Military News

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Clinton Presses Congress to Ratify Nuclear Treaty

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 12, 2010 - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday reiterated the call she and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have made for the Senate to move quickly to ratify the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

"Our national security is at stake," Clinton said at the State Department as she pressed the Senate to ratify the nuclear arms treaty between the United States and Russia.

The so-called "new START" sets new limits on ready-to-use, long-range nuclear weapons and establishes comprehensive verification procedures for both countries to verify which weapons the other possesses.

President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty in April, but it requires ratification by both the U.S. Senate and Russian Duma to take effect.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to consider the treaty in mid-September, and the full Senate shortly thereafter, Clinton reported yesterday.

Clinton said she's confident about the prospects for ratification, noting a bipartisan recognition that the new START "will advance our national security and provide stability and predictability between the world's two leading nuclear powers."

"This is a critical point," she warned. "Opposing ratification means opposing the inspections that provide us a vital window into Russia's arsenal."

Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen share Clinton's support for the new treaty.

Joining her in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in May, they emphasized that the treaty allows the Defense Department to maintain a strong and effective nuclear deterrent while modernizing the weapons to ensure that they are safe, secure and reliable.

"This treaty reduces the strategic nuclear forces of our two nations in a manner that strengthens the strategic stability of our relationship and protects the security of the American people and our allies," Gates said. He emphasized that the U.S. nuclear arsenal "remains a vital pillar of our national security, deterring potential adversaries and reassuring allies and partners."

Mullen expressed his and the service chiefs' support for the new pact.

"The chiefs and I believe the new START treaty achieves important and necessary balance between three critical aims," Mullen told the Senate committee. "It allows us to retain a strong and flexible American nuclear deterrent. It ... strengthens openness and transparency in our relationship with Russia. It also demonstrates our national commitment to reducing the worldwide risk of nuclear incidents resulting from the continuing proliferation of nuclear weapons."

Clinton reiterated yesterday that the treaty "in no way does or will constrain our ability to modernize our nuclear enterprise or develop and deploy the most effective missile defenses for the sake of our security and for our friends, allies and partners."

USNS Comfort Arrives in Timor-Leste

By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Gaines Pacific Partnership 2010

DILI, Timor-Leste, Aug. 12, 2010 - The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived here yesterday for its final Pacific Partnership 2010 mission port.

The Mercy is joined by two Australian heavy landing craft, Labuan and Tarakan.

While in Dili, Pacific Partnership 2010 will offer a variety of medical and dental civic action programs, engineering civic action programs, community service projects, and shipboard surgeries to the people of Timor-Leste.

"This is Mercy's last port for the mission, and the level of excitement from the newly embarked contingent of medical and engineering professionals is contagious," said Navy Capt. Lisa M. Franchetti, Pacific Partnership 2010 mission commander. "It's also wonderful to hear that many Timorese remember Mercy from its previous visits."

Medical civic action programs in Dili and five other districts across the country will offer basic medical care to the local population.

"We're also extending the reach of Pacific Partnership 2010 to locations beyond the immediate area of where we anchor," Franchetti said. "We are sending medical teams to Lautem, Oecussi Same, Soibada and Suai for a few days each, greatly enhancing the capabilities of the local health care infrastructure."

Engineering civic action programs in the region will focus on renovation of the Nu Laran School in Dili. The renovations will include concrete repair, building of a bathroom facility, and the renovation of six classroom buildings and a perimeter fence.

Community service projects also are scheduled throughout Pacific Partnership 2010's 13-day visit to Timor-Leste, including visits to schools and orphanages, a field repair to Dili stadium, and a soccer match between Mercy personnel and the a team from the country's youth and sport ministry.

Pacific Partnership 2010 is the fifth in a series of annual U.S. Pacific Fleet humanitarian and civic assistance endeavors aimed at strengthening regional partnerships among U.S. government organizations, host nations, partner nations, and international humanitarian and relief organizations. Mercy has completed the first three Pacific Partnership 2010 mission visits to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia.

Republic of Korea Navy Officers See US Navy Training Up-Close


By Kimberly M. Lansdale, Center for Surface Combat Systems Public Affairs

DAHLGREN, Va (NNS) -- On a fact finding trip for the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN), the commander from the Korean Naval Force Analysis/Test and Evaluation Group and members of his staff visited the Center for Surface Combat Systems (CSCS) and Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC) Aug. 9.

Rear Adm. Wonyong Ham visited CSCS and ATRC to learn about the training ROKN Sailors receive at the U.S. Navy schools to man combat systems on the Korean Navy ships. This includes the new destroyers being built under the three phase Korean Destroyer experimental (KDX) program.

