Thursday, March 03, 2011

U.S. Military Aircraft to Aid Egyptians Leaving Libya

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2011 – President Barack Obama announced today he has approved the use of U.S. military aircraft to help Egyptians who have fled to the Tunisian border get back home to Egypt.

Speaking from the White House, Obama said the United States and the world continue “to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people.”

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has ordered U.S. Africa Command to take the lead for defense planning regarding the situation in Libya, according to a Pentagon statement. The DOD will continue to work in close coordination with the State Department and other agencies as needed.

Since Feb. 17, Libyan citizens have protested against Col. Moammar Gadhafi, who has ruled Libya since 1969. Gadhafi’s forces have since engaged in increasingly violent clashes with protesters throughout the country, while Libya’s military forces are divided between the two sides. An estimated 180,000 people have fled Libya, many gathering along the border with Tunisia.

“The United States is helping to lead an international effort to deter further violence, put in place unprecedented sanctions to hold the Gadhafi government accountable, and support the aspirations of the Libyan people,” Obama said.

The United States also is responding to the urgent humanitarian needs that are developing, he said.

“Tens of thousands of people, from many different countries, are fleeing Libya,” the president said. “We commend the governments of Tunisia and Egypt for their response, even as they go through their own political transitions.”

The president also has authorized the U.S. Agency for International Development to charter additional civilian aircraft to help people fleeing Libya return to their homes.

“We’re supporting the efforts of international organizations to evacuate people as well,” the president said. “I’ve also directed USAID to send humanitarian assistance teams to the Libyan border, so that they can work with the United Nations, [non-governmental organizations] and other international partners inside Libya to address the urgent needs of the Libyan people.”

The United States will continue to send a clear message that the violence in Libya must stop, and Gadhafi must go, the president said.

Libya’s ruler “has lost legitimacy to lead, and he must leave,” Obama said. “Those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable. And the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy and dignity must be met.”

US, Cambodia Strengthen Ties Through Community Service Project

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Johnie Hickmon, USS Essex (LHD 1) Public Affairs

SIHANOUKVILLE, Cambodia (NNS) -- Sailors from Commander, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11 participated in a community service (COMSERV) project at the Goodwill School in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, March 1.

During the project, more than 50 PHIBRON 11 Sailors had an opportunity to interact with Cambodian children through a variety of activities, including painting, volleyball and soccer.

The Sailors also donated food and recreational equipment to the school.

Although the children are used to foreigners visiting the school and donating supplies, they seem to show a different appreciation when Navy personnel visit the center, said Goodwill School Operations Manager Sabine Nerling.

"They love the attention and get excited about Sailors coming to visit," said Nerling. "They love the attention they receive from them."

Seeing the enjoyment in the children's faces is why Air Traffic Controller Airman Stacy Dryburgh volunteered to participate in the COMSERV.

"That's one of the reasons I love doing COMSERVs," said Dryburgh. "I love to see the kids and the reactions on their faces when we are here."

Not only was the COMSERV a chance for Sailors to play and interact with the children, it was also a chance for the Sailors to learn.

"I got to learn some new games from the children," said Operations Specialist Seaman Kenneth Crump. "I feel like volunteering for this COMSERV gave me a chance to gain volunteer experience and experience the Cambodian culture. I think everyone should experience a COMSERV. It gives you a different perspective of what it's like to live in other countries."

The Goodwill School, constructed in 2004, offers Cambodian children a chance to learn English, computer skills and performing arts. All supplies and equipment at the school are acquired through donations.

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group reports to Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, Rear Adm. Richard Landolt, who is headquartered in Okinawa, Japan.

DOD Improves Troops’ Access to Quality Education

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2011 – Defense Department officials are taking extensive measures –- from education reviews to agency partnerships -- to ensure service members have access to quality education and learning opportunities in their off-duty hours, a DOD official said.

Robert L. Gordon III, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, outlined these efforts for members of a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee yesterday.

Each year, one-third of the nation’s service members enroll in post-secondary education courses leading to associate’s, bachelor’s and advanced degrees, Gordon said. And this past year alone, officials tallied more than 857,000 course enrollments and more than 45,000 service members who earned a degree or certification.

Service members are nontraditional students, attending school part time during off-duty hours, said Gordon, noting that oftentimes “military missions, deployments, transfers and family obligations impinge on their ability to continue their education.”

This can result in an interruption of studies or breaks of months and even years between courses or in completing degree requirements, he said.

To better accommodate their work schedules and demands, the military is turning to technology to create more opportunities than ever before, Gordon said. Colleges and universities deliver classroom instruction via the Internet and on military installations around the world.

“There are no geographical confines,” he said. “Courses are offered on board ships, submarines and at deployed locations.”

From spring 2009 to 2010, for example, 432 service members in Iraq and Afghanistan graduated from post-secondary schools, Gordon said.

With such a widespread educational offering, officials are working to ensure that tuition assistance dollars, intended for off-duty education, are well spent. All institutions participating in tuition assistance programs must be accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the Education Department, Gordon said. And colleges and universities on installations must adhere to additional criteria.

The Defense Department, Gordon said, also contracted with the American Council on Education to conduct the Military Installation Voluntary Education Review, which provided a third-party independent review of the DOD’s on-installation programs.

Officials are pursuing another contract, to be awarded by Oct. 1, that will have an “enhanced quality criteria,” Gordon explained, and include all modes of course delivery as well as all institutions on and off military installations participating in the tuition assistance program. Officials will track third-party recommendations for this new review, he added, and monitor corrective actions to ensure ongoing improvement.

