Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Today in the Department of Defense, Thursday, February 24, 2011

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn have no public or media events on their schedules.

U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, senior enlisted leader of International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, and sergeant major of the Afghan National Army, Afghan Sgt. Maj. of the Army Roshan Safi, will brief the media live from Kabul, Afghanistan, at 10:30 a.m. EST, in the Pentagon Briefing Room (2E973) to provide an update on current operations.  Journalists without a Pentagon building pass will be picked up at the River Entrance only.  Plan to arrive no later than 45 minutes prior to the event; have proof of affiliation and two forms of photo identification.  Please call 703-697-5131 for escort into the building.

Family Matters Blog: Start Small, Think Big to Start Saving

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2011 – Robert L. Gordon III is the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. In this guest blog, Mr. Gordon spotlights Military Saves Week and encourages military families to focus on ways to reduce debt and plan for a secure future. - Elaine Wilson

Robert L. Gordon, III,
Military Community and Family Policy

I often hear from the financial counselor and planner, “It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.” Learning to save money is one of the most important things all of us can do. It allows us to weather financial emergencies, enjoy a vacation without going into debt, help our children get a college education and secure an enjoyable retirement.

That’s why we’re observing Military Saves Week from Feb. 20 to 27. It’s a time for the entire military community to focus on ways to reduce debt and plan for a secure future. You work hard for your money. Now, make it work for you.

The experts tell us that a good first step at building financial security is to look at the little things we spend money on each day. For example, “Do I have a latte-a-day habit?” or “What am I paying in ATM fees?” They understand that even little changes can save thousands of dollars every year.

It’s easy to lose sight of how much we spend each day. Try this. Save all of your receipts for about two months. Look over them, and you’ll get a realistic view of where your money goes. People are often surprised at how much they spend on things like take-out, bottled water or trips to the movies. When we find small changes in daily spending habits, we’ve taken the first steps toward financial security.

That’s why the theme for Military Saves Week is “Start small, Think big.”  Those small changes really add up. How small? Can you save $40 a week?  That’s roughly $2,000 a year. Even without investing, it’s a sizable nest egg –$40,000 after 20 years, $60,000 at 30 years and $80,000 after 40 years. 

Let compound interest work for you by opening an account with the Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP. This retirement fund automatically sets aside money from your paycheck. You can set aside as little as one percent.  You won’t miss it. That’s what we mean by starting small and thinking big.

Have you made changes to your spending habits? What did you change? How did it affect your life? What sort of advice do you have for creating a spending plan? We’ve set up a discussion board, and hope you’ll post your advice and opinions about saving and spending plans.

If you’re not yet using a spending plan, you are not alone! Join the discussion for some advice and encouragement. There’s no one perfect plan, and every family is different. Find a strategy that works for you, then come back to the discussion and tell us about it!

Consider also taking advantage of personal financial management services. Installations offer counselors who are credentialed financial experts.  Their services are free for all service members and families. Not close to a military installation? Work with the counselors over the phone and the Internet. Use MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to locate the financial management services nearest you.

Another great way to get started is to take the Saver Pledge. It’s a promise you make to yourself to save money, reduce debt and build personal financial security. When you take the pledge, you’ll receive newsletters and other information and advice to help you save.  

All over America, people are proving that financial security is within reach. Meeting financial goals takes consistent action over time, but it is possible. It may be a cliché, but it’s true – every journey begins with the first step. During Military Saves Week, I encourage you to visit to get started. You deserve to make the most out of every dollar you earn.

This Day in Naval History - Feb. 23

From the Navy News Service

1795 - The U.S. Navy Office of Purveyor of Supplies is established. This is officially recognized as the Navy Supply Corps Birthday.
1919 - USS Osmond Ingram (DD 255), the first Navy ship named for an enlisted man, is commissioned.
1944 - Carrier groups under Adm. Raymond Spruance attack Saipan, Tinian and Rota in the Marianas.
1945 - U.S. Marines and a Navy corpsman raise the American flag on Mt. Suribachi, Iwo Jima. The scene has been forever remembered on the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Military Saves Week Spotlights Importance of Saving

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2011 – Service members and their families should “start small and think big” when kick-starting a savings plan, a financial expert said today.

