Thursday, February 04, 2010

Comptroller Lists Priorities for Budget Request

By Ian Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 4, 2010 - Defense Department officials are working to cut extraneous and wasteful programs, despite a requested modest increase for the fiscal 2011 budget, the department's chief financial officer said. During a Feb. 2 "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable, Robert F. Hale, undersecretary of defense, comptroller, provided a summary of the department's proposed budget for fiscal 2011, listing four "themes" to explain certain aspects of the request.

On Feb. 1 President Barack Obama submitted a $708 billion defense budget request to Congress that included $549 billion for the base budget and $159 billion for wartime activities. The base budget request is $18 billion more than the $531 billion enacted for fiscal 2010, which represents an increase of 1.8 percent real growth after adjusting for inflation.

Hale said that while the Defense Department needs modest real growth to maintain, train and equip the forces that sustain the nation's wartime efforts, department officials are doing everything they can to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

"Now this is a huge amount of money, coming, obviously, at a time when the United States is having economic problems," Hale said. "I always remain in awe somewhat of the size and complexity of this organization -- about 3 million people working on a variety of tasks, ... involved in two wars, drawing down in one, building up in the other, as well as a number of other operations, most notably right now the Haiti operation.

"It's an organization that's very busy, and therefore asks a lot in terms of resources," he added.

Hale said the four themes associated with the budget request are taking care of Defense Department employees, rebalancing the military to fight today's wars while preparing for future conflicts, supporting the troops in the field, and reforming defense acquisition programs.

"Our highest priority and theme in this budget is taking care of our people," Hale said. "That involves adequate pay raises. We've proposed a 1.4 percent pay raise. It involves family-support initiatives."

Hale explained the defense budget will invest substantially in military health-care programs, including $2.2 billion to take care of wounded warriors, an issue particularly important for Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

"Secretary Gates has said that, other than winning the wars themselves, nothing is more important than taking care of these brave people who have sacrificed for us. So taking care of people [is] our highest priority," Hale said.

Ensuring warfighters have the money and equipment to do their jobs in the field is critical, Hale said. About $192 billion has been requested to fund troop and operational increases in Afghanistan as well as to pay the cost of drawing down in Iraq.

"But we know that we aren't terribly good about guessing where we might have to fight next," he noted, "and so we are investing broadly in a variety of capabilities that will hopefully prevent, or, if necessary, let us prevail in future conflicts, as well as support today's conflicts."

Hale said that the growth in the budget doesn't reflect a disregard for the country's economic situation, nor does it reflect a growth in unnecessary spending. In fact, he said, the budget calls for cuts in many programs department officials have deemed wasteful.

"We owe it to the American taxpayers to be careful with that money and to weed out programs we no longer need," he said. "And to that end, we have proposed ending production of the C-17 aircraft -- it's a great plane, but we've got all we need -- and not pursuing an alternate engine for the joint strike fighter, for various logistics and cost reasons. Secretary Gates has said that if Congress chooses to add money for these two programs, he will strongly recommend that the president veto any legislation that does that."

The F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, the Army Future Combat System and a ship-building program for the Navy are being restructured.

Officials also are trying to change the way the Defense Department buys weapons. Better cost estimating and adding more government employees to oversee contracts will greatly improve acquisition, Hale said.

Understanding a project's requirements early on also will cut costs, Hale said. Many projects that go over budget do so because requirements for the equipment change, sometimes calling for complete redevelopment.

"So we've got a budget sizable in amount, an organization that is very busy, an overall theme of continuing a reform agenda and providing all the resources that the United States needs ... so the Department of Defense can maintain national security," Hale said.

(Ian Graham works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Exercise Helps Pacific Nations Prepare for Crises

By Christen N. McCluney
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 4, 2010 - A multilateral exercise under way in Thailand is helping the United States and its Pacific-region partners improve their ability to respond to regional crises. "Cobra Gold is one of the best and most important exercises that we do as a part of U.S. Pacific Command," Lt. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, said during a Feb. 2 "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable.

