President Barack Obama announces his nomination of Chuck Hagel as the next defense secretary as Hagel, left, and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta listen at the White House, Jan. 7, 2013. Hagel, 66, is a former U.S. senator from Nebraska. He served as an Army sergeant in the Vietnam War, and earned two Purple Hearts as an infantry squad leader there. Department of Defense picture.
1) President Nominates Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense
On Monday President Obama nominated former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense. (above please see the only happy picture of the announcement that I could find.)
During his announcement the President focused on the fact that Hagel served in the enlisted ranks during the Vietnam War.
Chuck Hagel is the leader that our troops deserve. He is an American patriot, the President went on to note that if confirmed Senator Hagel will be the first SecDef to have served in the enlisted ranks as well as being the first veteran of the Vietnam War to serve in the post.
When he was in the Senate he was also the only Senator who had served in the enlisted ranks.
As I am sure you all know this looks like it is going to be an extremely contentious confirmation process. TREA will keep you informed
2) New Members of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees
New Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:
Dean A. Heller (R-NV): Is the junior United States Senator from Nevada. Senator Heller was appointed by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval to a vacant seat created by the resignation of John Ensign. He was previously a member of the United States House of Representatives, representing Nevada’s 2nd congressional district from 2007 to 2011. Prior to that he served as Secretary of State of Nevada (19952007) and a member of the Nevada Assembly (19911995).
Senator Heller was born in Castro Valley, California. He is a longtime resident of Carson City, having moved there with his family at the age of 9 months. He earned his BBA, specializing in finance and securities analysis, from the University of Southern California in 1985. Prior to entering politics, Heller worked as an institutional stockbroker and as a broker/trader on the Pacific Stock Exchange.
New Democrat on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee:
Mazie Keiko Hirono (D-HI): Following the death of Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Senator Hirono is now the senior United States Senator from Hawaii. She previously served as a member of the United States House of Representatives for Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district from 2007 to 2013. She was Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii from 1994 to 2002, and a member of the Hawaii House of Representatives from 1985 to 1995.
She is the first elected female Senator from Hawaii, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, the first U.S. Senator born in Japan, and the nation’s first Buddhist Senator. She considers herself a non-practicing Buddhist,
Senator Mazie Hirono was born inin Fukushima Prefecture, Japan. Although born in Japan, her mother was an American citizen. Senator Hirono graduated from the University of Hawaii at Mnoa in 1970. She was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa and obtained her J.D. in 1978 from Georgetown University Law Center.
From 1980 to 1994, Hirono served in the Hawaii House of Representatives, and then as Lieutenant Governor of Hawaii from 1994-2002. From 2007-2012 she served in the US Congress from Hawaii.
New Republicans on the House Veterans Affairs Committee:
Brad Wenstrup (R-OH): Represents the 2nd congressional district of Ohio. Congressman Wenstrup is an Iraq war veteran. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, graduated from the University of Cincinnati and the Wm. M. Scholl College of Podiatric. He has practiced podiatric medicine in Cincinnati for over 25 years.
In 1998, Wenstrup accepted an officers commission with the Medical Service Corps division of the U.S. Army Reserve. He became a Lieutenant Colonel. In 2005, he was deployed for a year of active duty in Iraq, where he held the position of Combat Surgeon in the 344th Combat Support Hospital. He earned Bronze Star and Combat Action Badge.
Paul Cook (R-CA): Represents California’s 8th district. He graduated from Southern Connecticut State University and earned a B.S. in teaching. That same year he enlisted into the U.S. Marines. He later earned an MPA from California State University, San Bernardino in 1996 and a master’s in political science from University of California Riverside in 2000.
Congressman Cook served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps for twenty-six years. His actions in combat earned him many honors, including the Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts. He served in the Marines for 26 years.
Subsequently he was Director of Yucca Valley Chamber of Commerce from 1993-1994. From 1998-2002, he was a professor at Copper Mountain College. Cook taught courses on political violence and terrorism at University of California Riverside since 2002.
