1. House Passes Troop Pay Raise; Rejects Tricare Reform and BRAC
The House passed legislation Thursday that tacitly approves a 1.8 percent pay raise for military service members next year, and includes a number of other pay, benefits and workforce provisions.
The chamber approved the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 325-98 before the start of the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The 1.8 percent pay bump for troops is in line with the automatic fiscal 2015 cost-of-living adjustment scheduled for the military; there is not an explicit provision regarding a pay raise in the legislation, but by staying silent, lawmakers are supporting the amount that would automatically take place under the law.
The Defense authorization bill rejected the administration's proposed reductions to TRICARE, the Defense Department's health care program. Obama's fiscal 2015 budget would implement annual enrollment fees for the Medicare-eligible retirees in the TRICARE for Life program, phased in over a four-year period. Current participants would be grandfathered in, and not subject to the fees. The White House also wants to increase pharmacy prescription co-payments for all active-duty and military retirees to "incentivize" the use of mail order and generic drugs, which cost less.
The bill also jettisoned the administration's proposal to execute another round of base closures. "The committee is concerned that efficiencies associated with the BRAC process are offset with the inability to quickly dispose of excess property and the potential lack of overall savings to the federal government," the committee report said. "For example, there are numerous instances where the Department of Defense conveyed excess properties to other federal agencies and the overall government may not have saved money." The legislation directs the Defense secretary to submit a report by March 1, 2015, onBRAC's effectiveness.
Overall, the fiscal 2015 Defense bill in its current form would authorize $521.3 billion in spending for national defense in fiscal 2015, and an additional $79.4 billion for overseas contingency operations, which is $30.8 billion less and $1.3 billion less respectively than enacted for fiscal 2014. Still, the House bill includes $45 billion more in fiscal 2015 than President Obama's proposal.
The Senate Armed Services Committee began marking up its fiscal 2015 Defense authorization bill on Wednesday and expected to finish on Thursday.
2. Iran's Looming Nuclear Threat
This week the national security division staff attending a meeting hosted by the Heritage Foundation regarding Iran's nuclear weapons capabilities and what actions the United States should considers to deal with this threat.
Iran's advanced nuclear program may be the world's most important emerging international security challenge. If not stopped, a nuclear-capable Iran will mean an even more crisis-prone Middle East, a potential nuclear-arms race in the region and around the world, and an increased risk of nuclear war against Israel and the United States, among many other imminent global threats.
Dr. Matthew Kroenig, an internationally recognized authority on Iran's nuclear program, spoke at the event, Dr. Kroenig explained why we need to take immediate steps to a diplomatic and, if necessary, a military solution – now – before Iran makes any further nuclear advances. In A Time to Attack, he provides an authoritative account of the history of Iran's nuclear program and the international community's attempts to stop it. Dr. Kroenig then explains and assesses the options available to policymakers and reflects on what the resolution of the Iranian nuclear challenge can mean for the future of international order.
View the full event at this link:
Resourcing the Pivot to Asia: East Asia and Pacific FY 2015 Budget Priorities
This week, the national security division staff attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific hearing regarding fiscal year 2015 budget requests. This is in response to the President's robust Fiscal Year 2015 budget request of $810.7 million for Department of State and USAID assistance in East Asia and the Pacific enables USAID to continue helping to lay the foundations for lasting progress in the region. Asia has become a key driver of global politics and economics and is closely tied to America's security and prosperity.
Over the past three decades, the East Asia-Pacific region has experienced an unprecedented period of prosperity, propelling roughly 845 million people out of extreme poverty. Home to nearly one-third of the world's population, the region in 2013 contributed well over 40 percent of global growth and accounted for nearly 40 percent of global exports growth higher than any other region in the world, according to the World Bank. Growth in East Asia and the Pacific is creating new trade partners for the United States, which drives growth here at home. For example, between 2008 and 2012, U.S. exports to this region grew by more than 30 percent. A core component of President Obama's Asia-Pacific Rebalance strategy is ensuring the region continues on this path and contributes to greater stability and prosperity throughout East Asia and the Pacific and beyond.
View the full hearing at this link:
The Development of Energy Resources in Central Asia
The national security division staff also attended a House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats. The hearing discussed the future of the United States winding down its decade-plus of military operations in Afghanistan, and the need to place its engagement with the states of Central Asia on a new basis. Focusing on creating a more favorable economic environment can help bring more foreign investment to the region, which in the longer term will be the major factor determining the extent to which the United States and its allies believe they have a stake in Central Asia's development and prosperity.
View the full hearing at this link:
4. Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission
- The MCRMC continues to hold meetings throughout the country. Below is a list of upcoming hearings:
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.
5. POW/MIA Update
Air Force Capt. Douglas D. Ferguson, 24, of Tacoma, Wash., was buried on May 2, in Lakewood, Wash. On Dec. 30, 1969, Ferguson was on an armed reconnaissance mission when his F-4D Phantom II aircraft crashed in Houaphan Province, Laos. A U.S. forward air controller saw an explosion on the ground and interpreted it to be that of Ferguson's aircraft. He reported seeing no survivors. Ferguson was carried as missing in action until a military review board later amended his status to presumed killed in action.
Between 1994 and 1997, joint U.S./Lao People's Democratic Republic (L.P.D.R.) teams conducted investigations of the crash site. U.S. aircraft wreckage and personal effects were found that confirmed this as the crash site of Ferguson's F-4D.
From October 2009 to April 2013, joint U.S./L.P.D.R. teams excavated the site three times and recovered human remains.
In the identification of Ferguson, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, such as dental comparisons, which matched his records, and mitochondrial DNA, which matched Ferguson's maternal line sister and nephew.
Today there are 1,642 American servicemembers that are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.