To further bolster educational services, officials will implement a new policy, effective Jan. 1, 2012, that requires every institution participating in the tuition assistance program to have a memorandum of understanding with the Defense Department. This MOU includes an agreement that institutions must participate in the new review process, he said.

The Defense Department also is working with the Education Department on a “sharing agreement,” Gordon noted, which will enable officials to receive reports from accrediting agencies, school-monitoring reviews and requirements for state authorizations of schools.
The department will apply this information within the DOD’s voluntary education programs and prior to issuing tuition assistance funds, he explained.

To garner feedback, officials have developed an online, automated tracking system to document issues and concerns, Gordon said. Students, DOD personnel and schools can submit their comments on a Web-based system, which will track submissions and record resolutions, he said.

“The information gleaned will be used to address improper behavior or questionable practices by an institution participating in the TA program,” Gordon said.

The Government Accountability Office recently conducted a detailed examination of the tuition assistance program, Gordon said. “I’m pleased to say that I believe their report on our management of this large and complex program was favorable,” he said.

The accountability office made five administrative recommendations, Gordon said. “We concurred with all of them and are implementing them now,” he said.

Navy Surgeon General Commemorates Medical Corps 140th Birthday

By U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The Navy Surgeon General sent a message to the Navy Medical Corps in honor of its birthday, March 3.

"Today we celebrate the 140th Birthday of our Medical Corps," said Vice Adm. Adam M. Robinson, Jr., Navy surgeon general and chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. "From the countless humanitarian relief and disaster response missions, to the larger role of expeditionary care around the world, the Medical Corps is integral to Navy Medicine's ability to support our maritime strategy."

The Medical Corps was founded March 3, 1871, by the Forty-First Congress who enacted the Appropriations Act which established the Medical Corps with the mission of providing medical care to U.S. Navy personnel aboard ships and shore stations.

Today, nearly 5,000 active duty and Reserve Navy doctors serve with both the Navy and the Marine Corps throughout the world, providing exemplary care to Sailors, Marines and their families, from the garrison to the deck plates and to the battlefield.

According to Robinson, the Navy Medical Corps is broad and diverse. It is comprised of physicians who are practicing or training in dozens of medical and surgical specialties with more than 200 subspecialties. Navy doctors serve in complex and diverse positions including the White House, the Attending Physician's Office to Congress and as astronauts exploring the frontiers of space.

Robinson also said the Navy Medical Corps continues to break new ground in biomedical research, medical education and training, and patient care delivery at Navy clinics, hospitals, aboard Navy afloat platforms, and in combat theaters.

"It is the honor, courage, and commitment of these personnel we honor today," said Robinson. "We celebrate their spirit of service in everything they do to ensure our nation has a medically ready, fit, and fighting force. It is our responsibility to ensure that those who've served our nation, along with their families, can always count on Navy Medicine to help provide quality and compassionate patient and family-centered health care.

Budget Provides Funds to Balance Army, Casey Says

By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2011 – For years the Army's chief of staff has said his service was "out of balance,” but he believes next year’s budget request will keep it on the road to recovery after 10 years of war.

During testimony yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. told lawmakers the fiscal 2012 Army budget submission marks a "transition point" between restoring balance to the force and sustaining that balance.

"This budget enables us to sustain the balance that we have restored into this great Army," Casey said, adding that "sustaining that balance is critical because this war is not over."

Casey was joined by Army Secretary John M. McHugh on Capitol Hill to detail and explain the Army’s portion of President Barack Obama’s proposed defense budget to Congress. The Army base budget request for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1 is $144.9 billion, an increase of just $1.5 billion over the fiscal 2011 request. The Army also requested an additional $71.1 billion for the overseas contingency operations budget, which funds operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Army's budget proposal includes a 1.5 percent pay raise for soldiers, a 3.1 percent increase in housing allowance, and a 3.4 percent increase in subsistence allowance.

"After a decade of very hard work, we have a force that is the right size, that is organized in versatile, modular formations on a predictable rotational cycle, and that has sufficient time at home to begin training for the full range of missions and to recover from a decade of war," Casey told lawmakers.

The Army's recent growth and the drawdown in Iraq, Casey said, have enabled the service to improve soldiers’ dwell time -- the time they spend at home, training and with their families -- between deployments.

"This is a critical component of sustaining an all-volunteer force in a protracted conflict," he said. "For the better part of five years we were returning soldiers to combat after only one year at home. We knew that was not sustainable and have been working to bring dwell to two years at home as quickly as possible."

Now, the general said, the Army has reached that goal. "Given what we know about the projected demands, our active units who deploy after the first of October will deploy with an expectation of having two years at home when they return," he said, adding that Guard and reserve units should expect to have four years at home when they return.

"We've worked very hard to get to this point, and it's a significant accomplishment," Casey said, noting the Army will continue to work to eventually provide a three-year dwell time to active units.

The Army will complete its organizational transformation this year, Casey said, and will finish the modular conversion of all but "a handful" of the service's 300 brigades and finish rebalancing about 150,000 soldiers out of Cold War-era specialties to skills more relevant to today's conflicts.

McHugh told legislators about the Army's successes in working to meet the deadline to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year, transitioning the mission there to the State Department.

"As we continue to drawdown our forces to meet the Dec. 31, 2011, deadline, we've already closed or transferred over 80 percent of the bases we maintained to the Iraqi authorities," McHugh said. "We've reduced the number of U.S. personnel by over 75,000, and we've redeployed some 26,000 back to other operations."

