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RFPB Receives Recommendations From Former Top Brass Of DoD

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

All echoed sentiments of “unsustainable personnel costs”

By Jenny Swigoda

As defense budget allocations are working their way through the House and Senate, the Reserve Forces Policy Board (RFPB) is planning for the future of the Reserve Components (RC).

On Thursday, Dec. 12, the RFPB conducted an open meeting at the Pentagon in which Admiral Gary Roughead, USN (Ret), former chief of naval operations; General Ronald Fogleman, USAF (Ret), former chief of staff of the Air Force; and Michèle Flournoy, former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, offered insight into the issues that face the RC in the era of an operational reserve force.

Adm. Roughead lauded the accomplishments and contributions of RC members who have “sacrificed so much.” The former chief of naval operations pointed out that the American public is largely uninformed when it comes to issues of national security.

“When you poll the American people and ask them about the importance of national security, it polls at 1 percent,” Adm. Roughead said.

Committees such as the RFPB will have to weigh their options and make recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on budget appropriations. Citing the drawdown in Iraq and Afghanistan, the three guest speakers emphasized the need to maintain a force that is ready.

“We would not have been able to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan without the Reserve Component,” Adm. Roughead said.

Flournoy echoed this sentiment in her remarks, saying that it is imperative that the RC remain “properly trained and properly equipped.”

Looking back at what the last two decades have facilitated in terms of national security, Gen. Fogleman pointed to the All-Volunteer Force as the culprit of financial burdens on defense.

“It’s not a case of just saving money, but it’s also about what you’re doing with the money and its modernization,” said Gen. Fogleman. “This is an era when we have to look at reductions in our land forces.”

Acknowledging the war-weary American public, Flournoy reminded board members that a stable and ready reserve force is greatly needed to keep the nation secure.

“The name of the game is trying to keep a balance with keeping the faith of those who have served, those who are serving and those who will serve,” said Flournoy.

Late on Thursday, a budget deal was struck in the House, effectively moving to the Senate who will put it to a vote next week. For more, please read Marshall Hanson’s analysis.

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NDAA passed in House

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Friday, December 13, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

The amended bill will reach the Senate floor next week

By CAPT Marshall Hanson, USN (Ret.)

The compromise Defense Authorization bill was passed by the House under suspension of the rules on Thursday. It passed without a roll-call vote.

"The passage of the 52nd National Defense Authorization Actis a tremendous achievement for the 113th Congress,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif.

“The NDAA ensures that Congress accomplishes its Constitutional prerogative, to provide for the common defense,” said the chairman. “This legislation continues our effort to rebuild a military that has been tested by a decade at war. It upholds the unwavering tradition of Congressional oversight, while providingsupport to the warfighter and value to the taxpayer.”

When the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) stalled out in the Senate, before Thanksgiving, passage of the NDAA looked bleak. With a Senate defense authorization bill not completed, the House and Senate leadership pre-conferenced creating new legislation from the NDAA that was passed by the House in June 2013, and the marked-up Senate bill that was a product of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The compromise bill appears to have the backing of half the Senate Republican caucus and is likely to be cleared next week.

Ranking member, Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., said that his GOP colleagues remain unhappy about the expedited process for getting the sprawling bill through Congress as they were provided little opportunity for amendment. It was this failure of the process before Thanksgiving that derailed the earlier bill.

But Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, Sen. Inhofe, and John McCain, R-Ariz., made speeches on the floor emphasizing the importance of passage prior to year’s end.

Referenced in the speeches was a letter from chairman of the joint chiefs, General Martin Dempsey, USA that was sent to the conferees warning them that certain authorities would expire on Dec 31. All combat, hazardous duty pay and reenlistment bonuses would be stopped if not passed as part of an NDAA.

When the original Senate bill was debated on that chamber’s floor, only two amendments were considered, and both failed to pass. The pre-conference considered 87 amendments that had been cleared by the Senate Rules committee with 79 being accepted in the new legislation. These Senate amendments had never been voted upon by the Senate, except as part of the overall bill, which caused frustration among some Senators.

