everyone who joins the service

 

Enlistment Age

Ages for Matching Contributions

Years of Service for Matching Contributions

Age for Drawing TSP

Period of Time for TSP Earnings

Enlisted

18

21, 22

3-4 YOS

70

49-48 years

Officer

22

25, 26

3-4 YOS

70

48-47 years

 

Example DoD Proposed Changes to Blended Retirement: Contributions would be delayed until the 27th year of service and only those individuals staying in for retirement would see contributions extended after serving 26 years or more of service.

17 PERCENT OF THE FORCE – Everyone who stays to retirement

 

Enlistment Age

Ages for Matching Contributions

Years of Service for Matching Contributions

Age for Drawing TSP

Period of Time for

TSP Earnings

Enlisted

18

45-48

27-30 YOS

70

25-22 years

Officer

22

49-52

27-30 YOS

70

21-18 years

 

BOTTOM LINE:  83 percent of the force loses the opportunity to receive matching contributions and let their money increase over a 45-48 year time span.  Additionally, their 20 year retirement will only have 15 years of matching contributions.

TSP MATCHING (Extend to Retirement Date)

As part of the FY 2017 budget, DoD has made several proposed changes to the new blended retirement plan.  One proposal would delay implementing the matching contribution until the 5th year of service (YOS).  Matching contributions would then be shifted to extend contributions from the 27th year and beyond until retirement. 

DoD Proposal

The Department seeks to extend TSP matching contributions until the member’s retirement, similar to civilians covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System, while the NDAA ceases TSP matching contributions at 26 YOS.

For the purposes of this discussion the data focuses on final retirement by the 30 year of service.  The chart shows that a total of 27,756 servicemembers retired by their 26th YOS versus 3,345 who retired from their 27th to 30th YOS.  This is not a better option than the current law which provides matching contributions to 100 percent of the military force beginning in their 3rd year.

Military Retirees Retired during FY2014

Statistical Report on the MRS - September 30, 2014, http://actuary.defense.gov/Portals/15/Documents/MRS_StatRpt_2014.pdf

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Obsession With Technology May Endanger Defense Capability

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Monday, January 25, 2016
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

A senior Air Force officer’s comments made in September illustrate the defense technocracy’s willingness to sacrifice proven and plentiful lower-tech weapon systems in pursuit of the alluring promise of technological advantage, endangering real combat capacity.

“Air Force Gen. Herbert. J. ‘Hawk’ Carlisle said Tuesday the raging debate over whether the A-10 or the F-35 is better equipped to perform close air support was totally missing the point on the future of the mission.

‘What we’ve got to talk about is how you do UCAS (unconventional close air support) better’, rather than which aircraft can do it better, the head of Air Combat Command said. ‘The discussion of what platform is going to replace the A-10 is ludicrous. We have to talk about how to do it better, and we do it better with technology’.

In a session with reporters, Carlisle called the A-10 ‘a fantastic airplane doing fantastic work down range’ in Iraq.

‘One of the questions I get is if you’re going to retire the A-10s why are you still using them in the fight? Well, that’s an easy answer. I don’t have enough capacity. I’ve got to use every single thing I’ve got. I don’t have enough capacity’ to handle the missions in Iraq and Syria without the A-10s, the general said.

However, Carlisle said, ‘It’s about how we do CAS, not what platform is replacing what platform’. In addition, the A-10 was not suited for operating against more sophisticated air defenses being developed by Russia, China and other potential adversaries, he said.

‘The A-10, it’s more difficult for that airplane to operate in a contested environment’, Carlisle said. ‘We would lose, which none of us want to accept, we would lose a good portion of those airplanes potentially in a contested environment’.

The F-35 Lightning II’s advantage was stealth, Carlisle said. ‘The F-35, it does very well. Its ability, stealth-wise, to penetrate contested airspace unobserved gives it an advantage over everybody else’.”