McHugh said that following a trip to Iraq he was able to confirm the immense size of the Army’s drawdown operation there, and also that morale was high among soldiers "as they continue to advise and assist and train Iraqis to support that still burgeoning democracy."

Along with the drawdown in Iraq, McHugh said the Army has surged an additional 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan to help defeat the al-Qaida terrorist network and the Taliban insurgency.

"The surge enabled our soldiers and our Afghan partners to seize multiple sanctuaries in the traditional insurgent heartland of southern Afghanistan," the secretary said.

U.S. forces have trained some 109,000 Afghan soldiers and 41,000 Afghan national police, McHugh said.

The secretary also told lawmakers the Army must have the right equipment to maintain an edge over America's enemies, now and in the future.

"Our FY12 budget request is critical to achieving this goal by supporting the extraordinary strides we made in the Army’s state-of-the-art network, tactical wheeled vehicle and combat vehicle modernization programs," he said.

For the network, McHugh said, the Army is asking for $974 million to cover procurement and $298 million for research for the WINT-T network, which will "become the cornerstone of our battlefield communications systems."

Also, he said, the Army is seeking $1.5 billion for tactical-wheeled-vehicle modernization and $1.4 billion for the Army's combat vehicle modernization strategy -- including $884 million for the Ground Combat Vehicle and $156 million for modernization of the Stryker, Bradley and Abrams programs.

The secretary also told the committee about Army energy initiatives, including the establishment of a senior energy council, the appointment of a senior energy executive, the creation of an energy security office, and adoption of a comprehensive strategy for energy security.

"We're developing more efficient generators, and power distribution platforms, factoring in fuel costs as a part of equipment modernization, and developing a net-zero approach to holistically address our installations' energy, water and waste needs," McHugh said.

The secretary also said the Army has commissioned a panel to review the service's acquisition systems from "cradle to grave."

"We're currently reviewing the panel's insightful report and we'll use it as a guide over the next two years to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Army's acquisition process," he said.

Army Adds 22 Charges Against Intelligence Analyst

From a U.S. Army Military District of Washington News Release

FORT LESLEY J. MCNAIR, D.C., March 2, 2011 – After seven months of additional investigation by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and other investigative agencies, the Army has added 22 charges in the case of a military intelligence analyst accused of leaking classified material.

The new charges against Pvt. 1st Class Bradley E. Manning allege that he introduced unauthorized software onto government computers to extract classified information, unlawfully downloaded it, improperly stored it, and transmitted the classified data for public release and use by the enemy.

The investigation remains ongoing, officials said.

"The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Private 1st Class Manning is accused of committing," said Capt. John Haberland, a legal spokesman for U.S. Army Military District of Washington. "The new charges will not affect Private 1st Class Manning's right to a speedy trial or his pretrial confinement."

U.S. military officials in Baghdad preferred two charges consisting of 12 specifications against Manning on July 5. Officials said the commander of U.S. Army Headquarters Command Battalion preferred the new charges yesterday.

In addition to a charge of aiding the enemy in violation of Article 104 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the new charges include 16 specifications under the UCMJ’s Article 134:

-- One specification of wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it is accessible to the enemy;

-- Five specifications of theft of public property or records, in violation of 18 U.S. Code 641;

-- Eight specifications of transmitting defense information in violation of 18 U.S.C. 793(e);

-- Two specifications of fraud and related activity in connection with computers in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1030(a)(1); and

-- Five specifications in violation of Article 92 of the UCMJ for violating Army Regulations 25-2, "Information Assurance," and 380-5, "Department of the Army Information Security Program."

The charge of aiding the enemy under Article 104 is a capital offense, officials said. However, they added, the prosecution team has notified the defense that the prosecution will not recommend the death penalty to the convening authority, Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, commanding general of the U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

Under the UCMJ, the convening authority ultimately decides what charges to refer to court-martial, and whether to seek the death penalty if Article 104 is referred. Therefore, if convicted of all charges, Manning would face a maximum punishment of reduction to the lowest enlisted pay grade,; total forfeiture of all pay and allowances, confinement for life, and a dishonorable discharge.

At the request of Manning's defense attorneys, the trial proceedings have been delayed since July 12, pending the results of a defense-requested inquiry into Manning's mental capacity and responsibility, pursuant to Rule for Courts-Martial 706. Depending on the results of the inquiry, an Article 32 hearing may follow, officials said. An Article 32 hearing is the civilian equivalent of a grand jury, with additional rights afforded to the accused, they explained.

Manning remains confined in the Marine Corps Base Quantico brig in Quantico, Va. He was notified of the additional charges in person during a command visit today, officials said.

Officials emphasized that Manning is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and added that the Army is committed to ensuring his continued safety and well-being while in pretrial confinement.

Holly Petraeus Aims to Protect Troops' Finances

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2011 – Years ago, Holly Petraeus and her husband, then a young Army officer, went shopping for a new desk.

Looking for a bargain, they honed in on a gray, metal desk at a rent-to-own store, where the monthly payments were set low to attract customers and to distract from an inflated bottom-line cost.

“We spent, I’m sure, far more by the time we finished renting the thing than we would have spent just going out and buying a desk,” Petraeus said. “It was really ugly too -- enormous and hard to move,” she added with a laugh. “I had to think, ‘Why did we do that?’”

The couple experienced a few other financial setbacks over the years. Along the way, Petraeus said, she not only picked up some financial savvy, but also acquired a resolve to prevent other military families from having to learn their lessons the hard way.

