From: "Seavey, Mark C." <mseavey>
Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Thursday, March 22, 2018 which is National Sing Out Day, As Young As You Feel Day, National Goof Off Day and World Water Day.
This Day in History:
- In an effort to raise funds to pay off debts and defend the vast new American territories won from the French in the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), the British government passes the Stamp Act on this day in 1765. The legislation levied a direct tax on all materials printed for commercial and legal use in the colonies, from newspapers and pamphlets to playing cards and dice.
- 1947: In response to public fears and Congressional investigations into communism in the United States, President Harry S. Truman issues an executive decree establishing a sweeping loyalty investigation of federal employees.
- On this day in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Beer and Wine Revenue Act. This law levies a federal tax on all alcoholic beverages to raise revenue for the federal government and gives individual states the option to further regulate the sale and distribution of beer and wine.
- On March 22, 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment is passed by the U.S. Senateand sent to the states for ratification
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Military Times: Lawmakers nearly passed three major VA reform bills this week. Now that plan is dead.
- Defense News: Congress races to pass $1.3T defense-friendly omnibus and avoid shutdown
- FoxNews: Teacher who called military ‘lowest of the low’ is fired
- Defense News: Congress provides $3.3 billion boost for missile defense in FY18 spending bill
- Army Times: Dedication ceremony set for monument honoring Vietnam helicopter pilots, crews
- WHSV: Veteran training program teaches local companies how to hire veterans
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Military Times: Lawmakers nearly passed three major VA reform bills this week. Now that plan is dead.
By: Leo Shane III 10 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — House appropriators released their omnibus budget bill on Wednesday without a proposed package of veterans reforms included, a missed opportunity that has lawmakers and veterans groups worried whether the ideas will ever move forward.
The $1.3 trillion spending package — which includes the full fiscal 2018 funding for the Department of Defense, Veterans Affairs and other federal agencies — must be passed by the end of the week to avoid another partial government shutdown. Officials released the overall spending parameters for the budget in last month, but worked out funding details for the massive measure in recent days.
The must-pass nature of the legislation made it a target for a host of special interest items, including the proposed VA reforms.
The package circulated among lawmakers and outside advocates called for an overhaul of VA community care programs — the White House’s top legislative priority for the department this year — along with an expansion of veteran caregiver benefits and a review of the VA system’s national footprint.
All three issues have been the center of contentious fights on Capitol Hill, and the compromise package was hailed by veterans groups in a letter to congressional leaders as a step that would “measurably improve the lives of millions of veterans today and in the future.”
Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee agreed to the plan, as did House Republican leaders. But House Democrats raised a host of objections to the idea in recent days, sidelining the possible reforms for now.
The community care changes are part of the department’s efforts to phase out the controversial VA Choice program, which allows veterans who meet certain criteria to receive care from private sector doctors at taxpayer expense.
Earlier in the day, VA Secretary David Shulkin testified that the Choice program is set to run out of money in early June, potentially disrupting medical plans for tens of thousands of veterans nationwide. He has pushed Congress for a solution that would ease eligibility restrictions and simplify all VA outside care programs into a single funding stream.
Getting that done as a stand alone will be more difficult, especially given the contentious behind-the-scenes negotiations between Republicans and Democrats in the House.
After the budget bill release, House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said he was disappointed by the result, but added “that doesn’t change the fact that veterans and their caregivers need these reforms.
“I thank Chairman Isakson, Ranking Member Tester, the administration and Veterans Service Organizations for negotiating in good faith,” he said. “Our work continues.”
He noticeably did not reference House Democrats, who Republican blamed for blocking a deal over political issues. Party officials have hinted they may try to block the budget bill over a host of concerns, including immigration issues missing from the measure.
But Griffin Anderson, spokesman for the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee’s Democrats, said the decision to oppose the VA reforms deal came down to policy concerns, not politics.
He called the proposal too rushed and incomplete for the minority party to support. He said the community care overhaul plan still relied on arbitrary eligibility rules, the asset review plan would undermine VA infrastructure, and neither of those reforms had the promise of new appropriations with them.
“Similarly, the caregiver proposal, which fully expands access to all generations of veterans and is a top priority for us, wouldn’t see a single dollar,” he said. “Yes, the program would be authorized, but there would not be any money to fund this expansion and no clear way to provide that funding going forward.”
Republican officials blasted those criticisms as ridiculous. They noted that committee ranking member Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., has previously offered identical legislative proposals on caregivers expansion and community care issues in the past.
