May 3, 2013 - NS/FR Weekly Update

National Security

1. Defense Budget: Balancing the Budget
President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2014 budget request for the Defense Department is the best effort to match ends, ways and means, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee today.
The president’s request of $526.6 billion for the department’s base budget will allow DOD to implement the defense strategic guidance, Hagel said. However, the old statement, “The president proposes, the Congress disposes,” is key to the budget process, and the budget may not pass in its current form.
If the budget is significantly reduced, the secretary told the lawmakers, there may not be enough money to implement the strategic guidance.
“Everything will be on the table during this review -- roles and missions, planning, business practices, force structure, personnel and compensation, acquisition and modernization investments, how we operate, and how we measure and maintain readiness,” Hagel added.
The results -- due at the end of May -- will be used to build the fiscal 2015 budget request and will be the foundation for the Quadrennial Defense Review due to Congress in February.
“We are now in a different fiscal environment,” he added, “dealing with new realities that will force us to more fully confront these tough and painful choices and to make the reforms we need to make to put this department on a path to sustain our military strength for the 21st century.”
Related Resolution: No. 55: Protecting the Defense Budget

2. Poor Mental Health Is a ‘Signature Scar’ of Afghanistan and Iraq Wars
Persistent mental health conditions -- anxiety, depression and sleep disorders -- along with neck, back, and joint pains among Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans may someday “be recognized as signature scars of the long war,” that began with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Armed Forces Heath Surveillance Center reported today.
The center, which conducts epidemiological and health surveillance studies for the Defense Department, said in the April issue of its Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, that “mental disorders were the only illness/injury category for which hospitalization rates markedly increased.” They were 8 percent higher in 2006 than 2002 and more than twice as high in 2012. The center examined health care provided to active duty service members from 2001 through 2012.
The long-war study came up with several unanticipated findings. Most notably, that “no major categories of illnesses or injuries accounted for marked increases in rates of hospitalizations or ambulatory visits among U.S. military members until the fifth year (2006) of the war period.”
The Center said its findings have important implications, including that “there may be dose-response relationships between the cumulative exposure of a military forces to war fighting and the natures and magnitudes of their health care needs.”
The Center said that clinical manifestations, such as mental and musculoskeletal disorders, resulting from continuous exposure to combat, may not appear for several years.
War-related stresses may increase over time: “Prolonged exposures to war fighting may be chronic and resistant to treatment. If so, clinical manifestations of the war may persist among many war veterans long after war fighting ends,” the report said.
This means that veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars could require long-term care, the Center said. “To the extent that some adverse health effects of prolonged periods of war fighting may be persistent and resistant to treatment, medical care may be needed by large numbers of war veterans long after war fighting ends.”
It concluded, “If so, someday persistence of anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, neck, back, and joint pains, headache, and various ill-defined conditions among Afghanistan/Iraq war veterans may be recognized as signature scars of the long war.”
In April 2008, the nonprofit RAND Corp. estimated the cost of dealing with post-combat stress and psychological illnesses of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans at $6.2 billion for just the first two years after troops return home. These costs include direct medical care, lost productivity and suicides.
The long war report backs up a study done by the center last November that showed mental disorders accounted for 63 percent of excess hospitalizations for active duty troops from October 2001 through June 2012 compared to pre-war rates.
The center also reported in its April surveillance report that in 2012, mental disorders topped the list as the cause of hospitalizations for active duty troops -- 16,175, or 26 percent out of a total of 85,901 hospital admissions.
“Adjustment reactions (including post-traumatic stress disorder) and episodic mood disorders were associated with more hospitalizations among active component members than any other specific condition,” the report said. “Together, these two conditions accounted for 18 percent and 20 percent of all hospitalizations of males and females (excluding pregnancy/delivery), respectively,” it said. Alcohol dependence accounted for 11 percent of hospitalizations in 2012.
Hospitalizations for mental health disorders have jumped by more than 50 percent since 2008. The Center said this sharp increase likely reflects repeated deployments, prolonged exposure to combat stress, improved mental health screening and a heightened awareness by commanders and families about mental health issues.

Foreign Relations

1. House Foreign Affairs Committee
This week, staff from the national security and foreign relations division attended hearings held by the House Foreign Relations Committee regarding Islamist Extremism in Chechnya.
The attacks by the Tsarnaev brothers in Boston, as well as the 9/11 attacks, have provoked feelings of solidarity with the American people and especially with the citizens of Boston among the Russian people and Kremlin leadership. Just as he did in 2001, President Putin expressed his readiness to cooperate with the U.S. government to uncover all the details that led to the tragedy in Boston and, as far as I know, the secret services of both countries are now actively working together on this.
It is crucial to point out that the Russian side and Russian secret services tracked the contacts of the Tsarnaevs and turned to the American authorities so that they could investigate them. Unfortunately, the evident remaining distrust between the two countries and the doubts of the American side that Russia is indeed combating Chechen terrorism in the Caucasus must have caused the authorities to not take the warning seriously enough. Today, we no longer need to strive to convince anyone that Chechen terrorism has crossed the borders of Russia. The people of Boston felt it for themselves. The Russian media and Russian secret services have information of Chechen Islamists and Islamists from other regions of the North Caucasus having joined the ranks of jihadists in various parts of the world. There is even information that they fight in Syria on the side of the opposition and against the legitimate government.

2. North Korea: Still Critical U.S. Security Threat
North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear capabilities and development of long-range ballistic missile programs make it one of the most critical U.S. security challenges in Northeast Asia, according to the Defense Department’s first report to Congress on that nation’s military development.
Required to be produced annually in classified and unclassified versions by Section 1236 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2012, the report is DOD’s authoritative statement on North Korea’s current and future military power, Pentagon officials said. It was developed by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and the Defense Intelligence Agency.
On a smaller scale, North Korea has used military provocation to achieve national goals, the report notes. In 2010, for example, it sank the South Korean naval vessel, Cheonan, killing 46 South Korean sailors, and shelled Yeonpyeong Island, killing two South Korean marines and two civilians.
North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear technology and capabilities and its development of long-range ballistic missile programs -- including the December 2012 Taepodong-2 missile launch and the April 2012 display of a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile -- demonstrate North Korea’s threat to regional stability and U.S. national security, the report observed.
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POW/MIA Update

JPAC Team Begins Second Investigation Mission In Myanmar
A 10-person team from the U.S. Joint Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Command returned to Myanmar to begin the second joint investigation mission of the year.
The team will investigate five cases in the vicinity of Mandalay during the approximately month-long mission.
In February and March, a nine-person team conducted research and field investigations in Taungoo, Rangoon, and Mandalay. The team also began an outreach effort requesting local citizens with information on the whereabouts of U.S. servicemembers or downed U.S. aircraft to share the information with JPAC, the U.S. Embassy-Rangoon and the Office of Chief of Military Security Affairs. This initiative resulted in more than 200 reports, which will aid in the investigation efforts for this mission.
JPAC last conducted recovery operations in Myanmar eight years ago. There are approximately 730 Americans unaccounted for in this country from World War II.
With the support and cooperation of the host countries, JPAC conducts a global, humanitarian mission to search, recover, and conduct laboratory operations to identify unaccounted-for Americans from past conflicts in order to support the Department of Defense’s personnel accounting efforts.
Falling directly under the U.S. Pacific Command and employing more than 500 joint military and civilian personnel, JPAC continues its search for the fullest possible accounting of Americans still unaccounted for from past conflicts.
Follow up missions are planned for 2014

John Stovall
Director, National Security / Foreign Relations Division