“It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep,” Pam McClelland, a senior program analyst in the Pentagon’s office of family policy and children and youth, told American Forces Press Service. “A little bit can really mean a lot.”

Defense Department officials are putting the spotlight on financial readiness -- particularly the importance of saving -- this week as part of a larger, national emphasis on financial well-being. Military Saves Week, part of America Saves Week, is an annual event intended to help people become better financial planners.

Military installations around the world are sponsoring financial fairs, luncheons, speakers and seminars this week, and are working with on-base credit unions and banks, military exchanges and commissaries to build awareness of the importance of financial readiness and to kick off the military’s year-round financial readiness campaign, McClelland said.

The campaign’s emphasis is on savings, which is appropriate in today’s economy, McClelland noted. The campaign's slogan, "Start Small, Think Big," promotes the long-term benefits of saving even a little each month.

“We’re now in the world of the 401K,” she said. “We don’t have pensions waiting for these young folks any more; it’s not your grandfather’s retirement plan any more. We’ve focused a lot on credit up till now and spend plans, but the emphasis on savings has to be renewed, and we have to do that with our young folks in and out of uniform.”

To start, people should devise a savings plan with set goals in mind, whether it’s a new house, college education, a trip or retirement. McClelland suggested that people figure out what their goal will cost, then divide that sum by the number of paydays to accomplish the goal. This gives them incremental goals along the way, she said.

“People would come to me and say, ‘I have 200 bucks in my savings account, and I’d say, ‘That’s great. What’s it for?’”, she said. “If they didn’t have an answer to that, odds are it’s not going to stay there, because they don’t have it dedicated to something that’s going to make their life better.”

A survey of spending and saving habits released yesterday drives McClelland’s point home. The survey showed that consumers with savings plans are far more likely to save than those without one.

In one survey finding, 85 percent of the people surveyed with a savings plan said they have sufficient emergency savings, while just 50 percent without one said the same. Additionally, 88 percent of those surveyed with a plan spend less than their income and save the difference, compared to 50 percent of those without a plan. And 61 percent of those surveyed said they’re saving enough for retirement, compared to 27 percent without a plan.

For service members, McClelland pointed to the Thrift Savings Plan as one of the best avenues for jump-starting a long-term savings plan. She encouraged service members who aren’t already contributing to their Thrift Savings Plan to start.

“I can’t emphasize enough what a wonderful program we have in the Thrift Savings Plan,” she said. “TSP makes it easy to save.”

Even if service members plan to separate after four years, they should contribute, McClelland advised, since the funds easily can be rolled over to a 401K plan at their new job. People also can explore savings bonds and saver accounts sponsored by credit unions and on-base banks, she added.

Debt shouldn’t be a deterrent, McClelland said, because saving is possible in conjunction with knocking down credit-inducted debt.

“You can’t wait too long, depending on your age, … to start long-term savings, or you lose that wonderful benefit of compound interest,” she said. However, people first should sit down with a financial expert to determine the best track for their individual situation.

The Military Saves Campaign also includes a Military Youth Saves initiative that is aimed at building financial responsibility in military children and youth.

“We can start planting those seeds and make it part of a skill set early on,” McClelland said. “If you get a quarter, you can take a nickel and put it away. It starts them on a cycle that will reward them the rest of their life.”

Brenda McDaniel, a senior program analyst in the Pentagon’s office of family policy and children and youth, suggested parents encourage children to take at least half of their allowance and put it in savings.

McClelland said officials are working with the Department of Defense Education Activity, youth centers and child development centers to instill this financial message in military children and youth around the world.

McClelland acknowledged the additional challenges military families encounter, including deployments and frequent moves, which “can destroy a budget and a routine you’ve fallen into,” she said.

“It’s very, very important that we look at the impact of emergency situations and relocations and really stress that with our folks,” she added.

Financial readiness is vital in the military, McClelland noted, since it’s tied so closely to mission readiness as one of the pillars of personal readiness.

“If you are more secure in your personal life, you’re more able to attend to the mission at hand,” she said.

