Military News

Friday, January 06, 2012

Even With Cuts, Military Will Remain Capable, Official Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2012 – Defense Department officials will use the military strategy guidance that President Barack Obama announced yesterday to tie numbers to the department’s fiscal 2013 budget request, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

The budget request is expected to be delivered to Capitol Hill in early February.

Officials will use the strategy review to set funding levels and priorities as the department seeks to trim $487 billion through fiscal 2022, Little said.

In a meeting with reporters, Little corrected what he said was a misperception in media coverage that the strategy guidance means the U.S. military will be able to handle only one war going forward.

“The document did not say that we are going down to fight one war,” he said. “What the document said was that we are prepared to address a full spectrum of threats. This country is poised to take on more than one national security challenge at a time.”

The military will be postured to defeat aggression and take on challenges from other countries and nonstate actors, he added.

“That is an inviolable principle on the way ahead on our defense strategy,” Little said. “It is simply wrong to suggest that we are going back to some one-war construct – if that ever existed.”

Being able to fight two wars has been an important pillar in military doctrine, Little said. Still, the nation must adapt as the threats change and the security landscape has changed.

“We have threats that can come from nation states, we have threats that can come from nonstate actors like al-Qaida,” he said. “We have to be flexible enough and adaptable enough to address contingencies that arise from any of those sources.

“Let me be very clear,” he continued. “If we take on more than one threat from a state or nonstate actor, we will be prepared to address those threats, and we will win.”

Not everything the Defense Department has done has been tied to a two-war strategy, Little noted.

“We are prepared today to deal with various contingencies,” he explained. “There may be new problems that might arise, and new domains. We are thinking ahead, and that is the proper thing to do.

“No one should leave this room thinking that we will only be able to fight one war at a time,” he continued. “That is not what the strategic guidance outlines.”

NPC Leaders to Discuss Post-ERB, Transition Matters in Western Pacific

From Navy Personnel Command Public Affairs

MILLINGTON, Tenn. (NNS) -- Representatives from Navy Personnel Command's fleet engagement team will meet with Sailors, families and leadership in Japan and Hawaii this month to discuss personnel policies and force management measures impacting the fleet, officials said Jan. 6.

"We'll be discussing post-Enlisted Retention Board (ERB) matters, with an emphasis on transition benefits," said Capt. Steven Holmes, director, community management branch, Bureau of Naval Personnel. "These visits are also an excellent opportunity to get feedback directly from the fleet and share personnel policy information directly from the source."

Representatives from the enlisted distribution division, enlisted community managers and the Navy's ERB transition assistance coordinator will conduct all-hands briefs geared for transitioning Sailors, including specific information for Sailors not retained by the ERB, as well as guidance specific to Sailors transitioning from overseas.

ERB affected Sailors and their spouses are encouraged to attend the all-hands sessions.

The team will be in Japan at Yokosuka Naval Base Jan. 17, Naval Air Facility Atsugi Jan. 18, and in Hawaii Jan. 20 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay.

The fleet engagement team will also conduct a leadership roundtable for commanding officers and their command teams at each site for commands that have ERB affected Sailors.

"It is imperative that every leader in the chain of command take an active role in the transition process to ensure each Sailor is optimally prepared whether they leave the Navy after four years of service or 30," said Holmes.

Sailors should contact their command career counselor for local briefing times and locations.

Navy will conduct additional fleet engagement visits to San Diego, Pacific Northwest, Norfolk, and Mayport/Jacksonville in the coming months. Dates will be released as they become available.

For more information about transition benefits visit Transition Assistance Web Page available under the Hot Links section of the Navy Personnel Command at www.npc.navy.mil.

For more information about ERB transition support, check out the NPC ERB transition support page at www.npc.navy.mil/boards/ERB/, contact the NPC customer service center at 1-866-U-ASK-NPC (1-866-827-5672), or email cscmailbox@navy.mil.

Strategy Guidance Underscores Asia-Pacific Region

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2012 – The new defense strategy guidance President Barack Obama announced yesterday underscores the growing strategic importance of Asia and the Pacific, the commander of U.S. Pacific Command said.

Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard told participants at the Hawaii Military Partnership Conference yesterday the strategy recognizes challenges as well as opportunities in a region where change is the only constant.

“There is always a lot occurring in the Asia-Pacific region, and it is never static,” Willard told the forum. He noted that during his 39 years of military service, much of it served in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, “there has never been what I would call stability.”

The United States has tailored its posture in the region over the years, while the region itself has changed in “dynamic, dynamic ways,” economically as well as politically, the admiral explained.

The new strategy guidance reflects those changes, Willard said, providing a strategic vision intended to guide the military through 2020 with its heavy focus on Asia and the Pacific.

It recognizes that U.S. economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the vast, 39-nation region, he told the group.

“Accordingly, while the U.S. military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region,” he said, quoting the guidance directly.

U.S. relationships with Asian allies and key partners will remain critical to the region’s future stability and growth, Willard said. So while strengthening existing alliances that have provided a vital foundation for regional security, he said, the United States also will strive to forge closer ties with emerging regional partners.

Willard recognized India’s as well as China’s emergence as “two Asian giants driving economic developments in the region.”

He cited investments toward a long-term strategic partnership with India so it can serve as “a regional economic anchor” and enhance security in the broader Indian Ocean area.

Noting China’s rise as a regional power, Willard underscored both China’s and the United States’ interest in building a cooperative bilateral relationship that promotes regional peace and stability. He shared concerns expressed in the strategy about China’s lack of transparency about its strategic intensions, emphasizing that greater clarity will help avoid friction in the region.

Meanwhile, Willard noted the emphasis in the new guidance in working with allies and other regional states to maintain peace on the Korean peninsula, particularly in light of North Korea’s new leadership.

U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea are watching that situation closely to determine if the succession will go smoothly, Willard said, and to assess any changes within North Korea or its relations with its allies, including China and Russia.

Looking to the future, Willard said, the new strategic guidance recognizes that a balance of military capability and presence will be critical to maintaining peace, stability, the free flow of commerce and U.S. influence throughout the region.

As the new strategy is implemented, Willard commended the 330,000 members of Pacom – soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilian employees and contractors – standing watch in Asia and the Pacific.

“They are proud, they are very accomplished and their singular goal is to maintain the security, if not the stability, of the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

“We will continue to maintain the watch and deal with the ever-evolving Asia-Pacific theater as it becomes central to the security focus of our country for the first time, in my experience,” he said.

Deadline Nears for Employer Support Award Nominations

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2012 – Members of the National Guard and reserves have just 10 more days to nominate their employers for the Defense Department’s highest award recognizing employers who have gone the extra mile to support their reserve-component workers.

Jan. 16 is the deadline for nominations for the 2012 Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. Since its inception in 1996, the award has recognized 160 employers who provided exemplary support far beyond their basic legal requirements.

They’ve been large corporations, state and local agencies, mom-and-pop businesses and everything in between, all recognizing the important role their citizen-service member employees play in national defense, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve officials said.

President Barack Obama acknowledged employers’ contributions to this mission in declaring National Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Week when the 2011 Freedom Award recipients were honored.

“The support of employers across our country reflects the best of the American spirit -- the understanding that we are bound together to serve and protect our nation,” Obama said.

James Rehholz, national ESGR chair, said this support will remain critical in the future. “Even as our nation scales down our combat missions abroad, Guard and Reserve members and their employers remain a critical component in our national security equation,” he said. “Just as our country has heavily relied on the more than 1 million men and women of the Guard and Reserve, these service members have counted on their employers for support and encouragement.”

Rebholz urged members of the reserve components to nominate deserving employers for the Freedom Award. The ESGR website provides guidance to make it easier and faster for reservists and Guard members to make their nominations.

Winners will be announced in early summer and honored during a ceremony in Washington this fall, officials said.

