1. Defense Budget
In a flurry of activity that wrapped up early this week, the US House of Representatives pushed through several controversial amendments to the $570.4 billion 2015 defense appropriations bill before handing its version off to the Senate for its own markups this summer.
The legislation included several hot-button amendments opposed by the Pentagon and the White House.
The bill, which includes $491 billion in base budget funding plus a $79.4 billion "placeholder" for the overseas contingency operations (OCO) account, which the White House has yet to deliver to the Hill, will now wait until the Senate Appropriations Committee marks up its version after the July 4 recess. That would give the Senate about two weeks to pass its version before Congress goes home for August.
The House bill includes $789 million to refuel and overhaul the aircraft carrier George Washington. The Senate Armed Services Committee last month authorized $650 million for the same purpose.
The House bill also approves $5.8 billion on 38 F-35 aircraft, $975 million for the Navy to purchase 12 more EA-18G Growlers, and $1.6 billion for seven KC-46A tankers, in addition to approving amendments to block the mothballing of the venerable A-10 attack plane and the KC-10 refueling tanker, both platforms that the Pentagon has said it wants to begin to retire in favor of newer aircraft. The Air Force has said that retiring the A-10 alone would save the service $4.2 billion over the next five years.
The amendment adds to the earlier Senate Armed Services Committee authorization bill that would block the retirement of the A-10, and the House's passage of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, which did the same when passed this year.
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2. Still a Long Way to Go: Military Electronic Health Records System
Top managers of the Defense Department's estimated $11 billion healthcare modernization program seek a single integrated electronic health records system that will be interoperable with external health networks and require no customization for the various armed services.
Anticipating the release—expected in the next three months—of the final request for proposals, more than 400 people representing veterans' service organizations and contractors attended an Industry Day on June 25 to learn more about DoD's requirements for its planned 10-year Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization (DHMSM) contract. National Security Division staff participated on behalf of The American Legion.
Program managers said the system must be able to exchange data with the Veterans Affairs Department, other federal agencies and private TRICARE providers. More than 60 percent of care for the population occurs outside DoD.
Replacing antiquated records systems will give DoD health care practitioners access to medical and dental records for 9.6 million patients worldwide wherever and whenever needed. That includes more than 1,000 military treatment facilities in the field, aboard ships and planes, in base hospitals and clinics, and in communities.
The program seeks to acquire a service provider/integrator with an off-the-shelf EHR system. The goals are enabling clinicians to provide better patient care through improved decision making, better service and cost savings.
3. Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission
- The MCRMC continues to hold meetings throughout the country. Below is a list of upcoming hearings:
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.
4. POW/MIA Update
Army Sgt. Paul M. Gordon, 20, of Dry Ridge, Ky., was buried on June 20, in Williamstown, Ky. In 1951, Gordon was assigned to Company H, 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, deployed in the vicinity of Wonju, South Korea. On January 7, 1951, following a battle against enemy forces, Gordon was listed as missing in action.
In September 1953, as part of a prisoner exchange, known as Operation Big Switch, returning U.S. service members reported that Gordon had been captured by the Chinese during that battle and taken to a prisoner of war camp, where he died in June 1951.
Between 1991 and 1994, North Korea gave the U.S. 208 boxes of human remains believed to contain 350 - 400 U.S. servicemen who fought during the war. North Korean documents, turned over with some of the boxes, indicated that some of the remains were recovered from a POW camp in North Hwanghae Province, near the area where Gordon was believed to have died.
To identify Gordon's remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including DNA comparisons. Two types of DNA were used, mitochondrial DNA, which matched his sister and brother, and Y-STR DNA, which matched his brother.
Today, 7,883 Americans remain unaccounted for from the Korean War. Using modern technology, identifications continue to be made from remains that were previously turned over by North Korean officials or recovered from North Korea by American teams.