Though it began as a bilateral exercise between Thailand and the U.S. military, Cobra Gold has grown over the years to include participation by other Pacific nations. It takes place annually in Thailand and focuses on maintaining and improving military-to-military relationships among the United States, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and other nations in the region, Mixon said.

More than 11,500 personnel, including 6,000 from the United States, are participating this year.

Noting that the U.S. relationship with the Thai government goes back 177 years, Mixon emphasized the exercise's importance.

"We have an extremely long-standing relationship, and Cobra Gold simply highlights many of the activities that we do in the Asia-Pacific region, a region that is extremely important to the United States," he said. "This exercise is important not only because it is one of the largest multilateral exercises, but it also involves the first-ever deployment of the contingency command post, which is a part of U.S. Army Pacific."

During Cobra Gold, contingency command post personnel are studying Haitian relief efforts for lessons learned. The exercise is rooted in partnerships and recognizes the need for multinational solutions to common challenges ranging from transnational violent extremism to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the general said.

"Regional cooperation is always important," Mixon pointed out. "In this region, countries have responded very well to the major disasters in the past. So I think, as we continue to do this training, we will only get better at the ability to respond rapidly and then to work together with all the other governmental agencies that would be involved in disaster relief."

Mixon noted that Cobra Gold represents only one aspect of full U.S. engagement in the Pacific region.

"We're out here and engaged across the board, both the Army in the Pacific and U.S. Pacom, and we continue to remain engaged out here in the region because it is of vital importance to the United States," Mixon said.

(Christen N. McCluney works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

National Guard to assist Puerto Rico police

By Army Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau

(2/4/10) -- About 1,000 Puerto Rico National Guardmembers will assist the U.S. territory’s police for up to a year while new police recruits are trained, the governor said Monday. Four classes of police recruits are expected to graduate this year. “As we integrate these new police … the National Guard will help in the preventive patrol jointly with the police in high-crime areas and to update our fleet of police vehicles," Gov. Luis G. Fortuño said in his state of the Commonwealth speech on Monday.

On the same day, the governor signed an executive order activating his National Guard.

“Once that large bulk of cadets are graduated then the need for large-scale help from the National Guard will no longer be required,” said Army Capt. Paul Dahlen, the Puerto Rico National Guard’s public affairs officer.

After Hurricane Katrina, the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force Gator supported the New Orleans Police Department at the direction of the state’s governor.

Army Maj. Michael Kazmierzak told American Forces Press Service that the support Task Force Gator provided was "precedent setting" and said it set a new standard for future National Guard support missions.

From June 2006 through February 2009, the Guardsmen helped the New Orleans police make more than 8,000 arrests."They performed spectacularly," Kazmierzak said. "They demonstrated exactly what the National Guard is here for."

Dahlen said the Puerto Rico National Guard is well-trained and ready for its latest mission. Soldiers and Airmen are scheduled to receive refresher training with territorial police starting this weekend. “The majority of our Soldiers have taken it before,” he said.

About 100 National Guard mechanics will work on police vehicles, Dahlen said. That mission is similar to assistance provided to the Border Patrol during Operation Jump Start from 2006 to 2008. The Border Patrol credited Guardmembers, who worked on their vehicles, with freeing up Border Patrol agents to return to the border with Mexico.

OJS also was similar in intent to Monday’s announcement in that the National Guard was called up to assist the Border Patrol while new agents were recruited and trained.

Puerto Rico’s police patrol in pairs. Dahlen said National Guardmembers will be paired with police officers on patrol, freeing other officers up for additional patrols. “The intent is to enlarge the scope of police [officers] throughout the island,” he said.

“The aim of this initiative is to give immediate safety to people in the street,” Fortuño said during a Monday press briefing.

The Puerto Rico National Guard has provided support to the territory’s police in the 1990s and again in 2004, Dahlen said. “We’re glad to help out our fellow agency in Puerto Rico,” he said. “We’re always ready for whatever mission our governor has for us.”

