National Security report - 6/19/14

1. Defense Budget
This week, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke at a Senate Appropriations hearing on the future of the defense budget. After more than a decade of large, land-based operations driven by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proposed Defense Department budget for the coming fiscal year focuses on new and emerging threats, including those in cyberspace, with the department proposing significant reductions in the size of the Army and Marines.
The department is taking a $75 billion hit in its budget this year and next. This is a concern shared by DoD leadership that we will not be able to keep our current force structure adequately ready and modernized under the strict budget limits being imposed on the department. And unless Congress changes the law to prevent another budget sequester another $50 billion will come out of the department’s budget every year through 2021.
As outlined in the president’s budget request sent to Congress earlier this year, the department still proposes drawing down the active duty Army by 13 percent over the next five years to as low 440,000 soldiers, which is still adequate to defend the nation and respond to future threats.
The Navy will have 11 carrier strike groups, but 11 cruisers will be set aside for modernization and retrofitting, while the Air Force will see the 50-year-old U-2 surveillance plane replaced by the unmanned Global Hawk aircraft, as well as an end to the aging A-10 attack aircraft.
Compensation for those in uniform is being adjusted, with the department slowing the growth in pay increases, while subsidies for off-base housing will be reduced as well. Co-pays for retirees and family members under the TRICARE health care plan will face modest increases, but health care for active duty personnel will remain free, the adjustments are tied to resourcing readiness.
Read more at:

2. Senate Hearing on Afghanistan
This week, staff from the national security division attended a hearing on the transition of Afghanistan. The hearing included comments from two expert speakers, the honorable James Dobbins, U.S. Department of State and Ms. Kelly Magsamen, Department of Defense.
The hearing was set in response to the President’s plan to have all U.S. military out of Afghanistan by the end of 2016. The highlighted topic of the event was a comparison to the security problems in Iraq that have been exposed as a result of the resent invasion by ISIS forces. The committee showed great concern about the ability of the U.S. trained Afghanistan security forces to protect its villages once our troops have withdrawn.
Watch highlights from the event at:

3. Senate Hearing on Intelligence
This week, staff from the national security division attended a hearing on the government intelligence community overseeing its contracting workforce. The expert speakers who attended the hearing included Stephanie O’Sullivan, Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Timothy DiNapoli, Government Accountability Office.
The hearing discussed the committee’s concern for the government’s ability to efficiently manage its large contracting workforce to include areas where overspending may be taking place.
The Government Accountability Office discussed a survey they are conducting at each intelligence office harnesses the use of contractors to fill government positions. They believe the survey will be one of the primary tools to make fast initial adjustments to the contracting workforce.

4. 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
Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2014
Location: Embassy Suites, 4760 Lake Valley Drive, Fayetteville, North Carolina 28303
Time Panel
10:00 am to 12:00 pm Senior Local Military Commanders and Senior Enlisted Advisors
1:30 pm to 3:00 pm TBD (Local Military/Veteran Transition Service Organizations)
3:15 pm to 5:00 pm Department of Defense and Local Schools
Date: Tuesday, June 25, 2014
Location: Embassy Suites, 4760 Lake Valley Drive, Fayetteville, North Carolina 28303
Time: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm June 25-26, 2014 - Fort Bragg, NC
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.

5. POW/MIA Update
Army Sgt. Delbert D. Kovalcheck, 20, of E. Millsboro, Pa., will be buried June 11, in Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C. In late 1950, Kovalcheck was assigned to Headquarters Company, 3rd Battalion, 31st Regimental Combat Team (RCT), deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir, in North Korea. On Nov. 29, 1950, the 31st RCT, known historically as Task Force Faith, began a fighting withdrawal to a more defensible position. Following the battle, Kovalcheck was reported missing in action.
Between 1991 and 1994, North Korea turned over 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 Sinhung-ri, near the area where Kovalcheck was believed to have died.
To identify Kovalcheck’s remains, scientists from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) used circumstantial evidence and forensic identification tools, including DNA comparisons. Two types of DNA were used; mitochondrial DNA, which matched his maternal-line niece, and Y-STR DNA, which matched his paternal-line cousin.
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.