Military News

Thursday, April 30, 2009

VA Emphasizes Education Before Post-9/11 GI Bill Switch

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

April 30, 2009 - As the Department of Veterans Affairs begins accepting sign-ups tomorrow for the Post-9/11 GI Bill, officials are encouraging anyone considering enrolling in the program to get educated about it first to ensure it's right for them. "Starting tomorrow, people can start applying for the new benefit," said Keith Wilson, director of education service for the Veterans Benefits Administration. "We're excited."

The Post-9/11 Bill that takes effect Aug. 1 has generated a lot of buzz. In addition to broader educational benefits, it includes a popular provision that will enable enrollees to transfer their benefits to immediate family members.

But before electing to shift to the new program from the Montgomery GI Bill or another VA-sponsored education program -- an irrevocable decision -- Wilson recommends that they get the facts to make sure it's the best move for them.

"It's a great program, and it's going to be beneficial for a lot of veterans," he said of the Post-9/11 benefit. But jumping too quickly to sign up without fully evaluating it ultimately could shortchange some people, he said.

So as VA works to get word out about the Post-9/11 GI Bill, it has also geared up a big education campaign about what it does and doesn't deliver.

"The important thing to remember is that this is one of several programs we administer, all of which have different eligibility criteria," Wilson said. "The program that is best for the individual veteran is not always going to be the Post-9/11 GI Bill."
Among questions Wilson encourages people to consider when making the decision are:

-- Which benefit will pay more? This needs to factor in, not just what VA pays, but also the impact on any other educational assistance the person receives. For example, if the student attends school in one of the many states that offers veterans free tuition or receives another form of state or campus aid, will switching to the Post-9/11 benefit change that?

-- What tier of benefit are they eligible for under the Post-9/11 GI Bill? The program includes three payments: tuition and fees, a living allowance, and a book and supply stipend. But current active-duty members can't receive the living allowance.

-- What type of training do they want to pursue? Not all training covered by the Montgomery GI Bill, for example, is covered by the Post-9/11 bill. The new benefit, for example, doesn't cover technical school training.

-- How long do you expect to take to use the benefit? The Post-9/11 GI Bill pays out benefits for 15 years, five years longer than the Montgomery GI Bill benefit.

-- Do you plan to attend school less than full-time? It will affect whether you receive the housing allowance under the Post-9/11 benefit.

-- Do you plan to transfer your unused benefits to an immediate family member? Only the Post-9/11 benefit offers that option.

"There are a series of things, both monetary and nonmonetary, that individuals need to consider," Wilson said.

Wilson encourages anyone eyeing the new Post-9/11 program to read up about it on the VA Web site. Those who need additional assistance can click on a link on the site to e-mail VA officials with a question, or can talk with a VA benefits counselor by calling 1-888-GI-BILL-1 toll-free, he said.

"We're emphasizing education so people understand the full range of our educational programs," Wilson said. "We really want to be sure we tailor the best program to the individual."

Meanwhile, a disabled Iraqi war veteran now serving as a top VA official is going to some unprecedented lengths to ensure servicemembers and veterans alike understand the opportunities available to them through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Tammy Duckworth, who was confirmed last week as VA's assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, taped a YouTube video earlier this week to encourage those who qualify for the benefit to check it out.

Although the new benefit doesn't take effect until Aug. 1, Duckworth said, it's time to get busy now so people can make decisions about enrolling in the program in time to use it to cover educational costs during the upcoming fall semester.

"Right now is when students are getting their acceptance letters from universities and trying to decide what school they are going to," she said.

Similarly, she said, current servicemembers may be making decisions about whether they will re-enlist in the military, and whether they can afford college.

Defense Department officials emphasize that applicants must be on active duty or in the Selected Reserve on Aug. 1 to qualify for transferability provisions under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

Duckworth is busy tapping into just about any communications vehicle available – from the VA Web site to newsletters to veterans service groups and community outreach – to help get word out about the new benefit.

She's also hoping the YouTube video will help. "It's to put a face of another [Operation Iraqi Freedom] veteran out there telling other OIF vets, 'You have earned these benefits, this is going to start in August,' and encouraging them to get more information so they can decide if this is right for them," she said.

Duckworth understands her audience well. A member of the Illinois Army National Guard, she was deployed to Iraq in November 2004 when militants attacked the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter she was piloting. The rocket-propelled grenade cost Duckworth both legs and severely damaged her right arm.

