Friday, November 10, 2017

DoD Pledges to Improve Background Investigation Procedures

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2017 — The Defense Department is pledging to improve the way background investigations are done, according to Garry Reid, DoD’s director for defense intelligence and security.

There is currently an enormous backlog in the investigations, Reid said. Some personnel have been waiting up to nearly two years for a top secret security clearance, he said, explaining the goal for completing a top secret investigation is 80 days.

The delays are impacting readiness, he explained to DoD News.

“Units are deploying without a full complement of cleared intelligence analysts and technical experts,” Reid said.

“Service members competing for positions that require top level clearances are held in check,” he said. “Our research and development programs are not operating at capacity due to shortage of cleared defense industry contractors.”

The long delays in processing clearances result in loss of talented people, particularly those just entering the workforce who have highly desired technical skills but cannot afford to wait a year or more before starting the job, he said.

“We are prepared to take this matter in hand and aggressively develop better approaches that can deliver quality investigations, at sustainable cost, within acceptable timelines,” he said.

Changes in Procedures

The fiscal year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Section 951, Enhanced Security Programs for Department of Defense Personnel and Innovation Initiative, directed the defense secretary, to provide the following to the DoD committees:

-- An implementation plan, by Aug. 1, 2017, for the Defense Security Service, or DSS, to conduct, after Oct. 1, 2017, background investigations for DoD personnel, whose investigations are adjudicated by the DoD Consolidated Adjudications Facility.

-- A report, by Aug. 1, 2017, on the number of full-time equivalent employees of the DoD management headquarters that would be required by DSS to carry out the transfer plan.

-- A plan, by Oct. 1, 2017, along with the Office of Personnel Management, to transfer government investigative personnel and contracted resources to the DoD from OPM, in proportion to the background and security investigative workload that would be assumed by DoD if the implementation plan were executed.

Backlog Impacts Readiness

DoD does not plan to assume the cases the OPM is already investigating, according to Reid. The pending cases are in various stages of completion and the department has already paid OPM’s National Background Investigation System to conduct those investigations.

“The enormity of the backlog is staggering,” Reid told members of Congress last month.

The backlog hurts readiness, erodes warfighting capacity, debilitates development of new capabilities, and wastes taxpayer dollars, he explained to the House Oversight and Government’s Subcommittee on Government Operations.

He said 93,000 DoD cases were waiting in a queue for a top secret investigation, and the prices for the investigations continue to rise at a “staggering rate.”

“In 2015, after promising to provide credit monitoring to 22 million government employees and federal contractors whose personal data was compromised, OPM retroactively passed on these costs on to its customers -- resulting in an additional $132 million bill for DoD,” he said.

DoD to Reset Process and Procedures

Reid said the situation is “unacceptable and must be remedied through immediate mitigation measures and a long-term reformation of the personnel vetting system.”

He said that is why Congress directed DoD in 2017 to develop plans for assuming control of the background investigations.

In August, the defense secretary approved the plan and notified Congress, the director of national intelligence, the director of OPM, and the director of the Office of Management and Budget of his intent to execute the plan over a three-year period, according to Reid.

“The DoD plan goes far beyond a transfer of personnel and resources associated with the legacy process at OPM; this will be a full resetting of process and procedures in desperate need of modernization and system reform,” he said.

Military Aviation Leaders Discuss Readiness, Urge Budget Certainty

By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2017 — Top aviation military officials from the four services addressed Congress today on aviation readiness, all underscoring the urgent need for predictable budgets.

Army Maj. Gen. William K. Gayler, commanding general of the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and of Fort Rucker, Alabama; Lt. Gen. Mark C. Nowland, Air Force deputy chief of staff for operations; Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, Marine Corps deputy commandant for aviation; and Navy Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander of Naval Air Forces, spoke on aviation readiness at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee's readiness subcommittee.

"Every hour of every day, airmen support homeland defense, deter aggression from abroad and provide a robust and reliable nuclear deterrent," Nowland said.

However, the Air Force is quickly approaching an inflection point, he said, noting that 26 years of continuous operations have taken a toll on the force and adversaries are beginning to close the technological gap. The president's budget for fiscal year 2018, he added, lays the foundation to restore readiness and increase joint lethality.