“All these proposals have been considered by either the House or Senate committees through regular order,” said Tiffany Haverly, spokeswoman for Roe.
She dismissed the funding concerns and said Democrats have been inconsistent with their concerns over the asset review and outside care changes. She also noted that their Senate committee counterparts had signed on to the plan.
On Wednesday, before the official omnibus release, Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee ranking member Jon Tester, D-Mont., lamented the inability to reach a compromise.
“The negotiations with the omnibus, everybody was on the same sheet, including the White House,” he said. “Hopefully we can get his passed, because it’s the final piece of a puzzle to hold VA accountable for both VA care and choice care.
“I don’t know about the House. The bill we passed (in the Senate committee) is a good bill. And it has been held up by a few people, and we need to get over it.”
Veterans groups were similarly upset that a compromise could not be reached.
“The last few days have been disappointing working on this,” said Joe Chennelly, executive director at AMVETS. “This is a key opportunity to finally meet a number of key legislative needs for veterans of all eras … Now that these efforts and this opportunity seem to have been wasted, we are searching for a path forward.”
Carlos Fuentes, national legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said his group is also worried failed reforms bid now makes future progress on the issues more difficult.
“We’re starting to hear that facilities are starting to run out of choice funds,” he said. “Veterans are starting to get impacted. We need to get something done and stop punting.”
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he was also disappointed to miss out on including the reforms in the omnibus, but said he thinks the work done will have a positive result in coming weeks.
“I would have liked to get it in there, but the effort we’ve gone through has educated everyone on what a great job we’ve done to address three major concerns in the VA,” he said. “I think we’ll get it done.”
He intends to bring up the issues again in early April, after Congress’ upcoming spring break.
Defense News: Congress races to pass $1.3T defense-friendly omnibus and avoid shutdown
By: Joe Gould 9 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — The sweeping $1.3 trillion spending bill that congressional leaders unveiled Wednesday includes $654.6 billion for the Pentagon. But it’s unclear whether Congress can pass the proposal without shutting down the government.
Lawmakers touted the bill as providing the biggest year-over-year increase in defense funding in 15 years. Pentagon appropriations include $589.5 billion in the base budget and $65.2 billion in the overseas contingency operations (OCO) budget — an increase of $61.1 billion over the 2017 enacted level, when combined with other previously enacted funding.
The bill surpasses President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2018 request for the Pentagon by $15.5 billion.
Leadership and the heads of the appropriations committees struck a deal on a spending bill to fund the Pentagon and 11 other departments through the end of the fiscal year. The hard-won deal also involved funding to address the opioid crisis and strengthen’s the country’s gun background check system, but it does not include a fix for expiring protections for young immigrants.
Republican leaders in the House and Senate say the legislation will come to a vote in both chambers before the end of the week. To avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers have to sprint to pass the bill before the latest stopgap funding measure runs out at at 11:59 p.m. Friday.
On Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., went to the White House to win over the president, who was upset the bill was not providing enough for a border wall. Ultimately, the White House signaled his intent to sign the bill, and the bill includes $1.6 billion toward physical barriers on the southern border.
However Sen. Rand Paul, who forced a brief government shutdown last month, would not say Wednesday whether he would move to obstruct the massive spending bill. To pass the bill quickly, Senate leaders would need unanimous consent to wave its rules.
“I will oppose the bill. I haven’t made a decision yet on whether or not I will consent to time agreements,” CNN quoted Paul as saying.
McConnell and Ryan have messaged, as they did with the recent deal to ease budget caps, that a vote for the massive government spending bill is a vote for the troops.
Hardline House GOP conservatives, however, have signaled they will vote against the bill because negotiations have been too friendly to Democrats. Their non-support forces the GOP to rely on Democrats for the votes to pass it.
According to a summary, the measure provide $137.7 billion for personnel and pay, which includes a 2.4 percent pay raise; $89.2 billion for research and development, an uptick of $16 billion over 2017; $144.3 billion for procurement, which is $25.4 billion above fiscal 2017.
It also includes $238 billion for operations and maintenance, which is $853 million above the request to reduce readiness shortfalls. Those shortfalls were a concern in the Pentagon and a central argument for pro-defense lawmakers.
The bill would provide some limited funding flexibility to the Pentagon for O&M, as House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chair Kay Granger and others sought to compensate for the bill arrival midway through the fiscal year.