Today, Petraeus is set to put her hard-won knowledge to good use as head of the Office of Servicemember Affairs, a subset of the government’s new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Her husband, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, has moved up to become the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

“It’s an amazing community and amazing people who serve this country, both those in uniform and their spouses and children. I only want the best for them,” she said. “It bothers me to see them get their pockets picked, so anything I can do to prevent that, I feel, is well worth doing.”

Petraeus explained the two main responsibilities she’ll take on in her new role. First, she’ll work to educate military members and their families around the world about financial issues and scams. She’ll also serve as a military advocate within the bureau, ensuring its various branches -- such as enforcement, banking and nonbanking supervision teams -- are mindful of military families and their unique challenges and needs.

The bureau isn’t slated to stand up until this summer, but Petraeus already is taking action on service members’ behalf. She recently addressed allegations that some employers aren’t meeting their responsibilities under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. The law protects service members by postponing or suspending legal action involving some civil matters, such as foreclosures, when entering the military or on active duty.

Petraeus sent a letter to the CEOs of the 25 largest banks, urging them to examine their practices in this area.

“I hope they will look at their own banks and ensure they’re complying with the act and have the mechanisms in place to educate their staff so they won’t make errors,” she said, noting that the letter prompted the House Veterans Affairs Committee to call her to testify about the issue.

Petraeus also launched a series of visits to military installations to collect information from service providers, military members and their families on the financial issues they’re facing.

For her first visit, Petraeus and Elizabeth Warren, assistant to the president and special advisor to the secretary of the treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, traveled to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, in January to conduct a series of roundtables. The first roundtable included financial counselors, legal assistance lawyers, mental health professionals, chaplains and base leaders, and the second included about 50 service members and their spouses.

She asked both audiences the same questions. “What are the issues, and what are your suggestions to solve them?” Many of the responses centered on financial education, Petraeus said. Though financial classes are offered in basic training, she added, that may not be the best time to impart important information, particularly since the audience is a group of tired young troops who probably are much more concerned about the next formation than their savings plan.

“I’m not saying you shouldn’t do it [in basic training], but it shouldn’t be the only piece of financial education,” she said. Petraeus said both roundtables indicated education should be offered in noncommissioned officer courses, both basic and advanced, and that it should be quarterly and mandatory.

Her office will work closely with the Defense Department to deliver quality financial education to military members and their families in the months ahead, Petraeus said.

Spouses also spoke up about their issues, she added, particularly regarding the financial challenges that arise with frequent moves. Some spouses expressed concerns about a dip in income when moving. Even those with government jobs and better odds of obtaining employment at the next duty station experience a drop in income during moves, she noted.

“I told them I can certainly relate,” Petraeus said. “I’ve moved 23 times in 36 years.”

Petraeus can relate on many fronts. She’s not only a long-standing military wife, but her son, brother, father, grandfather and great-grandfather all served in the military. She’s also the former director of Better Business Bureau Military Line, a partnership between the BBB and the Defense Department’s Financial Readiness Campaign, which provides consumer education and advocacy for service members and their families.

But however much knowledge she’s gained from experience, Petraeus said, she likes to learn about the issues other families face. This information, she added, will help her to shape her new office and its priorities. Service members and their families can voice issues and concerns via e-mail to

Petraeus said she plans to travel to other military installations in the months ahead. Meanwhile, she has set her sights on several issues -- including debt and Internet scams -- that tend to plague military families.

A recent survey showed military members have more debt than their civilian counterparts, Petraeus said, and this issue is compounded by the fact that they often take out loans with unfavorable terms.

“They don’t comparison shop,” Petraeus said. “Part of the bureau’s push is to make sure you’re able to comparison shop, to make sure terms for mortgages, for example, are clear.”

Another concern is the proliferation of unregulated loans on the Internet, including “outright scams,” she said. One popular scam she noted, is an advanced-fee loan. The lender asks for money up front, usually with the excuse that the person’s credit is poor. Once the money is wired, the requestor never hears back.

“You’ve just wired a gift of a couple of thousand dollars to a scammer,” she said.

Petraeus said mortgage issues also have taken center stage in recent years. Many military families are “upside-down” on their homes, meaning they owe more on their home than what it’s worth. While the common advice is to “wait it out,” she added, military families often can’t do that when they’re given orders to move.

“There are not a lot of good options out there,” she acknowledged. “That is something I’d definitely like to work on.”

While most people find finances to be an inconvenient stressor, for service members, they can prove to be a dangerous distraction, Petraeus noted. She recalled meeting an Army staff sergeant at Lackland who talked about soldiers in his squad whose finances were “going down the tubes at home” during their recent deployment. The sergeant said he still had to go out on combat missions with those soldiers knowing their minds were preoccupied with financial issues back home.

“That can be a dangerous situation,” Petraeus said. “Someone who is worried about dire financial problems doesn’t have 100 percent of their attention on their military job.”

Financial issues also can affect careers, she said, noting that finances are the No. 1 cause of lost security clearances.

Petraeus said she’s seen firsthand the havoc financial issues can inflict on troops and their families. In the first year of the Iraq war, when her husband was commander of the 101st Airborne Division, she saw many people struggling with financial issues, she said.

“We even had soldiers that had to be brought home from the war because of catastrophic financial problems,” she said. “Some was due to identity theft, but others through mismanagement -- by a spouse, sometimes.”

Petraeus encouraged service members to ask for help at the earliest sign of trouble. Aid societies, for example, can provide short-term, interest-free loans that often can stop people from going down that “slippery slope” of high-interest loans and devastating financial loss.

