Category Archives: Veterans Affairs

How a Defense Bill Becomes Defense Law

How a Defense Bill Becomes Defense Law

Congress closed its 2010-2012 session by passing a fiscal package that delays deep cuts to the defense budget and other executive branch agencies for two months, averting the “fiscal cliff” that threatened to slash nearly $50 billion from DOD’s 2013 appropriations ledger.

The negotiations offered a very public look at the high-drama posturing that has become a hallmark of dealings between the White House and Capitol Hill. To many casual observers, the back-and-forth signaled a new low in relations between the two branches, but to many on the inside, it was symptomatic of the legislative process that grinds on every day, usually outside of public view.

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The hard work of crafting bipartisan legislation may take months of talks behind closed doors but produce only a few days of newsworthy drama. The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is one of those must-pass measures that enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support but take months of meetings, briefings, hearings and tense negotiations among members of the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle and DOD. The Hill and Pentagon trade budget requests, legislative proposals, cost estimates, testing data, planning documents and long-term strategy to craft each year’s spending priorities and an overarching national-security policy. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) leads the four defense committees each year, followed by House and Senate Defense Appropriators — the HAC-D and SAC-D — and finally the Senate Armed Services Committee — SASC.

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This Time, It's Different

This Time, It’s Different

Proceedings, January 2013

A close observer of defense-spending trends takes a look at dollars and sense and the looming budget challenges in the Pentagon.

Defense-budget headlines of late have concentrated on sequestration, as hand-wringing increased about the so-called fiscal cliff. Most coverage has focused on defense officials predicting dire consequences for the Department of Defense (DOD), or industry officials warning of job losses and collapse of certain technology sectors and associated businesses. The U.S. Naval Institute recently hosted Defense Forum Washington with a program titled “The Fiscal Cliff: What Does This Mean for Defense and National Security?” The conference focused on sequestration and its impacts. Speakers and panelists offered different perspectives on impact, ranging from disaster to a mere “pothole,” and on occurrence from irresponsible to a fait accompli that should happen to provoke fundamental changes in DOD.

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Appointment With Destiny in the North Atlantic

Appointment With Destiny in the North Atlantic

Naval History Magazine December, 2012
In 1943, the author’s uncle boarded his Liberty ship in Nova Scotia with a strong sense of foreboding.

When U-610 sank the Liberty ship William Pierce Frye on 29 March 1943, among those on board was a 24-year-old fireman from Central Falls, Rhode Island, named William Joseph McHale, my Uncle Billy. The night before reporting for duty, he said goodbye to his older brother John’s girlfriend, Mary Gannon. “Be sure to marry my brother!” When Mary replied that she looked forward to all of them reuniting after the war, Billy looked straight at her and revealed a searing premonition: “No, I don’t think I’ll be coming back.” Earlier that day he’d said something similar to his sister Rita, who remembers, “It was weird when he said, ‘I thought you’d like to see me one more time.’” True to his vision, on his first voyage at sea Billy went down with the ship. When the news of his death arrived at the tenement house on Hunt Street, my grandparents were consumed by the immeasurable grief reserved for those who lose a child. My uncle Raymond, their oldest son, called it “a dark time.”

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The events that sealed Uncle Billy’s fate were set in motion in the early morning hours of 8 March 1943, when U-610 eased from her mooring at the submarine pens of St. Nazaire, France. She set out to rendezvous with wolf pack Dränger (Pusher). Ten days later the William Pierce Frye departed on her maiden voyage from Halifax, Nova Scotia, as part of convoy HX 230 en route to Liverpool, England.

Built in just three months by New England Shipbuilding of Portland, Maine, and launched on 11 February 1943, she was owned by the Mystic Steamship Company of Boston. The Liberty ship carried a complement of 8 officers, 32 Merchant Marines, and 24 Armed Guards. She was laden with 7,500 tons of military stores, including 750 tons of explosives, wheat, and a deck cargo of five landing craft, tank (LCTs).

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Gordon Adams: Sequestration Will Not Happen

Gordon Adams: Sequestration Will Not Happen

Gordon Adams is a former Clinton administration defense budget analyst and has written extensively on the current “fiscal cliff” crisis. The Naval Institute interviewed him on 28 November to get his take on sequestration and the defense budget. Adams is speaking today at the Naval Institute’s Defense Forum Washington.

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Can you put current sequestration in a historical context? Has anything like this happened before?

Yes, but never to this extent.

The sequestration mechanism was lifted wholesale from a 1985 bill called Graham Rudman Hollings. When it was passed in 1985 it was the last big U.S. effort in deficit and debt reduction. The sequestration mechanism was defined in that bill. . . . There were sequestrations under Graham Rudman Hollings. They were rather small, they were not on this order of magnitude, because this one actually sets targets, but they did happen. Once they happened, Congress reversed it. Basically fixed it, patched the hole. So that happened and they went away. It maybe one precedent for what would happen in January if there is a sequester. I don’t think we will, but if we do . . .

What we have here is an unprecedented showdown at the O.K. Corral.