The general justifiably rues the lack of capacity.  Yet, invoking the demands of a tough budget, he and others in the defense community would sacrifice the A-10 – which he praises for its actual combat performance – to fund the technological advantage promised by the F-35. 

The F-35 itself is apparently progressing.  Yet even when fully capable, it is fairly short-ranged (low loiter time) – worrisome to ground troops who would depend on it for close air support.  The CAS mission requires an ability to withstand hits: will all that technology survive ground fire?  And the airplane is so expensive we can buy it in only small quantities.  How does that ensure “capacity?”

War requires reliability, capability, and survivability.  Survivability addresses not just the system, but the capability itself: in WWII, technologically superior German Panther and Tiger tanks were destroyed, not by American superiority in quality, but by superiority in quantity: a single Tiger couldn’t beat five Shermans.  With few of them in the field, the loss of every super-tank badly drained German capability.

To Stalin is attributed the observation that “quantity has a quality all its own.”  If he didn’t say it, history does.

Likewise, superior technology must contend with risks inherent in the entire performance envelope: the vastly superior ME-262 jet had to land; to do so, it slowed.  That’s when P-51 Mustangs pounced.

In his 1951 short story, “Superiority,” Arthur C. Clarke wrote of a future space war in which a superpower fighting a less-advanced interstellar enemy discards its sizable fleet of conventional weapon systems in favor of – in obsession with – the promise of technological advantage.  Its new fleet is vanquished when the advanced weapons – late to the field, incompletely developed, and few in number – are destroyed piecemeal by swarming enemy ships that exploit the techno-chinks, as happened to the Tigers and the ME-262s.

Like Clarke’s fleet, our expensive super weapons will be produced in small numbers; they are slow in the development and increasingly temperamental.  They are not invulnerable; and once their weakness is discovered, Stalin’s maxim fully comes into play.  The F-35’s supremacy – and much of the rationale for the $1.5 trillion we’ve paid for it so far – is that its stealth design will enable it to conduct long range strikes undetected by enemy radar.  Yet, its single huge engine emits an infrared signature likely detectable by sensors in Russian and Chinese fighters over distances that could negate the stealth advantage.

“You can only go so fast, and you know that stealth may be overrated,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said last February. “Let’s face it, if something moves fast through the air, disrupts molecules and puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be, it’s going to be detectable.” 

So, then what do we have; where is our capacity then?

The Air Force general speaks as if, after Iraq (and Afghanistan, and Syria, and . . .) there will be no more dirty, lower-tech combat environments with lots of determined, self-sacrificial foes, no more surprises; the assumption is apparently that the future belongs to the direct, technology-enabled clash of superpowers.  And their super weapons. 

And he’s not alone.

“What happens is that life gets in the way of the perfect plan,” said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, in a January 24 broadcast of Defense News with Vago Muradian. “So when we made the decision on retiring the A-10, we made those decisions prior to ISIL, we were not in Iraq, we were coming out of Afghanistan to a large extent, we didn’t have a resurgent Russia.”

But life happened . . .

Yet, as Clarke implied in his short story, the argument isn’t “either-or”: we must certainly, by both evolution and revolution, exploit technology to enhance weapon system capability.  The F-35 and other such marvels, if they can perform, will be valuable.  The risk is a capacity imbalance driven by obsession with promising technology (that, like stealth, may be overrated and vulnerable) to the neglect of complementary systems that are adequate or can be adapted to be adequate – and can be had in quantity. The F-16, F-18, and the M1 Abrams tank are examples.  So is the A-10. 

“Military strength requires both quantity and quality of capability,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry in response to the president’s State of the Union speech. “The Obama administration argues that a ship today is more capable than one twenty years ago.  Generally that is true, but a ship can still only be at one place at a time.”

This imbalance in capacity is perilous for a nation that must be ready to fight any type of war and likely more than one war at a time.  This imbalance is already influencing our force structure; it is facilitated by those who, drawn by the siren call of technology, disregard the lessons of historical perspective – and prescient science fiction.

