Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sub Hunter

On July 17, 2009, Conversations with American Heroes at the Watering Hole will feature a discussion with Captain Edward M. Brittingham, USN (ret.).

Program Date: July 17, 2009
Program Time: 2100 hours, Pacific
Topic: Sub Hunter
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About the Guest
Edward M. Brittingham, USN (ret.) “was in the Air Force ROTC in college, made pilot, but dropped out in his junior year. Drafted in 1962, he joined the Navy as a navigator (Naval Aviation Observer) and then reported to NAS Norfolk, Virginia for submarine training. He joined VP-10 and transitioned to the P-3A aircraft where antisubmarine warfare became the primary mission. He moved up the ranks ultimately to Commanding Officer of VP-11.” Edward M. Brittingham is the author of The Iranian Deception; Sub Chaser; Operation Poppy; and, Terrorism in the United States.

About the Watering Hole
The Watering Hole is
police slang for a location cops go off-duty to blow off steam and talk about work and life. Sometimes funny; sometimes serious; but, always interesting.

About the Host
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster was a sworn member of the Los Angeles Police Department for 24 years. He retired in 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant. He holds a bachelor’s from the Union Institute and University in
Criminal Justice Management and a Master’s Degree in Public Financial Management from California State University, Fullerton; and, has completed his doctoral course work. Raymond E. Foster has been a part-time lecturer at California State University, Fullerton and Fresno; and is currently a Criminal Justice Department chair, faculty advisor and lecturer with the Union Institute and University. He has experience teaching upper division courses in Law Enforcement, public policy, Public Safety Technology and leadership. Raymond is an experienced author who has published numerous articles in a wide range of venues including magazines such as Government Technology, Mobile Government, Airborne Law Enforcement Magazine, and Police One. He has appeared on the History Channel and radio programs in the United States and Europe as subject matter expert in technological applications in Law Enforcement.
Listen, call, join us at the Watering Hole:

Program Contact Information
Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.), MPA

United States vs Hamas & Hezbollah

Hamas, all of organizations, with Israeli help, recently foiled an assassination attempt on former president Jimmy Carter.

Question, had the effort succeeded, would that mean war? I think so. But how to proceed? Might it simply be a matter of outsourcing the job to our Israeli friends, who no doubt would love to eradicate Hamas once and for all? Or would national honor require US Marine landing on Gaza Beach. Americans, of course have been killed by Hamas and Hezbollah.

Had the attempt succeeded, Hamas one suspects, could be crushed relatively easily, with Gaza pinned up against Israel.

Hezbollah, ensconced as it is in southern Lebanon, would be a far tough nut to crack, requiring a Marine Expeditionary Unit, in this case the II out of Camp Lejune, supported by elements of the Army and the 6th fleet.

The 22nd MEU would land north of the Litani River and drive for the Bekka Valley. The 26th MEU would make up the follow on wave and push north to the Bekka . To cut off Syrian help from the north, would below Beirut and take up blocking positions. Sealing up the Bekka would be critical. To that end, the 173rd Airborne Brigade could be dropped into the valley, with one battalion keeping a watch on Syria while the other guards the southern approach.

The key would be to pin Hezbollah south of the Litania River and destroying their paramilitary forces, amounting to several thousand well armed and organized militia boasting a large arsenal of anti tank rockets. Hezbollah could certainly slow an American advance, and inflict casualties, as they did upon the IDF in 2006.

Of course, all this begs the question, what would the 12 infantry brigades and special operations brigades of Lebanese army do. They could not stop the Marines, they could barely fight them, but the sight of Lebanese Army troops being slaughtered by American forces would be bad publicity to say the least.

Are Hamas and Hezbollah stupid enough to give the United States a reason to go to war with them?

For more about Will, visit His novel, 'A Line Through the Desert' can be purchased here.

