April 26, 2013 - NS/FR Weekly Update

National Security

1. Defense Budget: Lawmakers Take a Stand against BRAC
The White House is determined to shutter bases as it draws down the size of the military — a plan Pentagon leaders say is vital to the Defense Department’s long-term fiscal health.
But on Capitol Hill, base closures are a toxic issue among Democrats and Republicans alike.
In his budget request for the next fiscal year, President Barack Obama proposed a 2015 round of Base Realignment and Closure. Already, though, lawmakers with bases at stake back home are fighting to overturn the plan, just as they did last year.
Here’s a look at five military installations most at risk of being shuttered under another round of BRAC — and the political forces conspiring to keep them open.
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/04/brac-military-base-closings-pentag...
Related Resolution: No. 55: Protecting the Defense Budget http://archive.legion.org/bitstream/handle/123456789/2316/2012F055.pdf?s...

2. Senate Armed Services Committee
This week staff attended a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the Navy in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2014. The panel included Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and CNO of the Navy Admiral Greenert. Senators expressed particular concern about the Navy’s ability to carry out it’s mission considering current budget constraints, including sequestration cuts.
Link to webcast: http://www.armed-services.senate.gov/hearings/event.cfm?eventid=ae1449f6...

3. TRICARE: Most Beneficiaries Unaffected by Prime Service Area Reductions
TRICARE Prime will remain a health care option for 97 percent of approximately 5 million beneficiaries eligible for Prime. The 3 percent difference, comprising about 171,000 beneficiaries, will automatically revert to the TRICARE Standard health care option on Oct. 1, 2013. Those beneficiaries, who mostly reside more than 40 miles from a military clinic or hospital recently received a letter explaining their options and will receive a reminder letter in June or July.
“The first thing TRICARE beneficiaries should know about the reduction in the number of Prime Service Areas (PSAs) is that it doesn’t mean they’re losing their TRICARE benefit,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for Health Affairs. “Next, it’s important to remember this change does not affect most of the more than 5 million people using TRICARE Prime, and none of our active duty members and their families.”
TRICARE is committed to keeping beneficiaries informed about these changes. As a follow-up to the initial notification, a second letter will be mailed in early summer to make sure all affected beneficiaries have the time and information to make important decisions about their future health care options.
The TRICARE website, www.tricare.mil/PSA, has the most current details and gives beneficiaries the option to sign for e-mail updates. A ZIP code tool is available on the site to help beneficiaries determine if they live in an affected PSA.
As always, TRICARE beneficiaries are still covered by TRICARE Standard. For those living within 100 miles of a remaining PSA, re-enrolling in Prime may be an option depending on availability. To do this, beneficiaries must waive their drive-time standards and, possibly, travel long distances for primary and specialty care.
Resolution No. 24: Oppose TRICARE fee increases

Foreign Relations

1. Senate Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
This week, staff attended a hearing held by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations regarding strategies for enhancing our alliances and partnerships in the Asia Pacific.
For two Centuries the United States has pursued policies that kept Asia and the Pacific open to our trade and our values and that prevented a rival hegemon from closing the region off to us. Today Asia is returning to the center of global affairs, and Americans knows it. 60% of our exports go to the region now and polls show that for the first time Americans consider Asia to be the most important part of the world to our national interests.
However, just as global power is shifting to Asia, power dynamics within Asia are also shifting. Some scholars argue that we are returning to a Sino-Centric system in Asia, pointing out that China trades more with America’s major allies –Japan, Korea and Australia –than the United States does.
For the future, America must engage this region more heavily though non-military means both diplomatic and economically in order to sustain its economic presence in the region.
The panels included Dr. Michael J. Green, Senior Vice President and Japan Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies. Dr. Green is an Associate Professor at Georgetown University. Guest speakers at the hearing on Navy oversight included the Honorable Raymond E. Mabus, Jr., Secretary of the Navy, Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, and General James F. Amos, USMC, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Link to webcast:

2. Syria: White House - Action on Chemical Weapons Requires Clearer Evidence
There is evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons on its own people, but the world needs “clear evidentiary facts” before acting, a White House official said today.
The official spoke to reporters on background after the release of a White House letter to Senate leaders saying that “our intelligence community does assess with varying degrees of confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically the chemical agent sarin.”
For some time, President Barack Obama has been concerned that Bashar Assad’s regime would use some of its significant chemical stockpile against the Syrian people, and he tasked intelligence agencies to monitor the country, the official said. The president has said any number of times that Syrian use of chemical weapons or transfer of chemical weapons to terror groups would cross a “red line.”
While intelligence indicates that sarin was used, more facts need to be ascertained, the White House official said.
Read more at: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=119878

POW/MIA Update
Master Sgt. Robert A. Stein, U.S. Army, 31st Regimental Combat Team, was lost late on December 2, 1950 in North Korean along the Chosin Reservoir near Sinhung-ri, South Hamgyong Province. He was accounted for on Apr. 22, 2013.

John Stovall
Director, National Security / Foreign Relations Division