During his visit, Ham and his staff discussed the CSCS and ATRC organizational and training infrastructure, while seeing firsthand the blended training solutions that use a balance of classroom, computer-based and hands-on training.

Korean sailors receive training in maintaining, operating and employing Aegis advanced electronic equipment, including the SPY-1 D(v) Radar system.

The visit was coordinated through the command's Security Assistance and International Programs directorate.

"Rear Adm. Ham was interested in technical training operations, simulations and overall how the Korean students were performing in the classroom," said Darrell Tatro, director, Security Assistance/ International Programs at CSCS. "Our mission is to provide allied forces quality training to enable them to develop ready teams capable of operations that maintain and expertly employ surface combatants"

According to Tatro, the international training increases U.S. and global security by focusing on common interests and processes, and directly supports the Naval Operations Concept 2010 and the building and maintaining a coalition of maritime partnerships. "We partner with U.S. training, readiness, and policy organizations, as well as other government agencies and industry to support our international mission," said Tatro

After the tour, Ham met with ROKN Sailors over lunch and discussed their training.

Branch Health Clinic Naval Base Coronado Keeps Aviators Flying

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Todd Hack, Naval Medical Center San Diego Public Affairs

CORONADO, Calif. (NNS) -- Flight surgeons at Branch Health Clinic Naval Base Coronado (BHC NBC) are currently in the process of integrating a new software system, Aeromedical Electronic Resource Office (AERO), to support combat readiness of aviators, aircrew and other flight status personnel.

"We have a new computer system (AERO) that tracks waiver submissions that is just coming online now," said Lt. Jason Smith, a flight surgeon assigned to Navy Operational Support Center, North Island. "With the new system, the pilot would be able to be 'up' (medically cleared to fly) again and be a useful asset again much, much sooner."

AERO is being implemented throughout the Navy as the primary method for electronic aeromedical submissions by Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (NAMI) and its parent ommand Naval Operational Medicine Institute (NOMI) located at Pensacola, Fla.

"What we used to do was submit waivers by mail or fax to NAMI and that turn-around time would take months," said Smith. "The turn-around time with AERO should be drastically reduced to a couple of weeks to as little as a few days depending on the patient's medical condition."

AERO is an innovative, intuitive Web-based program that allows medical personnel (i.e. hospital corpsman and flight surgeons) to input information and test results, make quality assessments, determine aeromedical dispositions and submit flight physicals to NAMI, via the Web.

"The squadrons won't have as many that are 'down' for as long," said Smith. "If a pilot gets sick and receives a 'down chit' he is no longer able to fly until we get a waiver completed. The shortened turn-around time can get that person back into an 'up' status much quicker."

BHC NBC supports 29 active and 18 Reserve squadrons with aviation medical needs.

"The clinic performs more than 7,000 flight physicals a year," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class George Park. "Currently we do flight physicals every year, but only submit (to NAMI) every five years depending on the person's medical history. With AERO, we can submit each year's physicals and not just the long-form (five-year) ones to NAMI."

NAMI receives thousands of physicals each month. In addition to the active duty flight physicals currently in the aviation community, it receives aviation physicals from all Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps units and they must be approved before they are commissioned.

"AERO will be good in saving time for the waiver reviewers," said Pamela Greuling, AERO user manager at NAMI. "If the physical has something missing, it won't allow the flight surgeon to submit it to us. It will save a lot of paperwork on people's desks waiting for forms, parts of physicals, etc., that were not included with the physical."

From a paper-based medical exam and disposition processes to an electronic computerized process, the AERO system is anticipated to reduce costs in excess of $1 million annually.

"AERO is an Army program that we are adopting to improve the outdated process that we currently utilize," said Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Ben Husinecky, NAMI physical qualifications technician. "The main focus behind the Navy adopting this program is a reduction in turnaround time and human error. I anticipate a major reduction in turnaround time and a 95 percent reduction of human error."

Flag Officer Assignments

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead announced today the following assignments:

Rear Adm. (lower half) Robin R. Braun will be assigned as battle staff director, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart, Germany. Braun is currently serving as director, total force management, N2/N6C1, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C.

Rear Adm. (lower half) David C. Johnson will be assigned as program executive officer for submarines, Washington, D.C. Johnson is currently serving as deputy commander for undersea technology, SEA-073, Naval Sea Systems Command, Rear Adm. (lower half) Nicholas T. Kalathas will be assigned as Department of Defense contingency program manager for operations contract support, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Washington, D.C. Kalathas is currently serving as assistant deputy commander for logistics, SEA 04L, Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C.