"But most importantly an approved budget with stable, predictable funding levels will build the bridge to the future," he said. "Continuing resolutions and a return to the Budget Control Act measures reverse all the progress we've made to this point."


Gayler said Army Aviation has provided an "unparalleled advantage" to the nation as a fundamental element of the joint force. "There's no doubt that aviation will remain an essential element of any combat in the future," he said.

Army Aviation units and soldiers have been tested routinely in a variety of harsh operational environments over the past 16 years and through it all, have performed magnificently, Gayler said.

"However," he added, "force structure reductions, increased global requirements, funding uncertainty and the requirement to train our forces to a higher level of preparedness raise concerns about the overall future readiness of Army Aviation."

Challenges in Naval Air

Consistent, predictable funding is "absolutely required" to improve readiness and quality of service in naval aviation, Shoemaker said. "Then we must buy back the readiness we've lost from years of resource-constrained budgets."

To illustrate the challenges, he discussed the deployments of West Coast-based aircraft carriers.

"We are meeting the combatant commanders' requirement for ready, lethal carriers and air wings forward, but at a tremendous cost to the readiness of our forces at home," he said.

He described a "shell game" in moving various jets to equip the USS Carl Vinson, USS Nimitz and USS Theodore Roosevelt for their deployments this year. Once those jets are moved, nondeployed squadrons are left without an adequate number of assets to keep the aviators proficient and progressing toward career qualifications, he explained.

That has detrimental impacts on retention and experience levels, he said. In addition, parts had to be cannibalized from other jets, and hundreds of sailors had to be temporarily reassigned or have their sea duty extended.

Nation's Expeditionary Force in Readiness

Marine aviation readiness is improving, but fragile, Rudder saidThe readiness recovery of the Marine Corps lies in modernization and repair, he told the panel. He reiterated the need for consistent funding, and he highlighted the work of the men and women of the force who serve around the globe.

"The Marine Corps continues to be the nation's expeditionary force in readiness, and Marine Aviation is prepared to surge and fight wherever you ask them to," Rudder said.

Veterans Day While Deployed

By Air Force Tech. Sgt. Anthony Nelson, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing

AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 10, 2017 — Legacy, honor, freedom, valor, and patriotism. These are some of the underlying tones speaking to us on what we know as Veterans Day.

Unfailingly, for 98 years, America has remembered the uniformed service members serving our country on Nov.11, first as Armistice Day, later renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military -- in wartime or during peacetime.

“I would encourage people to learn their history and listen to the stories of older veterans whenever possible,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Dalia Theodule, command chief executive assistant. “There’s so much we take for granted because we are not directly impacted to an event.”

Acknowledging and showing appreciation to those living veterans for their service to our nation and national security is what this day is truly all about.

“Current and former military members made a commitment to this country that many others are not willing to make,” Theodule said. “It’s important to use this day to show gratitude.”

Added Meaning

For deployed troops, Veterans Day can bring about more of an intrinsic value and reflective outlook on the day.

“Since I've supported multiple operations, such as Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Inherent Resolve, I’m able to reflect on my personal experiences and sacrifices which make Veterans Day more meaningful to me,” said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Taress Daniels, air warfare center noncommissioned officer in charge of commander support staff. “This day signifies victory to me.”

Theodule emphasized that for her, Veteran’s Day this year is different because she’ll be celebrating it while on her first deployment.

“It’s an honor to be here, following in the steps of those before me and having the opportunity to serve my country in a different capacity” she said.

Helping service members to understand the importance of Veterans Day isn’t a no-brainer. Often times, there is a misunderstanding between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Memorial Day is a day to remember the men and women who died while serving in uniform.

According to Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Hamm, noncommissioned officer in charge of wing administration, holding Veterans Day ceremonies and programs helps educate and remind the general public and service members of the sacrifice, resiliency and what it means to be a veteran.

“It’s a time to celebrate those serving in the armed forces and to let your airmen know their role in the fight,” Daniels said. “Knowing how you contribute to the fight gives our airmen a sense of purpose, and Veterans Day is the perfect time to shed light on the mission and the impact of the hard work that our airmen are doing.”