Last year’s 15 Freedom Award recipients, selected from 4,049 nominations, were: 3M Co. in St. Paul, Minn.; Ameren Corp. in St. Louis; Burt County Sheriff’s Office in Tekamah, Neb.; CSX Transportation in Jacksonville, Fla.; Electrical Contractors Inc. in Omaha, Neb.; Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Mich.; Hanson Professional Services Inc., in Springfield, Ill.; Integrity Applications Inc. in Chantilly, Va.; Orange County Sheriff’s Department in Santa Ana, Calif.; Principal Financial Group in Des Moines, Iowa; Qwest Communications, since acquired by CenturyLink, Inc. in Monroe, La.; St. John’s Lutheran Church in Yankton, S.D.; State Employees’ Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C.; the Town of Gilbert, Ariz.; and Wells Fargo & Co. in San Francisco.

The support they provided ran the gamut from extending full civilian pay and benefits while the reservist or Guardsman was deployed to sending care packages, keeping up the employees’ yard work and even babysitting their children when duty called.

"They took care of my family when I was gone," Illinois Army National Guard Maj. Craig Holan said in nominating his employer, Hanson Professional Services Inc., for the 2011 Freedom Award. "My boss would check in on them. I just didn't have to worry. I wish all members of the Guard and reserves could say that about their employers."

Navy Reserve Lt. j.g. Todd Brooks said his 2011 Freedom Award winning employer, Ford Motor Co., “has made it possible for hundreds of reserve and Guard employees to serve the nation in support of not only operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, but other missions throughout the world vital to national security, global stability and humanitarian assistance."

“I salute my employer, Ameren, and its employees who truly stand behind supporting their Guard and Reserve soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen and Marines,” agreed Air Force Lt. Col. Bruno R. Stopka from the Missouri Air National Guard in nominating his employer for the 2011 Freedom Award. As the company and its staff support those who currently serve, he said, they also “continue to recognize those who have previously served our great country.”

(American Forces Press Service reporter Terri Moon Cronk contributed to this article.)

USS Missouri Completes PSA and Extended Modernization Ahead of Schedule

By Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Cragg, Commander, Submarine Group 2 Public Affairs

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The crew of USS Missouri (SSN 780) and General Dynamics Electric Boat accomplished two major milestones, a first for the Virginia-class submarine program, by completing the submarine's post-shakedown availability (PSA) sea trials and extended modernization Jan. 6, a month ahead of schedule.

"I'm proud of the crew for their hard work to accomplish these milestones," said Cmdr. Tim Rexrode, Missouri's commanding officer. "Because of this teamwork and camaraderie, USS Missouri will be delivered from post-shakedown availability and extended modernization about a one month ahead of schedule."

Capt. Michael Bernacchi, commodore, Commander, Submarine Squadron 4 said that the boat and her crew's completion ahead of schedule is in direct line with the Design for Undersea Warfare, which was published in 2011.

"This is a notable example of how the design is being implemented on the waterfront," said Bernacchi, who added that the entire Missouri, Electric Boat, and Squadron 4 teams worked together to apply the design to complete the modernization ahead of schedule.

He said the design was the catalyst which drove him and the commanding officer to challenge all aspects of the modernization and warfighting readiness to see how they could think outside the box.

"Missouri is not just coming out; she is coming out ready to fight. We have already scheduled her for operations when she would have previously still been in the PSA. Because of this effort she is taking over operations for a sister ship, which will allow the Submarine Force to give almost 10 additional months of Surge ready and Ready for Tasking time back to the fleet. This is a huge achievement for everyone," said Bernacchi.

Bernacchi's scheduled change of command is Jan. 13; his next assignment will be chief of staff, Commander, Submarine Group 2.

In addition to the completion of the PSA and modernization ahead of schedule, Dec. 19, USS Missouri and her crew returned to General Dynamics Electric Boat after successfully completing their sea trials also a month ahead of schedule.

Rexrode reflected on the significance of USS Missouri being the first Virginia-class submarine commissioned to complete their sea trails, PSA and modernization this far ahead of schedule.

"We worked hard to challenge previous assumptions and deliver effective first time results that should carry forward to future projects. As a result of these efforts the fleet has one more submarine for tasking earlier than planned," said Rexrode.

Missouri is the seventh submarine of the Virginia class. General Dynamics Electric Boat delivered the submarine to the U.S. Navy in July 2010. The submarine's crew consists of about 134 officers and enlisted personnel. Missouri is the fifth Navy ship to be named in honor of the people of the "Show Me State."