White House reaches out to rural veterans in 2011 budget

(2/1/10) -- To expand health care to a record-number of veterans, reduce the number of homeless veterans and process a dramatically increased number of new disability compensation claims, White House officials here announced Feb. 1 a proposed $125 billion budget next year for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"Our budget proposal provides the resources necessary to continue our aggressive pursuit of President (Barack) Obama's two over-arching goals for veterans," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

"First, the requested budget will help transform VA into a 21st century organization," he said. "And second, it will ensure that we approach veterans'

care as a lifetime initiative, from the day they take their oaths until the day they are laid to rest."

The $125 billion budget request, which has to be approved by Congress, includes $60.3 billion for discretionary spending (mostly health care) and $64.7 billion in mandatory funding (mostly for disability compensation and pensions).

"VA's 2011 budget request covers many areas but focuses on three central issues that are of critical importance to our veterans: easier access to benefits and services, faster disability claims decisions, and ending the downward spiral that results in veterans' homelessness," Secretary Shinseki said.

Reducing claims backlog

The president's budget proposal includes an increase of $460 million and more than 4,000 additional claims processors for veterans benefits.

This is a 27 percent funding increase over the 2010 level.

The 1,014,000 claims received in 2009 were a 75 percent increase over the 579,000 received in 2000. Secretary Shinseki said the department expects a 30 percent increase in claims -- to 1,319,000 -- in 2011 from 2009 levels.

One reason for the increase is VA's expansion of the number of Agent Orange-related illnesses that automatically qualify for disability benefits. Veterans exposed to the Agent Orange herbicides during the Vietnam War are likely to file additional claims that will have a substantial impact upon the processing system for benefits, the secretary said.

"We project significantly increased claims inventories in the near term while we make fundamental improvements to the way we process disability compensation claims," Secretary Shinseki said.

Long-term reduction of the inventory will come from additional manpower, improved business practices, plus an infusion of $145 million in the proposed budget for development of a paperless claims processing system, which plays a significant role in the transformation of VA.

Automating the GI Bill

The budget proposal includes $44 million to complete by December 2010 an automated system for processing applications for the new Post-9/11 GI Bill. VA also plans to start development next year of electronic systems to process claims from other VA-administered educational programs.

The Post-9/11 GI Bill authorizes the most extensive educational assistance opportunity since the passage of the original GI Bill in 1944. Over $1.7 billion in regular Post-9/11 GI Bill benefit payments have been issued since the implementation of the program on Aug. 1, 2009. In 2011, VA expects the number of all education claims to grow by 32 percent over 2009, going from 1.7 million to 2.25 million.

"To meet this increasing workload and process education claims in a timely manner, VA officials established a comprehensive strategy to develop industry-standard technologies to modernize the delivery of these important educational benefits," Secretary Shinseki said.

Eliminating homelessness

The budget proposal includes $4.2 billion in 2011 to reduce and help prevent homelessness among veterans. That breaks down into $3.4 billion for core medical services and $799 million for specific homeless programs and expanded medical care, which includes $294 million for expanded homeless initiatives. This increased investment for expanded homeless services is consistent with the VA secretary's established goal of ultimately eliminating homelessness among veterans.

On a typical night, about 131,000 veterans are homeless. They represent every war and generation, from the "Greatest Generation" to the latest generation of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. To date, VA officials operate the largest system of homeless treatment and assistance programs in the nation.

Targeting mental health, preventing suicides "The 2011 budget proposal continues the department's keen focus on improving the quality, access and value of mental health care provided to veterans," Secretary Shinseki said.

The spending request seeks $5.2 billion for mental health, an increase of $410 million (or 8.5 percent) over current spending, enabling expansion of inpatient, residential and outpatient mental health services, with emphasis on making mental health services part of primary care and specialty care.

The secretary noted that one-fifth of the patients seen last year in VA's health care facilities had a mental health diagnosis, and that the department has added more than 6,000 new mental health professionals since 2005, bringing to 19,000 the number of employees dedicated to mental health care.

The budget request will enable the department to continue expanding its programs for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), along with the diagnosis and treatment of depression, substance abuse and other mental health problems. Secretary Shinseki called PSTD treatment "central to VA's mission."