The agreement increases a cap on spending in the last two months of the fiscal year from 20 percent to 25 percent. It also changes the reprogramming threshold from $15 million to $20 million, and modifies the guidelines for realignments between readiness budget line items from requiring prior approval to written notification.
“These flexibility changes will allow for smarter execution of the $230 billion in base and OCO funding provided for the operation and maintenance accounts by avoiding the ‘use it or lose it’ dilemma and allowing more timely execution of readiness line items that have been affected by fact-of-life changes or emergent requirements,” a bill summary reads.
The defense bill includes $705.8 million for Israeli cooperative programs. A separate State and Foreign Operations bill includes $9 billion in base and OCO funding for international security assistance, with $3.1 billion for Israel, $1.3 billion for Egypt and $1.5 billion for Jordan.
For Navy shipbuilding programs, there is $23.8 billion to procure 14 Navy ships, including funding for one carrier replacement, two DDG-51 guided missile destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, three littoral combat ships; one expeditionary sea base; one expeditionary fast transport; one amphibious ship replacement; one fleet oiler; one towing, salvage, and rescue ship, and one oceanographic survey ship.
For aviation, there is $10.2 billion for 90 F-35 aircraft; $1.8 billion for 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet aircraft; $1.6 billion for 30 new build and 50 remanufactured Apache helicopters; $1.1 billion for 56 UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters; $225 million for 20 MQ-1 Gray Eagle unmanned aerial vehicles; $1.7 billion for 10 P-8A Poseidon aircraft; $1.3 billion for 14 V-22 aircraft; $2.9 billion for 18 KC-46 tanker aircraft; $2.4 billion for 25 C/HC/KC/MC-130J aircraft, and $103 million for A-10 wing replacements.
For land vehicles, there is $348 million for 116 Stryker Double V-Hull upgrades; $300 million for Stryker lethality upgrades; $1.1 billion for the upgrade of 85 Abrams tanks; $483 million for the upgrade of 145 Bradley fighting vehicles, and $220 million for National Guard High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle recapitalization, including $120 million specifically for ambulance modernization.
Munitions are funded at $16.2 billion, $1.9 billion above the president’s budget request, for the procurement of missiles and ammunition. “Additional funds address unfunded requirements identified by the military services, industrial base capacity support, and munitions replenishment,” according to the summary.
For space, there is $1.4 billion for three evolved expendable launch vehicles and $675 million for two wideband gap-filler satellites. Air Force space programs net $800 million, with $100 million above the budget request for space launch vehicle and engine development activities.
There’s also $9.5 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, bringing the FY18 total for MDA to more than $11.3 billion when combined with the previously passed supplemental, according to the summary.
FoxNews: Teacher who called military ‘lowest of the low’ is fired
By Benjamin Brown | Fox News
Jonathan Hunt reports on the controversy surrounding El Rancho High history teacher Gregory Salcido’s remarks recorded by a student.
A Southern California teacher who was recorded bashing the U.S. military in a profane classroom rant was fired Tuesday evening.
Board of Education President Aurora Villon said the El Rancho Unified School District reached a unanimous decision to fire Gregory Salcido, a history teacher at El Rancho High School and elected Pico Rivera city councilman, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“His comments do not reflect what we stand for, who we are,” Villon said, adding that “the classroom should never be a place where students feel that they are picked at, bullied, intimidated."
Salcido faced a severe backlash after a student secretly recorded him asking his government class why they would want to serve in the military, calling those who serve “dumbs‑‑‑s.”
“Think about the people who you know who are over there. Your freaking stupid Uncle Louie or whatever. They’re dumbs‑‑‑s,” Salcido can be heard saying in the Jan. 25 tirade.
“They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people. They’re the lowest of our low.”
Villon said thousands of emails flooded the school board, as veterans and relatives of military personnel from all over the world voiced their disgust with Salcido’s comments.
Salcido apologized at a City Council meeting in February, the paper reported, and attempted to clarify that his comments “had nothing to do with their moral character.”
"I don’t think it’s all a revelation to anybody that those who aren’t stellar students usually find the military a better option. … That’s not a criticism of anybody. Anything I said had nothing to do with their moral character," he said, the paper reported.
During a break, he told reporters that he believes the military is the not the “best option” for his students, but added "that does not mean I’m anti-military, because I’m not."