“Your unit would much rather help you with a small problem than have you wait until it’s a huge problem,” she said.

Petraeus said she’s excited to be part of an agency with the power to institute change. “If they see that someone has dreamed up some new product to rip off consumers, they can write a rule to correct and enforce laws,” she said.

While she plans to take on a plethora of issues, Petraeus said, she’ll be satisfied if she can accomplish one particular goal.

“If I can say that the military is an educated population who can recognize the red flags of a bad deal, then I’ll really feel I’ve been able to make something happen,” she said.

Enforcement is important, she added, but no agency in the world is big enough to squash all of the schemes popping up each day, particularly on the Internet.

“So the answer has to be educating the consumer not to fall for this stuff,” she said.

Milestone Nears for European Missile Defense Plan

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2011 – The U.S. plan to defend Europe from a rapidly increasing ballistic missile threat will reach a milestone next week with the first deployment of missile defense technology, a senior Defense Department official said yesterday.

“The ballistic missile threat is real, and it’s now,” said John F. Plumb, the Pentagon’s principal director for nuclear and missile defense policy, adding that the phased, adaptive approach to European missile defense is a capability designed to defend against that threat.

The USS Monterey -- equipped with systems to detect, track, engage and destroy ballistic missiles in flight -- will deploy next week from its home port of Norfolk, Va., for a six-month tour in the U.S. European Command area of responsibility, Plumb said.

The ship will participate in missile defense exercises and help to lay the foundation for future deployments, Plumb said, in “the first demonstration of our commitment to this … in a long series of deployments that will follow.”

President Barack Obama approved the phased, adaptive approach to European ballistic missile defense in 2009, and the NATO alliance agreed to the plan at its November 2010 summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

The approach will begin with existing technology and add more sophisticated systems now in development to build sea- and land-based missile defense systems in Europe throughout the rest of this decade, Plumb said.

“The first phase … involves ships, because we have sea-based missile defense capabilities now, as well as forward-based radar that can provide information to those ships,” he said.

The second phase will begin in 2015, he said, with the deployment of a land-based interceptor site in Romania. The interceptor, the Standard Missile-3 IB, or SM-3 IB, is in development now, Plumb said.

“That will be the first land-based deployment of this type of interceptor, and that will start to provide greater coverage for Europe,” he said.

The SM-3 IA already is deployed on ships around the world, he said, and two other variants of the interceptor, the IIA and IIB, are scheduled to be in place as part of phases 3 and 4 by 2020. Plumb said each version of the interceptor will defend against missiles of greater ranges and speeds.

The ballistic missile threat to Europe from the Middle East, particularly Iran, is a driving force behind the phased, adaptive approach, he said.

“[Iran] continues to pursue more and greater capabilities,” he said. “We need to have a way not only to deter them from using them, but also if deterrence fails to be able to intercept their missiles.”

While the phased, adaptive approach is currently under U.S. European Command’s authority, Plumb said, NATO agreed at the Lisbon summit to establish command-and-control systems allowing the alliance to take the lead in ballistic missile defense on the European continent.

Europe is a big place,” he said. “The more you can cooperate, and the more assets other nations can contribute, the better the system can function.”

Those contributions may take the form of sensors, interceptors or land for sites, he said.

“The assets we’re deploying … would be the U.S. national contribution to the missile defense of Europe,” Plumb said. “As with any other NATO mission, individual nations voluntarily contribute assets, and [all] would work under a NATO command structure.”

Deadline for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay Applications Extended

The deadline for eligible service members, veterans and their beneficiaries to apply for Retroactive Stop Loss Special Pay (RSLSP) has been extended to March 18, 2011, allowing personnel more time to apply for the benefits they’ve earned under the program guidelines.

The deadline extension is included in the continuing resolution signed by President Obama yesterday, providing funding for federal government operations through March 18, 2011.

The RSLSP was established to compensate for the hardships military members encountered when their service was involuntarily extended under Stop Loss Authority between Sept. 11, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2009.  Eligible members or their beneficiaries may submit a claim to their respective military service in order to receive the benefit of $500 for each full or partial month served in a Stop Loss status.

When RSLSP began on Oct. 21, 2009, the services estimated 145,000 service members, veterans and beneficiaries were eligible for this benefit.  Because the majority of those eligible had separated from the military, the services have engaged in extensive and persistent outreach efforts over the past 14 months.  Outreach efforts including direct mail, engaging military and veteran service organizations, social networks and media outlets, will continue through March 18, 2011.

To apply for more information, or to gather more information on RSLSP, including submission requirements and service-specific links, go to

General Officer Announcement

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has nominated Army Col. Susan A. Davidson for promotion to the rank of brigadier general.  Davidson is currently serving as director for strategy and integration (G-45/7), Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, G4, U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.

Pacific Mission Tests Disaster Response Capabilities

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2011 – U.S. Pacific Command is preparing to launch an interagency, international mission aimed at providing a fast, coordinated response should disaster strike the Pacific Ocean region.

Pacific Partnership 2011 will kick off March 21, when the amphibious transport dock ship USS Cleveland leaves its San Diego port to become the lead U.S. vessel during a five-month mission through Oceania, Navy Capt. Jesse A. Wilson Jr., the mission commander and commander of Destroyer Squadron 23, told American Forces Press Service.

The participants -- a mix about 600 military, interagency and non-governmental organizational medical professionals and engineers hailing from several nations -- will visit Tonga, Vanuatu, Papua-New Guinea, Timor-Leste and the Federated States of Micronesia, Wilson said.