Air Force Audit Finds Agency Lacks Basic Systems to Comply with the Freedom of Information Act

Three years after a federal court found a pattern and practice of not processing FOIAs in a lawsuit brought by the National Security Archive, Air Force still has not fixed its system

For more information contact:
Meredith Fuchs - 202/994-7000

Washington, DC, June 18, 2009 - A report issued by the Air Force Audit Agency that was released to the National Security Archive this week identifies significant mismanagement in the Air Force Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) program. The findings demonstrate a pattern of noncompliance with statutory timeframes to respond to records requests from the public and misrepresentations about the state of the Air Force FOIA program. In particular, the Air Force audit agency found that the Air Force:

* Did not properly track or record FOIA requests;
* Overstated the number of requests it received and understated its response times, leading to inaccurate reporting about its program to Congress;
* Failed to comply with the Electronic Freedom of Information Act requirements to include all frequently requested records in its Electronic Reading Room;
* Failed to inform all requesters of their appeal rights under the law; and
* Failed to notify interested third parties, such as government contractors, of the intent to release information.

"Four years after our law suit, and despite multiple court orders, the Air Force system remains broken," said David P. Dean, of the law firm James & Hoffman, P.C., who represents the Archive. "The facts, though stunning, speak for themselves. In 2005, we complained about 82 unprocessed FOIA requests that the Archive had submitted up to eighteen years earlier. Despite several court orders requiring the Air Force to complete processing and to create a functioning FOIA system, today six requests are still outstanding and the system is still dysfunctional."

The Archive's suit was filed in March 2005 and alleged that the Air Force failed to acknowledge FOIA requests, lost FOIA requests, failed to process requests, tried to discourage the public from pursuing FOIA requests, failed to respond to inquiries about the status of the requests, and let requests languish while records were destroyed or transferred to other agencies. The Archive's lawsuit resulted in a court decision in 2006 finding that the Air Force had a pattern and practice of not processing FOIA requests in accordance with the law. At that time, the court noted that "the Air Force only woke up in May 2005 to its need to fulfill its FOIA obligations on a more timely basis..."

Since that time, and as a result of the lawsuit, the Air Force has instituted numerous changes to its FOIA program, including:

* Committing to training all Air Force personnel about the agency's FOIA obligations;
* Committing to posting all released records in its Electronic Reading Room and linking all of its Electronic Reading Rooms;
* Putting in place a centralized database system that will track FOIA requests from initial submission to completion; and
* Receiving FOIA requests online through its FOIA web site.

"While we are extremely glad that our litigation has forced the Air Force to bring its program closer to what the public is entitled to expect under the law, we are concerned that these small changes are not sufficient to bring about the transformation that is needed at the Air Force," commented Meredith Fuchs, the Archive's General Counsel. "The Air Force has not yet addressed its problems with interagency referrals and consultations--which has proven to be a significant black hole--and it has not yet gotten the old, long pending requests into its new tracking system." Ms. Fuchs concluded, "If the Air Force is going to enter the new era of transparency promised by President Obama, then it is going to have to shift its culture to one that appreciates the agency's legal obligation to keep the public informed about its activities on their behalf."

Defense Schools' Director Pleased With Year's Accomplishments

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

June 18, 2009 - For the Department of Defense Education Activity, the 2008-2009 school year was all about improving education for military children, the agency's director said as she reflected on the accomplishments of what she's dubbed "Team DoDEA." "The whole year involved continuous improvement and that whole philosophy of taking some small steps [and] to really focus in on what we needed to improve," Shirley Miles said. "We are -- I've said many times -- a very good organization, and we can be great. We just have to look at what we do, review it, and then plan for that greatness."

Miles said she holds no opinion that the organization needs to make any sharp turns in its operations. It simply needs to "right the rudder," to borrow a Navy term, and focus on student achievement, she said.

In the past school year, the agency conducted its regular customer satisfaction survey, as well as listening to employees' opinions and suggestions through its first employee-satisfaction survey. Miles said those responses, combined with input from other sources including the combatant commands and the Dependent Education Council, helped to guide her decisions.

The budget was prioritized, she said, so in the event of a budget cut, the "have tos" are crystal clear.

"If we have to make cuts, we can say, 'Here's the cut line, and if you cut us by 10 percent, 15 percent, we can't do all of these things," Miles said. "Of course, in our $1.8 billion budget, if we're cut [by] 10 percent, that's $180 million, and $180 million dollars [less] means you can't do a lot of things."

In addition, all of the school buildings in all 15 districts were evaluated and given a quality rating based on their state of repair. Taking the ratings and the need for a new school complex -- elementary, middle school and high school -- in Kaiserslautern, Germany, into account, Miles raised the organization's military construction budget request from $35 million to $100 million.

