Thursday, April 10, 2014

USAFE-AFAFRICA Airmen must revalidate dependents

by Tech. Sgt. James M. Hodgman
U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs

4/10/2014 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- More than 16,000 U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Airmen must revalidate their dependents to continue receiving basic housing allowance or overseas housing allowance at the with-dependent rate. This requirement also applies to military members occupying family housing.

The command's revalidation efforts are part of the Air Force's service-wide mandate for Airmen to revalidate their dependents by Dec. 31, 2014. The command's goal is to have all revalidations completed by Oct. 31.

This one-time, Air Force wide recertification process will allow the Air Force to validate Airmen's basic allowance for housing entitlements, ensuring every dollar of the $5.4 billion the service spends annually on BAH is fully auditable, said Master Sgt. Temeka M. Stewart, USAFE-AFAFRICA Financial Management financial operations manager.

The Innovation and Transformation Office is leading the command's revalidation efforts and has developed a plan for all Airmen to revalidate their dependents, said Lt. Col. Stephen Cristofori, USAFE-AFAFRICA ITO deputy chief.

According to the plan, base comptroller squadrons will establish a schedule for comptrollers to meet with individual Airmen to revalidate dependents. Airmen will then be notified of their revalidation appointment time and informed what supporting documentation will be required.

At those appointments, recertification will be accomplished on the spot, Cristofori said. "The whole process should take no more than 10 minutes."

To revalidate dependents, Airmen must complete Air Force Form 594, Application and Authorization to Start, Stop, or Change Basic Allowance for Quarter or Dependency Determination. The form, along with step-by-step instructions, resources to locate supporting documentation and frequently asked questions can be found at the USAFE-AFAFRICA website in the spotlights section.

Airmen can also find this information on the USAFE-AFAFRICA ITO Dependent Revalidation page on the USAFE-AFAFRICA Portal; however, a common access card is required to access the site.

Once the form is completed, Airmen must print it without signing it. Then, they should bring the completed unsigned form, their military identification card and all required supporting documentation to their revalidation appointment. Supporting documentation must be in its original form as copies won't be accepted. To minimize the inconvenience to Airmen, they do not need to go to their finance office--USAFE-AFAFRICA comptroller squadrons will send representatives to their units in the near future.

Airmen should visit the website and wait for official notification prior to contacting their local finance office, Cristofori said. Additionally, Airmen should find their supporting documents now.

"Finding marriage and birth certificates can be difficult given the number of moves we in the military have," Cristofori said. "Hopefully, people keep their important documents organized in a safe place. If they can't find them, now is the time to reach out to the counties, cities, states and possibly countries to get them."

Supporting documentation includes marriage certificates, birth certificates for dependent children, divorce decrees and approved Defense Finance and Accounting Service letters authorizing secondary dependency.

Cristofori also stressed the command is finalizing a process specifically for deployed Airmen and members of geographically separated units. However, he said the most important thing Airmen can do now, is obtain the required documentation they need to revalidate dependents.

The revalidation is being done to ensure the Air Force is audit ready as a result of a Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness mandate outlined in the FY 2010 National Defense Authorization, Stewart said.

"When we say the Air Force is not audit compliant, that doesn't mean that money is missing or misspent," said Doug Bennett, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial operations. It means supporting documentation entitling members for with dependent rate BAH or OHA is not available.

Cristofori also emphasized the command will work with individual unit leadership to help Airmen complete the revalidation process.

"Our Airmen are vital to our mission and are our most important asset," Cristofori added. "We know our Airmen are focused on the mission and they have personal commitments they must keep. We are going to do all we can to ensure they complete the revalidation process with as little stress as possible so their pay will be unaffected."

Airmen can find instructions and many answers to revalidation questions by visiting the USAFE-AFAFRICA website or the USAFE-AFAFRICA Portal.

Marine Corps Will Continue to Serve as Nation’s Ready Force

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2014 – The Marine Corps is committed to remaining the nation's force in readiness, capable of responding to a crisis anywhere around the globe at a moment's notice, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps told a House panel today.

“As we gather here this morning, almost 37,000 Marines are forward deployed or stationed around the world, promoting peace, protecting our nation's interests and securing our defense,” Marine Corps Gen. John M. Paxton Jr. told members of the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

In the space of a few short months last year, he said, the Marine Corps displayed its agility and responsiveness while saving lives in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in November, and again with the rescue of American citizens in South Sudan during Christmas.

“Both of these indicate the reality and the necessity of maintaining a combat-ready force that's capable of handling today's crisis today,” Paxton said. “Such an investment is essential to maintaining our nation's security and our prosperity into the future.”