The student who secretly recorded Salcido — later identified by KTLA-TV as Victor Quinonez — told Fox News opinion writer Todd Starnes in January that his teacher had “a history of being anti-military.”
“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion but at the same time they shouldn’t be disrespecting the veterans who have fought for our rights, who give up their lives and do stuff that other people are not willing to do,” Quinonez, who says he wants to be a Marine, told Fox News.
The rant even prompted a strong reaction from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who said Salcido "ought to go to hell."
“I just hope he enjoys the liberties and the lifestyle that we have fought for,” Kelly, a retired Marine Corps general, told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade.
Defense News: Congress provides $3.3 billion boost for missile defense in FY18 spending bill
By: Jen Judson 8 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — Congress is providing for $3.3 billion more for missile defense programs in its fiscal 2018 spending bill above the Missile Defense Agency’s original request of $9.5 billion, according to the FY18 appropriations bill.
The $3.3 billion in funding includes the $2 billion Congress appropriated in December 2017 as a special supplemental to the FY18 budget to accelerate missile defense and “defeat enhancements” to counter the growing threat from North Korea, according to a summary of the spending bill.
The total appropriated in FY18 is $11.5 billion.
Congressional leaders unveiled the $1.3 trillion spending bill the evening of March 21, which includes $654.6 billion for the Pentagon.
Republican leaders in the House and Senate say the legislation will come to a vote in both chambers before the end of the week. To avoid a government shutdown, lawmakers have to pass the bill before the latest stopgap funding measure runs out at at 11:59 p.m. March 23.
Congress is, once again, dramatically increasing the budget — $558 million above the request for a total of $706 million — for Israeli Cooperative Programs to include Iron Dome and Arrow 3 development. The funding is requested by the Israeli government, the bill summary notes.
Appropriators are adding $165 million for additional Terminal High Altitude Area Defense interceptors above the request, bringing the total for THAAD interceptor procurement to $617 million.
Already included in the December supplemental was $960 million for additional THAAD and AEGIS interceptors.
Congress wants $178 million above the FY18 DoD request to buy additional SM-3 Block 1B interceptors for a total of $632 million.
And lawmakers are adding $137 million to the agency’s budget to conduct an additional intercept flight test of the SM-3 Block IIA missile.
The SM-3 Block IIA has failed two major tests in the past year, with the most recent one in January. The failed tests were seen as a setback of U.S. missile defense efforts as North Korea continues to inch forward, test by test, to reach its goal of striking the U.S. homeland with nuclear-armed missiles.
The first test failure was attributed to sailor error, while the second was related to a technological malfunction.
Congress also doesn’t want to wait to see 20 Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System interceptors — or GBIs — get modernized kill vehicles in a new missile field in Fort Greely, Alaska, and is beefing up the budget with $393 million to accomplish the task.
The GMD system consists of 44 interceptors in the ground at Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, designed to protect the homeland from possible intercontinental ballistic missile attacks from North Korea and Iran.
Appropriators had already approved in the supplemental $568 million to initiate the expansion of Missile Field #4 at Fort Greely with 20 additional GBIs equipped with the newest kill vehicle.
An additional $218 million will accelerate the response to a Joint Emerging Operational Need (JEONS) from U.S. Forces Korea.
Congress had already provided for $123 million in the December supplemental to support a JEONS from USFK “for integration and more efficient use of missile defense systems to improve defensive capability on an urgent timeline,” the summary states.
Appropriators are also adding $90 million to “increase sensor discrimination capability against advanced threats,” according to the bill’s summary.
While the MDA had only budgeted $8 million to begin replacing its aging fleet of aircraft and sensors used to collect data during flight tests, Congress added $81 million to that account to expedite that process.
To compare the spending bill with the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act that passed late last year, click here.
Army Times: Dedication ceremony set for monument honoring Vietnam helicopter pilots, crews
By: Charlsy Panzino 17 hours ago
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Those who wish to honor the helicopter pilots and crew members killed in Vietnam can do so on April 18 at Arlington National Cemetery.
After four years, these service members will have their own monument at the Virginia cemetery.
The Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association spearheaded the effort, working with Arlington National Cemetery and Congress to get the monument approved.
At first, the cemetery was hesitant because of the ever-shrinking space for grave sites, but supporters of the monument wrote to Congress and gained attention. Eventually, a compromise was made, and the cemetery approved the monument.
The Vietnam Helicopter Pilot and Crewmember Monument will be placed in Section 35 along Memorial Drive, not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns. It honors the nearly 5,000 helicopter pilots and crew members who were killed during the Vietnam War.