Pacom, working through U.S. Pacific Fleet, launched the Pacific Partnership initiative in 2005 after a devastating December 2004 tsunami struck the region. The annual mission focuses on reinforcing relationships formed through the tsunami response and laying groundwork to ensure future preparedness, Wilson said.

Through a variety of humanitarian and civic assistance projects, Pacific Partnership provides a framework for the United States to work collaboratively with its international, interagency and non-governmental partners to conduct an effective humanitarian assistance and disaster relief response, he said.

Militarily, Pacific Partnership 2011 will be heavily Navy, but it also will include a Marine Corps contingent to operate vehicles and equipment and Army and Air Force representatives.

The interagency participation will include a State Department representative to join Wilson aboard USS Cleveland for the entire mission, and U.S. Agency for International Development officials, as well as their international counterparts, to operate primarily ashore.

More than a dozen non-governmental organizations also will contribute manpower and expertise.

“This is more than a whole-of-government approach,” Wilson said. “It’s the whole of several governments” and their NGOs “to make sure we are all working in synch to leverage all the efforts we are doing.”

The U.S. Coast Guard also will participate in the exercise for the first time, with two cutters supporting various phases of the overall mission. USCGC Jarvis will join the operations in Tonga, and USCGC Sequoia, in Micronesia.

In addition, Australia will contribute two landing craft ships; Japan, a maritime self-defense force vessel; and New Zealand, the amphibious sealift ship HMNZS Canterbury that is currently supporting the hurricane response in Christchurch.

A French helicopter crew will be embarked on the Canterbury, and Canada, Singapore and Spain will deploy teams to support Pacific Partnership 2011.

Last year, when the hospital ship USNS Mercy conducted Pacific Partnership 2011, the emphasis was on conducting surgeries and other advanced medical procedures, many of them aboard ship. But this year, with a large-deck amphibious ship serving as the primary platform, medical, dental, veterinary, veterinary and engineering services will be provided ashore.

“We are more focused on getting our doctors ashore, working side by side with host-nation doctors, exchanging expertise and new ideas, repairing biomedical equipment and getting to where we can service remote areas and underserved populations in those countries,” Wilson said.

Navy Seabees also will be key to the mission, partnering with host-nation officials and NGOs to renovate schools and build medical clinics. At one location, they’ll repair broken toilets so children no longer have to go home when nature calls. At another stop, they will improve drainage to stop flooding at a site designated as an evacuation point during a natural disaster.

“Our engineers do a lot to improve, not only the level of services that can be provided in the country, but also the quality of life of the people,” Wilson said.

Through these projects and activities, participants in Pacific Partnership will work with host-country officials to identify how they could contribute to that country’s disaster-response capabilities.

“We can familiarize ourselves with that construct and determine who the key players are, how do we communicate, what capability do they have, and what capability would we need to bring in case there was an emergency?” Wilson said. “And to the greatest extent that we can do that, it will serve us in the event of a real disaster.

“It increases our interoperability, which in the end, serves to lessen the pain and suffering that would happen after a disaster,” he said.

As they join together this year for the first time for Pacific Partnership, the three U.S. maritime services -- the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard -- will promote three of the six core competencies embodied in their collective maritime strategy, Wilson said.

“One of them is humanitarian assistance and disaster response. And that is not a buzzword. It is not something we do when we feel like it,” he said. “It is part of our mission.”

The mission also provides forward presence and engagement. “We are a global force for good. That is our motto,” Wilson said. “And to do that, you need to be out and about and available and engaging with your partners and host nations.”

Wilson cited the devastating earthquake that hit Haiti in January 2010. Sailors aboard the USS Higgins, returning to San Diego from an around-the-world deployment, were the first responders to arrive on the scene to bring relief to the victims.

“To be a first responder, just like a beat cop on the street or that paramedic that shows up, you have to be out and you have to be about,” Wilson said. “And that is what the Navy is. We have forward presence. And that’s what we will be providing during Pacific Partnership 2011.”

Meanwhile, the mission promotes maritime security, a third tenet of the maritime strategy. “Through Pacific Partnership, we are increasing our ability to operate with other host-nation navies and organizations,” Wilson said. “What we have found is, the more you enhance and develop a partnership, an alliance, a friendship, the better you can unite and work together for a host of things.”

As it bolsters long-standing relationships and builds new ones, Pacific Partnership demonstrates U.S. commitment to the Pacific region, Wilson said.

“We saw the gratitude for the assistance we provided [following the 2004 tsunami], and how that went a long way in developing long-lasting partnerships, relationships and friendships,” he said. “So we continue to build those relationships [and] those partnerships so we can more effectively, in a collective manner, address any kind of natural or manmade disaster that could happen in the region.”

Over the past five years, Pacific Partnership has provided medical, dental, educational and preventive medicine services to more than 300,000 people and completed more than 130 engineering projects in 13 countries.

Gates, Mullen Urge Swift Action on Budget

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2011 – Congress needs to take steps now to ensure troops in harm’s way in Afghanistan get the gear and capabilities they need to face the Taliban, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a congressional panel today.

Gates told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee that the matter is a grave concern to him.

The Defense Department requested reprogramming $1.2 billion last month to purchase urgently needed equipment to protect U.S. troops in Afghanistan, the secretary noted, and the request has yet to be approved.

“As of last week, all congressional committees except this one approved the request,” Gates said of the funding from the fiscal 2011 budget that Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, had requested.