The proposed spending will continue VA's suicide prevention program.

Since July 2007, the department's suicide prevention hotline has received nearly 225,000 calls from veterans, active-duty personnel and family members. The hotline is credited with saving the lives of nearly 7,000 people.

Reaching rural veterans

For 2011, VA is seeking $250 million to strengthen access to health care for 3.2 million veterans enrolled in VA's medical system who live in rural areas. Rural outreach includes expanded use of home-based primary care and mental health.

A key portion of rural outreach, which shows promise for use with veterans across the country, is VA's innovative "telehealth" program. It links patients and health care providers by telephones and includes telephone-based data transmission, enabling daily monitoring of patients with chronic problems.

The budget provides an increase of $42 million for VA's home telehealth program. The effort already cares for 35,000 patients and is the largest program of its kind in the world.

Serving women veterans

The 2011 budget provides $217.6 million to meet the gender-specific health care needs of women veterans, an increase of $18.6 million (or

9.4 percent) over the 2010 level. Enhanced primary care for women veterans remains one of the department's top priorities. The number of women veterans is growing rapidly and women are increasingly using VA for their health care.

Secretary Shinseki said the expansion of health care programs for women veterans will lead to higher quality care, increased coordination of care, enhanced privacy and dignity, and a greater sense of security among women patients.

Among the initiatives for women in the 2011 budget proposal are expanded health care services in vet centers, increased training for health care providers to advance their knowledge and understanding of women's health issues, and implementing a peer call center and social networking site for women combat veterans. This call center will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Delivering world-class health care

During 2011, VA officials expect to treat 6.1 million patients, who will account for more than 800,000 hospitalizations and 83 million outpatient visits.

The total includes 439,000 veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, for whom $2.6 billion is included in the budget proposal. That's an increase of $597 million -- or 30 percent -- from the current budget.

The proposed budget for health care includes:

-- $6.8 billion for long-term care, an increase of $859 million (or 14 percent) over 2010. This amount includes $1.5 billion for non-institutional long-term care;

-- Expanding access to VA health care system for more than 99,000 veterans who were previously denied care because of their incomes;

-- $590 million for medical and prosthetic research; and

-- Continuing development of a "virtual lifetime electronic record," a digital health record that will accompany veterans throughout their lives.

VA officials are requesting $54.3 billion in advance appropriations for 2012 for health care, an increase of $2.8 billion over the 2011 enacted amount.

Planned initiatives in 2012 include better leveraging acquisitions and contracting, enhancing the use of referral agreements, strengthening VA's relationship with the Defense Department, and expanding the use of medical technology.

Preserving national shrines

"VA remains steadfastly committed to providing access to a dignified and respectful burial for Veterans choosing to be buried in a VA national cemetery," Secretary Shinseki said. "This promise requires that we maintain national cemeteries as shrines dedicated to the memory of those who served this nation in uniform."

The requested $251 million for cemetery operations and maintenance will support more than 114,000 interments in 2011, a 3.8 percent increase over 2010. In 2011, the department will maintain 8,441 acres with 3.1 million gravesites. The budget request includes $37 million to clean and realign an estimated 668,000 headstones and repair 100,000 sunken graves.

Building for the future

$1.15 billion requested for major construction for 2011 includes funding for medical facilities in New Orleans; Denver; Palo Alto, Calif.; Alameda, Calif.; and Omaha, Neb. Also budgeted for 2011 are major expansions and improvements to the national cemeteries in Indiantown Gap, Pa.; Los Angeles; and Tahoma, Wash., and new burial access policies that will provide a burial option to an additional 500,000 veterans and enhance service in urban areas.

A requested budget of $468 million for minor construction in 2011 would fund a wide variety of improvements at VA facilities.

Louisiana Air Guard prepares for real-world war mission

By Senior Airman Rosie Stahl
Louisiana National Guard

(2/3/10) -- The Louisiana National Guard's 159th Fighter Wing will participate in a three-day operational readiness exercise this week. It is the fourth exercise in a year's length to prepare for an inspection by the Air Combat Command in April. The exercise takes place here at Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base, where a section of the base has been transformed to simulate a war in Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, with 800 members for the Air Expeditionary Wing actively participating in the deployment.