Lead photo: A10 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. (Photo by Sr. Airman Corey Hook, U.S. Air Force)

Jeffrey E. Phillips, executive director, ROA
January 25, 2016

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Arlington National Cemetery Grapples With Capacity Limits And Changing Nature Of Memorialization

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Louisiana National Guardsman Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery after a lengthy fight with the Army. (Louisiana National Guard, AP)

The inevitable faces Arlington National Cemetery: it is nearing capacity for “below-ground” interments (commonly called “burials”).  There is plenty of room for the enshrinement of cremated remains, called “inurnment.”

At a recent Advisory Committee on Arlington National Cemetery’s Honor Subcommittee meeting at Arlington attended by ROA and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard (and no other veterans or military organizations, curiously), subcommittee members focused on ANC’s diminishing capacity. 

During fiscal year 2015, Arlington, which is under the jurisdiction of the Army, saw 6,828 interments and “inurnments” (cremations), up from 5,813 in FY 2013, but down a bit from FY2014.  Under the 27-acre “Millennium Project” expansion underway, room is expected to run out in 2035.  A second, “Southern” expansion of 40 acres on the grounds extends that fateful day to the 2050s. 

While service members killed in action are quickly scheduled by Arlington for interment, scheduling for other remains reflects a cemetery team under great pressure: the wait for scheduling a funeral ranges from 12 weeks for USMC remains to 22 for Navy remains, with the Army and Air Force being about 14 weeks.

The Honor Subcommittee also discussed ANC interment eligibility.  Given the nature of service provided by an “operational” reserve in a time of constant hostilities, the old rules have grown visibly and unacceptably out of balance.  An example is the struggle entailed in gaining Army approval for the burial at Arlington of Louisiana ARNG Staff Sgt. Thomas Florich.  Staff Sergeant Florich was killed in the March 2015 crash of a UH-60 Black Hawk.  His family’s request for a waiver permitting his burial (instead of inurnment, which was authorized without waiver) was denied because he was on inactive duty for training orders.  ROA advocated for his burial at ANC; Secretary of the Army John McHugh ultimately reversed the bureaucracy’s decision, approving the Guardsman’s burial at Arlington.

In a conversation with committee member and former chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Hon. Chet Edwards of Texas, ROA’s executive director, Jeff Phillips, conveyed the point that eligibility reform must ensure that the type of orders under which a service member is “paid” must not influence the manner in which he or she is honored in death, as nearly became the case with Staff Sgt. Florich. 

Arlington will, sooner or later, become full.  Now is the time to review eligibility criteria to ensure equity and appropriateness, recognize that Arlington’s capacity will inevitably run out, and explore options.  As Chairman Edwards said, in doing so, what cannot be compromised is the “iconic” nature of Arlington; it is the nation’s shrine; its solemnity, dignity, serenity, and beauty must be fittingly preserved. 

Edwards, son of a WWII naval aviator, also voiced the opinion, with which we agree, that the people of America and the Congress would “be offended” if recipients of the Medal of Honor could not be buried at Arlington: should then a dedicated area be set aside to ensure perpetual space for recipients of our highest award for valor?  Could the impeccably maintained VA-run National Cemeteries, which now have different eligibility criteria, somehow play a helpful role as Arlington’s capacity disappears? Could a sizable Arlington annex be built elsewhere in the National Capital Area? Could ceremonies be held at ANC, but the actual interment occur at the annex . . . ?  

ROA will take an active role in helping shape this discussion; the outcomes must in any event assure equity for Reservists who die doing their duty, serving our nation.

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CR To Accompany H.R. 1735-A10 Fleet

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 authorized restoration of procurement, operations and maintenance, and personnel to the A-10 program.  The budget will need to appropriate the same amounts or they can reduce or add to these amounts.

The conference report agreed to these changes to what the House and Senate had previously placed in their versions of the NDAA.