Now, as she reaches out to fellow veterans of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, Duckworth emphasized that she's not "selling" the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

"There are three different GI bills that they can choose from," she said, echoing Wilson. "Just because this is the newest doesn't mean this is the most appropriate for the veteran. They have to get good information so they can make the best decision as to whether or not the Post-9/11 GI Bill is the right one for them."

MILITARY CONTRACTS April 30, 2009

AIR FORCE
The Air Force is modifying a firm fixed price contract with Lockheed Martin Corp., of Marietta, Ga., for an amount not to exceed $292,800,000. This contract will provide four C-130J aircraft for the Iraq government. At this time, $6,920,907 has been obligated. 657 AESS, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8625-06-C-6456,P00080).

The Air Force is modifying a fixed price contract with Lockheed Martin Corp., of Marietta, Ga., for $15,840,000. This contract modification will exercise options to purchase the MC-130J unique configuration increment for 6 Global War on Terror aircraft. At this time, the entire amount has been obligated. 657 AESS, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio is the contracting activity (FA8625-06-C-6456).

NAVY
Hensel Phelps Construction Co., Greeley, Colo., is being awarded a $53, 787,000 firm fixed price construction contract for design and construction of new Bachelor Enlisted Quarters at Naval Base Guam. The multi-story building will provide standard 1+1E room configuration with 140 two-person rooms for 280 E1-E3 personnel. The building will include central services within the module, spaces for mechanical, electrical, telecommunication, janitor, storage rooms, and vending and lounge areas. The project will also provide supporting utilities and facilities, surface parking lot, and paving and site improvements. Work will be performed on U.S. Naval Base Guam and is expected to be completed by May 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively negotiated with 41 offers solicited via the Naval Facilities Engineering Command e-solicitation website with seven proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Marianas, Guam, is the contracting activity (N40192-09-C-1314).

Trijicon, Inc.*, Wixom, Mich., is being awarded a $33,000,000 not-to-exceed ceiling firm fixed price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for the procurement, delivery, maintenance, and logistical support of the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) Day Optic (SDO). The SDO is a magnified day optic that mounts onto the M249 Light Machine Gun. The SDO is to aid the SAW gunner in target detection, recognition, and identification, thereby increasing the combat effectiveness and lethality of the user. This contract is a five-year contract with a not-to-exceed value of $33,000,000, with a minimum buy of 25 SDO systems within the first contract year. Work will be performed in Wixom, Mich., and is expected to be completed by five years from date of contract award. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured, with proposals solicited via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online, with three offers received. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-09-D-1014).

Rolls Royce Engine Services-Oakland, Inc., Oakland, Calif., is being awarded a $26,721,591 indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for the repairs of up to 32 T56-A-427 Series IV engines for the E-2C and C-2 aircraft. Work will be performed in Oakland, Calif., and is expected to be completed in Jun. 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity (N00019-09-D-0006).

L-3 Communications Vertex Aerospace LLC, Madison, Miss., is being awarded a $21,523,093 modification to a previously awarded indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity delivery order contract (N68936-06-D-0024) to provide specialized technical services in support of Depot Level Maintenance (DLM) work performed at the Fleet Readiness Center, Southwest (FRC-SW) on aircraft and rework of associated components and materials. Services to be provided include modifications, in-service repairs, and all other categories of service associated with aircraft DLM and its planning. The estimated level of effort for this modification is 580,139 man-hours. Work will be performed at FRC-SW, San Diego, Calif., (78 percent); the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS), Camp Pendleton, Calif., (9 percent); the Naval Air Station (NAS), Lemoore, Calif., (4 percent); the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, Pt. Mugu, Calif., (2 percent); NAS Whidbey Island, Bremerton, Wash., (2 percent); MCAS Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, (2 percent); MCAS Yuma, Ariz., (2 percent); and MCAS Miramar, Calif., (1 percent), and is expected to be completed in Dec. 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., is the contracting activity.