“If you have bill collectors calling, if you feel like you don’t have enough money to do what you want for your kids, it’s hard to concentrate on launching that airplane or doing whatever your job is for the mission,” she continued. “Our leadership has very much recognized all of the effects personal readiness has on mission accomplishment.”

This recognition has led to accredited personal financial managers being in every service family center, as well as personal financial counselors who work with state and community officials as part of joint family support assistance program teams, McClelland said. And for people who are geographically dispersed, the Defense Department’s Military OneSource consultants can provide telephonic counseling or refer people to a counselor in a community.

McDaniel, who also is the architect of the Pentagon Military Saves Fair, encouraged people to take action today by taking the “saver pledge” on the Military Saves website, where they can pledge to save for everything from a new car to a new house. By doing so, people may be inspired to take a closer look at their overall finances, including credit, debt and savings, she said.

“This will, hopefully, lead them to getting assistance from some of the myriad of resources we have available to them,” McClelland said.

Financial management tools such as spending and savings plans don’t vary much over the years, McClelland noted. The goal, she said, “is reaching the point where we can get folks to value each of those tools and how important they to their quality of life and happiness. It just makes for a better quality of life all around.”

Carter: ‘Better Buying Power’ Drives Defense Acquisitions

By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2011 – Supporting the war effort and managing the budget are top jobs in the office of acquisition, technology and logistics, and both have intensified with the Pentagon’s mandate to do more with less, the Defense Department’s acquisition executive said.

Ashton B. Carter gave the keynote address on the defense efficiency initiative to an audience of 500 here last night at a meeting of the Center for a New American Security.

“As one of the prongs of the efficiency initiative, [Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates] asked me to devise a plan for finding efficiencies within $400 billion of the $700 billion defense budget that is my area of responsibility,” Carter said, “namely, that which is contracted out of the department for goods and services.”

Gates introduced the efficiency initiative during a May 8 speech at the Eisenhower Library in Abilene, Kan.

“This led to something called ‘better buying power,’” which he and Gates introduced Sept. 14, Carter said.

“It takes the form of guidance from me to our acquisition work force -- 147,000 acquisition professionals -- on how they can get, as I put it, more without more, because we’re not going to have more.”

The objective is to deliver the warfighting capabilities needed for the money available, he added, by getting better buying power for warfighters and taxpayers.

The 23-point strategy seeks to restore affordability in defense procurement and to improve defense industry productivity, Carter said. Each point was devised with input from the defense acquisition work force and from partners in industry, he said.

Major themes of the strategy, according to Carter’s guidance roadmap, include targeting affordability and controlling cost growth, providing incentives for defense industry productivity and innovation, promoting competition, improving the acquisition of services, and reducing bureaucracy.

“Our first effort has to be at affordability, and that has to be for new programs we’re beginning and ones we’ve already begun,” Carter said. An example, he said, is the the next-generation ballistic missile submarine that will replace the Ohio-class nuclear missile-carrying submarine in the 2020s.

“When we got the first design and cost estimate for the SSBNX, we were coming in at $7 billion apiece. If the Navy spent that much in the period 2020 to 2030 on the SSBNX, it wouldn’t be able to buy any other ships. Said differently, that ain’t happening,” Carter said.

“Rather than head down a road that was sure to lead to a broken program, we had to back up and look at the drivers of the design,” he said. These were tube number, tube diameter, degree of stealth, flank speed and other factors that drove the overall cost.

“We began to shape the design with affordability as a requirement,” Carter said. “And we found we could do that.” The Navy’s cost now is down to about $6 billion per submarine, with a target of $4.9 billion, he added.

“And that’s the kind of thing we’re going to have to do with everything we’re starting now,” Carter said.

But some programs are already in progress, Carter noted. “They were started, and now here we are,” he said. “We have them, and we need to control costs on them.”

Competition is another big driver of efficiency, and the Defense Department tries to use competition as creatively as possible, Carter added.

In the recent case of the littoral combat ship, he said, two different sea frame makers asked to prepare bids for a subsequent buy.

“When we got the bids in,” he continued, “the numbers suggested to me that both shipbuilders believed they were entitled to build these ships for us.”