The bill for the Kaiserslautern complex alone comes in at $75 million.

"If we don't get the $100 million, we're going to have to piecemeal [the complex]," Miles said. "Obviously, we will do the remodeling and the repairs that we always do, [but] the [military construction] issue is a big issue, because we have old schools."

A program aimed at providing students who may miss classes for a deployed parent's rest and recuperation visit or who live in remote locations takes learning to the Internet.

"The virtual school, I think, is going to be fabulous," Miles said. "The virtual school really is going to help our home-schooled students, our children in remote locations [and] our children [who are absent] for two or three weeks at a time."

The virtual classroom will provide face-to-face instruction 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Staffs of teachers around the globe in different time zones will keep the "school" staffed. "Hubs" will help keep teachers from having to come in and teach on a second shift schedule.

"We're establishing a hub already in Europe, [and] we have a hub that's going to start in the fall in the Pacific, and then we'll have a hub in [the United States]," Miles said.

The school will provide students with the opportunity to retake classes they've failed or classes not offered at their schools -- including advanced placement classes -- and to keep up with class work during an extended absence.

Miles wants each of the classes offered accredited through the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement so that students using the virtual school will have a diploma when they graduate.

Perhaps the largest undertaking of the school year was a reorganization of administrative personnel. No school can run without administrators, but staffing needs to be done wisely, Miles said.

"My goal is always to focus resources as close to the school as possible," she said. "So we evaluated, particularly our [curriculum content] coordinators. Those coordinators were at the area offices, but they were doing, in my opinion, a lot of paperwork, and they needed to get out to the schools."

All of the coordinators for each curriculum area are being moved to the district levels so they are better able to help the teachers and the students. In the past, each of the organization's 15 school districts had two assistant superintendents. That number has been reduced.

"We were, in my opinion, a little too top heavy," Miles said. "I have eliminated one assistant superintendent per school district, and have moved those folks into different positions. Some of them are principals. Some of them are coordinators."

Because the turnover of the education activity's 16,000 employees is relatively high due to factors such as retirements and relocations, none of the organization's administrative personnel lost jobs in the shuffle.

"Only two teachers lost their jobs because they didn't have any other certification," Miles said. "They were certified in cosmetology, and we don't offer that any more."

Miles said she's amazed at what her team has accomplished in the past year.

"It's been a great year of thoughtful and purposeful effort, and I'm proud of that," she said. "I'm very proud of the staff across the world."


Archer Western/RQ Construction Joint Venture, Chicago, Ill., is being awarded a $151,048,000 firm-fixed-price contract for design and construction of multiple bachelor enlisted quarters, Camp Lejeune. The contract also contains one unexercised option, which if exercised would increase cumulative contract value to $162,923,000. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, N.C., and is expected to be completed by August 2011. 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 18 proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-09-C-3215).

Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding, Newport News, Va., is being awarded a $72,698,102 modification to previously awarded contract (N62793-03-G-0001) to definitize the planning effort and material support and accomplishment effort for the Post Shakedown Availability/Selected Restricted Availability for the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77). Work will be performed in Newport News, Va., and is expected to be completed by January 2010. Contract funds in the amount of $1,870,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair, Newport News, Va., is the contracting activity.

Eagan, McAllister Associates, Inc., Lexington Park, Md., (N65236-09-D-3806), and ManTech Systems Engineering Corp., Fairfax, Va., (N65236-09-D-3807) are each being awarded an indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, multiple award, cost-plus-fixed-fee, performance-based contract to provide tactical command and control integration and improvement support services required by multiple Department of Defense and other federal agencies. Eagan, McAllister Associates, Inc., will receive $36,968,507 and ManTech Systems Engineering Corp., will receive $38,808,905. These contracts include option periods which, if exercised, would bring the total cumulative value to an estimated amount of $205,683,274. These two contractors may compete for the task orders under the terms and conditions of the awarded contracts. Work will be performed in Charleston, S.C., (80 percent), and Lexington Park, Md., (20 percent), and is expected to be completed by June 2010. If all options are exercised, work could continue until June 2014. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the fiscal year. The multiple award contracts were competitively procured using full and open competitive procedures via SPAWAR Systems Command e-commerce website, with four offers received. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, Charleston, S.C., is the contracting activity.

