Military News

Thursday, March 05, 2009

MILITARY CONTRACTS March 5, 2009

AIR FORCE

The Air Force is modifying a contract with Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation of San Diego, California not to exceed $107,575,999. This action will provide for long lead items associated with Lot 8 Global Hawk Block 40 Air Vehicles. At this time $25,999,999 has been obligated. 303 AESG/SYK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity. (FA8620-08-C-3001, P00007)

The Air Force is modifying a contract to L3 Communications Corporations, of Arlington, Texas for $19,472,016. This modification acquires the first Mission Training Center and spares that will remain at the contractor's facility as a Training System support Center throughout production, and then will be shipped to the final ACC identified operational site. At this time the entire amount has been obligated. 677 AESG/PK, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity. (FA8621-09-C-6292, P00003)

NAVY

Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, El Segundo, Calif., is being awarded $55,500,000 for delivery order #0007 under previously awarded firm fixed price, definite-delivery/definite-quantity contract (N00383-04-G-200H) for advanced targeting forward infrared (ATFLIT) system components used on the F/A-18 aircraft. Work will be performed at McKinney, Texas (50 percent); and El Segundo, Calif. (50 percent), and work is expected to be completed by September 2009. Contract funds will not expire before the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Inventory Control Point is the contracting activity.

Pentagon Spokesman Addresses Afghanistan, Mexico, Other Key Issues

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

March 5, 2009 - A senior Pentagon spokesman offered gratitude to Canada and touched on a variety of other topics in a wide-ranging news conference today. Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said the United States and the Defense Department appreciate the military support Canada has provided for operations in Afghanistan.

"The Canadian military has been an invaluable partner in southern Afghanistan," he said. "Their nearly 3,000 forces are among the bravest and the most effective in [Regional Command South], and they have paid dearly for their efforts to help the Afghan people improve their lives, losing 111 troops in the process."

Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay is slated to meet with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates at the Pentagon today, Morrell said. Gates and MacKay met last month at a NATO defense ministers conference in Krakow, Poland.

In today's meeting, Gates and MacKay likely will review issues they discussed in Krakow, Morrell said, including the situation in Afghanistan, the status of President Barack Obama's Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review, and the upcoming NATO Summit marking the alliance's 60th anniversary, slated to take place in early April at Baden-Baden and Kehl, Germany, and in Strasbourg, France.

Gates also will offer his deepest condolences to MacKay and the Canadian people, Morrell said, for the three Canadian soldiers killed in an improvised explosive device attack near Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 3. Canada's troop losses in Afghanistan represent the highest level proportionally among all forces deployed in that country, Morrell said.

"We honor their sacrifices and appreciate their steadfast commitment to bettering the situation in Kandahar," Morrell said of Canadian forces' contributions in Afghanistan.

Morrell also addresses a variety of other defense-related issues.

On North Korea:

Morrell said he wouldn't comment on intelligence reports concerning "what the North Koreans may or may not be up to" regarding their alleged preparations for another ballistic missile launch. However, he said, senior military members of the United Nations Command and the North Korean army are slated to attend a round of talks tomorrow to discuss issues of mutual trust and tension reduction.

"We are pleased that the [North Korean army has] accepted the U.N. Command's proposal for these general-officer talks," Morrell said, noting that such a meeting of senior-level officers hasn't taken place since 2002.

On the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on homosexuality:

Morrell said he knew of no current Pentagon internal review of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, which prohibits inquiring into a servicemember's sexual preference in the absence of disallowed behavior, but allows action to be taken against homosexual servicemembers who disclose their orientation by words or actions.

"'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' remains the law of the land, and we are following it," Morrell said. However, he didn't rule out a review of the U.S. military's rules regarding homosexuality in the future.