Read the full report (pdf)

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CR To Accompany H.R. 1735-NGREA

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

NATIONAL GUARD AND RESERVE EQUIPMENT ACCOUNT

The Department of Defense (DoD) never requests funds for the National Guard and Reserve Equipment Account.  This is not an account that is part of the DoD budget but is added as an account each year by Congress.  The House and Senate authorizes additional funds for National Guard and Reserve equipment because of the significant shortages they see as a result of the DoD budget not requesting enough equipment funds for the Reserve Component.

This year Congress included NGREA funds within the Overseas Contingency Operations budget request.  In addition to these equipment funds, the House committee also recommended $3.1 billion, the full amount of the DoD base budget request, for National Guard and Reserve equipment.

Read the full CR (pdf)

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Examine Access of Veterans to health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

ROA submitted a statement to the Commission on Care which is a result of the Choice Act officially titled the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (VACAA).  The commission charter is “…to examine the access of Veterans to health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and strategically examine how best to organize the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), locate health care resources, and deliver health care to Veterans during the next 20 years.”

On September 21, 2015 ROA attended the briefing of the Independent Assessment of the Health Care Delivery Systems and Management Process of the Department of Veterans Affairs (Independent Assessment Report)

The assessment states that VA needs an Integrated Systems Approach for governance, data and tools, operations and leadership.  As part of governance, the assessment strongly recommends a Board of Governors to, “… develop fundamental policy, define the strategic direction, insulate VHA leadership from direct political intervention, and ensure accountability for the achievement of established performance measures.”  Currently VA already has 27 standing boards/groups.  During the briefing on this recommendation it was pointed out that at a Congressional hearing a member stated Congress is acting as a Board of Directors for VA.

A highly anticipated assessment was the one on leadership because of the allegations that wait times were not reported correctly and cover-ups over the false reporting occurred by medical center directors.  Findings included, “However, most areas of the organization show a highly risk-averse culture; lack of role clarity; fragmentation and organizational silos; and breakdowns in communication, accountability, and key processes that impair the organization’s ability to deliver the mission.”  The assessment recommended the following:

  1. Galvanize VHA leaders around a clear strategic direction.
  2. Stabilize, grow, and empower leaders.
  3. Redesign VHA’s operating model to create clarity for decision-making authority, prioritization, and long-term support.
  4. Focus and simplify performance management to clarify accountability and actively support the mission.
  5. Rebuild a high-performing, healthy culture by cultivating greater employee collaboration, ownership, and accountability to accomplish the mission.
  6. Redesign the human resources function as a more responsive customer service-focused entity.

There were several observations made during the assessment review and they are presented in no particular order, but they are nonetheless interesting:

  • VHA does well with quality metrics.
  • More money will not solve problems in a sustained fashion.
  • System does not support medical staff to the degree necessary. 
  • 137 previous assessments have been done but they were not chartered to look at specific problems which may have made them ineffective to make change.
  • Central data was unavailable for the independent assessment so the team had to rely on locally generated data.
  • Independent Assessment did not include survey of Veterans because the timeframe would not accommodate execution of a survey.  However, data was obtained because the reviewers talked with Veteran Service Organizations who shared surveys they had done.
  • Brick and mortar facilities are the old paradigm.
  • Veterans will decline by 19 percent by 2024. 

Secretary McDonald, Deputy Secretary Gibson and Under Secretary for Health, Dr. Shulkin joined the meeting to update the commissioners.  Secretary McDonald said 11 of the VA’s top 18 leaders are new.  Soon after joining ROA he directed completion of a Blueprint for Excellence study and he noted the Independent Assessment reinforced VA's own findings.  

According to the Secretary, the 2014 crises was a result of Vietnam Veterans.  VA was not ready for the aging of this group.  Part of the problem is also the lack of data.  For example, the VA finance system written in COBOL and this program language is so old it is hard to find technicians who can install upgrades to the finance system.

You can go to the Federal Register to find out when the commission is meeting.  The next meeting is on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at the Capital Hilton, 1001 16th Street NW., Washington, DC 20036.  The meeting is open to the public.