The Boeing Co., Wichita, Kan., is being awarded a $15,499,084 modification against a previously awarded firm fixed price contract (N00019-09-C-0051) to exercise an option for the procurement of 15 each Crash Survivable Flight Incident Recorders and Flight Data Recorders (CSFIR/FDR) for E-6B Mercury Aircraft. In addition, this modification provides for the procurement of associated technical data and spare and repair parts. Work will be performed at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., and is expected to be completed in Sept. 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Northrop Grumman Corp., Integrated Systems, Bethpage, N.Y., is being awarded a $12,742,098 modification to a previously awarded cost plus incentive fee contract (N00019-03-C-0057) to provide integrated logistics services for the E-2D Pilot Production aircraft in support of the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye system development and emonstration effort. Work will be performed in Bethpage, N.Y., (91 percent) and at various locations throughout the United States (8 percent), and is expected to be completed in Sept. 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Systems Application & Technologies, Inc.*, Oxnard, Calif., is being awarded a $9,542,443 modification to a previously awarded cost plus award fee contract (N68936-09-C-0003) for operational, maintenance, and technical support services for the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Ranges Department. These requirements include preparation of land targets and target areas, operations and maintenance of range instrumentation/communication systems, frequency monitoring, field power systems (fuel-powered generators and photo-voltaic systems), photo-electronics (maintenance and repair of video equipment, cameras, tracking mount trailers, and domes), land targets, range scrap removal, ordnance removal and cleanup, range scheduling and billing, meteorology, operational support, stand-by maintenance, and post-operation analysis of test data. The estimated level of effort is 175,467 man-hours. Work will be performed in China Lake, Calif., (70 percent), and Point Mugu, Calif., (30 percent), and is expected to be completed in Septe. 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, Calif., is the contracting activity.

Drace Construction Corp.*, Gulfport, Miss., is being awarded a $7,242,888 fixed price design-build construction contract for the 25th Naval Construction Regiment Headquarters Building in support of Naval Construction Battalion Command at Gulfport, Miss. This project consists of design, site development for, and construction of a new specialized office building to house the functional space for the 25th NCR Command and Control staff to carry out their mission. It includes administrative offices, training space, SCIF room, auditorium, data center, file storage, associated support areas, electrical and mechanical utilities, demolition, paving and site improvements. Work will be performed in Gulfport, Miss., and is expected to be completed by Nov. 8, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with two proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla., is the contracting activity (N69450-09-C-0757).

P & S Construction, Inc.*, Lowell, Mass., is being awarded a $6,957,000 firm fixed price construction contract for design and construction of Submarine Learning Center, Submarine Base New London, Groton, Conn. The work to be performed provides for a new two-story building and parking for 70 personally owned vehicles. The new facility will include demolition of building 137, landscaping and reconfiguration of an adjoining parking lot. Work will be performed in Groton, Conn., and is expected to be completed by November 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online website, with seven proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-09-C-7000).

ARMY
Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., Stratford, Conn., was awarded on Apr. 28, 2009 a $ 48,899,067 firm fixed price with incentives contract. The nomenclature of the item being procured is Transmission, Mech., for a minimum quantity of 130, maximum quantity of 650 in support of the UH-60 program. Work will be performed in Stratford, Conn., with an estimated completion date of Apr. 30, 2014. One bid was solicited with one bid received. Army Contracting Command, Aviation and Missile Contracting Center, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-09-C-0156).

Nova technologies, Panama City, Fla., was awarded on Apr. 28, 2009 a $ 48,860,381 firm fixed price, time & material and cost contract for designing, developing, testing, integrating, installing, documenting, and delivering of the Special Operations Forces Requirements Analysis, Prototyping, Training, Operations and Rehearsal II (SOF RAPTOR II) in support of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM). Work is to be performed in Panama City, Fla., with an estimated completion date of Apr. 27, 2014. Bids were posted on the Web with One bid received. U.S. Army Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training, and Instrumentation (PEO STRI), Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity (W900KK-09-C-0044).

Smiths Detection, Inc., Edgewood, MD., was awarded on Apr. 28, 2009 a $ 36,950,960 commercial firm fixed price contract for a joint chemical Agent Detector (JCAD) Increment I- Power Communication Adapter kits. Work is to be performed in Edgewood, Md., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2009. One bid was solicited with one bid received. U.S. Army RDECOM Acquisition Center Aberdeen Proving Ground Contracting Division, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., is the contracting activity (W911SR-07-C-0054).