Members of other bases volunteer in the exercise as inspectors to evaluate different facets of the Wing including operations, aircraft maintenance, munitions, security, network defenses and more.

Simulated scenarios are practiced throughout the war days while members strive to function efficiently in their area of expertise. Examples of these scenarios include compromising of intelligence, communication difficulties, bomb threats, chemical attacks, handling improvised explosive devices and media inquiries.

One of the mission critical functions is ensuring jets have a successful flight. On day one, the Maintenance Group was busy on the flight line preparing for jets to take off and responding to exercise injects at the same time.

Master Sgt. Brian Krail provided guidance while his team was removing a tank and conducting an after-fire inspection. "We are having a technical expenditure. After we ensure there are no leaks, we will place the tank back after an extra maintenance check, and we will get the jet up in the air."

At another jet, Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Turminello and Tech. Sgt. Bertrand Woods assisted with troubleshooting an electrical trap within a transfer pump. "We have to work together to check the different relays and see where the problem is," said Turminello. Distractions are expected to happen. Attack warning signals occur throughout the war days and aircraft maintenance personnel are required to ensure tools and jets are properly covered to avoid chemical contamination during the attacks.

Tech. Sgt. Aaron Baltimore said that when alarm red or black occurs, signaling an attack by air or ground forces, flight line members take immediate cover and assume the proper postures including donning gas masks and protective gloves.

Louisiana Air Guardsmen will continue to train and prepare for the final inspection. The wing aims for a grade of "outstanding" in April.

Guard chief talks of expanding partnership program

By Sgt. 1st Class Roy Henry
Georgia National Guard

(2/2/10) -- For the National Guard State Partnership Program to maintain its important role in promoting this country’s long-term mutual security cooperation with its allies around the world, the program must expand, the Guard’s top officer said today. “State Partnership Programs cannot be static,” Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said at an SPP workshop here. “They must be creative, integrated and responsive to combatant commanders and U.S. ambassadorial priorities in the field.”

The first partnerships were developed in 1993 with former Soviet bloc countries, such as the one between the state of Georgia and the country of Georgia. Today, SPP includes about 62 partnerships in Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

This year, SPP will target some new regions of the world, including South America and the Pacific Rim, McKinley said.

When the program was first introduced, developing SPPs was relatively easy, he said. Each state was paired up a partner with similar goals.

Now McKinley said he must convince the adjutants general of those states that have partnership to take on a second or even a third partnership country.

McKinley said SPP has been “living fairly meagerly” on a $10 million budget. However, some in the Department of Defense believe it should be a $50 million program.

“We have to prove our program’s value to our national leaders constantly, or it won’t be funded,” he said.

For that reason, SPP must continually and carefully balance its “very scarce resources.”

Those who operate the SPPs and do the business of the combatant commands in the theaters where SPPs exist, McKinley said, must make sure the dollars they have are used wisely and that they’re getting the most out of the money they spend.

In his long-range plan for the program, McKinley said he looks at where the program is going, what it’s going to take to get there and what it’s really trying to achieve when it gets where it’s going.

“We have to have the vision to engage those countries that can, or may be, influenced by those looking to exert control over them,” he said. “Through state partnership we can reach out and assist those nations in averting that influence.”

As he continues advocating the importance of SPP’s role to senior leadership, McKinley said he describes the program one of the Guard’s “crown jewels.”

He attributed the program’s success to the workshop attendees, because they are the ones closest to the vision of what State Partnership is and should be.

“Not all the brain power is in Washington,” he said. “It’s here, in this room today, and it’s the kind that can recommend new initiatives with which to keep state partnership relative and active.”

Military Medical Personnel Aid Haiti Relief, Maintain Presence at Home

February 4, 2010 - Soon after the massive 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the doctors, nurses, corpsmen and medics of America’s armed forces were on their way to care for the victims of the disaster.