New Democrats on the House VA Committee:
Mark Allan Takano (D-CA): is a Japanese American teacher from California. A Democrat, Takano has served on the Riverside Community College Board of Trustees since 1990. Takano is the first non-white openly gay member of Congress.
Takano is from Riverside, California. His family was relocated and interned from California to “War Relocation Camps” during World War II. He is Sansei, which means that he is the grandson of people born in Japan who immigrated to the US.
He attended Harvard University, graduating in 1983. He taught in public school for 23 years, focusing on British literature.
Julia Brownley (D-CA): Represents California’s 26th congressional district. Before her political career, Brownley worked in market management.
Brownley received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from George Washington University in 1975 and an M.B.A. from the American University in 1979. Congresswoman Brownley served on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, and was elected Board President. She worked with the California State PTA and the Community for Excellent Public Schools to launch the “Caravan for Kids,” which brought over 5,000 children and parents to Sacramento to demand that the Governor and Legislature create a state plan for excellence in education.
She then served in the California State Assembly from 2006-20012.
Alice Costandina “Dina” Titus (D-NV): Represents Nevada’s 1st congressional district. She previously served as U.S. Representative for Nevada’s 3rd congressional district from 2009 to 2011, when she was defeated by Joe Heck. She previously served in the Nevada Senate and was that body’s minority leader from 1993 to 2009. Prior to her election to Congress, Titus was an active professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). She taught American and Nevada government at UNLV for 30 years.
Congresswoman Titus earned her bachelor’s degree from The College of William and Mary, a master’s degree from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. from Florida State University. One year after graduation she moved to Nevada and a faculty position in the Political Science Department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). Over the past 30 years, her students have included a virtual who’s who list in Nevada government, public service and legal circles, and the popularity of her classes is reflected in the teaching-related awards she has received.
She also served for over twenty years in the Nevada state senate.
Ann Kirkpatrick (R-AZ): Represents Arizona’s 1st congressional district. She previously represented the same district from 2009 to 2011. She was defeated by Republican Paul Gosar in the 2010 election.
Kirkpatrick was born and raised on an Apache Indian reservation near McNary, Arizona. She is a graduate of the University of Arizona and the University of Arizona College of Law.
In 1980 she became Coconino Countys first woman deputy county attorney, and she later served as city attorney for Sedona. She was a member of the Flagstaff Water Commission. In 2004, she taught Business Law and Ethics at Coconino Community College.
She then served in the Arizona state legislature before serving in the US Congress in 2009.
Raul Ruiz (D-CA): Represents Californias 36th Congressional district. He is also a medical doctor. He defeated incumbent Representative Mary Bono Mack.
Ruiz grew up in Coachella, California where his parents were migrant farmworkers. He went to UCLA, graduating magna cum laude before attending Harvard Medical School. He was the first Hispanic to receive three graduate degrees from Harvard University (MD from Harvard Medical School, Masters in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Masters in public health from the Harvard School of Public Health.)
After graduating from Harvard University, Ruiz spent time working abroad in Mexico, El Salvador, and Serbia, before taking a job as an emergency physician at the Eisenhower Medical Center, a nonprofit hospital in the Coachella Valley. He founded the Coachella Valley Healthcare Initiative in 2010. In 2011, he became senior associate dean at the School of Medicine at University of California, Riverside.
In 2011, he received a Commander’s Award for Public Service from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division for his humanitarian efforts for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.
Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA): Represents California’s 35th congressional district. She has also served in the California state senate and the California State Assembly from 2000 to 2012.
She was born in 1941 in Los Angeles, California. She was President of the Board of Chaffey Community College (her alma mater) and was a Chaffey Board member for five years.
She and her husband Gilbert L. McLeod, a retired police lieutenant, have 10 children, 27 grandchildren, and 25 great grandchildren.