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J. Randy Forbes Talks Sequestration

J. Randy Forbes Talks Sequestration

Rep. J. Randy Forbes is chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee. The Virginia Republican has held several hearings on naval readiness in the current Congress. He will be part of a panel on the looming fiscal cliff— that could result in a 10 percent reduction in defense spending—at Defense Forum Washington hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute next week.

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Rep. Forbes, you said Wednesday that you’re expecting to see sequestration in some form in January. Could you expand on that?

Obviously we are still hopeful to divert sequestration from taking place. The clock is ticking. We continue to believe that defense has already paid its share and shouldn’t be cut in such an arbitrary and drastic fashion. But it’s going to take an awful lot to keep from going over the cliff.

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Of Defense and Deficits

Of Defense and Deficits

Proceedings, November 2012
To maintain their unique capabilities, the Sea Services must master the art of navigating budgets in the Age of Austerity.

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Under the authority of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and without congressional action, automatic across-the-board cuts—“sequestration”—will occur in the Department of Defense budget in January 2013. The likelihood and the consequences of this event are still uncertain, but projections by the Congressional Research Service suggest total cuts to the Defense budget in the vicinity of $500 billion over the next decade; similar cuts would be made in non-Defense spending. That this would be severe is not in doubt: Employment reductions from changes in equipment procurement in California alone are projected at nearly 126,000, with national changes in employment at more than 5.8 million. 2

Austerity budgets may prove to be the most challenging obstacle the Navy and Marine Corps have seen in a generation. Yet as painful as they may be, they must be faced. And successfully facing them begins with first developing an understanding of the current macroeconomic position of the United States, and ends with developing an effective budgetary strategy. Additionally, it will be critical to remember that Defense budgets do not exist in isolation. All actions and their costs must be gauged both against the entire federal budget as well as the larger U.S. macro-economy.

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Admiral Greenert: Year One

Admiral Greenert: Year One

Cid Standifer is a freelance reporter, web designer and translator based in Arlington, Va. She has written for Military Times, Inside Washington Publishers and the Roswell Daily Record.

Close Air Support: The Pioneering Years

Close Air Support: The Pioneering Years

Naval History, December 2012
Marine aviators’ commitment to deliver support to ground forces—a tactic once deemed too dangerous—grew into a hallowed hallmark of the Corps.

Modern Marine Corps aviation is a powerful combat arm, organized and equipped to perform its primary functions of assault support, antiaircraft warfare, offensive air support, electronic warfare, control of aircraft and missiles, and reconnaissance. The integration of those roles enables the air-combat component to fully support the ground-combat campaign. Mastery of those functions also allows Marine aviation to achieve its most distinctive competence—the ability to deliver close air support (CAS) to Marines on the ground.

Close air support is defined as “air action by fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft against hostile targets that are in close proximity to friendly forces and require detailed integration of each air mission with the fire and movement of those forces.” Inherently dangerous to airmen and infantry alike, this extreme form of fire support requires extraordinary coordination to deliver safely. Marine riflemen take a personal interest in the proximity of close air. “Close” to them means damned close, and they know it when they see it.

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National Security Issues Take Center Stage During Lame-Duck Session

National Security Issues Take Center Stage During Lame-Duck Session

Despite billions of dollars being raised and spent during the 2012 election cycle, last Tuesday changed very little in terms of the balance of power. Control of the House, Senate and White House remains the same, though Democrats picked up a handful of seats in Congress and the names and faces on the four defense committees also will be reshuffled in the next session. Still, there is a long list of priorities to be taken care of before the new Congress is sworn in at the beginning of January. Here are some of the biggest items in the national security arena:

Sequestration

What it is: In order to avert a crunch on U.S. borrowing last year, Congress and the President agreed to a deal that raised the debt ceiling but required the House and Senate to cut spending over the long term. The Budget Control Act required a bipartisan panel from the House and Senate to craft compromise legislation that would slash the debt by $1.5 trillion dollars. In the event a compromise could not be reached, an automatic trigger was put into place that would go into effect in January 2013. The trigger was designed to be a poison pill that compelled cooperation, but the deadline for compromise lapsed in November and started the clock ticking toward automatic across-the-board cuts totaling $500 billion each to defense and domestic discretionary spending over the next decade. In DOD, personnel accounts would be spared but shipbuilding plans, fighter programs, and ground vehicle modernization would all suffer equal cuts.

The so-called congressional super committee in 2011

The so-called congressional super committee in 2011

Inside politics: Moderates in the House and Senate have backed a combination of spending cuts and revenue increases that include an end to the Bush-era tax cuts, reforms of the tax code and some changes to entitlement programs. Once, dubbed the “grand bargain,” widespread support has been fickle as each of the factions on the Hill and at the White House angled for better, more politically palatable deals. House Republicans as a bloc have steadfastly refused to back any bill that would increase taxes, but most agree that more revenues must be a part of any deal to cut long-term expenditures. Some Democrats have opposed any change to entitlements, though most members agree that the current system is not wholly sustainable.

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