Thursday, March 29, 2012

U.S.-Pakistani Military Relations Improving, Dempsey Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT, March 29, 2012 – There may be more bumps in the road, but the military-to-military relationship between the United States and Pakistan is on the road to recovery, said Army Gen. Martin Dempsey today.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told reporters traveling with him that he had received the “CliffsNotes” version of the meeting between the U.S. Central Command commander, Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, and Pakistani Army Gen. Parvez Ashfaq Kayani in Islamabad yesterday.

This was the first time since the Nov. 26 incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers that the leaders were in the same room, Dempsey said.

While the military-to-military relationship may be on its way to recovery, that does not mean that brightness and light is breaking out between the two allies, Dempsey said.

“Military personnel establish contacts, but they don’t make policy,” he said.

American and Pakistan officials need to categorize and prioritize issues by importance, the general said.

“There will be some things both of us want to resolve before the NATO Summit in May,” he said. One of these issues is the opening the ground lines of communication through Pakistan to Afghanistan, Dempsey said.”

It is important to remember that the Pakistani closure of the routes affect not only the U.S., but NATO countries and other contributing nations, Dempsey said.

Afghanistan is entering the fighting season, when those fighters who went to ground for the winter historically come out. The supply lines through Pakistan would make keeping all resupplied easier, the general said.

It also will help solve the physics problem the coalition faces as it begins withdrawing troops and equipment. “We’ve spent 10 solid years shipping equipment in to Afghanistan,” he said. “We are now beginning a process of flowing equipment out, and it would certainly be better to use two directions – North and South – to do it.”

Another factor complicating the U.S.-Pakistan military-to-military relationship is the decade where ties were cut. The Pressler Amendment forbade all military ties between the United States and Pakistan. At the time, government leaders believed it was fitting punishment for Pakistan developing nuclear weaponry.

“I am not an advocate of breaking contact with military-to-military relationships that we’ve taken decades to establish,” the chairman said. “We lost about 10 years of contact with our Pakistani military counterparts – they weren’t coming to our schools, they didn’t train with us, there weren’t any exercises, no military sales program, no technology transfer, no security cooperation.”

This isolated the Pakistani military the U.S., and it created a gap between the nations’ militaries. “I do believe there is a difference in the world view of the generation of Pakistan’s leaders who are more or less my peers, and the next generation,” he said. “That is having an effect.”

One program the U.S. military put in place to combat this is a vigorous liaison program. For example, at U.S. Central Command there are 64 different liaison officers working at the command, many of them from Pakistan.

“That program, plus our school exchanges is beginning to rebuild all that, but it doesn’t happen overnight,” Dempsey said.

Submarines Program Manager Addresses Mississippi Senate

From Naval Sea Systems Command Office of Corporate Communications

JACKSON, Miss (NNS) -- The Virginia-class submarine program manager kicked off the Navy's 50-50 executive outreach visit to Jackson, Miss., March 29.

Rear Adm. (sel.) Michael Jabaley addressed the Mississippi Senate and House of Representatives at the state's capitol on the Navy's mission and the goal of naval science, technology, engineering and mathematics initiatives.

The Navy 50-50 Program is a new outreach program that follows the Navy Week flag officer / Senior Executive Service outreach model, featuring 2-3 days of high-level engagements with corporate executives, civic leaders, government officials, university faculty and administrators, non-profit executive directors and members of the media. It is designed to build on United States Navy efforts to increase Americans' understanding of the Navy's mission, capabilities, and relevance to national security.

"The Navy belongs to the people of Jackson just as much as to those who live along the ocean," said Jabaley. "We need to continue to share the great things our Navy does and foster a better understanding of the Navy's role in protecting our country and maintaining freedom of the seas."

During the visit, Jabaley shared that message with newspapers and local radio and television stations. He also visited Jackson State University and received a briefing on Office of Naval Research-funded projects.

"Investments in science and technology such as those at Jackson State help naval forces maintain an advantage as the high-tech service of the future, and sustain the vitality of our nation's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce," said Jabaley. Jabaley will also visit Murrah High School. He is a 1980 graduate of the school.

"I had some great teachers, particularly Ms. Pauline Tramel and Ms. Pauline Carter," said Jabaley. "Because of their influence, I majored in math and computer science in college and have continued working in a very technical field."

Policy Chief Nominee Discusses Job’s Challenges

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2012 – The strategy in Afghanistan is working, the Pentagon policy chief nominee told Congress today, warning that recent difficulties can’t cause the United States to abandon it in favor of a “Plan B.”