AAI Co., Hunt Valley, Md., was awarded on Apr. 28, 2009 a $ 29,211,614 cost plus fixed fee contract for 12 months or Contractor Logistics Support (CLS) on One System Remote Video Terminal (OSRVT) and Mobile Directional Antenna System (MDAS). Work is to be performed in Hunt Valley, Md., with an estimated completion date of Apr. 30, 2010. One bid was solicited with one bid received. U.S. Army Contracting Command, AMCOM Contracting Center, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-06-C-0190).

Teledyne Scientific & Imaging, LLC., Thousand Oak, Calif., was awarded on Apr. 24, 2009 a $ 6,399,917 cost plus fixed fee contract for Backpack Portable Desalinator (BPod) is a human powered, two stage system comprised of an ultra filtration stage for particle removal and a reverse osmosis stage for chemical separation. Work is to be performed in Thousand Oaks, Calif., with an estimated completion date of Mar. 31, 2011. Bids were posted on the Web with eleven bids received U.S. Army RDECOM Acquisition Center, research Triangle Park, N.C., is the contracting activity (W911NF-09-C-0023).

DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY

Foster Fuels Inc., Brookneal, Va.*, is being awarded a maximum $48,364,590 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for fuel. Other locations of performance are Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. Using services are federal civilian agencies. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The original proposal was Web solicited with one response. This contract is exercising the first option year. The date of performance completion is April 30, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC), Fort Belvoir, Va. (SP0600-08-D-4000).

Johann Haltermann Ltd., Channelview, Texas*, is being awarded a maximum $7,897,261 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for manufacture and distribution of rocket grade kerosene propellant. Other location of performance is in Pearland, Texas. Using services are Air Force, federal civilian agencies and commercial DoD customers. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The original proposal was solicited on FedBizOpps with one response. The date of performance completion is Apr. 30, 2014. The contracting activity is the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC-MK), San Antonio, Texas (SP0600-09-D-1513).

Air Wilmington Inc., Wilmington, N.C.*, is being awarded a maximum $5,007,658 fixed price with economic price adjustment contract for fuel. Other location of performance is in Wilmington, N.C. Using services are Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and other activities. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. There was one proposal originally solicited with one response. The date of performance completion is Mar. 31, 2013. The contracting activity is the Defense Energy Support Center (DESC-PH), Fort Belvoir, Va., (SP0600-09-D-0124).

Sexual Assault Prevention Videos Available from Defense Department

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

April 30, 2009 - Defense Department agencies at all levels have valuable resources at their fingertips for training servicemembers, civilian employees and contractors on prevention of sexual harassment and assault. More than two dozen prevention training DVDs are available through the DefenseImagery.mil Web site, said Vince Rotell, director of the Defense Imagery Management Operations Center's Customer Relationship Management Office at Tobyhanna Army Depot, Pa.

Although 25 DVDs are offered for sexual harassment and sexual assault prevention training, many are geared to a specific audience, Rotell noted. For instance, the Army is designated as the primary audience for the video titled, "The Many Faces of Sexual Assault," which was completed in May 2006 and serves as a way to generate discussion of sexual assault prevention. It also depicts a clear case of sexual assault vice sexual harassment.

Likewise, "SAVI: Putting the Pieces Together," completed in May 2003, targets the Navy, and explains the Navy's Sexual Assault Victim Intervention Program. The video was reviewed in 2008 to make sure the information contained in it was still current, Rotell said.

Another video, titled "Targeting Sexual Assault: Air Force Campaign Plan for Prevention and Response," was completed in November 2005 and is aimed at the Air Force. It explores the myths and realities surrounding sexual assault, as well as serving as a forum for the Air Force chief of staff and other senior leaders to address sexual assault and introduce the steps the Air Force is taking to enhance its prevention.

The videos, some of which date back to 1990, are reviewed about every three years to ensure they still contain valid information, Rotell said. "It comes back that these are still current," he said. "So there's some expert out there that's saying it's still good."

All of the more than 8,000 titles in the Defense Imagery catalog are available to Defense Department customers at no charge. Each request is checked to ensure only those eligible to have the videos get them.

The DefenseImagery.mil site employs a keyword search function. Users can search "sexual assault prevention," Rotell said, but should also search "sexual assault harassment," as both terms are used. Also, in the search box the only two "Result types" that should be checked are "A/V and IMI Products," and "Site Content," he added.