The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., Allentown, Pa., is being awarded a $17,875,310 firm-fixed-price construction contract for construction of Full Scale Electric Drive Test Facility, Philadelphia Naval Business Center, Philadelphia, Pa. The work to be performed provides for modification of existing facilities to construct a full scale electric drive test facility. The functions contained within the facility will be comprised of testing facilities for future Integrated Power and Energy Systems and components, including electric drive propulsion systems for shipboard systems. Work will be performed in Philadelphia, Pa., and is expected to be completed by January 2011. 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 six proposals received. The Naval Facili! ties Eng ineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-09-C-7005).

General Dynamics Information Technologies, Inc., Fairfax, Va., is being awarded a $13,012,459 modification to a previously awarded indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract to exercise an option for maintenance planning and design interface technical/ management support services for the In-Service Support Center and Fleet Readiness Center Southeast Jacksonville, Fla. These services include evaluating initial designs, evaluating proposed design changes, maintenance planning and sustaining maintenance plans. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, Fla., (73 percent), Oklahoma City, Okla., (18 percent), Cherry Point, N.C., (6 percent), and Patuxent River, Md., (3 percent), and is expected to be completed in September 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity (N00421-00-D-0328).

Shaw Environmental, Inc., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded $7,227,373 for firm-fixed-price task order #0006 under a previously awarded indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity unrestricted environmental multiple award contract (N62473-08-D-8822) for Radiological Remediation in Parcel D-1 at Hunters Point Shipyard. The work to be performed provides for radiological surveys and remediation in Parcel D-1 in order to achieve unrestricted free release of all radiologically impacted areas in the parcel. Work will be performed in San Francisco, Calif., and is expected to be completed by June 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Three proposals were received for this task order. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity.

Barnhart, Inc., San Diego, Calif., is being awarded firm-fixed price Task Order 0005 at $7,266,343 under a multiple award construction contract for the repair and renovation of existing 4-story bachelor enlisted quarters 52609 at Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton. The contract also contains one unexercised option, which if exercised would increase cumulative contract value to $9,066,343. Work will be performed in Oceanside, Calif., and is expected to be completed by March 2010. Funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Four proposals were received for this task order. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest, San Diego, Calif., is the contracting activity (contract number N62473-06-D-1059).

Armorworks, Inc., Chandler, Ariz., is being awarded a delivery order in the amount of $7,015,535 against a previously awarded contract for Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts used as personal armor by Marines. Work will be performed in Chandler, Ariz., and is expected to be completed in December 2009. Contract funds in the amount of $7,015,536 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity (M67854-06-D-3071).

Navistar Defense, Warrenville, Ill., is being awarded a maximum $42,872,326 firm-fixed-price, sole-source contract for sustainment spare parts in support of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is Nov. 9, 2009. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Warren (DSCC-ZG), Warren, Mich., (SPRDL1-09-C-0088).

Oshkosh Corp., Oshkosh, Wis., is being awarded a maximum $31,124,271 firm-fixed-price, indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contract for Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck engine procurement. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is June 19, 2012. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Warren (DSCC-ZG), Warren, Mich., (SPRDL1-09-D-0025).

Coast Produce*, Los Angeles, Calif., is being awarded a maximum $10,246,545 fixed-price with economic price adjustment, total set aside, indefinite quantity contract for fresh fruit and vegetables support. There are no other locations of performance. Using services are Navy, Marine Corps and USDA School customers. The original proposal was DIBBS solicited with six responses. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract is exercising 18-month option year one. The date of performance completion is Jan. 31, 2011. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM300-08-D-P020).

Gentex Corp., Simpson, Pa., is being awarded a maximum $9,498,608 firm-fixed-price, requirements type contract for Aircrew Integrated Helmet System and component parts. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Army and Navy. The original proposal was DIBBS solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is June 17, 2010. The contracting activity is the Defense Supply Center Philadelphia (DSCP), Philadelphia, Pa., (SPM1C1-09-D-1053).

