1. Defense Budget: DoD Notifies Congress of Possible Civilian Furloughs
Most of the 800,000 Department of Defense civilian employees will see their workweeks shortened and their pay cut by 20 percent from late April through September, if Congress, as now expected, fails to stop $46 billion in indiscriminate defense budget cuts set to take effect March 1.
With lawmakers on a nine-day President’s Day recess, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta officially notified Congress Feb. 20 of the department’s intent to furlough the “vast majority” of its civilian workers. This, he said, will be necessary if Republicans and Democrats continue to refuse to negotiate a “balanced” debt-reduction deal to defuse or delay the “sequestration” budget bomb built into the 2011 Budget Control Act.
The furloughs would capture about $5 billion of needed savings but would hit overall readiness along with other plans to cut stateside base operations, reduce military training except for next-to-deploy units, delay maintenance of ships, aircraft, vehicles and facilities, suspend many scheduled ship deployments and make deep cuts in aircraft flying hours.
National Commander Koutz said Wednesday that “This cutback would not only impose an economic hardship on those workers and their families, but the resulting reduction in workforce coverage could also compromise national security."
Read more: http://www.legion.org/security/213908/legion-reiterates-anti-sequestrati...
Resolution No. 55: Protecting the Defense Budget http://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/2316/2012F055.pdf?s...
Resolution No. 63: Rebuild America’s Defense Industrial Base http://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/2224/2012N063.pdf?s...
2. Tricare Prime Update
Tricare Management Activity has a new online tool for retirees under age 65 and surviving spouses to verify if their Prime network will end Oct. 1, forcing them to use Tricare Standard.
With the new fiscal year, managed care networks operating beyond 40 miles of military treatment facilities or base closure sites will be halted under next-generation Tricare support contracts. The change, to impact 171,000 beneficiaries, is intended to cut Tricare costs for taxpayers.
At the website http://www.tricare.mil/psazip, Tricare users can type in their zip code and learn whether their Prime service area will exist after Sept. 30. They also can find contact information for contractors and can sign up for email alerts on additional changes planned to Prime service areas.
3. Inhofe Pushes Against Proceeding to Final Up-or-Down Vote on Hagel
The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee is calling for Republican senators to block former Sen. Chuck Hagel’s (R-Neb.) confirmation once again when the Senate returns next week.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to senators Thursday lobbying for them to vote against cloture on Hagel, saying that voting to end debate is the equivalent of voting to confirm Hagel for the top Pentagon post.
Republicans last week blocked Hagel’s confirmation from proceeding with a 58-40 vote, which was the first ever filibuster of a Defense secretary nominee.
Inhofe’s push against proceeding to a final up-or-down vote on Hagel when Congress returns puts him at odds with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) — who stepped down as ranking member of the Armed Services panel this year — and other Republicans who say they will vote for cloture next week even if they oppose Hagel’s confirmation.
Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/defcon-hill/policy-and-strategy/284301-inhofe-l...
1. US dispatches 100 troops to Niger to support French campaign in Mali
President Obama told Congress on Friday he had dispatched 40 more American troops to Niger this week, bringing the total U.S. military presence in the west African country to 100.
The troops have been deployed to support the intervention in neighboring Mali, where French troops have been helping local forces rout Islamist militants from the country's north since last month.
Here's the full letter:
TEXT OF A LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT TO THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE
February 22, 2013
Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)
On February 20, 2013, the last elements of a deployment of approximately 40 additional U.S. military personnel entered Niger with the consent of the Government of Niger. This deployment will provide support for intelligence collection and will also facilitate intelligence sharing with French forces conducting operations in Mali, and with other partners in the region. The total number of U.S. military personnel deployed to Niger is approximately 100. The recently deployed forces have deployed with weapons for the purpose of providing their own force protection and security.
I directed this deployment of U.S. forces in furtherance of U.S. national security interests, and pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct U.S. foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive.
I am providing this report as part of my efforts to keep the Congress fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148). I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action.
2. Nato to Consider Maintaining Larger Afghan Force
NATO is strongly considering a proposal to continue funding a security force of 352,000 Afghan troops through 2018, as part of an effort to maintain security and help convince Afghanistan that America and its allies will not abandon it once combat troops leave in 2014, senior alliance officials said Thursday.
Such a change, if NATO endorses it, could increase the costs to the U.S. and allies by more than $2 billion a year, at a time when most are struggling with budget cuts and fiscal woes. Last May, NATO agreed to underwrite an Afghan force of about 230,000, at a cost of about $4.1 billion a year after 2014. It costs about $6.5 billion this year to fund the current Afghan force of 352,000, and the U.S. is providing about $5.7 billion of that.
Maintaining the larger troop strength could bolster the confidence of the Afghan forces and make it clear that NATO is committed to an enduring relationship with Afghanistan, a senior NATO official said.
Asked about the plan, NATO Secretary-General Fogh Rasmussen confirmed to reporters that it was under consideration.
"From the economic point of view, it is actually less expensive to finance Afghan Security Forces than to deploy foreign troops," he said.
That argument, however, may be a harder sell in the U.S. Congress, where lawmakers are deadlocked over how to solve the budget crisis that is set to trigger furloughs for 800,000 federal workers in the Pentagon alone, along with $85 billion in broad, automatic spending cuts across the government.
NATO defense ministers, including outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, are meeting here and discussing progress in the Afghan war and the ongoing drawdown of troops. President Barack Obama announced in his State of the Union address that he will withdraw 34,000 American troops from Afghanistan by this time next year. There are about 66,000 there now.
Read more: http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/02/22/nato-to-consider-maintaini...
3. POW/MIA Update – Recently Accounted For:
• Master Sgt. Robert A. Stein, U.S. Army, Headquarters Battery, 57th Field Artillery Battalion, was lost on Dec. 4, 1950, near the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. He was accounted for on Feb. 6, 2013.
Director, National Security / Foreign Relations Division