Ann (“Annie”) McLane Kuster (D-NH): Represents New Hampshire’s 2nd congressional district. She is also an attorney and nonprofit consultant.
Congresswoman Kuster was born in Concord in 1956. Both of her parents were politicians. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 1978 with a degree in Environmental Policy and from Georgetown University Law Center in 1984. Then, Kuster was the director of Rath, Young and Pignatelli’s education and nonprofit law practice group.
Kuster is a consultant and owner of Newfound Strategies LLC, “a consulting and training practice that works with nonprofit clients to maximize their effectiveness and sustainability through fundraising, outreach and strategic planning.”
Kuster’s career has also involved many years of lobbying the New Hampshire State Legislature on behalf of clients such as Merck Vaccines; Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and Dartmouth Medical School.
Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX): Represents Texas’s 16th congressional district. He defeating 8-term incumbent Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary,
Congressman O’Rourke is a fourth-generation El Paso native. In the early 1990s, he was a singer and guitarist in the band Foss. In 1995, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Columbia University in New York City.
Congressman O’Rourke spent three years working at Internet start-ups in New York City before his return to El Paso in 1998. In 1999, with the help of a few friends, O’Rourke formed Stanton Street Technology Group, which does IT consulting and Web design for small-to medium-sized businesses.
3) DoD Prepares for the Possibility of Major Budget Cuts
If you thought the fight over the fiscal cliff at the end of the year was dramatic, hang on, because youre going to see a lot more drama in the next two months. Thats because there is a perfect storm brewing over Washington as Congress faces deadlines to deal with: (1) the mandatory budget cuts (sequester) that they pushed off until March 1; (2) the need to fund the government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2013 by the end of March; and (3) whether or not to raise the debt ceiling, which allows the government to borrow more money to fund its operations. All three issues are coming together at approximately the same time and each has serious ramifications.
Yesterday Defense Secretary Leon Panetta held a press conference regarding the effects of those looming cuts. The Armed Forces Press Service put out an article about the Panetta press conference, which is below, but what we want to point out is this sentence: – If Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill for fiscal 2013 and instead extends the continuing resolution through the fiscal year, overall operating accounts would decrease by about 5 percent about $11 billion that would come out of [operations and maintenance funds].
The O & M budget is what funds DoD health care, including TRICARE. Obviously, an $11 billion cut would be major and you can expect DoD to use that as an excuse to get Congress to pass DoDs proposals that failed last year, including large increases in TRICARE enrollment fees and co-pays, including for the first time ever, enrollment fees for TRICARE for Life. TREA continues to fight those increases but you need to be aware of what is likely to happen in the next few weeks.
Panetta: Fiscal Crisis Poses Biggest Immediate Threat to DOD
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2013 The perfect storm of budget uncertainty howling around his department is the biggest immediate threat facing the U.S. military, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta told reporters here today.
Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stressed during a regular Pentagon press conference that unless Congress acts, the nations military readiness will be compromised.
The United States has a number of adversaries around the world, Panetta said, but the most immediate threat to our ability to achieve our mission is fiscal uncertainty: not knowing what our budget will be; not knowing if our budget will be drastically cut; and not knowing whether the strategy that we put in place can survive.
Panetta emphasized that DOD is doing its part by implementing over the next decade the $487 billion spending reduction set by Congress. We designed a strategy; we know what the elements of that strategy are; we built a budget based on that, and we achieved our savings by virtue of that strategy, he said.
But the additional half-trillion-dollar meat-axe cuts sequester would trigger still loom less than 50 days away, the secretary noted.
While we appreciate that both parties came together to delay sequester, the unfortunate thing is sequester itself, and the sequester threat, [was] not removed, Panetta said. And the prospect is undermining our ability to responsibly manage this department.
Two other fiscal crises are meanwhile converging on the nations forces, he added:
– Because Congress didnt approve an appropriations act for fiscal 2013, DOD has been operating under a continuing resolution and will do so at least through March 27. The continuing resolution funds operations at fiscal 2012 levels, instead of the higher proposed fiscal 2013 levels Pentagon officials had anticipated.