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Force of the Future Report Recommendations

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Friday, September 11, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

The report exploring changes in the future of the military was just delivered to Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.  If implemented in part or whole, the result could be major changes in the law.  The first pieces of legislation are already being drafted for introductions early next year but DoD anticipates implementation would take a decade.

The 200+ page “Force of the Future” report included recommendations to better balance work and family demands, such as expanding parental leave and removing the “up and out” approach to force management.  ROA attended the Reserve Forces Policy Board where many of the recommendations below were discussed.  The report is not public yet, as the services digest it.

Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Brad Carson gave the RFPB an overview of the report.  He noted the current system has worked well for 70 years but the private sector is now outpacing the services in “talent” management.  Cracks in the foundation began to manifest themselves in the 1990s when major problems in readiness were encountered when mobilizing for the Gulf War. 

According to Carson, if the military can respond to contingencies in other countries in hours it should be able to change internally (and he has noted before how the military has brilliantly done so).  He concluded, saying he does not expect consensus on everything but is concerned the services will not use all of the tools available from the recommendations.  Finally, he paraphrased Albert Einstein by saying he believes DoD should not solve the problem before understanding the problem.

A major concern with Force of the Future recommendations is that all of the services are currently in different places along the path of implementing change.  The Navy is moving forward by establishing an Office of Talent Optimization to develop science, technology, engineering and math accessions.  They are also piloting an on-line “detail” marketplace for job openings to increase the number of volunteers for assignments.  The Air Force is piloting four total force support entities that will manage both active and reserve forces under one roof rather than have separate organizational structures.  The Army started the Army's Career Intermission Pilot Program to offer soldiers an intermission in their career to accommodate life decisions, such as attending law school.  The Marines say they were already implementing changes before the Force of the Future initiative. 

Force of the Future report initiatives:

A1.  Replace “Up or Out” with “Perform and Out.”  The services lose members at around 40-45 years of age -- when they are performing at their highest level.  Carson said careers need to last longer while retaining quality; if the military is to keep field grades officers longer, for example, they must be quality field grade officers contributing in an important fashion.

A2. Develop and Employ Talent Management System (TMS).  These types of systems are currently being used in the private sector for recruitment, performance management, learning and development, and compensation management. 

A3.  Establish Technical Career Tracks.  The need for technical skills is increasing and service members should be able to stay in those career tracks without a negative impact on career progression and promotions. 

A4.  Align Compensations to a Talent Management Paradigm.  This will require establishing new metrics for evaluating talent versus solely job performance.  Services need to be able to measure and identify high-potential talent as these individuals tend to grow into leadership positions.  Highly talented people want to be challenged and see results, which is not often achieved in a bureaucratic environment.

A5.  Increase Gender and Racial Diversity.  The Navy believes women are an underused talent pool and are evaluating opening jobs previously closed to women. (One could argue the Army and Air Force are on board with this sentiment!) The current personnel systems, in place from the 1940s when women were not a major presence in the work force, must be updated.  The services will try to be more reflective of the civilian population. This year’s incoming West Point class is the most diverse group the school has ever admitted.

A6.  Expand Parental Leave.  This will include using parental leave for adoptions.  It will be available to men and women.  The Navy is out front with its new extended maternal leave policy.

A7.  Improve Quality of Life for Military Families.  This would include expanding gyms and adapting military service fitness tests to age and medical status.  The services are also piloting child care hours by staying open 24/7 to include Naval Station Norfolk.

A8.  Expand Fertility Treatment.  This has become more of an issue for the military as a result of injuries received from IEDs.  Congress recently tried to help with “ . . . expanded fertility services offered by the Defense Department, through Tricare, to severely injured troops, including those with fertility issues related to traumatic brain injury, and also would have lifted the ban on in vitro fertilization at VA medical centers.”  http://www.militarytimes.com/story/military/capitol-hill/2015/07/22/congress-scuttles-bill-fertility-treatment-troops-vets/30528847/

A9.  Improve Recruiting and Accession Efficiency.  This recommendation was the most enthusiastically embraced by all of the services.  It can increase the quality of the force by saving $1 billion each year.  For example, 20 percent of recruits completing basic training do not show up for their first duty station, resulting in loss of the training investment when they are discharged.