On the status of U.S. strategy reviews on Afghanistan and Pakistan:

"The only review, as I've said to you before, that I believe counts is the one that the president has asked for," Morrell told reporters. The White House-level review, he said, is chaired by Bruce Riedel and is co-vice-chaired by Michèle Flournoy, the Pentagon's undersecretary of defense for policy, and Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Gates has been briefed on the status of the White House review, Morrell said, noting U.S. Central Command's review on Afghanistan and Pakistan is completed and would be provided to the White House as part of its review.

On U.S. requests for allied support in Afghanistan:

The Unites States' NATO allies have increased their troop commitments in Afghanistan over the past 18 months, Morrell said, noting that Gates recognizes there probably isn't much more military capacity to be had for NATO countries to send to Afghanistan. However, he said, there likely is significant civilian capacity available in the form of money, banking, governance and other kinds of experts, as well as trainers for the Afghan police.

On Mexico:

"The situation in Mexico is clearly a cause for concern," Morrell said, citing the violence there among illegal drug cartels. Gates, he said, addressed the drug problem in Mexico during his appearance March 1 on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press." Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is slated to visit Mexico later this week, Morrell said, to see what else the United States can do to assist the Mexican military in its fight against the drug cartels.

State Department and Pentagon officials support the Merida Initiative, which involves U.S. intelligence sharing, law enforcement cooperation and training programs with Mexican authorities to fight drug trafficking and other transnational crime, Morrell said. Former President George W. Bush signed the initiative June 30.

On Kyrgyzstan:

Morrell said "a slew of alternatives" exist to Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan, a major logistics hub for the war in Afghanistan, which is slated to close to U.S. military use later this year.

On the Defense Department's fiscal 2010 budget:

The budget process is under way and "very closely held," Morrell said. Gates, he said, wants to change the Defense Department's acquisition process to make it more efficient, to better serve the military, and to save taxpayer dollars. Gates believes the military services have to operate far more jointly in their procurement processes, Morrell said.

"So, that if one service has a particular capability, it doesn't necessarily need to be replicated in the other services," he explained. "The other services can accept a degree of risk in that area, because one of the other services has that [capability]."

Tradewinds Exercise Begins in Bahamas

By Marine Corps Staff Sgt. A.C. Mink
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 5, 2009 - More than 400 U.S. servicemembers, as well as security forces and officials from the Caribbean nation and British Royal Marines, were on hand here yesterday for the opening ceremonies of the 25th annual Tradewinds exercise. "This exercise is yet another demonstration of the U.S. government's commitment to the peace and security of the Bahamas, the Caribbean region and the Western Hemisphere through a continuous program of cooperation among all partner nations," Timothy Zuniga-Brown, charge d'affaires at the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas, said in his opening remarks.

Tradewinds is a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed, U.S. Southern Command-sponsored annual exercise designed to improve cooperation and interoperability of partner nations in responding to regional security threats.

"The Tradewinds exercise, now in its 25th year, has established itself as an essential and dynamic collaborative framework for improving cooperation and interoperability among participating countries to confront head-on [the] grave security challenges in the Caribbean region," Bahamas National Security Minister O.A. "Tommy" Turnquest said.

Turnquest thanked the U.S. government and Southcom for their support through the Tradewinds exercise series and the Enduring Friendship program, through which the nation received four interceptor vessels to help its own security efforts.

The program provides high-speed interceptor boats with extensive communication and surveillance suites, as well as a command, control and communication package that links U.S. Joint Interagency Task Force South with partner nations' operations centers to track and coordinate seizure of illicit maritime traffic.

"The focus of this year's activities on maritime interdiction is critical and timely, and is in line with our determination that every effort should be made to prevent a significant upsurge in drug trafficking in the Caribbean region," Turnquest said.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Trent Blackson of Marine Corps Forces South, the exercise director, emphasized the effect of the cooperative effort.

"Exercise Tradewinds 2009 provides an excellent opportunity for our forces to train together to counter the illicit trafficking threat," he said. "We have brought together a team of experts with wide-ranging skill sets to improve our collective capability across the Caribbean Basin to stop the flow of illegal narcotics, weapons, explosives, terrorists and human trafficking."