Rear Adm. (lower half) Randolph L. Mahr will be assigned as commander, Naval Air Warfare Center, Aircraft Division/assistant commander for research and engineering, Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md. Mahr is currently serving as program manager, PMA-251, Program Executive Office for Tactical Aircraft Programs, Patuxent River, Md.

Rear Adm. (lower half) John C. Sadler will be assigned as commander, Naval Air Forces Reserve/deputy commander, Naval Air Forces/deputy commander, Naval Air Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, San Diego, Calif. Sadler is currently serving as deputy reserve commander, Navy Region Southeast, Jacksonville, Fla.

Realignment, Closure Plan Continues on Track

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 12, 2010 - It's "all systems go" here as this Army Installation prepares to receive three new organizations and about 5,700 of their employees as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission plan.

Fort Meade is among hundreds of major focal points in implementing the most sweeping BRAC initiatives ever undertaken – requiring twice the number of actions as the previous four BRAC rounds since 1988 combined.

The plan, which took effect in November 2005, affects more than 800 military installations. It involves closing some, consolidating or realigning others, and ultimately relocating some 123,000 military members and civilian employees.

By law, all these actions must be completed by Sept. 15, 2011.

Despite the magnitude of the effort, Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, expressed confidence during congressional testimony in March that the department will meet the deadline.

"We are on a tight deadline," she told a House Appropriations subcommittee. However, 28 BRAC recommendations already had been implemented, she reported, and "all others are on track for completion by the statutory deadline."

About 30 of the required BRAC actions involve construction projects scheduled for completion within 90 days of the deadline, she said.

Robyn offered assurance that the department will do everything possible to meet its BRAC mandate.

"In four previous rounds, the department has never missed a BRAC deadline, and we will make every effort to preserve our perfect record," she said.

With just over 13 months left before the deadline, evidence of BRAC-related activity – some large-scale, some less so -- is ever-present throughout the department.

Here, for example, construction crews are putting the finishing touches on millions of square feet of buildings that will accommodate three new tenants: the Defense Information Systems Agency, Defense Media Activity and Defense Adjudication Activity.

Altogether, the move will bring about 5,700 new employees, almost 90 percent of them civilians, to the post.

Bert Rice, director of Fort Meade's transformation office, credits good planning and cooperation among the garrison, the incoming agencies and local and state governments with helping to ensure the move proceeds smoothly and on time.

"You have to really plan for these things and develop those relationships with agencies coming in so you are pulling the wagon rather than having some pulling and some pushing and some going the other direction," he said.

Meanwhile, eight local jurisdictions formed a task force to address potential problems associated with the post's growth: housing shortages, overcrowded schools and clogged highways, among them.

"They've worked hard on these issues," Rice said. "They understand the numbers, and although they probably are not ready yet, they are working toward being able to accommodate this influx."

Recognizing that traffic congestion is expected to be one of the biggest headaches associated with the move, Fort Meade and local officials have worked closely with the Maryland Transportation Authority to improve the roadways and provide more frequent stops at the nearby commuter train station.

Under an agreement with the National Security Agency, the largest Fort Meade tenant organization, Fort Meade employees will be able to ride an NSA-funded shuttle bus between the train station and the post, Rice said. Meanwhile, the installation is focused on improving access gates and its internal road network, while also encouraging more carpooling and telecommuting.

While these issues get worked out, a massive construction effort continues. The largest project, to accommodate almost 4,300 DISA employees, is "right on schedule" with 90 percent completed, Rice said.

DISA's advance party already has begun arriving at Fort Meade, he reported, with about 200 currently working in temporary offices and another 100 or so to arrive within the next several weeks to facilitate the move. The bigger, phased-in move for the rest of the employees will begin in January, with an additional 150 to 200 arriving at Fort Meade each week.

"That should finish by the July timeframe, no later than August," Rice said. "They'll all be there, moved in and able to perform their functions in advance of 15 September."

Meanwhile, initial members of the Defense Media Activity are expected to begin arriving in November. As construction crews wrap up work on their new building, currently ahead of schedule at 65 percent completed, DMA's advanced team will prepare it to receive about 663 employees.

Like DISA, DMA is planning a phased-in move, and most of its employees are expected to arrive at Fort Meade between March and June, Rice said.

Across post, the new Defense Military Adjudication Activity building is slightly ahead of schedule, at 64 percent completed.