A10.  Increase Permeability between Components.  The thought here is to integrate personnel and pay systems.  The recent change recommended by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to reduce Guard and Reserve duty statuses from over 30 to just six is an example of the types of changes that will be needed.  The services will be offering more 2-3 year limited active duty tours for Guard and Reserve members as a way to augment active forces without increasing their end strength.  The services would prefer to do this by merging the RC MPA funds into the active duty account.

A11.  Expand In-Service Civil Schooling Opportunities.  The Navy has increased quotas next year in their pilot for service members to complete graduate education in civilian institutions.

A12.  Expand Partnerships with Industry and Local Government.  DoD believes more service members should train with industry, using 1-2 year assignments.

A13.  Modernize Joint Professional Development.  The Army wants to “set the table” for future leaders by establishing the right mix of senior service school, joint qualifications and enterprise experience.  Right now 50 percent of their captains are leaving the service.

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GAO Study on Mental Health Access

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

GAO is completing a study on mental health treatment services for members of the Armed Forces and ROA sat down with them to give the Reserve Component perspective. GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress and investigates how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.

They contacted ROA, “Because ROA represents the interests of military servicemembers, GAO is interested in learning about issues related to the availability of, and access to, mental health treatment services within the Military Health System.”

They will examine availability and access issues for active duty, Reserve, and National Guard members in both deployed and non-deployed (within the US and abroad) units. ROA believes access is currently hampered because of several barriers that exist in the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

To help increase access for RC servicemembers ROA is developing the TRICARE Reserve Choice proposal that would expand the number of healthcare and specialty providers. This proposal overcomes many of the barriers RC members currently face and they would be able to find the best healthcare program to meet their needs and those of their family.

ROA believes access would increase if the Guard and Reserve medical records were centralized in order to present an entire case history of medical care that is needed to provide a full and complete assessment of mental health needs. RC members can have medical records at their assignment, each temporary duty assignment location, and civilian employee provider.

A corresponding change to increase the number of RC disabilities processed by VA would also be needed to increase access to mental health specialist. The RC currently has the lowest approval rating, due in part to incomplete Service Treatment Records.

ROA advised GAO that access could be increased by DoD adopting telemedicine by offering counseling for rural and highly rural Guard and Reserve members who do not have mental health specialist in their communities. Better yet would be to provide coping skills and techniques for servicemembers to use in the unique operation and conflict environments they encounter to keep the nation safe.

An event at ROA for mental health will be the American Legion Symposium, 26-27 September 2015, on Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.

In the past, ROA hosted a Defense Education Seminar, Innovations in Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Military Service Members and Veterans, on 16 July 2014 to examine mental health challenges facing the military and veterans and outline clinical, policy and legislative solutions to address these challenges. The seminar consisted of three panels:

  • Clinical and Research Perspective: Screening, identification, prevention, and treatment of mental health disorders.
  • Policy Perspective: Programs and outreach efforts to improve access to mental health services.
  • Legislative Perspective: Legislative solutions to improve mental health care for military and veterans.

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2015 Marks 225 Years of The U.S. Coast Guard’s Lifesaving Legacy

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Tuesday, August 4, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

The Coast Guard traces its history to Aug. 4, 1790.  On that date, President George Washington signed a law that authorized construction of 10 revenue cutters, and under the leadership of Alexander Hamilton established our earliest fleet of cutters and the incarnation of the modern Coast Guard.  This is also the centennial of the service’s present name.