The Marine Corps fully appreciates that maintaining readiness -- today and in the future -- is directly related to the fiscal realities that confront the nation and the Defense Department, the general said.

“As our nation continues to face fiscal uncertainty, we're making the necessary choices to protect our near-term readiness and to place your United States Marine Corps on the best trajectory to meet future defense requirements,” Paxton told the committee.

As the country navigates the current fiscal environment, he said, the Marine Corps will strive to balance its priorities across five pillars of readiness:

-- Recruit and retain high-quality people;

-- Maintain a high state of unit readiness;

-- Meet combatant commanders’ requirements for trained, ready Marines;

-- Maintain appropriate infrastructure investments;

-- And, keep an eye towards the future by investing the capabilities needed to meet tomorrow's challenges.

Efforts to meet these requirements are going well, Paxton said.

The Marine Corps is meeting its officer and enlisted recruiting goals for both the active and the reserve component and exceeding DOD quality standards, he told the committee.

“The Marine Corps remains committed to attracting, mentoring and retaining the most talented men and women, who bring diverse backgrounds, cultures and skills into the service of our nation,” the general said.

To meet combatant commander requirements for the best-trained, most ready forces, the Marine Corps has accepted risks to both personnel manning and to equipment readiness, Paxton said. Those risks have been assumed by non-deployed units in order to fully support forces who are forward-deployed and those who are next to deploy, he noted.

“We have taxed our home station units as the bill-payers to ensure that Marines in Afghanistan and our Marine expeditionary units have everything that they need,” the general said.

“As a result, as we sit here this morning, slightly more than 50 percent of our non-deployed forces are experiencing some degree of degraded readiness in their ability to execute what we consider to be core missions,” he told the committee.

The Marine Corps fosters a rich heritage and a strong partnership with its naval counterparts, Paxton said. “As we look to the future, we all realize the sea-based and forward-deployed naval forces provide day-to-day engagement crisis response,” he added.

Maintaining a ready and available fleet of amphibious ships is a critical component in building, training and maintaining an expeditionary forward presence, the general said.

“Doing so enables continuous naval expeditionary presence, and projects power across the globe whenever and wherever our nation needs it,” Paxton said.

Link 16: The B-1B's future link to the battle field

by Staff Sgt. Joel Mease
7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

4/10/2014 - DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- During a speech in 1989, former President Ronald Regan discussed his thoughts on the Soviet Union's philosophies of the time and said, "Information is the oxygen of the modern age... it seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified, booby-trapped borders. Breezes of electronic beams blow through the Iron Curtain as if it were lace."

While the free flow of information was critical in taking down the Soviet Union, information has become even more important to the modern warfighter on the battlefield. The B-1B, itself a product of the 1980s, is now being upgraded with Link 16 as part of the Integrated Battle Station transformation the entire B-1B fleet is taking part of.

"The data link system, which is already found in the F-15, F-16, J-Stars, Rivet Joints and many other air platforms will now provide B-1B operators a complete picture of the battle space," said Capt. Francis Hoar Jr., 7th Operations Support Squadron. "This is what the B-1 has really been lacking, which introduces us to the modern fight and allows us to be completely integrated with all of our command and control assets."

The system, which Hoar likens to the internet's version of the Cloud, allows the operator to pull information from allied aircraft and ground components and build a tactical picture of the battlefield in real-time.

"An example of how Link 16 allows us to be better warfighters is before the operator in the B-1 would have to identify a target using a sniper pod and actually see the target," Hoar said. "Now that target could be sent to us instantly, which cuts down time on the kill chain and allows us to strike within minutes."

In addition, the data link provides pilots a graphic representation of what threats lay in front of the operator.

"As a pilot, this gives me additional situational awareness and allows me to have more information," Hoar said. "This real-time display then allows me more freedom of movement, because I now know where all the threats are and what their capabilities are."

Ground forces or command and control functions also will have the ability to send a digital image though the network to any B-1B that is upgraded with the Link 16 software.
"We can get an image sent to us from anyone that is linked to the data system and actively look for that image using the sniper pod on the B-1B and acquire it with our weapons system," Hoar said. "This is just another tool we didn't have before."

Another feature that will improve the ability of the B-1B operators to perform in an active battlefield is the increased training Link 16 will provide.

"Our training will be greatly improved as our pilots will be able to cruise in real-time and engage a target with mock threats that appear real," Hoar said. "The data link allows us to use a ground station to send virtual targets and threats, but they would appear to the operators as they would if they were real. This is just another way we can enhance our training, but do it at the same speed as if they were downrange."

