1. China Announces Plan to Increase Defense Budget
China's recent announcement that it would increase defense spending by 12.2 percent in 2014 is making some American allies nervous in a region where perception matters and the possible flashpoints are numerous.
Those countries, mainly Japan and the Philippines, have come to rely on the U.S. military for protection from a neighbor who seems set on creating instability by expanding and intensifying territorial claims to disputed waterways, airways and islands in the Pacific.
Those actions coupled with U.S. plans to scale back military spending for the next several years have led to the perception that China is rising as the U.S. slips. That perception may be even more important in countries sitting on the fence, like Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar, which only recently started backing off from its close ties with China.
In reality, America's $495.6 billion defense budget dwarfs the $132 billion in spending planned by China this year, but some lawmakers in the region find little comfort in that fact, analysts say.
It will take China a long, long time before its budgets will effectively alter the military balance with the U.S. But that's not the main concern. While the U.S. still has some scope to respond, neighbors are getting much more nervous; Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines all know that they could be the first victim if the balance of power shifts at America's detriment.
In recent months, China has done its best to look like the bully on the block.
Late last year, it announced a new "air defense identification zone" over a broad swath of the East China Sea, requiring foreign aircraft to report flight paths and follow other regulations if they enter the zone.
Days after the announcement, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made it clear that the U.S. has no intention of complying.
According to Hagel, This announcement by the People's Republic of China will not in any way change how the United States conducts military operations in the region.
Then on March 9, China entered Japan's airspace, flying a surveillance plane and two bombers between Japan's Okinawa and Miyako islands. Japan's Air Self-Defense Force responded by scrambling its fighter jets.
The same day, Chinese Coast Guard vessels prevented two civilian ships contracted by the Philippine Navy from resupplying and rotating Philippine forces at its Ayungin Shoal, Philippine officials said.
Other incidents include Chinese submarines encroaching on Japan's outlying islands in 2013 and Chinese coast guard patrols around the disputed Senkaku islands in 2012. Earlier this year, Chinese vessels drove Filipino fishermen away from the Scarborough Shoal with water cannons and issued fishing regulations that would require foreign vessels to obtain Chinese approval before casting nets in the South China Sea.
2. Mental Health First Aid for Veterans Launches
This week staff from the national security division attended an event hosted by the National Press Club regarding a new program the assist veterans suffering from mental health issues. The National Council, along with leaders from veterans service organizations and fellow mental health advocates, today launched a new training program – Mental Health First Aid for Veterans – that offers participants a simple, proven combination of information and techniques to recognize and respond to the warning signs of mental illness and addiction.
The innovative new program was developed by and for service members. An estimated 30 percent of active duty and reserve military personnel who deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have mental health conditions requiring treatment – about 730,000 men and women – with many experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression. The National Council pioneered Mental Health First Aid in the U.S. and has trained more than 180,000 individuals to connect with youth and adults in need of mental health and addictions care in their communities. This new program builds on that successful effort.
"Given the number of veterans living with untreated mental health conditions, Mental Health First Aid for Veterans is needed now more than ever," said National Council President and CEO Linda Rosenberg. "This pioneering program gives people a tangible way to help those who have done so much for us. It recognizes the resilience and strength of our veteran community and fosters understanding, compassion and engagement among veterans and service members and within their larger community."
Rosenberg was joined by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy, Tom Tarantino with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Theresa Buchanan with the National Military Family Association, and Mental Health First Aid for Veterans instructors and trainees.
To find out more about the program visit:
3. Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission
- The MCRMC continues to hold meetings throughout the country. Below is a list of upcoming hearings:
May 7-8, 2014 - Executive Session, Arlington, VA
May 21-22, 2014 - MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL
June 25-26, 2014 - Fort Bragg, NC
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, by May 1, 2014 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.
4. POW/MIA Update
U.S. Army Air Forces 1st Lt. Louis L. Longman, 26, of Clinton, Iowa, will be buried April 12, in Rock Island, Ill. On April 16, 1944, Longman was the pilot of a P-38J Lightning aircraft that departed Nadzab, New Guinea, as part of a bomber escort mission against enemy targets on the island. His aircraft never returned after the mission, a day that came to be known as "Black Sunday" due to the extensive loss of American lives. Due to the nature of the war and mission, search and recovery efforts were unsuccessful.
A Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) team was investigating sites in the mountains of Papua New Guinea in February 2005, when two villagers turned over human remains that they claimed to have recovered from a wartime crash near their village. The team was not able to survey the site at that time.
From 2007 to 2010, JPAC survey and excavation teams recovered additional remains and aircraft wreckage from the site. To identify Longman's remains, scientists from JPAC and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools such as dental comparisons and mitochondrial DNA, which matched Longman's niece.
Of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II, more than 400,000 died. There are more than 73,000 servicemen whose remains were never recovered. Since 2007, the Department of Defense has identified and laid to rest 190 service members who were unaccounted-for from World War II.