Given those issues affecting maritime traffic, as well as the area's vulnerability to natural disasters such as hurricanes, Turnquest said he is "pleased with the focus on search-and-rescue operations, with emphasis on command and control," and that he's "convinced the training will provide invaluable expertise and experience for all participants."

Nations participating in Tradewinds 2009 include Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, St. Kitts-Neves, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad-Tobago, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In addition to servicemembers from the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force and the National Guard, U.S. participation includes members of Joint Interagency Task Force South, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Partner nations' maritime security forces, Royal Marine commandos and personnel from the Caribbean Regional Security System also will participate.

(Marine Corps Staff Sgt. A.C. Mink is deployed to Tradewinds 2009 from Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C.)

Most Soldiers With Brain Injury Heal, Medical Official Says

By C. Todd Lopez
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 5, 2009 - Mild traumatic brain injury, also known as a concussion, affects from 10 to 20 percent of servicemembers returning from combat deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan. During a roundtable discussion at the Pentagon yesterday as part of "Brain Injury Awareness Month," Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Loree K. Sutton, director of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, said more than 90 percent of servicemembers with TBI have concussions and recovery quickly.

"I can't stress this enough," Sutton said. "The vast majority of people with TBI will get better. Certainly, the moderate or more severe cases will take longer to recover, but it is also important to recognize this is not an individual concern alone. That's where family comes in, the unit comes in, and the community comes in."

Mild TBI -- concussions -- are the result of a blow to the head, and can result in disorientation, headaches, dizziness, balance difficulties, ringing in the ears, blurred vision and memory gaps. The Army and other services screen for concussions with a tool called the Military Acute Concussion Evaluation. The tool, recently supported by the Institutes of Medicine, was first released in August 2006.

The military also uses the Automated Neuropsychological Assessment Metric, or ANAM, to set baselines for servicemembers before deployment. The tool establishes a baseline for a soldier's reaction time, short-term memory and other cognitive skills, and providers can use the results as another critical piece of information for the evaluation and management of injured servicemembers, Sutton said.

"We've directed a lot of research and time and energy to identifying the knowledge gaps for the entire range of traumatic brain injury, which spans from concussion, or mTBI, all the way through to severe TBI," Sutton said. "The good news is that for 80 to 85 percent of people that experience TBI, it is a concussion, and most folks will recover quickly -- particularly if they pay attention early on and get the rest they need. Early intervention is important."

The Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center, established after the first Gulf War, reports that some 33 percent of patients who needed medical evaluation for battle-related injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here in 2008 had TBI. Cumulatively, the center's sites have seen more than 9,000 patients who suffer from TBI. Sutton said it is important for soldiers who think they may have suffered an injury that might lead to TBI to self-report to ensure the best possible recovery.

"Our troops are very motivated and want to stay in the fight," she said. "But our message is if you hurt your arm or you hurt your leg, you'd get it taken care of. Well the same thing applies to one's brain. So asking for help is an act of courage and strength, and we have a great system set up both within [the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments] and in partnership with our civilian colleagues."

In June, Defense Department officials broke ground on the National Intrepid Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury at Bethseda, Md. The $70-million, 75,000-square-foot facility will be a state-of-the-art treatment and rehabilitation center.

"The National Intrepid Center of Excellence will become the hub of our national and global network, so we can draw on the expertise around the country and around the world, particularly on those individuals that are not getting better as we hoped they would," Sutton said.

(C. Todd Lopez works for Army News Service.)

Piracy on High Seas Begins On Land, Defense Official Says

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

March 5, 2009 - The root cause of maritime piracy resides on land, and halting it requires an international solution, the Defense Department's head of African Affairs told a congressional panel today. "The absence of a strong government in Somalia remains the single greatest challenge to regional security," Daniel Pike, acting principal director of African Affairs, said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee. "[It] provides freedom of action for those engaged in piracy along the Somalia coast."