“We are incredibly proud of our medical personnel who’ve deployed to Haiti to care for our southern neighbors coping with the aftermath of the earthquake,” said Rear Adm. Christine Hunter, deputy director of the TRICARE Management Activity. “We also thank the providers here back at home who’ve stepped forward and continue to provide health care to our service members and their families.”

TRICARE leaders in all three regions are monitoring the situation and working closely with all the services to ensure beneficiaries in the United States continue to have medical care available to them within TRICARE’s rigorous access standards.

“There are enough medical providers at military treatment facilities and in the managed care support contractors’ networks to meet our beneficiaries’ needs,” said Rear Adm. Elizabeth Niemyer, director of the TRICARE Regional Office-West. “Beneficiaries should continue to call the normal appointment lines to schedule routine and urgent care appointments.”

Among the flotilla of U.S. ships off the coast of Haiti is the hospital ship USNS Comfort. Aboard the 1,000-bed floating hospital about 600 medical personnel are caring for patients, making a significant impact in humanitarian aid and relief mission in Haiti. The Comfort surgical team has performed nearly 300 procedures, ranging from repairing crushed limbs to amputations in an effort to save lives. The ship's medical professionals have also assisted in the birth of a baby girl. All together more than 700 patients have been admitted. The medical staff aboard the Comfort comes mainly from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., and Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia. Specialists from many other military hospitals and clinics in the United States are also serving aboard ships and on shore during the relief effort.

Additionally, more than 16,000 U.S. military personnel with Joint Task Force-Haiti are assisting relief workers from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the United Nations, the international community and Haiti providing humanitarian assistance to communities impacted by the disaster.

Officials say the disaster has killed between 100,000 to 200,000 people and the Red Cross estimates some 3 million people have been affected. After delivering 1.4 million bottles of water, 700,000 meals and 22,000 pounds of medical equipment in the opening days of the relief effort, JTF-Haiti leaders now report the effort is in the sustainment phase providing 75 tons of food a day.

American military medical personnel will remain off-shore and on the ground in Haiti to support the relief and recovery efforts for the foreseeable future.

Sexual Assault Task Forces Urges More Oversight

By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 4, 2010 - The Defense Department office that oversees sexual assault prevention and response in the military needs a higher level of oversight and funding to continue on its path of progress, a task force created to assess the program told Congress members yesterday.

The department and the services have made significant improvements in how they handle sexual assault prevention and response, but more needs to be done, the co-chairs of the Defense Task Force on Sexual Assault in the Military Services told the House Armed Services Committee's military personnel subcommittee. The task force issued its findings to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates on Dec. 1.

The department "overall has made notable progress in addressing sexual assault" since the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office was created in 2005, Louis Iasiello, co-chair of the task force, told the subcommittee. "At the same time, we found many opportunities for improvement."

Military leaders' emphasis on prevention and the subsequent increased awareness of sexual assaults, combined with better funding for the prevention and response office, have been key to improvements, Iasiello said. Still, he added, there needs to be more focus on the problem.

The task force's report, Iasiello said, highlights the need for substantial institutional emphasis on preventing sexual assault. "Doing so is not only a moral imperative, but is critical to military readiness," he said.

The task force recommends that the prevention and response office be elevated to placement under the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Defense for "at least one year or until the program is meeting established institutional goals," Iasiello and Air Force Brig. Gen. Sharon K.G. Dunbar, also a task force co-chair, said in their joint statement to the subcommittee.

The two noted that such organizational structure would be "unconventional," but said the office's current placement "has limited its visibility and ability to effectively address integral cross-cutting issues."

"After 2005, each of the services took off in their own direction trying to confront this issue in the best way possible," Iasiello said. "We applaud that initiative, but we really would like to see a strategic leadership role taken" by the oversight office. "Someone needs to take the lead on that and liaison and partner with ... the civilian society," he said.

"We believe that higher level oversight will ensure appropriate funding and focus on a program that is at a critical junction," Iasiello added.

