1. Defense Budget
Yesterday, Chuck Hagel, U.S. defense secretary, stated his main concern continues to be the budget cuts caused by budget laws known as "sequestration." Hagel said that unless Congress changes the budget cuts made by the 2011 law, the Department of Defense will have to cut $50 billion a year from their base budget. That's in addition to the $490 billion cuts the Defense Department is implementing now over 10 years.
Last year, the Defense Department had to cut $37 billion. Last year, Sequestration meant pilots couldn't fly and in many cases, could not train soldiers. It also meant Defense professionals had to be temporarily furloughed from their jobs. Hagel said the Pentagon has been making the case in budget presentations that future sequestration budgeting could mean very abrupt cuts that will be more overarching than past cuts.
He explained that if this policy continued it would mean sending men and women into harm’s way without being ready or capable. Should that ever happen, it would be a great failure of leadership, he said. Sequestration, passed in 2011 as part of the Budget Control Act, could mean fewer Pentagon purchases of helicopters, planes and ships. That prospect is not appealing, said Hagel.
In May 2013, the Army reversed course when it became clear a $224.8 million sequestration-related cut would result in a cut of 37,000 flight hours and 500 training positions at Fort Rucker. In April 2013, the Army stopped transferring officers into helicopter training school there due to uncertainties about how many positions were available.
Hagel also pointed out that the war in Afghanistan is the nation's longest, at 14 years. And with an all-volunteer force, he said.
On Iraq, Hagel seemed to rule out using ground troops for an attack on ISIS terrorists making their way through the Middle Eastern nation. But he did not rule out air strikes and surveillance in Iraq.
2. Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission
- The MCRMC continues to hold meetings throughout the country. The upcoming hearing:
July 23-24, 2014 - Executive Session, Arlington, VA
The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission was established to conduct a review of military compensation and retirement systems and to make recommendations to modernize such systems. The Commission is tasked to submit a report, containing a comprehensive study and recommendations this month to the President of the United States and Congress. The report will contain detailed findings and conclusions of the Commission, together with its recommendations for such legislation and administrative actions it may consider appropriate in light of the results of the study.
3. POW/MIA Update
Americans Accounted For: There are still 1,642 personnel listed by the Department of Defense (DoD) as missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War, a number that had not changed since October of last year until early March, and it has since remained the same. Most recently, the name of Captain Douglas Ferguson, USAF, listed as MIA in Laos on December 30, 1969, was released. Captain Ferguson’s remains were recovered April 13, 2013, and identified February 14, 2014. The number of Americans announced by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is now 941. Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and ID’d before the end of the war, bring the official total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,004.
Field Operations: JPAC had planned to conduct a Joint Field Activity (JFA) in Laos January 14th to February 17th, but it was cancelled due to complications related to receipt of timely funding. Three Recovery Teams (RTs) had been scheduled, along with one Investigation Team (IT), augmented by the DIA Stony Beach specialist. A longer JFA began March 4th and concluded April 14th, though only one RT and one IT were deployed. The next JFA in Laos started May 9th and concluded June 22nd, with only two RTs, again far below the cap of 53 US personnel operating simultaneously in Laos. JPAC will host bi-annual POW/MIA Consultations with Laos on August 26th in Hawaii.