McDonnell Douglas Corp., St. Louis, Mo., is being awarded a maximum $8,995,550 firm-fixed-price, sole source contract for parts. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Navy. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is May 30, 2012. The contracting activity is the Defense Logistics Agency Philadelphia

(DSCR-ZC), Philadelphia, Pa., (N00383-06-D-001J-TH02).

Total Immersion Software Inc., Alameda, Calif., is being awarded a $12,000,000 modification to a previously awarded other transaction for prototypes agreement for the RealWorld Transition program. Work will be performed in Alameda, Calif., (36 percent), Austin, Texas, (36 percent), Hampton, Va., (25 percent), and San Antonio, Texas, (3 percent), and is expected to be completed in June 2011. Funds being obligated at time of award ($2,000,000) will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. DARPA issued a solicitation in Federal Business Opportunities on Feb. 8, 2005, and over 100 proposals were received. The contracting activity is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Va., (HR0011-06-9-0004, P00027).

Agilent Technologies Inc., Santa Clara, Calif., is being awarded a $6,814,116 cost-share technology investment agreement for the Panoptic Analysis of Chemical Traces program. Work will be performed in Santa Clara, Calif., and is expected to be completed in June 2011. Funds being obligated at time of award ($1,768,476) will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. DARPA issued a solicitation in Federal Business Opportunities on Aug. 19, 2008, and 17 proposals were received. The contracting activity is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Va., (HR0011-09-3-0003).

Gates, Mullen: Communications Technologies 'Strategic Asset' for United States

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

June 18, 2009 - As protestors in Iran demonstrate the power of social networking, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today called the freedom of communication afforded by communications technologies "a huge strategic asset for the United States." Meanwhile, speaking to reporters at today's Pentagon news conference, Gates said he wants the Defense Department to take better advantage of these same technologies to reach out to the world, particularly to young people.

Asked by reporters about the Iranian government's crackdown on traditional media and communications, and the success of Twitter and other social media that protestors of last week's elections are using to defy it, Gates called the emergence of these technologies a major blow to authoritarian governments.

"It's a huge win for freedom, around the world, because this monopoly of information is no longer in the hands of the government," he said.

The result has had historic impact. "There is no question that the availability or the easy access to Western communications and media played a part in the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe," Gates said.

Governments may be able to squelch some information channels, but "they just can't draw the net tight enough to stop everything," Gates said. "If you can't text, then you Twitter.

"And you know, my guess is, in some of these countries, that the leadership is kind of like me," Gates continued. Then, he added with a chuckle, "They don't have a clue what it's about."

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said leaders need to develop awareness about the technologies that have become almost second nature to the servicemembers they lead.

"For leaders, ... it's really important to be connected to that and understand it," he said, conceding that he has his own Facebook page. "I think communicating that way and moving information around that way -- whether it's administrative information or information in warfare -- is absolutely critical."

Gates said he kept that factor in mind as he interviewed Price Floyd, the department's new principal deputy assistant secretary for public affairs.

The secretary charged Floyd with enhancing the department's outreach, particularly to 18-to-25-year olds -- in the military, in the United States and around the world.

"We have 2 million people, ... most of them around the age that Admiral Mullen described," Gates said. "And how do we communicate better with them? ...How do we get reactions from them to things that we're doing? How do we get better plugged in with what they're thinking?"

Gates said he wants to reach the same age group overseas, too. "How do we reach them in a way that they understand?" he wondered aloud.

"This department, I think, is way behind the power curve in this, and it's an area where I think we have a lot of room for improvement."

U.S. Prepares Missile Defense, Continues Shipping Interdictions

By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service

June 18, 2009 - The United States has deployed missile defense equipment to the Pacific amid reports alleging that North Korea has threatened to fire a ballistic missile toward Hawaii, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today. "We're obviously watching the situation in the north, with respect to missile launches, very closely," Gates said at a Pentagon news conference with Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "And we do have some concerns if they were to launch a missile to the west, in the direction of Hawaii."

Gates has ordered the deployment of Theater High Altitude Area Defense missiles to Hawaii and the sea-based SBX Radar near the island state to provide support. "Based on my visit to Fort Greely, the ground-based interceptors are clearly in a position to take action," he added, referring to the Army launch site for anti-ballistic missiles near Fairbanks, Alaska.