Defense Department officials decided that only one shipbuilder would win the contract, and asked each contractor to bid on building 10 ships, based on the assumption that only one company would win. Other incentives were added to the contract, Carter said, and when the bids came in again, “they were substantially lower, because the people comparing them had been able to think of plausible ways to reduce the costs.”

The bids were so attractive, Carter said, “that we decided to buy all 20. It was a great deal.”

The Defense Department doesn’t make anything, he noted.

“All of the weapons systems and equipment that make us the best military in the world -- and that is, next to our people in uniform, our greatest asset as a military power -- are made in industry.”

The defense industry and its technological health and vitality are a national asset, Carter said.

“In that sense, the taxpayer and the warfighter, whom I represent, have the same interest as a long-term shareholder in the defense industry.”

Agency Chief Outlines Threat Reduction Strategy

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2011 – The Defense Threat Reduction Agency is at work around the clock to protect American forces and citizens from nuclear, chemical and biological threats, the agency’s director said today.

Speaking to the Defense Writers Group, Kenneth A. Myers III, who also is director of the U.S. Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction, said the “lines of defense” strategy aims to detect, interdict and defend against weapons of mass destruction.

“How do we make it harder, how do we create more lines of defense between the threats and the American people?” he asked.

The value and effectiveness of countering any threat from weapons of mass destruction is much greater at the source, Myers said.

“The first line of defense is at the source. The second line is detection [and] interdiction of these threats before they reach the American people,” he said. “But the other major part of the DTRA responsibility is that last line of defense, here at home, and that’s consequence management.”

In the nuclear arena, one task his agency performs is nuclear inspections. With the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty now in force, Myers said, his people are trained and ready to take on the inspection duties it authorizes.

Carrying out nuclear weapons inspections in Russia is a verification mission, Myers explained, adding that his agency’s teams also will escort Russian teams on their inspections in the United States.

“It’s a mission that we’ve had for a number of years,” he said. “It is one that we’re constantly trained for.”

In recent months that training has intensified, Myers said, as inspectors prepare to verify stockpiles of Russian nuclear weapons.

“We’ve been involved with this treaty for quite some time,” Myers said. “We’ve understood from the beginning of the process what would be required, … [and] we’re ready to go.”

New START provides for fewer inspections than the previous START treaty, he said, in part because the new treaty combines some types of inspections, and also because “we’re talking about fewer weapons. The numbers are coming down.”

Judgments on treaty compliance are not part of his agency’s mission, the director said. “We are the inspectors -- we don’t make verification judgments,” he said. “We report the facts. Judgments on compliance are made by other members.”

His agency’s inspectors, Myers said, are the best in the world. “I’m confident we’ll get all the information we need,” he added.

While the first inspections have not been scheduled, he said, teams are “waiting for the call.”

In contrast to the verification mission his agency will perform under the new START, much of the threat reduction effort focuses on finding and countering risks involving weapons of mass destruction, Myers said. His agency is responsible for much of the science and technology development in countering chemical and biological weapons, he explained, and also is the banker for chemical and biological defense funds.

The threat is diverse, and countermeasure development is spread across a range of efforts, Myers said.

He explained that whether a threat involves samples of harmful viruses or stockpiles of fissionable materials, his agency aims to build as many walls as possible between that threat and American citizens and service members.

For example, in countering biological weapons, the agency works both to contain the possible spread of disease agents, and also to develop vaccines against those diseases, he said, adding that the Ebola and Marburg viruses are an area in which the agency has seen “first-level success.”

It may take 15 to 20 years for the pharmaceutical industry to develop an effective drug to mitigate a threat, he said. “Our No. 1 goal is to shorten these timeframes -- that is, to try to get solutions to the warfighter … and the American people, should we face these types of threats,” he said.

The potential for biological or nuclear weapons to be used against U.S. citizens spurs his agency to move quickly in putting defenses in place, Myers said.

“Our strategy is to cut the timelines, to move faster,” he said. “At the end of the day, you have a threat, and you have a solution. Trying to match them up as quickly as possible is the challenge.”

The Ebola virus, which occurs naturally in sub-Saharan Africa, may be as great a threat as a manmade weapon elsewhere, Myers pointed out.