Beginning in August 2008, the 10-member task force visited 60 military locations worldwide and met with more than 3,500 people, Iasiello said. Both military members and civilians at all levels reported inconsistent and insufficient funding, he said, adding that research and collaboration with the civilian sector for prevention strategies and incidence metrics was particularly affected.

The task force called for more consistency and standardization to sexual assault prevention, response, training and accountability across the services, and Dunbar said a clear strategy would drive such improvements.

"Leadership sets the tone" for sexual assault awareness, prevention and response, Dunbar said, and the program is most effective in places where leaders are involved in things such as community discussions.

"Leadership clearly has a profound influence on the prevention of sexual assault, from strategy development and execution to continued focused and open discussion of the issue," the prepared statement said. "Commanders and leaders must take an active role in addressing the issue and modeling correct behavior."

Prevention must be the primary goal of the program, and training is key, the Dunbar said. Training needs to be more tailored for leadership and maturity levels, and should focus on risky behaviors as well as myths. And, she added, current training is too narrowly focused around women, "which makes it all the more difficult for male victims to come forward."

The department and services have made notable progress in improving victim assistance, especially by permitting victims to obtain immediate care and counseling without engaging law enforcement or their command authority, the task force reported. It recommended the services go further by allowing privileged communication between victims and their advocates, which cannot be obtained by the alleged assailant's attorneys.

The task force further recommended that military victim advocates receive formal certification, and that the new Article 120 of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice be amended to be more clear and easier to adjudicate.

In its field interviews, the task force was told that the law, as written, is "cumbersome, complicated and confusing," making it difficult juries to come to a conclusion, Dunbar said.

The task force met with courts-martial convening authorities at every location, Iasiello said, and "We saw a desire to aggressively pursue cases wherever they thought it was possible. So, the intent is there" to prosecute sexual assault cases in the military.

In the department's most recent anonymous "Gender Relations Survey of Active Duty Members," 6.8 percent of women and 1.8 percent of men reported unwanted sexual contact in the past 12 months, the report said.

Review Strikes Right Balance for Military, Admiral Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 4, 2010 - The Pentagon's military leaders say the new Quadrennial Defense Review strikes the right balance between today's wars and the need to combat future threats.

Navy Vice Adm. Stephen Stanley, Joint Staff director for force structure, resources and assessment, told the House Armed Services Committee the review sets the department on a new path.

"The QDR focuses not just on winning today's fight, but also on the complex and uncertain future security landscape and potential conflicts the United States and our partners are most likely to face in the future," Stanley said. The admiral testified alongside Michele Flournoy, undersecretary of defense for policy. The two were the point persons for the document in the Pentagon.

Stanley said the review addresses the top three goals of Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: winning today's fight; balancing global strategic risk; and preserving and enhancing the health of the force.

The review supports the military's mission to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida globally, and particularly in Afghanistan and Pakistan through investment in critical "enablers" such as rotary-wing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and special operation forces that have experienced persistent shortfalls over the years.

"Winning the fight requires changing our capability mix, and we are doing it," Stanley said.

Balancing global risk in today's environment requires a ready and agile force with sufficient capability across military operations, Stanley said. The review recognizes the importance of developing capabilities to prevent the enemy from accessing new areas, he said.

"Additionally, the QDR focuses on regional, forward-based and rotational engagement with partners to set conditions that not only preclude conflict but establish the security environments that undercut extremism," the director said.

The United States has retained the capability to act decisively when appropriate, still "we prefer to partner and work with others in major operations," he said. "Our forward-stationed and rotational joint forces will ensure the ability to both sustain forward engagement and rapidly project forces and power globally to defeat future adversaries or, as in Haiti, rapidly respond to international crises."

Preserving and maintaining the health of the force, begins with taking care of people. "Our men and women in the armed forces are America's greatest strategic asset," Stanley said. "The QDR advocates important initiatives to enhance warrior and survivor care, reinforcing the urgency to improve research and treatment for a broad range of injuries, especially traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress."

The review seeks to reduce stress on the force through family support initiatives and a focus on properly resetting the force.