"Without telegraphing what we will do, I would just say I think we are in a good position should it become necessary to protect American territory," the secretary said.

Meanwhile, Mullen reiterated the U.S. intent to adhere to a United Nations resolution allowing Americans to conduct permissive searches of North Korean vessels.

"We intend to vigorously enforce the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1874," Mullen said, noting that the United States has "hail and query" authority under Security Council guidelines, meaning American authorities can seek permission from the ship's crew to board and search its contents.

"If a vessel like this is queried and doesn't allow a permissive search, [the United States] can direct it to go into a port, and the country of that port would...inspect the vessel," Mullen said, noting that the resolution does not allow for an opposed or noncompliant boarding. The U.N. would be alerted in instances of North Korean vessels refusing searches or possessing weaponry in violation of resolution.

Asked about Pyongyang's stated stance that it would consider an interdiction of its vessels an act of war, Mullen underscored that the U.N. resolution represents an international commitment.

"It's not just the United States, it's a lot of other countries as well," he said. "And the north's steps to further isolate itself, to further noncomply with international guidance and regulations, in the long-run, puts them in a more difficult position."

Sailors of a Dozen Nations Wrap Up Baltic Exercises

By Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 18, 2009 - After 11 days of sea trials and more than 250 separate events, a multinational naval exercise in the Baltic region is scheduled to wrap up tomorrow. The objective for the 12 countries participating in BALTOPS – short for "Baltic Operations" -- is to learn to work together and form new ideas for disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, Navy Rear Adm. John Christenson, the mission commander, said yesterday during a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

"You don't know what the disaster is going to be, but whatever it is, if you've worked together, communicated together and developed confidence in each other, it makes the response a lot easier and a lot more efficient," he said.

Even though it's an exercise, the events have significant impact, Christenson said.

"One of the big values here is we've been exploding World War II ordnance all week," he said. "Close to 100,000 mines were seeded in the Baltic Sea in World War II, and the mine countermeasure ships here have done a great job of finding both exercise torpedoes and mines, but also real-world mines."

Finding the mines isn't the only example of how the exercise has had a positive effect on mariners. Using knowledge gained from BALTOPS's annual ship-boarding event, Swedish sailors captured a pirate ship last year off the coast of Somalia, Christenson said.

While there are differences among the collaborating navies and how they handle situations, the exercise allows them to come together and develop problem-solving skills, said Swedish navy Lt. Cmdr. Jorgen Bergman, the Swedish liaison officer aboard the USS Mount Whitney.

"When different navies come together, usually the first couple of days are spent just being able to reach other on various frequencies and communicate, and basic ship handling," Christenson said. "We are all, in our hearts, sailors, but we do think different ways. But this is the perfect exercise to train together, do things together and develop our skills, to be team workers."

The 37th annual exercise ends tomorrow in Kiel, Germany, with what Christenson said is the largest gathering of sail vessels in the world.

(Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class William Selby serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Face of Defense: Five Brothers Make Navy Their Family Business

By Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Katesha Washington
Special to American Forces Press Service

June 18, 2009 - For five brothers from a small town in Kentucky, serving in the military is a family tradition. Chief Petty Officer Chad Roberts, Petty Officers 1st Class Jody and Dwayne Roberts, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Roberts are brothers who serve in the Navy and with the same unit -- Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 24, a Seabee unit based out of Lexington, Ky. Their brother, Bruce, retired from the Navy in 2006.

Chad and Chris, both steelworkers, and Dwayne, a construction electrician, are deployed to western Anbar province in Iraq. Jody, also a steelworker and the youngest boy out of seven children, did not deploy overseas with his brothers, but supports them while they are gone.

"I pray for their safety and their well-being every day," he said. "I am very proud of Dwayne, Chad and Chris. I wish I could have joined them in Iraq, but as things happen, there was a reason God chose me to stay behind."

Although they can't always be in the same place at the same time, the bond the brothers share is unbreakable. Their sacred connection to each other was formed when they were growing up on the family farm about 85 miles outside of Louisville. Just like other American boys living in Small Town USA, the Roberts brothers showed their love for each other by beating up one another, competing to see who could jump the highest on their bikes, and playing baseball on the baseball diamond that their father, Millard, created just for his boys.