The U.S. Coast Guard is one of the five armed forces of the United States and the only military organization within the Department of Homeland Security. They have safeguarded our Nation's maritime interests and environment around the world. The Coast Guard is an adaptable, responsive military force of maritime professionals whose broad legal authorities, capable assets, geographic diversity and expansive partnerships provide a persistent presence along our rivers, in the ports, littoral regions and on the high seas. Coast Guard presence and impact is local, regional, national and international. These attributes make the Coast Guard a unique instrument of maritime safety, security and environmental stewardship.
The Reserve Officers Association congratulates the US Coast Guard as it celebrates its birthday, and two and one quarter centuries of service to our Nation – Semper Paratus!

U.S. Coast Guard History

The U. S. Coast Guard is simultaneously and at all times a military force and federal law enforcement agency dedicated to maritime safety, security, and stewardship missions. We save lives. We protect the environment. We defend the homeland. We enforce Federal laws on the high seas, the nation's coastal waters and its inland waterways.  We are unique in the Nation and the world.

The Coast Guard's official history began on 4 August 1790 when President George Washington signed the Tariff Act that authorized the construction of ten vessels to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling.  Known variously through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the "revenue cutters," the "system of cutters," the Revenue Marine and finally the Revenue Cutter Service, it expanded in size and responsibilities as the nation grew.  

The service received its present name in 1915 under an act of Congress that merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the U. S. Life-Saving Service.  The latter consisted of dozens of stations placed around the nation’s coastlines that were manned by dedicated crews willing to risk their lives to save those in peril on the sea, a role that meshed well with the Revenue Cutter Service’s core missions.  Also, the legislation creating this “new” Coast Guard expressly stated that it "shall constitute a part of the military forces of the United States," thereby codifying the service’s long history of defending the country along side the nation's other armed services.  The Coast Guard began maintaining the country's aids to maritime navigation, including lighthouses, when President Franklin Roosevelt ordered the transfer of the Lighthouse Service to the Coast Guard in 1939.  In 1946 Congress permanently transferred the Commerce Department's Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation to the Coast Guard, which placed merchant marine licensing and merchant vessel safety under its purview.  The nation now had a single maritime federal agency dedicated to saving life at sea and enforcing the nation's maritime laws.

The Coast Guard is one of the oldest organizations of the federal government and until Congress established the Navy Department in 1798 it served as the nation's only armed force afloat.  The Coast Guard protected the nation throughout its long history and served proudly in the majority of the nation's conflicts.  The Coast Guard's national defense responsibilities remain one of its most important functions even today.  In times of peace it operates as part of the Department of Homeland Security, serving as the nation's front-line agency for enforcing the nation's laws at sea, protecting the marine environment and the nation's vast coastline and ports, and saving life.  In times of war, or at the direction of the President, the Coast Guard serves as part of the Navy Department.

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Army Reserve Featured At Think Tank Program

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Saturday, July 25, 2015
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

By Bob Feidler, Army Director, ROA

The Army Reserve and several of its leaders were featured recently at a program sponsored by the Center for Security and International Studies (CSIS), a distinguished Washington DC based think tank.

Featured speakers included Lt. Gen. Jeffrey W. Talley, Chief of the Army Reserve, and Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV) who is also a brigadier general in the Army Reserve. The program had two panels: one highlighted the role of an Army Reservist as a Citizen Soldier and the other focused on the role of the Army Reserve at home and abroad.

Congressman Heck, who also chairs the Subcommittee on Military Personnel of the House Armed Services Committee, spoke of several challenges he sees facing the Army Reserve. He noted the tight fiscal environment DoD and the Reserves find themselves in which could lead to cuts in authorized end-strength and declining amounts of resources for training and equipment. He noted that the Army Reserve, as the Federal Reserve to the active Army, faces a challenge in recognition of its role and separating itself from the brand of Active component and of the Army National Guard. He noted the advantage the Guard has of being larger, in more reserve centers and communities, and in being closely associated with the States and communities within which they are located. Congressman Heck thought the Army Reserve had a real challenge ahead to build its identity and keep its relevance. He viewed recruitment and retention as future problems that might face the Army Reserve. He stated that his committee is always seeking to leverage the expenditure of dollars spent on national security and that the Army Reserve, given its cost and expertise, may well see greater use in the near future as the active component continues an aggressive drawdown from 490,000 currently to possibly under 450,000 personnel by 2018.