Unlike DISA and DMA, both consolidating operations at Fort Meade, the Defense Military Adjudication Activity is a collocation that will bring together 10 separate activities in a single building, Rice explained. Their collective 760 employees are on schedule to move to Fort Meade before the Sept. 15 mandate.

While Fort Meade makes final preparations for a big growth spurt, other installations around the country are busy conducting their own BRAC-related activities in the crunch time leading to September 2011.

For example, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is undergoing its largest construction project since World War II to prepare for the arrival of aerospace medicine and sensors research programs from other installations.

But for every installation experiencing growth under BRAC 2005, there's at least one seeing scaled-down operations or closure.

The Air Force officially closed Onizuka Air Force Station in Sunnyvale, Calif., July 28, moving the 21st Space Operations Squadron that had inhabited it to Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California. To continue honoring the late Lt. Col. Ellison Onizuka, the Air Force astronaut killed during the space shuttle Challenger explosion in 1986, the 21st named its new home the Onizuka Satellite Operations Facility.

Fort Monmouth, N.J., also slated to close under BRAC 2005, recently hosted a three-day "Last Hoo-Ah" party before shuttering the 94-year-old installation and transferring its operations to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.

The Athens, Ga., community recently announced a "57-day salute," a series of commemorative events to run 57 days beginning Aug. 29 and continuing until the last class of cadets graduates from the U.S. Navy Supply Corps School. The school is being consolidated in Newport, R.I., with its property in Athens to be transferred to the University of Georgia.

While base closures are melancholy events to many, for some they represent a new opportunity to put former military real estate to new use.

Atlanta city officials, for example, are chomping at the bit as they make plans for 488 acres of historic land it will receive when Fort McPherson closes by September 2011. Among possible uses for the site is a pedestrian-friendly development that integrates living and recreational facilities while providing an employment center for bioscience and green industries.

On the leading edge – Operation Arctic Crossroads

by: LTJG Stephanie Young

Located in one of the most remote areas, 33 miles north of the Arctic Circle on Alaska’s Western coast, is the native village of Kotzebue, Alaska. Settled by Inupiat Eskimos for more than 600 years, Kotzebue has long been known as the passage to the Northwest Arctic and served as a central trading post for international travelers with access to three major rivers.

This native village of just over 3,000 people has welcomed more than 70 temporary residents, as personnel from Coast Guard, Army National Guard, Air National Guard and U.S. Public Health Service take part in Operation Arctic Crossroads 2010.

Operation Arctic Crossroads is a community outreach effort across Northern Alaska that incorporates local knowledge with the expertise from military and humanitarian responders.

In only 20 days, the team visits far-reaching Northern Alaska villages including Pt. Hope, Koyuk, Wales, Selawik, Shishmaref, Kivalina, Little Diomede and Shaktoolik to provide medical, dental and veterinary care. The medical aide provided is crucial for these populations, as the nearest medical facility can be hundreds of miles away.

The mission is fundamental for not only the people of these remote villages, but for federal responders. Coast Guard personnel with the support of the Army and Air National Guards are conducting tests and exercises to determine operational effectiveness and overall capabilities of Coast Guard assets in the Arctic.

Of increasing importance in the Arctic Region is testing the capabilities for small response boats operating in shallow waters. Personnel are looking at their compatibility with local infrastructure as well as how the assets perform in the unique Western Alaska Coastline. Communications equipment was also tested to determine reliability and limitations.

“The Coast Guard has been involved with Alaska since it was a territory, but now we have increasing territory to cover up here for our 11 mission areas,” said Admiral Bob Papp. “So we need to experiment. We need to find out what equipment we need and what kind of challenges we will face up here. And you are all on the leading edge.”

Gates Thanks Sailors for Mediterranean-Haiti Deployment

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 12, 2010 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today thanked the crew of the USS Higgins for their service during a recent deployment that took them around the world.

The secretary has a personal connection to the ship. In 1992, he was among the delegation that received the bodies of CIA station chief Bill Buckley and Marine Corps Lt. Col. William Higgins, who were murdered by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon.

The USS Higgins carries the name of the Marine officer. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer completed a seven-month deployment that took them on ballistic missile defense duty in the Mediterranean to the relief effort in Haiti.

Higgins was battling terrorists during his duty in Lebanon, and the crew of the USS Higgins carries on his fight. "We have taken losses for a long time, but you all are part of that fight," Gates said.

But unlike the terrorists who just want to destroy, the USS Higgins also has another mission. "You are also part of humanitarian assistance such as your mission in Haiti," the secretary told the sailors.