Because experience has shown that no one nation can secure every ocean and waterway around the world, all nations have a vital interest in ensuring the maritime domain remains secure and open, he added.

This is precisely what an international coalition has come together to guarantee, Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the U.S. 5th Fleet, said. He also commands the Combined Maritime Forces, an international coalition created to address the recent uptick in piracy in the Gulf of Aiden.

Several years ago, the number of pirate attacks off the eastern coast of Somalia began to increase, he said. In response, the U.S. 5th Fleet and the shipping industry moved the transit lane further off the coast.

It worked, and attacks decreased to just a few a year, Gortney said. But the situation changed in mid-August 2008, when a new clan of Somali pirates began attacking ships north of Somalia in the Gulf of Aden. In just a few days, the number of pirate attacks went from three to 12.

"Ultimately, we knew the solution to the problem of piracy is ashore in Somalia itself," he said. "Therefore, I focused the coalition maritime efforts on security and stability ... operations at sea that would give the international community time to address the long-term solution."

Counter-piracy efforts have been focused in three main areas: increasing international naval presence, improving the shipping industry's defensive measures, and creating an international legal framework for resolving piracy cases.

"Since late August, there have been significant strides made," Gortney said. That's in part because of Combined Task Force 151, which Gortney established in early January with the specific mission and mandate to conduct counter-piracy operations.

"The efforts of CTF 151 are critical to the tactical coordination and deconfliction efforts with all of the international naval forces operating in the Gulf of Aden," he said. "CTF 151, and other cooperating naval forces, have encountered approximately 250 pirates."

Of those, 121 have been disarmed and released, 117 have been disarmed and turned over for prosecution; and nine are pending final disposition.

A memorandum of understanding with Kenya signed in January allowed for this morning's turnover of seven suspected pirates taken by CTF 151 last month to Kenyan authorities in the Port of Mombasa with full evidentiary packages, he said.

Pirates' abilities have further been affected by the coalition and task force efforts, which resulted in 28 pirate skiffs seized or destroyed, Gortney said. In addition, 133 small arms, 28 rocket-propelled grenades, 51 rocket-propelled-grenade projectiles, and 21 ladders and grappling hooks were confiscated.

"We have been successful, not only in our coalition efforts, but in communicating and coordinating with other naval forces deployed to the region, as well as working with the merchant shipping industry to share best practices and lessons learned," he said.
All of the efforts to counter pirate attacks thus far have resulted in a drop in successful attacks from a high of 64 percent in October to 17 percent in February, according to State Department statistics. Currently, six ships are being held hostage, compared to the 14 ships that were being held hostage toward the end of last year.

In addition to the military approach to counter-piracy attacks, the government is moving on three other fronts to curtail attacks. Diplomacy, helping the shipping industry bolster self-defense efforts, and improving judicial capacity in the region to prosecute and penalize pirates all are part of the strategy, the State Department's acting deputy assistant secretary for international security and arms control said.

"On these four tracks, working together, I think we've made good progress just in the past few months," Stephen Mull told the committee. "The benefits from this effort, I think, will go far beyond just stopping pirates.

"I think this cooperation could form the foundation for a new regional maritime security framework with regional states and outside contributors," he continued. "This new framework could include a whole range of features that I think would improve the security of the region, as well as our own security."

Prescription Crosscheck Program Helps Tricare Beneficiaries

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

March 5, 2009 - The Tricare military health plan is ensuring patient safety for its 9.2 million beneficiaries through a revolutionary drug utilization program, a senior Tricare official said last week. "We cover about 2.2 million prescription medication claims per week -- that's about 120 million prescriptions per year," Navy Rear Adm. Thomas J. McGinnis, chief of Tricare's pharmaceutical operations directorate, told "Dot Mil Docs" listeners Feb. 26 on BlogTalkRadio.com. "That data comes into the Pharmacy Data Transaction System, ... and the purpose of PDTS is to provide a safety net via electronic drug utilization reviews."