“We are making progress in Afghanistan,” James N. Miller Jr. told the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing as undersecretary of defense for policy.

“We have had a difficult few weeks, and no doubt more challenges are ahead, but our strategy is working,” he said. “It is not time for Plan B. It's time to continue the hard work of Plan A and complete the transition to the full Afghan responsibility for their security by the end of 2014.”

If confirmed to replace former policy chief Michèle Flournoy, for whom he served as principal deputy secretary for three years, Miller will play a critical role in issues ranging from managing the transition of security lead to Afghan forces and the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Miller said today he supports the president’s troop drawdown plan in Afghanistan, but emphasized that it’s still unclear what the pace will be. He noted that Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, the top commander there, will assess conditions on the ground in late September, after the United States has drawn its forces there down to 68,000, to recommend additional reductions.

If confirmed as the Pentagon’s policy chief, Miller said, he’ll do everything in his power to help the United States, the coalition and the Afghan succeed and “ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a source of attacks on the United States.”

He said he will focus on other immediate priorities: denying, degrading and defeating al-Qaida; preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon; preparing for the fall of the Assad regime in Syria; and posturing the United States for the transformations brought by the Arab Spring.

Serving as Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s top policy advisor, Miller also would become the department’s point man for implementing the department’s new strategic guidance that Obama announced earlier this year.

“Even as we deal with current operations in Afghanistan and across the globe, we are building the joint force of the future,” he told the Senate panel. Miller noted that the fiscal 2013 DOD budget request reflects this strategy with a goal of shaping force that’s not only smaller and leaner, but also more agile, flexible and technologically advanced.

Consistent with the new strategy guidance, he vowed to work to strengthen the U.S. posture in the Asia-Pacific region, including addressing challenges posed by the new North Korean regime.

Miller called Iran another major concern, noting its pursuit of nuclear weapons, its threat to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz and its support for insurgency and terrorist tactics.

“Iran also poses a potential threat to U.S. forces and coalition forces because of its anti-access and area-denial capabilities, things like their small boats, cruise missiles and so forth,” Miller said, noting that the new strategic guidance and fiscal 2013 budget request reflect this concern. “As we look at the capabilities that the DOD is developing to counter those threats, Iran is certainly a consideration,” he said.

Regarding Syria, Miller said the United States, at this point, has restricted its support to humanitarian assistance and other non-lethal assistance. Providing weapons and other lethal support is problematic, he explained, because anti-government groups there are so loosely knit that it would be impossible to track exactly where the assistance was going and who was getting access to it.

“The viability of any additional aid depends to a degree on the ability of the opposition groups within the country to come together,” he said. “This administration has undertaken an effort to try to facilitate that.”

If confirmed to the post, Miller said, he’ll work to address these challenges while implementing the new strategic guidance in a way that keeps he U.S. military remains on a firm footing to stand up to future challenges. This, he said, includes improving capabilities in space and cyberspace, special operations and missile defense.

Miller told the panel he recognizes that the choices government leaders make today will shape the nation’s future.

“We all want to hand our kids and their generation a better world,” he said. “I believe that this includes ensuring that the United States succeeds in ongoing operations and ensuring that the United States retains the strongest military the world has ever seen.”

USS Nimitz Holds Change of Command

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Vanessa Y. David, USS Nimitz Public Affairs

EVERETT, Wash. (NNS) -- USS Nimitz (CVN 68) held a change of command ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier March 29.

Capt. Jeffrey S. Ruth relieved Capt. Paul O. Monger.

Monger assumed command of Nimitz Aug. 24, 2009. Since then, the ship completed a deployment to the 5th Fleet area of operations, Board of Inspection and Survey assessment and finished its docked planning incremental availability.

"It has been a true privilege to serve as commanding officer for such a historic and storied ship," said Monger. "I couldn't have asked for a more professional and dedicated crew to serve with. They have made me proud every day of my tour."

Ruth reported to Nimitz following his tour as the fleet readiness officer of Commander Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet, in San Diego.

"To say this ship and crew have a sterling reputation would be an understatement," said Ruth. "This is a fantastic ship - a true testament to Capt. Monger for all the outstanding efforts put forth during the overhaul period."

Ruth graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1986 with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering. He reported to flight school at Naval Air Station Pensacola later that year, and was designated a naval flight officer in January 1988.