“It’s hard for me to tell you that a biological weapon or a virulent disease is not a threat,” he said. “They’re all threats. A lot of the [relative risk involves] the likelihood of finding them in nature, and the ease or complex nature of manipulating them.”

Many health facilities in Africa store samples of diseases that occur naturally in the region, he said, noting such facilities often are close to areas that may be terrorist recruiting or operating grounds.

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency develops tools for the services to use in countering weapons of mass destruction, Myers said, citing the “massive ordnance penetrator,” a weapon the agency funded, tested, found effective, then handed off to the Air Force. The weapon is designed to attack hardened concrete bunkers and tunnels, where weapons of mass destruction components may be stored, he explained.

“The goal is to hold deeply buried targets and other potential threats … at risk. … I think we’ve proven we can hold deeply buried targets at risk,” Myers said. “We want to work to change the behavior, change the efforts by some to use facilities to develop weapons of mass destruction.”

The fact that the United States has not suffered a serious biological or nuclear attack is significant, though the threat remains real, Myers said.

“I go to work every day with 2,000 people whose job is to stop that from happening,” he said.

Agency programs focus on developing tools and strategies to detect, interdict and counter weapons of mass destruction, he said, in line with the president’s focus on defending against nuclear and biological threats.

“I believe that the policies [and] the programs that we have in place are making a big difference,” Myers said. “I think the people [and] the skill sets that we have focused on this problem are making a big difference.”

One thing that makes the agency effective, the director said, is that it has both a research and development arm and a full operations side.

“You walk down the hallway and you have a nuclear physicist, a microbiologist, and a former Special Forces operator sitting there talking together, trying to solve problems,” he said. “It really is a very unique institution.”

His agency’s partners in defending against weapons of mass destruction include the military services, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and embassies around the world, Myers said.

“To protect the American people, we need to develop as many lines of defense as possible,” he said.

DCoE Conference Hosts Award-Winning Documentary Screening, Discussion with Film's Featured Service Members

By Robyn Mincher, DCoE Communications on February 23, 2011

“Everything else in life becomes different after you go through an experience like that. When I came home, I broke down. I couldn’t even tie my own shoes. I had no one to talk to about it - we’re not trained to talk about it.”
--Brendan O’Byrne, of the 503rd Infantry Regiment of the 2nd Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat team stationed in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The valley was named “the deadliest place on earth,” in 2007 by CNN.

O’Byrne’s experience in combat is captured on camera in the National Geographic award-winning documentary Restrepo, screened recently at DCoE’s third Warrior Resilience Conference. Within the film’s first few minutes, an improvised explosive device explodes underneath the platoon’s vehicle—an example of the intense cross-fires that were a daily occurrence. The film, directed by American journalist Sebastian Junger and British photojournalist Tim Hetherington, follows 15 men from 2nd Platoon, including Sgt. Aron Hijar, as they build an outpost in the middle of the night, deep in the Korengal Valley—from the ground up. The platoon names the outpost “O.P. Restrepo” after their 20-year-old charismatic medic Pfc. Juan “Doc” Restrepo is killed in action.

Following the screening, O’Byrne and Hijar shared their personal accounts of their journey, and touching upon what could be considered a theme of the conference, messages of hope for those coping with psychological health concerns post-deployment.

“We want everyone to understand that there is life after war,” said Hijar. “The initial reaction may be negative, but we have to build off of that. As soldiers, you can’t let it stop you in your tracks.”

O’Byrne emphasized the need for pre-deployment psychological training to avoid issues with stigma.

“I thought, ‘I can take apart my M4 [rifle] blindfolded, but what do I say to my team when one of my friends gets killed?’” said O’Byrne. “There has to be some kind of training before combat, and then we can say ‘that did happen’ without being labeled as anything besides a warrior.”

The film was referenced and recommended by many speakers throughout the two-day conference as a real-life look inside hard duty.

“Who’s helping my son in the Korengal Valley?” asked Army Lt. Gen. Frank Kearney, a keynote address speaker whose own son, Maj. Dan Kearney, the 2nd Platoon leader featured in the film.