Obama Praises Support for Pentagon Procurement Reform

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

April 30, 2009 - There is strong support on Capitol Hill for Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' procurement-reform efforts at the Pentagon, President Barack Obama told reporters at a White House news conference today. Obama was accompanied by Sen. Carl Levin, D–Mich., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the Senate Armed Services Committee; and Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and Rep. John McHugh, R-N.Y., the chairman and ranking minority member, respectively, of the House Armed Services Committee.

"These four leaders have put together a procurement reform package that is long overdue," Obama said of the four legislators' efforts. "They've shown extraordinary courage and extraordinary leadership in moving it forward."

The legislators' work on Pentagon procurement reform mirror sGates' concerns about wasting taxpayer dollars on unnecessary or too-costly weapons systems.

During the development of the Pentagon's fiscal year 2010 budget, Gates proposed eliminating or reducing funding for several defense projects that incurred large cost overruns or didn't perform.

Gates told reporters at an April 6 Pentagon news conference that "every defense dollar spent to over-insure against a remote or diminishing risk – or, in effect, to 'run up the score' in a capability where the United States is already dominant – is a dollar not available to take care of our people, reset the force, win the wars we are in, and improve capabilities in areas where we are underinvested and potentially vulnerable."

"That is a risk I will not take," Gates added.

"Secretary Gates has done a tremendous job with the budget that he's crafted, going forward, in reflecting some of the same principles, that we spend our money where it's needed, based on national security interests and not based on politics," Obama said.

Obama suggested that Gates' efforts should be emulated across the federal government.

"And, I'm going to be urging everybody to take a hard, close look at the reforms that Secretary Gates has proposed," Obama said. "I think it's part and parcel at the overall attempt at gaining efficiency and improving our national security."

Clinton Praises Partnership Between State, Defense

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

April 30, 2009 - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said today she appreciates the partnership that has developed between her department and the Defense Department, and that she looks forward to further collaboration in the months ahead. Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee about the $83.4 billion fiscal 2009 supplemental war-funding request.

"Secretary Gates and I are here together because our departments' missions are aligned and our plans are integrated," Clinton said.

U.S. foreign policy is built upon defense, diplomacy and development, Clinton said. "The men and women in our armed forces perform their duties with courage and skill, putting their lives on the line time and time again on behalf of our nation. And in many regions, they serve alongside civilians from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as other government agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture."

State Department employees work with servicemembers in two ways, Clinton said. In Iraq and Afghanistan, they build on military efforts. They also use diplomatic and development tools to build more stable and peaceful societies, "hopefully to avert or end conflict that is far less costly in lives and dollars than military action," she said.

The United States faces serious challenges around the world, Clinton said. These include two wars, political uncertainty in the Middle East, the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and Iran, an economic crisis, terrorism, climate change and trafficking in drugs and human beings.

"These challenges require new forms of outreach and cooperation within our own government and then with others as well," she said. "To achieve this, we have launched a new diplomacy powered by partnership, pragmatism and principle."

State is strengthening historic alliances and creating new ones. "The 2009 supplemental budget request for the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development is a significant sum," she said. "Yet our investment in diplomacy and development is only about 6 percent of our total national security budget.

"For Secretary Gates and myself," she continued, "it is critically important that we give our civilian workers, as well as our military, the resources they need to do their jobs well."

In Iraq, the mission is changing as the troop drawdown continues. "We must reinforce security gains while supporting the Iraqi government and people as they strengthen public institutions and promote job creation and assist those Iraqis who had fled because of violence and want to return home," the secretary said.

The supplemental request calls for $482 million for State Department programs in Iraq and $108 million more for refugee aid.

"In Afghanistan, as you know, the president has ordered additional troops," Clinton said. "Our mission is very clear; to disrupt, dismantle and destroy al-Qaida. But bringing stability to that region is not only a military mission; it requires more than a military response. So we have requested $980 million in assistance to focus on rebuilding the agricultural sector, having more political progress, helping the local and provincial leadership deliver services for their people."

Pakistan is crucial to peace in Afghanistan, Clinton said. "We have seen how difficult it is for the government [in Pakistan] to make progress as the Taliban and their allies continues to make inroads," Clinton said.
"Counterinsurgency training is critical, but of equal importance are diplomacy and development, to work with the Pakistani government, Pakistani civil society, to try to provide more economic stability and diminish the conditions that feed extremism."

The supplemental request seeks $497 million for Pakistan, "which will support the government's efforts to stabilize the economy, strengthen law enforcement, alleviate poverty and help displaced citizens find safe shelter," Clinton said.