While it won't be until approximately 2019 when the entire fleet sees the upgrade, the possibilities of what Link 16 can do has the entire B-1B community excited about the future of the bomber platform, Hoar said.

"This is the biggest advancement the Bone has ever seen in regards to integrating information with everyone else," Hoar said. "It ultimately makes us much more effective and allows us to be a one-stop shop that is integrated with the rest of the combat Air Force."

US Navy Logistics Ship Joins Search for MH370

By Edward Baxter

INDIAN OCEAN (NNS) -- The 7th Fleet supply ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE 14) joined an international task force led by Australian Defence Force searching for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 off the Western Coast of Australia today.

The U.S. 7th Fleet deployed Chavez in response to a formal Joint Operations Command request to the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) for tanker support. Deployment of the Dry cargo/ammunition ship speaks to the U.S. Navy's enduring commitment to allies and partners in the Asia-Pacific region, and the ability to respond rapidly where it matters, when it matters.

"Although a crisis has brought us to these waters, the team aboard Chavez is standing by and proud to support such a vital mission," said Chavez's civil service master Capt. Rollin Bellfi.

In the coming days Chavez is scheduled to conduct underway replenishment operations with Australian naval ships actively searching for MH370, including HMAS Success (OR 304), HMAS Perth (FFH 157) and HMAS Toowoomba (FFH 156).

Chavez is the U.S. Navy's newest Combat Logistics Force ship which is operated by a crew of 125 civil service mariners. These ships also have a complement of 11 U.S. Navy Sailors who provide operational support and supply coordination.

"This is an unexpected assignment, but our logistics ships are used to responding quickly to emergent requirements," said COMLOG WESTPAC replenishment officer, Lt. Cmdr. Gentry Debord.

Prior to setting sail for the remote waters of the southern Indian Ocean, Chavez loaded provisions and fuel in Singapore. Here, a U.S. Navy logistics team assigned to Logistics Group Western Pacific (COMLOG WESTPAC) and MSC Far East worked with the Royal Australian Navy Liaison Office (RANLO) to load supplies and fuel destined for Australian ships.

Chavez, operated by the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC), provides underway replenishment of dry cargo, fuel, and ammunition to U.S. and coalition naval ships operating at sea. The 689 foot Chavez is expected to take on additional provisions and freight in Fleet Base West at Stirling, Western Australia to further support task forces ships.

COMLOG WESTPAC is Seventh Fleet's combat-ready logistics command in Southeast Asia, providing government-owned and contracted ships to keep units armed, fueled and fed throughout the U.S. Pacific Fleet area of responsibility. In addition to USNS Cesar Chavez, U.S. Pacific Fleet is also supporting the search operation with two P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft, a Towed Pinger Locator hydrophone and an autonomous underwater vehicle Bluefin-21 side-scan sonar.

Readiness Key to Air Force Responsiveness

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2014 – Air Force readiness is critical, especially as the time or place of the next crisis is never certain and is rarely what was expected, the Air Force vice chief of staff told a House panel today.

The range, speed and agility of the Air Force enables it to respond in hours, not days, when called upon, Air Force Gen. Larry O. Spencer told members of the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

“The cornerstone of our success depends on airmen who are exploiting and mastering emerging technologies, not only in warfare, but also in space and cyberspace,” he said.

But decades of sustained combat operations have stressed the force and decreased Air Force readiness to unacceptable levels, Spencer said.

“We are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain our advantage when it comes to effectively operating in contested environments and against adversaries with access to increasing levels of advanced warfighting technology,” the general said.

The Air Force will maintain its ability to respond to today's requirements, but it must also regain and further maintain the ability to operate in the most demanding threat environments, he said.

Readiness is having the right number of airmen, with the right equipment, trained to the right skill level, and with the right support to accomplish what the nation asks, Spencer said.

“A good readiness plan depends on an optimum level of health in all of these areas,” the general said, “but sequestration has slashed our budget by billions of dollars, forcing us to make the difficult decision to cut force structure in order to help preserve our near-term readiness.”

To maintain readiness, the Air Force had to look beyond cutting flying hours and exercises, Spencer told the committee.

“We took a close look at the preservation of modernization efforts to help us maintain our technological edge,” he said. “This includes preferred munitions; live, virtual constructive environments that can replicate the threats we may face; and installation support that allows us to literally fight and power project from our bases.”

Weapon sustainment health is also critical to the Air Force’s readiness plan, Spencer added. Logistic centers and depots contribute to the sustainment and readiness of all aircraft and equipment, he said.

“While adequate flying hour funding ensures the aircraft on our ramps are ready to fly, weapon system sustainment readiness funding ensures we have the adequate numbers of aircraft on our ramps to fly in our missions and to complete our flying goals,” the general explained.