Experts Provide Insights on Strategic Reports

By Judith Snyderman
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 4, 2010 - Defense officials who helped to write the Quadrennial Defense Review and the related Ballistic Missile Defense Review offered insights into their analyses in a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable yesterday. Kathleen Hicks, deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans and forces, said the QDR, which is conducted every four years by congressional mandate, lays out a strategy to rebalance the Defense Department's capabilities and structure.

The dual purpose of all recommendations, Hicks said, is "delivering first-class capabilities to our men and women in uniform and, second, being responsible stewards of American taxpayer dollars."

Hicks said the analysis does not make any suggestions that would hamper the ability to prevail in today's conflicts. But, she added, it does provide a 15-to-20-year outlook with far-ranging objectives.

"The first is prevention and deterrence; the second is moving beyond planning for conventional contingencies and preparing for a wider range of challenges; and the third is elevating the need to preserve and enhance the all-volunteer force," she said.

The QDR emphasizes tapping into civilian expertise and broadening partnerships at home and abroad, Hicks said, noting that the U.S. military already works side by side with allies in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"It behooves us to invest in those relationships," she said.

Michael Nacht, assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs and primary author of the ballistic missile defense review, said one core element of homeland defense is protecting against limited attacks. But, he added, his report provides a detailed outline to address another core element of defense against regional threats, which he said are growing.

For example, the development and testing of missile defense capabilities for deployment in Europe has already begun, he said.

"We're engaged in extensive discussions and negotiations with our closest allies and other partners," Nacht said, "so that we're all on the same wavelength as these systems reach full-scale development and then begin to be deployed."

In response to questions from bloggers, Hicks said the QDR recognizes two challenging issues. One is the need to prevent the transfer of data and technology to rogue states or non-state actors. Hicks said the report contains plans to beef up the Defense Department's ability to analyze intelligence that will help to solve the problem.

"It's largely put in the context in the QDR of the wars we're in today," she said. "But [it is] very important to point out that the future is now, in many cases."

Another challenge relates to the size of the all-volunteer force. Hicks said the QDR report recognizes that current conflicts in multiple theaters have strained servicemembers. Therefore, she said, it makes planning assumptions that are adjusted to assume a "more reasonable tempo over the long term."

She said the report also identifies capabilities in short supply, including civil affairs; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and helicopters.

Hicks said both the QDR and the BMDR combine near-term and long-range planning and aim to describe a realistic pathway to meet strategic goals.

(Judith Snyderman works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Military OneSource Offers Free Tax Filing

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 4, 2010 - Defense officials encourage military families to once again take advantage of the free electronic tax filing services offered through Military OneSource.

People can access the H&R Block at Home program by going to Military OneSource at and clicking on "Tax Filing Services."

More than 200,000 servicemembers filed their tax returns through this resource last year, officials said.

"We have such a mobile force, and you have folks dispersed all over the world. It's a quick link for the family to link up with the [servicemember]," said Tommy T. Thomas, deputy undersecretary of defense for military community and family policy. "It's a convenience for you to be able to go on that site and file that tax form."

The program is open to active duty, Guard and Reserve servicemembers, regardless of activation status, as well as spouses, dependent children and family members standing in for a deployed servicemember.

Participants can e-file up to three state resident returns for each federal return, Thomas said. However, he added, they should ensure they're filling through Military OneSource. People who file through H&R Block directly may be charged for services, he cautioned.

The program is set up for basic returns. People who wish to upgrade to the premium program also may incur charges.

For tax assistance, filers can call a Military OneSource tax consultant from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EST, seven-days-a- week, at 800-730-3802.

"That's a tremendous service," Thomas said. "We feel it's important to give our military families the absolute best."

Along with the consultants, people with complicated tax returns can visit a legal assistance office on a military installation for more in-depth advice, he said.

Whether online or on base, people should file early, Thomas advised.

"Don't run up against the 15 April deadline," he said. "And when you get the return, look at it as the means to secure your family's finances," whether its paying off debts, adding to a savings account or contributing to a Thrift Savings Plan.