Clinton said she and Gates are looking at ways to make the departments collaborate more effectively.

"Secretary Gates and I are committed to working closely together in an almost unprecedented way to sort out what the individual responsibilities and missions of Defense and State and USAID should be, but committed to the overall goal of promoting stability and long term progress, which we believe is in the interests of the United States and which we are prepared to address and take on the challenges and seize the opportunities that confront us at this moment in history," she said.

Face of Defense: Airman Provides Legal Advice on Detainee Operations

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 30, 2009 - Many Air Force attorneys spend their days providing legal counsel and preparing documents, but for one Air Force captain here, being deployed means serving in a one-of-a-kind legal position. Capt. Sophia Crawford, detention, judicial and legal policy attorney in the Multinational Force Iraq staff judge advocate's office, provides a service that she would never get to do outside of Iraq. She is the U.S. legal representative on issues pertaining to detention facilities.

"I specifically work in detention operations, so everything that has to with a detainee or anything potentially relating to a detainee is what I do," said Crawford, who is deployed from Maxwell Air Force Base's Gunter Annex, Ala. "This could range from detainee deaths to detainee imagery. We also deal with interrogation procedures, and provide legal reviews and advice to the MNF-I commanding general."

Working in this area of responsibility is a singular experience, she said, because she has to work from three sides of the law.

"Just learning all the law has been a challenge," Crawford said. "We must have the appropriate authority to detain someone and authority to question someone. This, she added, represents a dramatic change brought about with the Jan. 1 implementation of the security agreement between the United States and Iraq.

"It's a big realm of law," the Dallas native said. "Not only do we use United States law, but we use international law and abide by Iraqi law. We have to coordinate and make sure we operate within all three. It's a lot of coordination with Iraq."

Air Force attorneys are compelled to view cases objectively and do what is in the best interest of the United States.

"I am a JAG who represents the United States, and it's my job to advocate for the commander," Crawford said. "I'm also a prosecutor, and it's my responsibility to make sure people are operating within the law. No matter who you are, you have to realize that detainees have rights."

The 30-member Multinational Force Iraq legal team is a total-force operation, with reserve-component and active-duty attorneys ranging from captains to colonels in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and even the Australian army.

"I have just learned so much," Crawford said. "I am the junior-ranking officer, so everyone is a mentor to me. It has been a great experience from the officer standpoint as well as a JAG."

(Air Force Staff Sgt. Tim Beckham serves with U.S. Air Forces Central's Baghdad Media Outreach Team.)

Petraeus, Gates Honor Leaders of Military, Statecraft

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

April 30, 2009 - Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates were on hand at a star-studded ceremony here last night honoring giants of military, government, industry and the arts. Petraeus received the Atlantic Council's Distinguished Military Leadership Award at the council's annual gala, while Gates was there to introduce former President George H.W. Bush, whom he served in several capacities. Bush also received an award.

"Needless to say, I am most grateful for the honor accorded me this evening," Petraeus said upon receiving his commendation. "I hasten to add, however, that I can only accept this award inasmuch as I do so on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of troopers, who day after day don Kevlar helmets and body armor, strap themselves into a cockpit or take to the sea and perform complex missions against tough enemies in challenging conditions to do what our country has asked them to do."

In addition to highlighting the work of key leaders, the event also celebrated the 60th anniversary of NATO and the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, and emphasized the role the Atlantic community has played since World War II.

Petraeus, whose command responsibility includes the war in Afghanistan, underscored the significance of NATO's commitment to that mission.

"In signing on to support missions in Afghanistan, NATO nations signaled their recognition that transnational extremism poses a threat to all of us," he said. "In so doing, NATO committed its resources, its institutions and its expertise in cooperative defense endeavors -- built over 60 years of partnership -- to the international effort to ensure that extremists cannot re-establish safe havens in Afghanistan like those from which they launched the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in 9/11."

The general said critics have seized on the deteriorating security conditions in some parts of Afghanistan and questioned NATO's competency and level of commitment.

"Afghanistan has thus emerged as a critical challenge for NATO, and the alliance now faces a very urgent moment," Petraeus said. "I offer that observation while noting that with the recent announcement of the new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and with the conduct of the NATO summit earlier this month, new resources have been pledged and new resolve has been demonstrated."

