1. Defense Budget
While the U.S. Defense Department’s Afghanistan war budget is expected to receive little resistance from lawmakers, the Pentagon is under pressure from the White House Office of Management Budget to lower, then eliminate supplemental requests.
The overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget, sent to Capitol Hill last week, requests $58.6 billion in war-related spending in fiscal 2015. That’s about $20 billion less than the Pentagon’s 2014 OCO request.
The OCO request comes on top of the Defense Department’s $496 billion 2015 base budget request, submitted in March.
Over the years, the Pentagon has used the OCO budget to pay for personnel costs associated with the troop surges in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as wartime operations and maintenance. OCO funds have also been used to buy new weapons; the 2015 request includes $6 billion for procurement.
But now as operations in Afghanistan wind down, experts are questioning how much longer the Pentagon will have access to the OCO accounts, and they note the dangers inherent in DoD’s long-term reliance on them. Some sources said the 2016 OCO budget might be the last big one. One said military service leaders believe they will have access to OCO money for two years beyond the last troop leaving Afghanistan.
2. Iraq Update
U.S. officials are waiting to hear the assessment that U.S. special operations troops are making of Iraqi security forces before making a decision on further support, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here yesterday.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey told reporters following a speech at the Pacific Club this week that U.S. officials could not decide what kind of assistance to provide when Iraq first asked for help. “We didn’t have enough information to understand what kind of assistance we could provide,” he said.
The six assessment teams -- each led by a senior officer -- have started fanning out of Baghdad to visit Iraqi brigades and larger units. Reports out of Iraq when the extremists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant first crossed into western Iraq had the Iraqi army breaking and running. ISIL militants took Iraq’s third-largest city, Mosul, and were moving south toward Baghdad.
Dempsey said it is important to note that the assessment is being conducted concurrently with Iraq’s political leaders seeking to form a new government. “As I’ve said repeatedly, their ability to find political reconciliation among groups and to present an inclusive face to the people of Iraq -- who are counting on them to lead -- will be an important factor in determining what we do going forward,” he said.
The assessment teams are part of the second group of Americans ordered to Iraq. The first was a security team to protect the U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy. Also part of the second group were service members who set up a joint operations center with Iraqi forces.
The third group, with helicopters and remotely piloted aircraft, will hold a critical piece of infrastructure at Baghdad International Airport.
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. servicemembers 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.