Bruce Roberts said one of his favorite childhood memories was beating the 'unbeatable' Sorgho Reds in baseball. "Most of my brothers were on the team, and Dad was the coach," Bruce said. "We were very competitive."

The brothers' childhood dreams included the possibilities of becoming a professional baseball player, a veterinarian or even a farmer. Never did any one of them imagine that he, much less all of the brothers -- would join the Navy. But fate and their overwhelming love for the country drew them to where they are now.

Dwayne, the oldest of the siblings, was the first to join the Navy, in 1984. He didn't join seeking excitement or to just have a 9-to-5 job, but rather to achieve his aspiration for a higher education and to satisfy his desire to serve his country.

"I wanted to get educated and serve my country," he said. "I was already married, [but] couldn't afford to go to college, because my wife and I were both 'bringing home the bacon' so to speak."

Dwayne's younger brothers, Chad and Jody, joined the Air Force in 1984 and 1986, respectively. After completing their obligated four years of service, they left the Air Force, and Dwayne finished his four years in the Navy. More than 10 years passed before any of them thought of putting on a military uniform again.

Then, on Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists attacked America.

"It was the straw that broke the camel's back," Chris, the middle child of the family, said of the tragedy. "I didn't like the fact that we were attacked on our own soil in the U.S. I knew I had to do something."

Exactly two weeks after the attack, he raised his right hand and swore to support and defend the United States as a member of the Navy Reserve. Dwayne, Chad and Jody already had re-enlisted months before the attack.

"To do something like serving in the military is the most honorable thing one can do for their country," Jody Roberts said. "Everyone needs to fight for the freedom of our country -- stand up, do your duty, and do it with honor, courage and commitment. That is the backbone of our military and a code we live by."

The only opportunity for all five brothers to be in one location while serving in the Navy came in 2003, when Chad, Jody, Dwayne and Chris were at the Fleet and Industrial Supply Center in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, but Bruce was unable to get orders there.

The Roberts brothers attribute their enthusiasm for service to the love and support they've received from their own families and their local community in Kentucky.

"Our community is very supportive," Chad Roberts said. "We all live in a small town of roughly 600 people, so everybody helps out our wives and watches out for our kids at school and around town."

Their father and their mother, Barbara, are especially supportive and proud of the sacrifices that their sons are making for their country. They never tried to talk any of them out of joining the military, and they were not surprised when they finally joined.

"I prayed all the years they were growing up that they would never have to be involved in a war, but I know that this is God's will," she said. "I know that God will protect them and sustain us."

Barbara added that love for God and each other are why her children are so close.

"We taught them to stand together in whatever they did and to support each other through life," Barbara Roberts said. "They are not only brothers, [but also are] friends."

The deep connection the brothers have with each other and the Navy is something they hope to pass on and already have begun to sow the seeds of brotherly love and commitment into their sons – Chris' son is a Marine, while Bruce's son followed his father's footsteps into the Navy. Family get-togethers, they all agree, bring them even closer.

"We grew up as a close family doing the usual family vacations," Chad Roberts said. "My mom and dad both have close families, so it was second nature to us. We all went into the military, but after our service was over, we all returned to our small town we grew up in to raise our own families there. So now we drill together, go camping together, and just spend time together."

These days, the Roberts brothers may not get to spend as much together as they would like or get to see each other every day as they used to back home in Kentucky, but they never forget that they are a band of brothers, in family and in arms."

(Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Katesha Washington serves with the 2nd Marine Logistics Group.)

Obama Signs Memo Opening Benefits to Same-Sex Couples

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

June 18, 2009 - President Barack Obama signed a memorandum yesterday opening up benefits to same-sex couples and forbidding discrimination in the federal workplace. "We've got more work to do to ensure that government treats all its citizens equally, to fight injustice and intolerance in all its forms, and to bring about that more perfect union," Obama said before signing the memorandum. "I'm committed to these efforts, and I pledge to work tirelessly on behalf of these issues in the months and years to come."

The president announced his support of the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act now before Congress. The act will guarantee the rights for all federal employees, he said.

Obama also called on Congress to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act. "I believe it's discriminatory, I think it interferes with states' rights, and we will work with Congress to overturn it," he said.