The legislation authorized $534.5 billion in spending for national defense, $17.6 billion for the Department of Energy and an addition $80.7 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. This is $7.8 billion less for war spending as U.S presence in Afghanistan winds down.

Troop pay was limited to a 1 percent increase in keeping with the White House request. This compares to a 1.5 percent increase for military retirees, veterans and social security recipients which is based on Employment Cost Index calculations that estimate inflation.

Language in the NDAA did reject all the Administration’s proposals to increase or create new TRICARE fees for military retirees. While fees will increase it is based on retiree cost of living increases.

ROA will be reviewing the language of the bill, and be sharing provisions with ROA members at a future date. The affect of the Congressional budget agreement on this legislation has yet to be determined, except that retirees under age 62 are likely to see their COLA increase reduced by one-fourth of a percent in January 2015.

At least half of the Republican caucus in the Senate is likely to support the bill in next week’s vote. With few substantive policy disagreements, backers should easily muster the 60 votes to invoke cloture, to restrict debate. With passage it will be sent to the president for signature.

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ROA Demands An End To Government Shutdown

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Monday, December 9, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Today in front of the national World War II memorial, ROA demanded an end to the government shutdown, emphasizing the disproportionate impact on Reserve service members and their families.

Participating in a nationally televised press conference with our partners in the Military Coalition, ROA Executive Director Major General Andrew Davis, USMC (Ret) called on lawmakers to pay attention to the lasting impact this shutdown is having on the Citizen Warriors they have overlooked yet again.

“Frustration grows among the Reserve Component population as they are unable to fulfill their mission,” Davis said.

“After returning from war or disaster, they see that they are again being overlooked, making them feel that they are second class warriors. This federal government shut down proves to them that they are right, as it is unlikely that they will be able to make up lost training time and income, unlike furloughed civilian employees who will get retro paid. Our military readiness is being impaired, and 1.1 million people in the Reserve force are offended by how they are being treated. “

The Military Coalition, a coalition of 33 of the leading veterans and uniformed services organizations that represent more than 5.5 million members, organized the press conference Tuesday morning to demand an end to the government shutdown. The shutdown has been devastating for the nation’s military readiness and for the veterans, service members, families and survivors in the uniformed services community.

Veterans who receive disability and GI Bill benefits and survivors who rely on survivor benefits don't know if they'll get their next check. National Guard and Reserve monthly training has been cancelled, affecting critical troop readiness and pay. Many services that military families count on daily are suspended. Veterans make up 27 percent of the federal workforce and don’t know when they will get to go back to work. The 435,000 veterans in the VA disability claims backlog have to wait even longer.

ROA members are urged to help build on the momentum of today’s event by reaching out to their representatives in Congress and demanding action to end the government shutdown now.

View the full press conference

View a photo gallery of the press conference

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DEF Presents: Energy Security And Implications For The U.S. Military

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Friday, December 6, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 20, 2016

Director of Defense Education Bob Feidler recently sat down with John Deni, professor of national security at the Strategic Studies Institute (SSI) to discuss energy security and its affect on the U.S. military.

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Defense Authorization Nuked In Senate

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Monday, December 2, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

By CAPT Marshall Hanson, USN (Ret.)

Normally a bi-partisan bill, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was derailed by partisan activity, threatening its passage in 2013. Efforts to pass a Senate version by Thanksgiving failed, when that legislation became collateral damage when battle erupted in the Senate in November over abandoning its filibuster rules.

Frustrated by held-up judicial appointments, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., dropped the tactical political bomb using the “nuclear option”. Under Senate rule XXII, a cloture vote could only end debate with a “yea” vote by 60 Senators. At the time, the Washington Post noted that there are "189 Obama judicial nominations awaiting confirmation" and "53 Obama judicial nominations moving through the Senate." Pushing through a simple majority vote, Reid changed the Senate rules eliminating filibuster on judicial and federal nominations. Fifty-one Senators can now vote to cut off debate.