The ceremony last night was punctuated by Cold War anecdotes and nostalgia for the era when former Soviet satellite states emerged from behind the Iron Curtain.

Gates recalled witnessing these moments in history from a front-row seat.

"I remember being the note-taker when President Bush spoke on the phone about these matters with [German] Chancellor [Helmut] Kohl," recalled Gates, who was Bush's deputy national security advisor at the time. "It was the afternoon of Nov. 10, 1989, the day after the Berlin Wall came down, and thousands of East Germans had already begun moving freely across the border."

Before welcoming Bush onstage to accept his award, Gates shared his recollection of the president's deft handling of the vanquished Soviet empire during Moscow's moment of great vulnerability.

"As the communist bloc was disintegrating," he said, "it was George Bush's skilled, yet quiet, statecraft that made a revolutionary time seem much less dangerous than it actually was."

Gates Asks Senate to Pass Supplemental Funding by Memorial Day

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

April 30, 2009 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates asked the Senate today to pass the fiscal 2009 supplemental funding request it's considering by Memorial Day. Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee on the $83.4 billion budget request today.

Most of the request – about $76 billion – would go to the Defense Department and would directly support operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gates said. Most of the rest would fund State Department operations.

The pending legislation is the second half of the fiscal 2009 supplemental funding request. Congress passed $65.9 billion in supplemental spending earlier this year. If the second portion is approved, the total package would be $141.7 billion.

Gates stressed that this will be the last supplemental funding request. "This is intended to be the last planned war supplemental request that the administration will make," Gates said. "Future budgets – starting with [fiscal] 2010 – will instead be presented together, with money for overseas contingency operations clearly marked as such."

Moving funding to the base budget will ensure that funding for programs that directly affect warfighters will receive the support they need in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, Gates said. This move will "most directly affect our nation's greatest strategic asset: our troops, and the families that support them," he said.

Gates broke down the request. Some $38 billion covers the everyday costs of maintaining forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, from pre-deployment training and transportation to or from theater to the operations themselves. "This supplemental takes into account planned reductions in troop numbers in Iraq this year, and increases in Afghanistan," Gates said.

Another $11.6 billion is set aside to replace and repair equipment that has been worn out, damaged or destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan. This includes money for four F-22 fighter jets to replace an F-15 and three F-16s classified as combat losses.

Another $9.8 billion will go for force protection. This will fund the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle program that aims to put all-terrain vehicles into Afghanistan. The money also would fund body armor, aircraft survivability equipment, unmanned aircraft systems and equipment and vehicles to detect and clear mines.

A further $3.6 billion is slotted to expand and improve the Afghan security forces, but the request calls for no money to fund Iraqi forces. "The government of Iraq has taken on that financial burden," Gates explained.

The supplemental funding bill includes $1.5 billion to counter the threats of roadside bombs, $450 million for the Commander's Emergency Response Program, and $400 million for the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund.

The Pakistan Fund will allow the U.S. Central Command commander to work with Pakistan's military to build the nation's counterinsurgency capability. "We are asking for this unique authority for the unique and urgent circumstances we face in Pakistan – for dealing with a challenge that simultaneously requires wartime and peacetime capabilities," Gates said.

The supplemental measure also includes $2.2 billion to finish the expansion of the Army and Marine Corps. "Due to higher-than-expected recruiting and retention rates, we are well ahead of schedule to expand the Army and Marine Corps – which will help ease the burden on our troops and help reduce – with the goal of ending – stop-loss," Gates said, citing a policy that allows the military to hold on to certain servicemembers past the expiration of their enlistment contract.

Wounded warrior care and programs to improve the quality of life for troops and their families account for $1.6 billion in the funding request, Gates said, emphasizing that quick action on the request is necessary.

"As was the case last year, the Department of Defense will have to be prepared for continued operations in the absence of the supplemental or another bridge fund," Gates said.

Some operational funds will begin to run out in July, and that historically has affected the Army and the Marine Corps first. "After Memorial Day, we will need to consider options to delay running out of funds," he said. "We also expect to run out of money to reimburse Pakistan by mid-May. I urge you to take up this bill and pass it as quickly as possible, but please not later than Memorial Day."