“There’s a culture of breaking you down and trying to build you up,” said Lt. Gen. Kearney. “We have to change this culture, start in basic training and get people to start getting invested in the soldier, not just the equipment.”

The necessity of early psychological training coming from command was reflected by Hijar, who also cited peer-support as a resource for helping manage post-deployment concerns.

“It [help] can’t just come from a therapist. Lessons can be learned from people with boots on the ground,” he said. “This has to be part of training and applied to a unit from day one,” said Hijar.

Learn more about this award-winning documentary at  This article was sponsored by Military Books.

Inaugural U.S. - Afghanistan Security Consultations Forum Held at Pentagon

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates met today with Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak and Afghan Minister of Interior Besmillah Khan Mohammadi as part of the inaugural session of the U.S. - Afghanistan Security Consultations Forum (SCF) at the Pentagon.  The ministers met with Gates, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright, and other defense officials to discuss building long-term cooperation between the two countries as well as issues of immediate importance. 

The discussions made progress toward building a mutually-shared vision of the security aspects of an enduring strategic partnership between the United States and Afghanistan based on the mutual goal of building Afghan security forces that are able to provide for Afghanistan’s own security and ensuring Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for extremists that threaten others.

The meetings included a review of security gains across Afghanistan in 2010, particularly in Helmand and Kandahar.  In those provinces, a surge of Afghan National Security Forces coupled with an International Security Assistance Force increase in force levels are improving security and enabling greater Afghan freedom of movement, commerce, and development.  Talks focused on how to build on those gains throughout 2011, particularly in support of the beginning of the transition process to Afghan responsibility for security; a process aimed to achieve the goal of Afghan leadership in security throughout the entire country by the end of 2014, as set out by President Karzai and endorsed by President Obama and other NATO leaders at the Lisbon summit in November 2010. 

The ministers and Gates also discussed the progress that has been made during the past year in expanding the Afghan security forces by more than 70,000 troops and in improving the quality of those forces.  They exchanged views on how to continue improvements in the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police.

This article was sponsored by Military Books.

MCPON Sends Supply Corps Birthday Message

By Special from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON)(SS/SW) Rick D. West released the following Supply Corps birthday message to the Fleet Feb 23.


For 216 years, our Navy Supply Corps has delivered sustained global logistics capabilities to the Navy and joint warfighter enabling our Navy to be the Global Force for Good at the tactical, operational and strategic level.

As one of the oldest staff corps in the Navy, the Supply Corps' rich and proud history began Feb. 23, 1795, when President George Washington appointed Tench Francis, a Philadelphia businessman, as the country's first Purveyor of Public Supplies. Francis unified a group of independent pursers under a single organization, which eventually became the Navy Supply Corps and since then, the supply corps community consisting of officers, Sailors and civilians, has given their dedication and steadfast support significantly contributing to the successes of our great Navy.

It is my belief that on board any command, morale rests in the hands of those in the Supply Department, whether you are delivering a much needed part, supplying items within the ship's store, or preparing the meals for our Warriors, your actions can single-handily set the tone for morale within your command and our Navy.

To the more than 3,500 active and Reserve component Supply Corps officers and the more than 19,000 supply community enlisted personnel including logistics specialists, ships' servicemen, and culinary specialists, and those Sailors and officers currently serving in harm's way, thank you for what you do every day and for your continued service and dedication to our nation and our Navy.

Happy Birthday Supply Corps!


Very Respectfully,

For more news from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, visit

This article was sponsored by Navy Books.

Presidential Visit

Oregon Air National Guard Maj. Adam Sitler greets President Barack Obama, as he arrives at the Portland Air Guard Base, in Portland, Ore., Feb. 18. Before boarding Marine One, Obama paused to shake hands with those who were on hand to welcome the President to Oregon. The President headed to Intel Corporation in Hillsboro to discuss manufacturing for science and technology with employees and community leaders. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs Office).

ROTC Bonuses Beef Up Services’ Language Capacity

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 23, 2011 – A Defense Department pilot program to add foreign language proficiency to its officer corps is growing dramatically, the department’s head of foreign languages said.