Despite a Republican Senate considering similar changes to the rules in 2005, Republicans were provoked by the move, as it gives the majority party the power to elect nominees without minority support. This just worsened the partisanship facing the Capitol in 2013. It didn’t help that the morning debate and votes on the “nuclear option” were just before an afternoon spent on the NDAA.

At a time when Sen. Reid wanted to expedite passage of the NDAA, the Republicans pushed back. The Hill reported that Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., “rejected Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's request to schedule [NDAA] votes on the issue that senators had been debating all day.”
“There is not a unanimous consent, I will agree with until the Senate process is opened up,” Sen. Coburn said in the article.

Using the Thanksgiving recess as a backstop, Sen. Reid had allowed three legislative days for debate.  He also tried to limit the number of amendments to be considered. Historically, the Senate has taken up to three weeks to debate and vote on amendments to a NDAA. Over 500 amendments were submitted for inclusion in this omnibus bill as it is the only defense legislation considered in the year. At one point, Sen. Reid offered 13 amendments in a manager’s package to hasten completion.

Several provisions were controversial. The most visible was how the military should review sexual assault cases. Personnel Subcommittee Chairman Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., had garnered support from 46 Senators to develop a review process that is outside the chain of command. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., wants to change the review process but keep it within the chain of command. Last September, ROA sent a letter of support to Sen. Levin. Sen. Coburn blocked two amendments dealing with sexual assault.

Other issues that were debated were detainees at Guantanamo Bay, sanctions on Iran, and the actions of the National Security Agency.

Only two amendments were voted upon during the three legislative days, and both failed. Sen. Reid scheduled a cloture vote to allow a vote on the NDAA passage, but Senators voted 51 to 44 to keep the debate open.

Despite threats from Sen. Reid to hold the Senate over the weekend to continue work on the NDAA, to defuse tensions, members of both parties agreed that the Senate NDAA would not be voted upon when the Senate adjourned for its two-week Thanksgiving/Hanukkah recess.

Members in both parties used the additional time to work on new sanctions against Iran, if its regime fails to uphold its part of the nuclear agreement by Secretary of State John Kerry in Geneva. 

With 51 consecutive years of passage, having a final NDAA bill passed before the end of the year is Sen. Reid’s ultimate lever.

 

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DEF Presents: The Future Of The All Volunteer Force

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Monday, November 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Defense Education Forum Director Bob Feidler sits down with Major General Dennis Laich, US Army (Ret.) to discuss the All-Volunteer Force and its future. Maj.Gen. Laich has a new book that tackles the subject entitled, "Skin in the Game: Poor Kids and Patriots."

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Wightman Offers Views on Future of the Air Force

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Friday, November 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Richard O. Wightman, Jr. urges commission to consider unique role of the Reserve Component during the last decade of war

By Jenny Swigoda

In a hearing before the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense of Reserve Affairs Richard O. Wightman, Jr. asserted the unique role that members of the Reserve Component play in the current environment of the U.S. military.

“Our 1.1 million members of the Ready Reserve represent about 43 percent of the total force for approximately nine percent of the defense budget…These dedicated men and women have met, and continue to meet, the current and anticipated requirements of the services and combatant commands,” said Wightman during the hearing on Friday, Oct. 25.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, about 900,000 RC members have been activated, Wightman explained, creating an eight-fold increase from an average of 8.5 million duty days prior to the last decade, to 68.3 million duty days during the height of the surge in Iraq.

Wightman explained that his office has received positive feedback from employers regarding employees that serve in the Reserve Component.

“One of the reasons I believe is the current dwell ratio goal of 1:5 which promotes predictability and accessibility, two keys to the successful utilization of our Reserve Component members,” said Wightman.  

However, in the current “draw down” state of the military in Afghanistan, Wightman emphasized the need to continue utilization of the Reserve Component as a part of the operational total force in order to ensure national security and readiness.

“Today, the Reserve Component is at a level of readiness, reliability, accessibility, and combat experience never before see in our nation’s history. We must continue to preserve the quality of the all-volunteer force and not break faith with our men and women in uniform, their families, or their employers,” Wightman urged.