The impact of sequestration is still being felt on Air Force readiness, Spencer said.

“The loss of time and experience flying, maintaining, supporting and integrating … aircraft equated to a loss of critical readiness for our airmen across the entire force,” he said. “Our highly sophisticated and capable force cannot be reconstituted overnight if our readiness is allowed to atrophy.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act provided only temporary relief, the general said, noting that it puts the force on a gradual path to recovery but will not fix readiness in the long-term.

“Because our readiness is heavily influenced by ongoing operations, we need to ensure we can meet these requirements while also training for the full spectrum of potential conflict,” Spencer said.

Demand for Air Force capabilities has remained high following the conclusion of every major combat operation in recent history, he said.

“If we are not able to train for scenarios across the full range of military operations against a backdrop of increasingly contested air, space, and sovereign environments around the world, we face unacceptable risk to mission accomplishment and to our joint forces,” the general said.

Today's Air Force is an indispensable hedge against the challenges of an uncertain future, he said.

“Properly trained and equipped, your Air Force can set the conditions for success in any conflict, in any region of the world, whenever we're called upon,” Spencer told the committee.

Air Force Secretary, Chief of Staff, Testify on Air Force Posture

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 10, 2014 – The fiscal and security challenges triggered by budgetary constraints are posing problems for Air Force strategy, the service’s secretary told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Deborah Lee James said tomorrow’s Air Force requires investing in the right technologies and platforms to be prepared to operate in a volatile and unpredictable world, “in which we cannot take for granted that we will continue to command the skies and the space.”

The Fiscal year 2015 budget request calls for fully funding flying hours and other high-priority readiness issues, she said, adding that Air Force readiness has “taken a hit over time,” and today is not where it should be.

“If our proposal is approved, we will see gradual improvements in full-spectrum readiness over time,” she told Senators.. “This will put us on the right path, particularly to … operate in a contested environment.”

At the same time, James said, the service must invest now so it isn’t beaten by potential adversaries 10 to 15 years from now, and that every dollar is critical.

“We've got to keep acquisition programs on budget and on schedule, [with] no more terrible cost overruns like we've seen in the past,” she said.

With the department in the midst of reducing service headquarters by 20 percent over the next five years, James said the Air Force would make those cuts in one year.

“And we're looking to do better than 20 percent,” she said, adding, “I do have to join with Secretary of Defense [Chuck] Hagel and ask that you consider another round of [Base Realignment and Closure] in 2017.”

If there is a return to sequestration-level budgeting in fiscal year 2016, the Air Force would have to retire about 80 more aircraft, including the KC-10 tanker fleet in addition to what is now proposed, she said.

James said her vision of the Air Force 10 years from now is a smaller but very capable force.

“It will be a good value for the taxpayers and it will be recognized as such,” she added. “Most importantly, we will be powered by the best airmen on the planet who live our core values of integrity, service and excellence, and cultivate a culture of dignity and respect for all.”

Testifying at the same hearing, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III called the Air Force the finest in the world and said it must remain that way.

“We built this budget to ensure that Air Force combat power remains unequaled, but that does not mean it will remain unaffected,” he said. “Every major decision reflected in our [fiscal year] '15 budget proposal hurts. Each of them reduces capability that our combatant commanders would love to have and believe they need.”

Additional “easy cuts” do not exist, Welsh said.

“And we simply can't ignore the fact that the law as currently written returns us to sequestered funding levels in [fiscal] '16. To prepare for that, the Air Force must cut people and force structure now to create a balanced force that we can afford to train and operate in '16 and beyond,” he said.

Air Force budget planning began by making two significant assumptions, Welsh noted.

“First … the Air Force must be capable of winning a full-spectrum fight against a well-armed, well-trained enemy. Second, ‘ready today’ versus ‘modern tomorrow’ cannot be an either-or decision. We must be both,” he said.

“We also knew the overwhelming majority of reductions in our budget would have to come from readiness, force structure and modernization,” Welsh added.

“The funding levels we can reasonably expect over the next 10 years dictate that for America to have a capable, credible and viable Air Force in the mid-2020s, we must get smaller, now,” he said. “We must modernize parts of our force, but we can't modernize as much as we planned, and we must maintain the proper balance across our five mission areas.”

Using standard DOD planning scenarios, results from an operational perspective showed “cutting the A-10 fleet was clearly the lowest-risk option,” Welsh said.

“Even if an additional $4 billion became available, I believe the combatant commanders would all tell you that they'd rather have us fund more [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] and airborne command-and-control capability than retain the A-10 fleet,” he added.