General Talley began his remarks by noting that we cannot afford the size of the active Army that we would like to have which will likely lead to greater Army Reserve participation in a variety of missions. He recounted the evolution of the Army Reserve components in the 1970’s under the direction of the Army Chief of Staff Creighton Abrams. General Abrams, learning from the lesson of Vietnam in which Reserve Components were not heavily used and support for the war by the public waned, decided that it was best for the Army if it were organized in such a way that the Reserve Components would be vital to the Army and that all future wars of necessity would have to involve a mobilization of the Reserves.

General Talley spoke of the need to provide sufficient optempo money to enable training, modernization and equipping of the Force. He stressed that sequestration has had and will continue to have a severe impact on the Army Reserve. He also highlighted the need to expand the Full Time Support (FTS) staff of the Army from its current 76 percent of estimated requirement to at least 85 percent. One way to do that would be for AC personnel to staff certain full-time positions in Army Reserve units thereby both gaining experience with RC units and sharing their knowledge.

The panel that featured USAR personnel as Citizen Soldier simply highlighted the extraordinary expertise and civilian distinction that Army Reservists bring to their military duties. Featured were Maj. Gen. Ron Dziedzicki, commander of the 3rd Medical Command and also the chief operating officer of a major Ohio medical provider, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Colonel Dan Arkins who is a regional director with MetLIfe Disability and chief of staff of the 108th Training Division, and Dr. James Bridgers Jr., deputy health officer for a large Maryland county and also the command sergeant major of the 151st Theater Information Group. All three panelists recounted stories about how their civilian expertise had been brought to bear on military issues and how their military experience benefited them and their employers in civilian life. They were extraordinary examples of the mutually beneficial connections that come about with Citizen Soldiers!

The final panel included Lt. Gen. Patrick Donahue II, deputy commanding general of U.S. Forces Command (the command to which the USARC reports and with which it is co-located at Ft. Bragg), Maj. Gen. David Conboy, the DCG –Ops of the USARC, and Mr. Robert Salesses, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense integration and Defense Support of Civil Authorities.

General Donahue noted the reliance on the USAR by the AC reflecting that one-third of early deploying units under the Army Contingency Force Concept were from the USAR. He noted that USAR was both operational and strategic and sufficient mobilization authorities now existed in the law to make full use of the Reserves.

General Conboy noted the Army Reserve accomplishes its mission with roughly 20% of the personnel in the Total Army and with 6 percent of the budget. He highlighted the many diverse support functions performed by USAR soldiers including 24,000 personnel supporting TRADOC and the important role the USAR plays in support of domestic authorities (DSCA operations) including supplying 100% of the Army EPLOs. He anticipated future needs in this area to focus on law enforcement, public health emergencies, and disaster support.

The DoD spokesperson echoed the key role the USAR plays in domestic support operations and the increasing reliance on the Army Reserve to play a key role in DSCA operations.

The Army Reserve plays a key role both overseas and domestically – with missions in both fields potentially expanding as the active Army shrinks. To perform the function expected of it, and to maintain its operational capacities developed over the course of the past decade of war, the Army Reserve needs sufficient resources. It need it for training, modernization, equipping. An area of critical importance that needs to be upgraded is the number of FTS personnel who support the traditional Reservist. That number must increase to at least 85 percent of the identified requirement – a level closer to what other Reserve Components are resourced at for this function.

The value of the Citizen Soldier resounded throughout the program – now it is essential that it receive proper resourcing so that it does not become solely a strategic reserve but can continue its recent historic function as a fully operational component of the U.S. Army of which it is an integral part!

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