Panetta: Coming Budget Cuts Demand Careful Balance

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2012 – The coming round of defense budget cuts will differ from previous drawdowns, “where the threat kind of went away,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said yesterday.

Terrorism remains a danger, and Iran, North Korea, China and the Middle East pose key defense concerns, Panetta told Jeffrey Brown on the PBS “Newshour” program. DOD must retain the power to counter these and other pressures while reducing redundant structures, trimming its force size, scaling back weapons modernization and adjusting compensation, the secretary noted.

The interview followed yesterday’s budget strategy announcement, during which Panetta and Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey joined President Barack Obama in an unprecedented Pentagon briefing.

“We are at a strategic turning point,” the secretary told PBS. “We just ended the war in Iraq. We're in a transition course … in Afghanistan. We just completed the NATO mission in Libya. We've made significant progress against terrorism, particularly al-Qaida.”

Given the remaining threats, the change in war footing, and the mandate to slash spending, “what we've got to do is … have a flexible, adaptable, agile force that can deal with a myriad of challenges in today's world. That's what we've got to be able to develop,” Panetta said.

The secretary added some detail to two topics emphasized during the strategy guidance rollout: increased emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, and the acknowledgement that some risk comes with deep defense cuts.

“What are the risks? When you're smaller and leaner, you're not going to have that large a presence throughout the world,” he noted. An effective smaller force will need to mobilize quickly, bring advanced technology to bear, and rely on partnerships, the secretary said.

Mobilization demands both a strong logistics framework and a robust reserve component, Panetta said. But advanced technology demands ongoing research, innovation and implementation, all of which are costly, he added, and partner relationships require matching efforts from other nations, which also are resource-constrained.

“So you can see the risks that are out there,” Panetta said. “We think they're acceptable, but they are risks.”

But there is no risk that the U.S. military will become a one-front force, he emphasized.

“The United States has to have the capability to deal with more than one enemy … and win,” the secretary said.

The Asia-Pacific region calls for increased U.S. military attention because many factors there could develop into challenges, Panetta said: possible instability on the Korean peninsula, free movement of maritime commerce, nuclear proliferation, humanitarian crises and disasters are all issues that could trigger U.S. power being invoked.

“That's the reason we have got to focus an emphasis on the Pacific region,” he added.

The secretary said that emphasis includes maintaining a strong naval presence in the Pacific, maintaining a military presence in South Korea, pursuing the rotational Marine deployment to Australia the president announced in November, and looking for other, similar opportunities “to enhance our presence, to … indicate that we are a Pacific power and we are there to work with the countries in that area to try to maintain the peace.”

The 2013 defense budget request to be announced in the coming weeks reflects “a lot of hard choices,” Panetta said.

“When you cut a half trillion dollars from the defense budget, it affects almost every area in the defense budget,” he noted.

During the strategic spending review leading up to yesterday’s announcement, department leaders examined operations, modernization and procurement, compensation and force structure for possible savings, the secretary said.

Panetta did not discuss the effects that could result from an additional half-trillion-dollar reduction in defense spending, as the Budget Control Act’s sequestration provision requires.

“What I would ask people to do is … hold your judgment as to whether or not we ought to cut the defense budget a lot deeper, until … you see the decisions we are going to have to make in order to be able to achieve $500 billion in defense savings,” he said.

As a former California congressman, Panetta said, he understands that some current members of Congress will be concerned about how the 2013 defense budget request might affect their constituents and districts.

“I urge them to take a look at our larger strategy here, what we've released today, and hopefully be able to work with us to achieve the same kind of balance we're trying to achieve here,” the secretary said.

Fort Campbell Makes Advances in TBI Evaluation

By Kathy Helmick, DCoE deputy director for traumatic brain injury

In December, I had the opportunity to visit Fort Campbell, Ky., to learn more about their Military Functional Assessment Program. Maj. Sarah Goldman, Army Office of the Surgeon General, traumatic brain injury (TBI) program manager, and I were invited to see this comprehensive, advanced five-day assessment, which is part of a 12-week program designed to treat service members with TBIs.