The department began the ROTC Skill Proficiency Bonus in 2008 at the request of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to encourage the study of languages critical to the armed services. Congress authorized DOD’s request as part of the 2009 National Defense Authorization Act, and the pilot program is funded through the Services until the end of 2013, when the authorization expires.

Although it began with just 29 students, the program has grown to more than 1,800, Nancy Weaver, director of the Defense Language Office, said during a Feb. 18 interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.

“We want to make sure all the ROTC personnel get wind of it and it doesn’t lose its momentum,” Weaver said.

The program pays a skill proficiency bonus to qualified ROTC students who take foreign language or culture classes, Weaver said. Students can earn as much as $3,000 per year, depending on the classes they take. The highest stipends are paid advanced-level classes in high-demand, strategic languages such as Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Swahili, Uzbek, Dari and Pashto, she said.

Students can take part in language immersion programs that send them to a foreign country for two to four weeks in the summer, which Weaver added is a great way to improve language skills.

The program is important for giving young officers a better foundation for military service, Weaver said. “We’re living in a very global environment, more so than any other time in history,” she said. “We find that our officers need a global perspective.”

Students do not have to be language or linguistics majors to qualify for bonuses, Weaver said, and most will find they don’t use the languages daily when they enter service. Still, she added, the background makes them better-prepared officers and gives them high-value skills.

“It gives you insight and understanding into a country or culture,” Weaver said. “It’s that global perspective that makes a more aware officer who is flexible and adaptable regardless of the environment they are put into.

“It makes them mission ready and more expeditionary prepared,” she added.

The Department of Defense Education Activity provides foreign language classes in its elementary schools. In addition, DOD’s National Security Education Program supports partnerships with schools in Oregon and Ohio, where students begin learning Chinese languages in the first grade. Successful completion of the foreign language program through high school makes them eligible for a scholarship at participating flagship universities, she noted.

While demand for foreign languages is increasing in the military, in corporations and among students, Weaver said, some colleges and universities are reducing foreign language courses as a cost-saving measure.

“Unfortunately, not a lot of programs require language study,” she said. “It used to be a requirement for a college degree, but that’s not been the case for the past several years. A number of institutions do not teach languages at all.”

ROTC students at colleges that don’t offer foreign languages should ask whether their school has an agreement with another school in the area to take part in a language program, Weaver said. The bonus could be used toward that program, she added.

This article was sponsored by Military Books.

Service Members Set the Pace for Great Aloha Run

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class (AW) Eric J. Cutright

HONOLULU (NNS) -- Service members from all five branches participated in the 27th Annual Great Aloha Run which began in downtown Honolulu on Feb. 21.

The Great Aloha Run is 8.15 miles in length starting at Aloha Tower and ending inside Aloha Stadium.

The military formation called the "Sounds of Freedom," comprised of more than 3,500 men and women began the race seven minutes early at during a silent start.

"It felt great to be a part of the Sounds of Freedom out here today," said Lt. Shawn Osborne, command chaplain onboard USS Port Royal (CG 73). "It really motivates you when you have everyone cheering you on. You don't really think about the time and the distance too much."

Lt. j.g. Kyle Aquino, assigned to USS Port Royal (CG 73), spoke of the military's involvement in this year's race.

"I feel that it is really important for the men and women that make up our Armed Forces to come out and show our presence and represent," said Aquino. "I think that the people were just excited to see us out there and participating."

The military presence has been lower in recent years due to an increase in deployments but still managed higher numbers this year than in the previous decade.

"Back in the late 80's we had 10,000 Sounds of Freedom and we were [previously] up to like 32,000 on the course," said race director, Carol Jaxon. "That would have been 22,000 local people running and the rest being military. I do know that definitely in the last decade this is our biggest number."

The Great Aloha Run is recognized as one of the top 100 road races in the country since its inauguration back in 1984, which drew in approximately than 12,000 runners.

Over the past 27 years the Great Aloha Run has raised approximately $8.6 million in support of more than 150 non-profit health and human service organizations as well as community service groups throughout Hawaii.

"It's important that we help our community because that's what it's all about. This race is for the people, by the people, and all the money goes back to the people," said Carole Kai Onouye, race founder.

For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Hawaii, visit