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Veterans’ Status on-track for Passage

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Friday, November 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Reservists Close in on Overdue Recognition

By CAPT Marshall A. Hanson, USNR (Ret.)

On Monday, Oct. 28, the House passed the Honor America's Guard-Reserve Retirees Act, H.R. 1405, which gives all those Reserve Force members with 20 years of service in the Reserve and National Guard the honor of being called a veteran.

Despite spending two decades serving the nation and standing ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice to anywhere in the world in defense of freedom, under current law these devoted men and women cannot legally call themselves veterans.

Presently, only those Reserve Force members who have served long enough on active duty qualify by federal statute as veterans; typically 180 days or more of active service.  Proposed legislation would recognize those who qualify for paid retirement as veterans as well.

Introduced by Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., the bill has been passed by the House in the last two Congresses. A Member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Rep. Walz is the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress and co-chair of the National Guard and Reserve Components Caucus. This Reserve Force Caucus was recognized by ROA at the 2013 Gala.

“These men and women took an oath to defend our nation at any cost and have dedicated their lives in service to our country,” said Rep. Walz, “Many stood at the ready for decades in defense of our nation and the time is now to give them the honor and recognition they have earned and deserve. I am pleased this legislation has passed the House and am optimistic it will finally become law this year.”

In earlier Congresses, the road block has been in the Senate, but progress has been made this year in that chamber as well. Identical legislation, S. 629, was introduced by Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark, earlier this year.  Additionally, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee has included veterans’ status language in its omnibus bill.  ROA has been informed that both of the Senate bills will be voted upon by the entire Senate before the end of the year.

Another avenue open, is veteran status language that was a provision included by the House in its National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA), H.R.1960.  It has been suggested that when the Defense Authorization goes into conference, this language has a high opportunity of be left in the final bill, as the language isn’t controversial and has no budgetary cost.

ROA continues to track this issue, and may seek membership support when necessary to help legislative passage.

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A Veterans Day Message From ROA

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Friday, November 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, July 8, 2016

The guns may have gone silent on 11 November, 1918, to signal the end of the war to end all wars, but clearly they have not been silent for the intervening 95 years. Throughout that long history, citizen soldiers have shed their civilian clothes for the cloth of this country, serving in every conflict and standing ready in times of peace and international tension.

This year, as the so-called “long wars” of the Global War of Terrorism wind to a presumed close in 2014, it’s fitting to reflect on the service of more than 880,000 members of all services of the Reserve Force. They have sacrificed job and family, home and health to stand on the desert ramparts against a persistent global foe. More than 330,000 of them deployed more than once.  In the current national defense strategy than can expect to continue as an operational reserve force activating and deploying one year in six to fill the international commitments of our nation

They join a long line of citizen warriors in service, not the least of whom are those Reservists who served in the Cold War as a strategic deterrent against Soviet aggression. They drilled once a month on weekends, attended numerous training and planning meetings often with no pay, spent two weeks at annual training, maintained their military proficiency and stood ready for a call to prospective world war that, thankfully, never came. Their presence as that strategic reserve, however, was instrumental in America and freedom prevailing against communism and tyranny.

One of the failures of this nation has been our hesitance to publically honor these Cold War Warriors. In fact, for official federal purposes, if they did not serve for 180 consecutive days on active duty they are not considered “veterans.”  The Reserve Officers Association is fighting hard to right that wrong.  We have taken the lead in advocating passage of legislation that will grant official veteran status to that class of Reservists whom have served 20 or more years, retired with full honors, medals, certificates and flags, but are not considered veterans for official  purposes.  We estimate that more than 300,000 honorable veteran citizen warriors fall into that category.

At ROA’s urging, House Bill 1405, “Honor America’s Guard-Reserve Retirees Act,”  passed the House on October 28 of this year. That bill grants veteran status to all honorably retired Reservists. It states, a retired Reservist “entitled under such chapter to retired pay for non-regular service shall be honored as a veteran...”  A Senate version, S.29, has been stalled but might go to the floor with less direct language as part of an omnibus bill. Your association continues to push hard for speedy passage of the stronger bill.