– The debt-ceiling crisis, Panetta said, could create even further turmoil that could impact on our budget and our economy.
Looking at all three factors, the secretary said simply, We have no idea what the hell is going to happen. But DOD leaders do know that the worst-case scenario would mean serious harm to military readiness, he said.
Panetta noted defense strategy places the highest priority on operations and maintenance funding as the key to a ready force. He described the triple threat facing those funds:
– If Congress fails to pass an appropriations bill for fiscal 2013 and instead extends the continuing resolution through the fiscal year, overall operating accounts would decrease by about 5 percent about $11 billion that would come out of [operations and maintenance funds].
– If sequester occurs, We would have to cut, in this fiscal year, another 9 percent, almost $18 billion from these operating accounts as well.
– To protect funding for the war in Afghanistan from required cuts, We would again have to cut another 5 percent, another $11 billion, from readiness money available in the active-duty base budget, and more for the Army and the Marine Corps.
Panetta summed up: Were looking at a 19 to 20 percent reduction in the base budget operating dollars for active units, including a cut of what looks like almost 30 percent for the Army.
The secretary said practical results of these cuts would be less training for units not imminently deploying to Afghanistan; less shipboard training for all but the highest priority missions; less pilot training and fewer flight hours; curtailed ship maintenance and disruption to research and weapons modernization programs.
Civilian employees would also take a hit, he said: unpaid layoffs, which the government calls furloughs, would put civilian employees temporarily out of work. This would further harm our readiness, and create hardship on them and their families, Panetta noted.
A plan is in place to implement such layoffs if sequester happens, the secretary said. This action is strictly precautionary, he said. I want to make that clear: It’s precautionary. But I have an obligation to let Congress know that we may have to do that, and I very much hope that we will not have to furlough anyone. But we’ve got to be prepared to do that if we face this situation.
Panetta said the net result of sequester under a continuing resolution would be what I said we should not do with the defense budget, which is to hollow out the defense force of this nation. Rather than let that happen, Panetta added, DOD leaders have decided to take steps to minimize the damage that would follow Congressional inaction.
We still have an obligation to protect this country, the secretary said. So for that reason, I’ve asked the military services and the other components to immediately begin implementing prudent measures that will help mitigate our budget risk.
Panetta said he has directed any actions taken must be reversible to the extent feasible and must minimize harmful effects on readiness.
But, he added, We really have no choice but to prepare for the worst. First steps to containing budget risk will include cutting back on facility maintenance, freezing civilian hiring and delaying some contract awards, the secretary said.
Panetta has also directed the services to develop detailed plans for how they will implement sequester-triggered cuts, if required, he said, because there will be so little time to respond in the current fiscal year. I mean, we’re almost halfway through the fiscal year.
The secretary said the intensive planning effort now under way will ensure the military is prepared to accomplish its core missions.
I want to emphasize, however, that no amount of planning that we do can fully offset the harm that would result from sequestration, if that happens, he added.
Panetta said U.S. service members are working and fighting, and some are dying, every day.
Those of us in Washington need to have the same courage as they do to do the right thing and try to protect the security of this country, he added. We must ensure we have the resources we need to defend the nation and meet our commitments to our troops, to our civilian employees, and to their families, after more than a decade of war.
Congress must pass a balanced deficit reduction plan, de-trigger sequester, and pass the appropriations bills for fiscal 2013, he said.
I’m committed to do whatever I can in the time I have remaining [in office] to try to work with the Congress to resolve these issues, Panetta said. We have a vital mission to perform, one that the American people expect and that they are entitled to, which is to protect their safety and to protect our national security. Congress must be a partner in that mission. I’d love to be able to do this alone, but I can’t.
Dempsey offered his view of what wreckage the fiscal storm would leave behind.