The war was known as the “helicopter war” because the United States relied heavily on the aircraft to transport troops and provide close-air support.
The dedication on April 18 at 4 p.m. Eastern time is open to anyone who wants to attend and will feature Vietnam veterans along with Gold Star families.
Event highlights include speeches, a wreath laying and a flyover.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Hesselbein, who flew AH-1 Cobra gunships in Vietnam, said there should be a balance in Arlington National Cemetery.
“I think the American people expect Arlington to be a combination of grave sites and memorials such as this,” Hesselbein told Army Times.
The association originally designed the monument with a front-facing view of a Bell UH-1 Iroquois, commonly referred to as a Huey.
The Commission of Fine Arts suggested the design show the side view of a helicopter so it was more recognizable.
“Although everyone living today will be immediately able to say, ‘That’s a helicopter coming toward us,’ in 200 years from now, they might not know what that is,” Hesselbein said. “[The commission] really viewed it through a long-range lens.”
Hesselbein said the association has been in contact with families of those pilots and crew members who were killed in Vietnam.
“It used to be parents, but now it’s the siblings and the children who are going to be at the dedication,” he said. “We have been stunned by the growing enthusiasm and what we think is going to be an amazing attendance level.”
Julie Kink first discovered the Vietnam Helicopter Pilots Association while trying to find information about her brother.
Kink was 8 when her 19-year-old brother David died after his helicopter crash in Vietnam in 1969.
“I grew up not really knowing too much about my brother because of our age difference,” Kink told Army Times. “I always wanted to find out more about what he did in Vietnam. What kind of person was he?”
She discovered the association in 1996 and has been attending reunions and volunteering ever since.
“That led to me finding some of the guys who trained with David and flew with him,” Kink said.
Kink assumed she was the last person to learn details about the Vietnam War, but she soon realized that wasn’t the case.
“As families of Vietnam losses, for most of us the story is almost always the same,” she said. “We just didn’t talk about it. We had no connections and no way to find out anything more.”
It was “neat to be welcomed and to be in a reunion of guys who are celebrating the good things that they did,” she said.
Kink, who will speak during the dedication ceremony, said the monument is not just for the pilots and crew members who were lost in Vietnam, but for the troops who survived and came back.
“The bond between the guys who were aviators in Vietnam and the men that they lost is incredibly strong,” Kink said. “They loved them the same that we families loved them.”
Kink uses the association’s database of pilots who were killed or missing in action to track down any remaining family members.
“It’s not 100 percent complete, but I use that database and look for online tributes, parents’ obituaries that would give indication of siblings and where they live now,” she said.
By doing this, Kink found a family connection for more than 1,000 of the pilots who were killed. At the moment, there’s no database for crew members.
The dedication ceremony is going to be “electric,” with veterans, family members and friends all sitting together, she said.
“I hope [people] will realize that it’s okay to talk about Vietnam,” Kink said. “That we can remember and grieve simultaneously as we celebrate those guys’ lives and what they did.”
WHSV: Veteran training program teaches local companies how to hire veterans
[NOTE: Video at link]
By Whitney Turner |
Posted: Tue 7:37 PM, Mar 20, 2018 |
Updated: Tue 11:28 PM, Mar 20, 2018
WEYERS CAVE, Va. (WHSV) — The Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board teamed up with Virginia Values Veterans to provide Valley companies with the resources they need to hire veterans.
Local companies were able to attend a training event at Blue Ridge Community College on Tuesday to learn more about the challenges veterans face as they try to re-enter the workforce and what skills veterans can bring to the table when hired.
Sean McCusty, business development manager for SVWDB, said through the program, they wanted to provide Valley employers with the tools they need to hire the hard workers they are looking for.
"With unemployment being as low as it is, it’s difficult to find qualified employees, and veterans are a resource for that," McCusty said. "They come with skills that can be easily transferred to a lot of the needs that companies in the Valley have."
McCusty said because of their military career, veterans often have cultural or language differences that employers may not understand, and by teaching companies to better communicate with veterans, they can get more people back to work.
"There are a lot of opportunities for veterans with companies in the Valley," he said, "and I think companies, by the fact that they are coming to events like this, are interested in finding opportunities to hire veterans and understand how that can help benefit their company."
McCusty said they hope the program will provide companies with the resources they need to open the lines of communication with local veterans in the future.