McGinnis said the software notes any new medication coming into a patient's profile and compares it to other medications in that patient's profile. The software looks for duplications in therapy or possible drug interactions.

"If it notes a serious interaction, PDTS sends a message to the pharmacist, who will call the prescriber to discuss what the patient should do," McGinnis explained. "Our ultimate goal here at Tricare is to identify safety concerns in our beneficiary population before the number of serious adverse events triggers a concern at [the Food and Drug Administration]."

He added that the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have made great strides in collecting medical and pharmaceutical data in a way that potentially can identify safety issues quickly. The departments have formed a partnership with FDA in a new initiative called "The Sentinel Network," an advanced adverse-event surveillance system.

"We also need this capability to assess the negative risk of medications vs. their benefit in the population at large," McGinnis said. "Any medications you take has risks. Our goal is to assess the risk and notify the providers and patients so that they can make informed decisions about how they should take their medications."

McGinnis added that the system is able to see clinical data, such as laboratory results, for patients under the care of a military treatment center. "The military treatment centers use an electronic medical record called 'Altha,' but not all doctors' offices in the private sector use an electronic medical record yet," he added. But the use of electronic medical records will increase in the private sector over the next five years, he said, and this will help Tricare to capture data and to be able to do robust, clinical studies.

"That's coming soon with a big push now from the government to capture these data in an electronic medical record," he said. "That data will not only flow to Tricare, but it will flow from Tricare to providers who see our patients so they can see what laboratory or radiology studies were done in the military treatment facilities.

"We also plan to provide patients with this same data in an electronic 'personal health record' if they would like to have it," he continued. "That, too, is coming soon."

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity's Emerging Media directorate.)

Overweight Youth Pose Recruitment Challenges

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

March 5, 2009 - Fat is bad for your health. And as defense officials attest, it's also bad for recruiting -- and for national defense. Curtis Gilroy, the Pentagon's accessions chief, lamented during a congressional hearing this week that many recruitment-age youth are too overweight to qualify for military service.

And as a recent Defense Department study revealed, the number of overweight active-duty troops has more than doubled during the past 10 years.

"We have a crisis in this country," Gilroy said during a March 3 hearing before the House Armed Services Committee's military personnel subcommittee. He cited obesity among other shortcomings such as physical fitness deficiencies and lack of a high school diploma that disqualify about three-quarters of 17-to-24-year-olds from serving.

A couch-potato lifestyle and fast-food appetite has fattened up America's youth in a big way. Studies say one in five Americans ages 18 to 34 – the prime recruiting age -- is obese. That's forced recruiters to turn away many applicants who don't meet military weight standards.

Almost 48,000 potential recruits flunked those standards during physicals at military entrance processing stations since fiscal 2005, officials said. And that number doesn't take into account potential recruits who never get that far because their recruiters screen them out, or who never go to a recruiter in the first place because they know they're overweight.

The military ranks are filled with notable exceptions. Leo Knight-Inglesby, for example, dropped more than 160 pounds – going from 351 to 190 pounds – to join the Air Force in December.

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Allan Desruisseaux lost more than 100 pounds after initially being turned away by recruiters at Recruiting Substation Chandler, Ariz., at a hulking 326 pounds. Ultimately, he graduated from Marine Corps recruit training at 189 pounds.

But officials express concern that these success stories are the exception and not the rule, and that the overweight youth population will continue to challenge recruiting efforts.

Army Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, who heads the Army Recruiting Command, has predicted that obesity will become the single biggest roadblock that keeps young people who want to join the military from serving.

Bostick went so far as to propose a formal program to help would-be soldiers lose weight and get in shape so they can enlist.