As I’ve said before, sequestration is a self-inflicted wound on national security, the chairman said. It’s an irresponsible way to manage our nation’s defense. It cuts blindly, and it cuts bluntly. It compounds risk, and it compromises readiness. In fact, readiness is what’s now in jeopardy. We’re on the brink of creating a hollow force, the very thing we said we must avoid.
Dempsey noted sequestration may now hit while the department, under a continuing resolution, is also implementing the deep cuts already made in the Budget Control Act and fighting a war in Afghanistan.
Any one of these would be a serious challenge on its own, Dempsey said. Together, they set the conditions for readiness to pass a tipping point as early as March.
DOD wont shortchange those in combat, and will resource those who are next to deploy while still caring for wounded warriors and their families, the chairman said.
But for the rest of the force, operations, maintenance and training will be gutted, Dempsey said. We’ll ground aircraft, return ships to port, and sharply curtail training across the force. [W]e may be forced to furlough civilians at the expense of maintenance and even health care. We’ll be unable to reset the force following a decade of war.
Military readiness will begin to erode immediately, Dempsey said, telling reporters, Within months, we’ll be less prepared. Within a year, we’ll be unprepared.
The crisis can and must be avoided, the sooner, the better, the chairman said.
We need budget certainty; we need time to absorb the budget reductions; we need the flexibility to manage those reductions across the entire budget, he said. We have none of these things right now. And without them, we have no choice but to steel ourselves for the consequences.
4) Tillman Military Scholarship Applications Available on Monday
Starting next Monday, January 14, you can apply for a Tillman Military Scholar. The application will be open until February 15. To see the criteria for the college scholarships and to find the application form and essay questions go to: http://www.pattillmanfoundation.org/tillman-military-scholars/apply/. You can start working on the application immediately.
5) Unemployment Rate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans Drop/Still Too High
After 5 long years the unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans has finally dropped. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the annual jobless rate for 2012 dropped to 9.9% from 12.1% in 2011.
It is still much too high when the national annual unemployment rate was 7.8%
The present rates mean that approximately 205,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are presently unemployed. With the continuing wind down it is expected that 300,000 more service members will leave the military in each of the next 4 years. So this will be a continuing concern.
The veterans who are having the worse time finding employment are the young (ages 18-24) and women.
The VA reports that 880,000 veterans have used the Post 9/11 GI Bill for education.
6) Veteran Bills Signed Into Law
This week the President signed the 2 large veterans bills that passed the House at the very end of the 112th session of Congress. Below please find a Press Release explaining both bills.
News from the Committee on Veterans Affairs
Jeff Miller, Chairman, 335 Cannon House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515
Veterans Bills Become Law
WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, two veterans bills, H.R. 4057, the Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act of 2012, as amended, and S. 3202, the Dignified Burial and Other Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 2012 were signed into law by President Obama. Rep. Jeff Miller, Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs issued the following statement:
During the 112th Congress, we came together with the higher education community and the Veterans Service Organizations in our commitment to ensuring that student veterans are getting the very best out of the GI Bill. The enactment of H.R. 4057 only strengthens the educational benefits afforded Americas veterans, and will give them access to the best available information as they make life-changing decisions about higher education.
The enactment of H.R. 4057 and S. 3202, is indicative of the bipartisan work of both the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committee over the past two years. We will continue to work together to ensure that our veterans have access to the resources they need to lead the best possible lives.
Rep. Gus Bilirakis, Vice Chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs issued the following statement:
The Improving Transparency of Education Opportunities for Veterans Act provides a one-stop shop for our veterans, ensuring they have the resources they need to pursue a quality education, and ultimately, best position themselves for their future career goals. As our veterans make the transition from the battlefield to civilian life, we must continue to make them a top priority, and I am proud our Veterans Service Organizations, educational institutions, and my colleagues in the House and Senate came together in support of this shared goal.
For more news from the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, please visit:
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