So, on this Veterans Day 2013, the Reserve Officers Association renders a collective, crisp hand salute to all veterans, to those who have answered the call to service, who sacrificed much, gave of their blood and treasure, and to their families who stood beside them. We honor you.

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ISAF Chief Briefs Reservists on Afghan Progress, Future

Posted By Reserve Officers Association, Thursday, November 7, 2013
Updated: Friday, May 13, 2016

Jim Garamone

The NATO-led effort in Afghanistan is “in the red zone,” and now is the time to carry the ball over the goal line, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said today. 

Speaking via satellite from the Afghan capital of Kabul, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., delivered a decidedly upbeat report to the Reserve Officers Association’s national security symposium here today.

Dunford said he is pleased with the campaign plan and that the Afghan forces, which took over lead security responsibility in June, have fought well. Afghanistan, he said, now “has the opportunity to be successful.”

With nearly 352,000 members of the Afghan national security forces in place, the general said, the Afghans are demonstrating for all to see that they can handle the load. All Americans need to understand this, he added.

Dunford said he is concerned about a recent poll which shows that 67 percent of Americans believe the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, and that 43 percent believe all U.S. forces should come home next year.

“We still have 60,000 men and women in uniform in harm’s way, and the American people need to understand why they are here, what they are doing and what they are trying to accomplish,” he said.
Americans need to remember that the 9/11 terrorists planned and funded their operation in Afghanistan, the general told the symposium audience. The United States sent forces into Afghanistan to end that, he added, and the idea of keeping Americans safe has not changed over the past decade.

The United States must keep pressure on al-Qaida and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Dunford said. He acknowledged that despite coalition successes, al-Qaida and other groups are resilient.

U.S. and NATO troops are needed in Afghanistan today to keep the pressure on these groups, Dunford said, but in the future, the hammer against these terrorists will be Afghan forces.
“Over the past few years, Afghan forces have become increasingly competent, capable and credible,” Dunford said, adding that in his opinion, Afghan forces are providing security for the Afghan people today. They will be able to secure the April 5 presidential elections, he said, and they will be able -- with some qualifications -- to shoulder the entire security burden when the ISAF mission in Afghanistan ends on Dec. 31, 2014.

The surge of coalition forces into Afghanistan created the space for the Afghan forces to grow and mature, Dunford said. Today, he added, NATO and partner-nation forces have transitioned to a “train, advise and assist” mode.

Dunford described an operation in Logar province that used Afghan forces from two separate corps and an Afghan division. The fledgling Afghan air force also participated, airlifting 250 Afghan infantrymen into position and keeping them resupplied.

“The only coalition support was close-air support,” the general said. “This doesn’t reflect what we’re seeing everywhere, but it shows what can be done.”

Noting that perception is important, the general said that some 90 percent of Afghans rate their security situations as fair to good. “Ninety-one percent of Afghans have a favorable opinion of the Afghan army, and 80 percent have a favorable opinion of the Afghan police,” he said.

The real problem today is uncertainty, Dunford said. “There is a growing sense in Kabul that December 2014 is actually a cliff for the Afghan people,” he explained. “It affects the leaders, it affects civil society, and it affects the ranks of the Afghan security forces.”

A bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan is necessary to eliminate this uncertainty, the general said. This will allow not only Afghans, but also NATO and partner-nations, to plan for the future. He noted that Germany, Italy, Turkey and the United States already have agreed to a post-2014 role. What those roles will be, he added, remains to be determined.

Winning means setting the conditions for the Afghans to exploit opportunities while developing the Afghan forces and sustaining them, Dunford told the audience. This can be done, he added.

“It is by no means inevitable, but it is achievable,” Dunford said. “If the trajectory that we’ve been on for the past couple of years continues for the next 16 months, I am very comfortable about where we will be with the Afghan forces.”

This article originally appeared on Defense.gov via the American Forces Press Service

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