“General Petraeus requested this equipment as an urgent matter to better protect our forward-operating bases to continue to push into contested areas,” Gates told the subcommittee. The equipment would improve and protect against improvised explosive devices through enhanced intelligence and reconnaissance capabilities, particularly through the use of fixed-base sensors, he said.

“Our troops need this force-protection equipment, and they need it now,” the secretary said. “Every day that goes by is a day they will go without it, [and it puts] the lives of our troops at greater risk.”

The secretary said the items must be sent to the troops in Afghanistan prior to the fighting season, which begins in a matter of weeks.

“We should not put American lives at risk to protect specific programs or contractors,” Gates told the lawmakers. “I strongly urge the committee to act on this matter today so we can get this urgently needed equipment flowing to our troops.”

Gates reiterated his stand that a shortfall in the defense budget would create a negative effect on military strength and readiness. Even as the Defense Department makes its own cuts to improve efficiency and curtail needless spending, he said, America still is in a “dangerous and often unstable world.”

U.S. military forces must remain “strong and agile enough to face a diverse range of threats,” the secretary added, “from nonstate actors attempting to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction and sophisticated missiles, to the more traditional threats of other states, both building up their conventional forces and developing new capabilities that target our traditional strength.”

Mullen told the subcommittee a continuing resolution for fiscal 2011 “would not only reduce our budget by $23 billion, it would deprive us of the flexibility we need to support our troops and their families.”

The services already have taken disruptive, and in some cases, irreversible steps to live within the confines of the continuing resolution, “steps that ultimately make us less effective,” he said.

“Some programs may take years to recover if the continuing resolution is extended through the end of September,” Mullen said, urging quick passage of the 2011 budget. “Our global commitments have not shrunk; if anything, they continue to grow. And the world is a lot less predictable now than we could have ever imagined. You need look no further than events across the Middle East and North Africa to see the truth in that.”

Mullen said the Defense Department must become not only more efficient, but also more pragmatic “about the world we live in.” Paying for bloated programs or unnecessary organizations cannot continue without sacrificing fighting power, he said. And the military no longer can put off investments that would preserve power across “the spectrum of conflict,” he added.

“This proposed budget,” Mullen said, “builds on the balance we started to achieve last year and represents the best of both fiscal responsibility and sound national security.”

Mullen praised the work of the troops and their families as they finish one war in Iraq and begin to turn corners in Afghanistan.

“I know you share my pride in them and that you will keep them foremost in mind as you consider the elements of this proposal,” he told the subcommittee.

Frankfurt Attack Draws White House Reaction

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2011 – President Barack Obama pledged that the United States will work with German authorities to get to the bottom of a shooting outside Frankfurt International Airport in Germany today that claimed the lives of two U.S. airmen and wounded two others.

“I'm saddened and I am outraged by this attack that took the lives of two Americans and wounded two others,” he said. “I think the American people are united in expressing our gratitude for the service of those who were lost.”

The president added that he and First Lady Michelle Obama have the airmen’s families and friends in their thoughts and prayers, and are praying for a speedy recovery for those who were injured.

“I want everybody to understand that we will spare no effort in learning how this outrageous act took place,” the president said, “and in working with German authorities to ensure that all of the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Obama called the incident “a stark reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our men and women in uniform are making all around the world to keep us safe, and the dangers that they face all around the globe.”

“So I think it’s fair to say that on behalf of the American people, we want to extend our deepest condolences to these families,” he added.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said the Defense Department will cooperate with German authorities in their investigation.

“The Defense Department is saddened by the deaths of two of our airmen and the wounding of two others today in Frankfurt, Germany,” he said. “We mourn the loss of our brave service members who were so cruelly gunned down. We pray for their families and the speedy recovery of the wounded. And we will do all we can to help investigators bring to justice those responsible for this cowardly attack."

USS Memphis Completes Final Deployment After 33 Years of Distinguished Service

By Lt. Patrick Evans, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs Officer

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Memphis (SSN 691) returned to Naval Submarine Base New London March 2, completing her final overseas mission.

Next month, the Navy will hold a decommissioning ceremony for Memphis, which has been in service for more than 30 years, spanning six presidents. The ceremony is scheduled for April 1 at at the submarine base.

When Memphis arrived, most crewmembers were wearing their service dress uniforms, but Chief Fire Control Technician Brian Paugh was dressed in a white jumpsuit with rhinestones, depicting music icon Elvis Presley.

"Since I love Elvis, and I love Johnny cash - both are from Memphis, Tenn. - I said, 'Sure. Why not? I'll do it,'" said Paugh.

Many crewmembers are remembering this final deployment with reverence.

"There've been lots of great chiefs who have come before me, who have served on Memphis," said Paugh. "I've met a lot of them over this past year with the boat decommissioning and everything. To be able to say I was one of the last chiefs in the chief's quarters is a great honor and a privilege."

Memphis, which departed Jan. 10, supported missions in the European Command area of responsibility.

"The deployment went excellent," said Capt. Carl Lahti, Memphis commanding officer. "The crew performed extremely well. We fulfilled all of our missions exactly as we were tasked overseas. I'm particularly proud of the crew and the effort they put in to get the 33-year old ship prepared. We are in excellent condition."

"Not sure if you guys realize it, but what you just pulled off here with this fairly short deployment overseas has accredited you rock star status in the submarine force," Capt. William Merz, commodore of Submarine Development Squadron 12 told the crew of Memphis. "While you were brilliantly completing your missions, you enabled a dozen other ships to better complete theirs."