 This evaluation does not rely on a pen and paper test or a computer assessment. It takes place on post and in the program’s simulation lab, exposing service members to realistic combat scenarios while allowing a team of medical and rehabilitation providers the opportunity to evaluate their responses. Service members are observed on camera while combat-related decision-making functions are tested, such as how long it takes a service member to come to the aid of a fallen comrade, identify a threat, plan a course of action, or radio call into a command center. If they perform tasks in simulated combat situations in accordance to Army standards, then this information helps guide return-to-duty decision-making.

 Additionally, the lab tests how the service member performs under environmental stressors, such as lack of light or loud sounds, to approximate scenarios encountered in combat zones.

 One of the program’s best practices relates to integrating the expertise of a non-commissioned officer (NCO) to evaluate the ability of the soldier to perform the tasks to established Army standards. In the assessment we saw, the NCO was instrumental in educating medical providers about Army standards and describing combat scenarios. Leveraging the knowledge of a qualified NCO helps the medical provider offer a comprehensive evaluation of the service member’s impairments associated with TBI and the injury’s effects on their ability to perform military duties on the battlefield to standard.

I was also impressed with how this program focused on function; instead of clicking a dot on a computer test or circling a multiple choice question, service members with TBI are put in an environment to test their performance and capabilities. Some service members may perform well in a controlled rehabilitation environment, but may not be able to perform as well when multitasking during a high-pressure combat scenario. It was clear that the service members appreciated this type of evaluation and gained more confidence, whether they transitioned back to duty, or out of the military into civilian life.

In continuing to follow this advanced program, I hope that we can identify key outcomes that predict return-to-duty success, or help service members return back home.

Lincoln Carrier Strike Group Arrives in Thailand for Port Visit

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman K. Ashley Lawrence, Carrier Strike Group 9 Public Affairs

LEAM CHEBANG, Thailand (NNS) -- The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser Cape St. George (CG 71), arrived in Leam Chebang, Thailand, for a port visit, Jan. 6.

While in Thailand, strike group Sailors will visit with the people of Thailand, experience the local culture and conduct a series of community service projects (COMSERVs) to further strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

Cmdr. Denis Cox, Lincoln's chaplain, said the COMSERVs will be a great opportunity for CSG9 Sailors to get to know the people of Thailand.

"Our Sailors will get to interact with the great institutions of Thailand and meet Thai people in their community," Cox said. "They'll get to know our Sailors for what they really are: servants, leaders and genuinely good people. And nothing will expose our Sailors to what it means to be Thai more than working on these projects."

For the COMSERVs, Sailors will paint schools, clean local temples and visit with children at an orphanage in Pattaya.

Air Traffic Controller 1st Class Caleb R. Thomas, assigned to Lincoln, said he can't wait to go on one of the many Morale, Welfare and Recreation-sponsored tours that will be available to strike group Sailors in Thailand. In addition to historical sites such as Bangkok's Grand Palace and the ruins of Ayudhaya, Sailors will also have the opportunity to visit the Sriracha Tiger Zoo, ride elephants and have fun in Thailand's tropical rain forest.

"I plan on having a great time in Thailand," Thomas said. "I can't wait to enjoy a few days relaxing on the beach and cable riding through the jungle."

Ensign Deborah I. Frazier, assigned to Lincoln's combat systems department, said she is also looking forward to relaxing, and she wants to develop a firsthand appreciation for the rich heritage of Thailand.

"Now that I have the chance to see their culture, I'd really love to see their temples," Frazier said. "We're incredibly lucky that we get to spend time here."

Lincoln is in the 7th Fleet area of operations (AOO) as part of a deployment to the western Pacific and Indian Oceans en route to support coalition efforts in the 5th Fleet AOO. Thailand is the first port call of Lincoln's 2011-2012 deployment.

CSG 9 is comprised of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, the guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG 71) and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9, which includes the guided-missile destroyers USS Momsen (DDG 92) and USS Sterett (DDG 104).

Following deployment, Lincoln will change homeports from Everett, Wash., to Norfolk, Va., for a periodic refueling complex overhaul.