The symbolism of the two secretaries appearing together was not lost on the senators. The departments of Defense and State must work together. The supplemental measure includes $7.1 billion for international affairs and stabilization activities, including economic assistance for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Needless to say, I strongly support this funding," Gates said. "As I have said for the last two years, I believe that the challenges confronting our nation cannot be dealt with by military means alone. They require, instead, whole-of-government approaches – but that can only be done if the State Department is given resources befitting the scope of its mission across the globe. This is particularly important in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where our ability to provide resources beyond military power will be the decisive factor."

Gates said he and Clinton are dedicated to figuring out how best to bring to bear the full force of the entire U.S. government on the pressing issues of the day.

"So I ask you to continue supporting not just our men and women in uniform, but the men and women at the State Department who are just as committed to the safety and security of the United States," the defense secretary said.

Health Officials Discourage Aspirin Use by Troops in Combat Zones

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

April 30, 2009 - The Defense Department is directing servicemembers and government civilians deployed in overseas war zones to refrain from taking aspirin unless under a doctor's orders, a senior military physician said here today. "Aspirin use for reasons other than medical indications is discouraged," said Army Col. (Dr.) Tony Carter, director for operational medicine and medical force readiness under the deputy assistant secretary of defense for force health protection, a component of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

Military medical authorities also advise that troops slated for deployment to combat zones should cease taking aspirin at least 10 days before departure, Carter told Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service reporters.

Aspirin is "a platelet-inhibitor," Carter explained. Platelets are small cells floating in the blood that induce hemostasis -- the process that causes bleeding to stop through the forming of blood clots. Low amounts of blood platelets can lead to excessive bleeding.

"Those platelets serve an important role in stopping bleeding once it occurs," Carter said.

Then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. S. Ward Casscells III signed a March 12 memorandum that noted aspirin use by troops deployed in contingency areas could contribute to excessive bleeding in the event of wounding or injury.

Blood loss is the most common cause of preventable death associated with combat injuries, the memorandum said.

Carter recalled Casscells asking his staff if the military was discouraging aspirin use by people deploying to combat zones where they stood risk of injury. The answer at the time was no, Carter said.

The subsequent memorandum, Carter said, also directed the cessation of "over-the-counter access" to aspirin through Army and Air Force Exchange Service outlets or morale, welfare and recreation activities in war zones. AAFES has jurisdiction over Army post exchanges and Air Force base exchanges.

AAFES is complying with the Health Affairs-issued memorandum, noting in a news release that its "operations in contingency locations are removing all products containing aspirin from their shelves."

The intent of the new policy, Carter said, is to "discourage the inadvertent use of aspirin" in combat zones. People who routinely take small doses of aspirin per doctor's orders to maintain vascular health should be all right, he said, but they should consult their physician.

Servicemembers and civilians could substitute over-the-counter, non-aspirin-based medications – such as Tylenol or Motrin -- for treatment of colds, fever, muscle aches and other maladies, Carter said.

"I think we should take every measure possible to make sure that we minimize blood loss," Carter said. "And, not taking aspirin, unless you need to take it, is one of those mechanisms that we want to use."

Defense Department Plans Morale, Welfare, Recreation Survey

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

April 30, 2009 - Defense Department officials are preparing to conduct the first militarywide survey to assess morale, welfare and recreation programs. "We've established standards for all the services," Arthur Myers, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy, said. "Now we want to get feedback from the [servicemembers] on how we're doing with our programs."

Myers' office is conducting the survey with the help of CFI Group, an international customer-satisfaction consulting firm with headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The survey will be e-mailed to about 150,000 randomly selected servicemembers in the near future and will appear as being from CFI Group "on behalf of DoD."

"So, remember, when you get that, it's not spam," Myers said.

Though the survey will collect data on participants' service branches and, if they choose to provide it, their ethnicity, the responses will be completely anonymous, Myers emphasized.

It's also important, he added, that those selected participate in the survey to ensure the best level of accuracy in the results.

Though the survey will be sent only to active-duty servicemembers, Myers encouraged those selected to take their families' opinions into consideration when responding. As more data is gained, future surveys will be open to the reserve components, he added.

Those receiving the survey will have about three weeks to participate. When the responses are collected and analyzed, the findings will be published on the Defense Department Web site, as well as on Military Community and Family Policy's Military OneSource and MilitaryHomefront sites.

"This survey will actually tell us what [servicemembers'] needs are so we can meet those needs," Myers said. "We really believe our programs are a key thing in keeping our military ready and [in helping to retain them]."