The Higgins was the first Navy ship in Port-au-Prince after the devastating earthquake in January. The 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed more than 200,000 Haitians, and the Higgins helped to bring order to the chaos.

The destroyer also can serve in other areas and with other missions. "The work you are doing against drug runners, against pirates – all of it is important," Gates said.

Gates held a question-and-answer session with the crew. The ship was involved in European missile defense on its deployment to the Mediterranean. The secretary said Navy ships will be a key component of the joint program to defend the United States and its allies from the threat of missile launches by rogue states. North Korea and Iran are particularly dangerous, and the United States is using Aegis ships to create a missile defense capability around Japan and the Middle East. "When we have the Aegis destroyers we can surge wherever we need to," he said.

The ships give the United States missile defense capability right now, the secretary said. Eventually, the Aegis capability will move to land, he added, but he said he doesn't see that happening in the near future.

Sailors asked the secretary about his efficiency initiative. On Aug. 9, the secretary announced he will close two defense offices and shutter the U.S. Joint Forces Command. He also said he will reduce the amount of money going to contractors and eliminate positions for 50 general and flag officers and 150 senior executive service civilians.

"If this works the way I want it to, you get the money," the secretary told the crew. "The whole idea is to reduce contractors, staff [and] headquarters and cut the overhead so we can invest properly in force structure and in force modernization. The whole purpose is to shift money basically from the bureaucracy – the tail – to the tooth – and you all are the tooth."

The sailors also wanted the straight talk on the WikiLeaks situation. Gates said the illegal release and posting of classified documents on the website poses "very serious consequences." The documents contain the names of many Afghans who have helped the coalition and they contain a huge amount of information showing the tactics, techniques and procedures used by coalition forces.

"We know from intelligence that both the Taliban and al-Qaida have given direction to comb those documents for information, so I think the consequences are potentially very severe," he said.

The Higgins will deploy again in January for the Persian Gulf.

Modernization Ahead for Defense Department Schools

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Aug. 12, 2010 - A program to improve Defense Department schools and ensure 21st century learning environments for military children is set to begin in October, department officials said today.

The Department of Defense Education Activity will address some $3.7 billion in construction and renovation needs worldwide over the next five years.

"We're ecstatic to have the resources we need to improve the conditions of our school facilities," Russ Roberts, chief logistician for the activity, said. "It's important for us that we can continue to deliver the quality education our military children deserve."

Of the department's 198 schools, 134 are considered below standard, he noted.

Improvements will include new heating and air systems, plumbing, ventilation, electrical and structural repairs. Some schools will be replaced entirely, with new facilities constructed in their place, he said.

"We have a responsibility to create and maintain safe and secure education facilities to keep up with the education requirements," Roberts said. "The goal is to be good stewards of our facilities and keep them maintained to environments our students can learn."

According to a statement released by the activity yesterday, 70 percent of activity's schools are below the Defense Department's quality standard. The standards which the schools are held were established in 2005, which has made it difficult for the officials to barter for needed funds, Roberts added.

"It was kind of an empty threat," he said, referring to requests to improve facilities. "There was no standard to put up against what we felt we needed. As soon as [the Defense Department] put that [standard] out, then it was pretty easy to see where we set in."

Most schools were deemed too old to meet department standards, Roberts said, which is why so many schools have such low quality ratings. "Most of our schools were built in the 1970s or before, and cannot hold the technologies," he said.

Kevin Kelly, the activity's associate director for finance and business operations, said it's simply more cost-effective to replace the entire school, rather than try to modernize the existing facilities.

"We have schools that were built in the 1950s and '60s that weren't even built to be schools," Kelly said. "A lot of our schools have one electrical outlet in each room, and we can't put computers in the classrooms, because we're overloading our electrical systems."

Also, the department is going "green" with its schools. Some of the newer schools, mainly overseas, Roberts said, have green roofs. This has made heating and electrical systems much more efficient, he added. All of the newly constructed schools will have similar plans, he said.

"Our whole design process and standards have focused on begin green and more ecology friendly," he said.

Despite the positive impact and benefits the program may have, Roberts said improving department schools does not stop when the program ends. The activity will continue to manage a school replacement and upgrade program, he added.

"We have 198 schools, [and] we're taking care of about 134 of these," he said. "Some of our schools, we can get to an acceptable rating with just some major construction. But at some point, even those schools will need to be replaced."

But in the end, it's about ensuring the children receive a quality education, he added.

"It's all about the children," he said. "Their parents sacrifice so much for our nation, and we owe their children a quality education."