Ruth made two deployments to the western Pacific aboard the USS Ranger (CV 61) for his first fleet assignment with the Bountyhunters of VF-2. During his second deployment, he flew 43 combat missions in support of Operation Desert Storm.

In 1994, he earned his master's degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School/Test Pilot School (NPS/TPS) Co-op program.

Ruth has served as the F-14D project officer at Naval Air Warfare Center, Point Mugu, Calif., he joined the Patriots of VAQ-140 and completed deployments with both the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). He also deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy where he flew 40 combat missions in support of Operation Allied Force.

From 2003 to 2005, Ruth deployed to the Persian Gulf on board USS Enterprise (CVN 65), assumed command of VAQ-137, and served as the Navigator on board USS George Washington (CVN 73). In 2008, he reported aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) where he served as the executive officer until December 2009. From August 2010 until 2011, he commanded the U.S. 6th Fleet's flagship, USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20).

Pentagon’s Top Doctor Stresses Commitment to Quality Care

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2012 – Even in this “belt-tightening era,” Defense Department officials remain committed to sustaining efforts that have led to groundbreaking medical advances in areas such as post-traumatic stress disorder, the Pentagon’s top health affairs official told an audience of behavioral health experts and military leaders here today.

“The leadership of the military health system -- to include the surgeons general of the Army, Navy and Air Force -- have been steadfast that the core mission of medical readiness responsibilities cannot and will not be compromised,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and director of the TRICARE Management Activity.

This includes the Pentagon’s investment in medical research and development and in the nature of resilience, he added.

Woodson spoke at the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury’s Warrior Resilience Conference, which is intended to provide service members, units, families and communities with resilience-building techniques and tools.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey have made it clear that the department will do its part in the reduction and growth of federal spending, Woodson said, and the health budget is not exempt.

Defense health programs encompass more than $53 billion of DOD’s base budget of $525 billion, the doctor noted. “We really now are at 10 percent of the DOD’s budget,” he said. “We need to make sure those dollars spent are adding value to national defense and to the department.”

Woodson warned against the impact of a possible “sequestration.” Unless Congress agrees on an alternative by January, this provision of the Budget Control Act would trigger an additional $500 billion in across-the-board defense spending cuts over the next 10 years, which Woodson described as a “meat-ax” approach to cutting costs and programs. “We cannot let that happen, and we’re not going to let that happen,” he said.

Woodson said he’s committed to protecting medical research and development programs, which have made great contributions to medical science. “It’s easy in the short term, but painful in the long term to cut research and development budgets,” he said. Instead, he explained, DOD needs to put in place a more “agile” structure that identifies best practices across the services and enables rapid information sharing.

This will save money that can be applied to programs such as research and development, he added.

But just having a program isn’t enough, Woodson said. It must be effective and easily accessible. Nearly 400 programs designed to aid troops and their families are in place, he said, but there’s a lack of metrics to gauge their effectiveness.

“My greatest fear with the meat-ax approach is they’ll cut programs that are truly beneficial … because we don’t have a method of analysis that’s robust,” he said.

Woodson reiterated his commitment to ensuring troops and their families receive the best care possible. “I personally believe we are heading in the right direction on these organizational budgetary decisions,” he said. “We will continue to provide exceptional service to all of those we serve.”

The resources put forth to better understand how to prevent and treat psychological wounds are vital to service members and their families, who have been challenged as never before -- and vital to long-term national security interests, Woodson said. Nearly 11 years of war have “exacted a toll on service members and their families,” he said.

Woodson stressed the importance of leadership and communication in building resilience. “The environment that a leader [creates] in his or her own unit, however small, has an enormously positive affect on resilience,” he said.

This environment, he told the audience, should include the means for open communication. “That reaching out for help when feeling overwhelmed by life’s stressors can help sustain or restore health,” he said. “Seeking help is a sign of strength, and we need to ensure that those who serve know where to turn for help when it’s required.”

Woodson lauded the attendees for taking steps to understand the nature of resilience and to deepen their understanding of psychological issues. Their efforts will be increasingly important as the nation continues to face numerous and complicated” threats, he noted.

“No nation in history has ever put forward more resources, more research and more military leadership attention … to help address and understand how to create and sustain a psychologically healthy force,” Woodson said.

“The importance of your work and efforts … is extraordinarily vital to people who serve,” he added. “It’s vital to extended families and the friends of men and women in uniform, and vital to long-term national security interests.”