"This action presses for long overdue progress in our nation's journey to equality," said John Berry, the director of the Office of Personnel Management. "The president recognizes that many of our hard-working, dedicated and patriotic public servants have long been denied many of the rights and benefits that their colleagues enjoy for one simple reason: the people they love are of the same sex."

Berry, who spoke during a telephone news conference, said he and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had conducted reviews to see if benefits could be extended within the confines of the Defense of Marriage Act.

"For civil service employees, domestic partners of federal employees can be added to the long-term care insurance program, and supervisors can also be required to allow employees to use their sick leave to take care of domestic partners and nonbiological, nonadopted children," Berry said.

For foreign service employees, the benefits include the use of medical facilities at posts abroad, medical evacuation from posts abroad and inclusion in family size considerations for housing allocations.

The president's memorandum directs OPM to issue guidance within 90 days to all executive departments and agencies regarding compliance with, and implementation of, civil service laws, which make it unlawful to discriminate against federal employees or applicants for federal employment on the basis of factors not related to their job performance.

The memo does not include health benefits or survivor benefits. "It requires legislation to address health benefits and insurance for same-sex couples and domestic partners," Berry said.

Fifty-seven percent of Fortune 500 companies currently provide domestic partner benefits, as do 16 states and more than 200 local governments. These entities offer the benefits "not only because it's the right thing to do, but because they recognize that it helps them compete for and retain the best possible talent – and we need top talent serving their country right now more than ever," Obama said.

Budget Request Advances Privatization of Military Housing

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

June 18, 2009 - Military housing has improved dramatically during the past 10 years, and the progress continues through privatization and other initiatives, a senior defense official told Congress yesterday. The fiscal 2010 budget request will bring the Defense Department's housing inventory in the United States that is funded for privatization to 98 percent, Wayne Arny, deputy undersecretary for installations and environment, told the Senate Armed Services Committee's readiness and management support subcommittee.

"A decade ago, we were maintaining over 300,000 family housing units, two-thirds of which were deemed inadequate by the military departments who owned them," he said.

Arny cited the dramatic turnaround since the Defense Department received authority for the services to partner with the private sector to generate military housing built to market standards.

"The private sector responded by delivering modern, affordable housing," he said, noting that the housing often was less costly and of higher quality than housing delivered through the military construction process.

Arny's written remarks, submitted for the record, expounded on the benefits of privatization.

"Privatization allows for rapid demolition, replacement or renovation of inadequate units and the sale of units no longer needed," he wrote. "Privatization also enables [the Defense Department] to make use of a variety of private-sector approaches to build and renovate military housing faster and at a lower cost to American taxpayers."

The military services have leveraged housing dollars by 10 to 1, with $2.5 billion in federal investments generating $25 billion in housing development at privatized installations, he explained.

And because the privatization efforts include 50 years of maintenance and replacement, where necessary, the department will avoid those additional costs.

The services are exploring ways to build on this effort to deliver improved housing to a larger military population.

"We have seen innovative concepts where the Army has added bachelor officer quarters and senior enlisted bachelor quarters to its existing family housing privatization projects," Arny told the senators at yesterday's hearing.

To date, the Army has initiated projects at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Fort Stewart, Ga.; Fort Drum, N.Y.; and Fort Irwin, Calif., he reported. A fifth project is planned to begin soon at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Meanwhile, the Navy is focusing its unaccompanied housing privatization efforts to bring shipboard junior enlisted sailors ashore, Arny said. Pilot projects already have been awarded in San Diego and in Hampton Roads, Va., and a third being considered in the Jacksonville-Mayport area of Florida.

"Both of the awarded Navy pilot projects have demonstrated that, with partial basis allowance for housing authority, privatization of single, junior enlisted personnel housing is less costly on a lifecycle basis than traditional government-owned model," Arny said.

"The pilot projects have also demonstrated that through privatization, single family members can enjoy a quality living environment more equitable with housing for their married counterparts and commensurate with the sacrifices they are asked to make," he said.

Arny emphasized the importance of these efforts in improving military members' and their families' quality of life.

"Access to quality, affordable housing is a key factor affecting servicemember recruitment, retention, morale and readiness," he told the senate panel. "Through privatization and increases in housing allowances, [the Defense Department] has made great strides in increasing servicemembers' housing choices."