Shortly after the homecoming, Capt. Carl Lahti turned over command of Memphis to Cmdr. Jeffery Joseph, who will lead the submarine through the decommissioning and inactivation process.

"It's a distinct honor to be the last commanding officer," said Joseph. "It is a unique responsibility because we are responsible for the legacy of the ship."

Previously, Joseph previously served as deputy commander of readiness for Submarine Squadron 3 in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He was also executive officer of USS Louisville (SSN 724).

Commissioned Dec. 17, 1977, Memphis became an Atlantic Fleet operational asset as part of Submarine Squadron 8 in Norfolk, Va. in 1978. All current and former crew members, their families, and friends are cordially invited to attend activities connected to the historic decommissioning ceremony.

Supreme Court Decisions Affect Service Members, Vets

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2011 – The U.S. Supreme Court has issued three decisions with military connections over the last two days.

In what may be the most contentious of the cases, the court ruled that members of a Westboro, Kan., church have the right to picket at funerals for service members killed in action.

Yesterday, the court reversed a lower court decision and decided a reservist had been the victim of bias due to his military service. Also yesterday, the court ruled that Veterans Affairs Department deadlines for veterans applying for benefits do not have “jurisdictional consequences.”

In the first case, Albert Snyder, the father of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq, sued the Westboro Baptist Church for picketing his son’s funeral. A jury found the Westboro group -- which says it conducts the protests because God hates the United States for its tolerance of homosexuality -- liable for inflicting emotional distress on the Snyder family, intrusion upon seclusion and civil conspiracy.

The Supreme Court voted 8-1 to reverse the lower court ruling, saying the Constitution’s First Amendment shields the group. The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

In one of yesterday’s decisions, the court ruled in favor of Army reservist Vincent Staub, who was fired in 2004 from his civilian position as an angiography technician at Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Ill., because of his military obligations.

Staub sued the hospital under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, which forbids employers from denying employment, re-employment, retention in employment, promotion or any benefit of employment based on a reservist’s military obligations. A jury found the hospital liable, but the 7th Circuit Court reversed the decision.

The Supreme Court reversed the reversal yesterday, holding that if a supervisor motivated by antimilitary hostility performs an act intended to cause an adverse employment action, the employer is liable under the law.

In yesterday’s other decision, the court found that the deadline set up by the VA Department for filing supplemental disability benefits does not have jurisdictional consequence. The case -- brought by David Henderson, who since has died -- hinged on Henderson missing a 120-day deadline by 15 days. The court found for veterans, saying Congress regarded the deadline as a claim-processing rule.

Socom’s Impact Outweighs Its Size, Commander Says

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2011 – U.S. Special Operations Command brings increasingly vital capabilities to the nation’s military missions, its commander said yesterday.

Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, Socom commander, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Socom’s current and projected missions and budget requirements.

“I am convinced that the forces we provide to the geographic combatant commanders are the most culturally attuned partners, the most lethal hunter-killers, and most responsive, agile, innovative and efficiently effective advisors, trainers, problem-solvers and warriors that any nation has to offer,” he said.

Olson said 85 percent of Socom’s deployed troops are working in the U.S. Central Command’s area of operations. Socom operators are backed by “a magnificent assortment of administrative, intelligence, communications, engineering, logistics and other specialists,” their commander said, adding that the command’s headquarters staffs around the world also include more than 300 representatives from at least 15 other agencies within and beyond the Defense Department.

“Our value comes from both our high level of skills and our nontraditional methods of applying them, which is to say that our principal asset is the quality of our people,” he said.

Olson said his forces achieve “impressive effects,” whether they are conducting precision raids, organizing a village police force, arranging a new school or clinic, or partnering with counterpart forces.

“In Afghanistan and Iraq especially, it is undeniable that they have had impact far above their relatively small numbers,” the admiral said.

Socom has forces deployed to dozens of other countries as well, Olson said, contributing to regional stability by training and advising counterpart forces.

“This balance of direct and indirect operations must be carefully managed, but because special operations forces live in both of these worlds, we have become the force of first choice for many missions,” he said.

Socom faces the key challenge of how to meet an increasing demand for its capabilities, Olson said.

“We can’t grow them more than a very few percent per year, but the demand is outpacing the supply,” he said, noting that although the command’s manpower has doubled over the last decade, its overseas deployments have quadrupled.

Socom continues to successfully perform its missions, but the command is undergoing strain, Olson said. “The fabric is strong, [and] the weave is tight,” he said. “It’s not unraveling, but it’s showing signs of wear.”

Possible approaches to ease Socom’s strain include finding a process to assign units from the services to train and deploy with special operations forces, Olson said, and upgrading or adding training ranges and other facilities.

Olson also suggested “investing more broadly in the types of enabling capabilities that will relieve special operations forces from sending our own people to perform functions that could be performed by others.”

Finally, Olson urged expanding the services’ inventory of specific irregular warfare assets and ensuring Socom has the specialized equipment and advanced training its forces need “to survive and succeed in the complex, ambiguous and often violent environments in which we ask them to serve.”

“I ask for your action to approve a defense budget for fiscal year 2011, and for your support for your support for the fiscal year 2012 budget proposal,” he told the committee.

“I also ask that you fully fund the special operations budget, particularly as conventional forces begin to draw down from major operations,” Olson said, “because our forces will most likely be allocated at the same levels to areas with pent-up demand for our unique capabilities.”

The nation can take great pride in its special operations forces, the Socom commander said, adding that he is humbled to “command this formidable force, and to provide it to answer our nation’s most-daunting security needs.”