Tag Archives: Congress

Pending Congressional Budget Measure Could Hurt Navy and Marines

Pending Congressional Budget Measure Could Hurt Navy and Marines

The Federal government’s fiscal year comes to an end on September 30, and for the sixth straight time, lawmakers will need more time to figure out how they will pay the bills for next year. This is the ninth time in 11 years that Congress has looked to a temporary spending measure, called a Continuing Resolution (CR), to delay decisions on the nation’s funding priorities, 56 times in all since 2001. Last year’s budget debate required seven CRs and took until April to resolve. In August, House and Senate leaders agreed to a longer term approach, announcing that Congress would move forward with a six month package, pushing-off the decision on specific funding levels until after elections are over and a new Congress is sworn-in.

While the CR will allow the federal government to continue spending money into the new fiscal year, it also puts limitations on how that money can be spent, and those limits are especially acute for the Defense Department (DoD). DoD has enjoyed more than a decade of increasing budget top-lines and used those funds to address the changing needs of a force at war, but lawmakers were poised to cut defense spending next year for the first time since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Instead, the CR, approved last week by the House and set for a vote this week in the Senate, will boost the base budget by more than a half-percent to $519 billion. Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) would be funded at proposed fiscal year 2013 levels, a reduction of $26.5 billion.

As with any spending measure, there are winners and losers with the CR. Though Congress will provide DoD with more money than previously expected, the Department will lose some of its flexibility in spending it. The Navy is hit particularly hard by funding restrictions and policy caveats that could impact current operations, future readiness and long-term planning priorities.

USS Theodore Roosevelt undergoing a complex overhaul in 2011 at Newport News, Va. U.S. Navy Photo

USS Theodore Roosevelt undergoing a complex overhaul in 2011 at Newport News, Va. U.S. Navy Photo

At the top of the priority list for the sea service is the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). The 26-year old ship is in the final stages of a three-year-long maintenance and modernization period in Newport News, Virginia that the Navy calls a Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH). By the time the TR sets back to sea in 2013, the ship will have new nuclear fuel in its two reactors, upgraded combat and communication systems throughout, and repairs will be made to the ship’s hull, mechanical and electrical systems to keep her viable until at least 2036. The process costs nearly $2.5 billion, but funding for the current phase will dry-up in less than 5 months unless Congress approves new spending for the work. So far, though, this year’s CR does not include funding to finish the overhaul.

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Opinion: Parochial Interests Threaten Biofuels

Opinion: Parochial Interests Threaten Biofuels

A wave strikes the side of to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) as it conducts a replenishment at sea with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on July,7.[U.S. Navy Photo]

A wave strikes the side of to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO 187) as it conducts a replenishment at sea with the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on July,7.
[U.S. Navy Photo]

The U.S. Navy kicked of its annual Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises last Friday and will use the world’s largest naval exhibition to test its concept for powering expeditionary operations on biofuels. A carrier strike group, dubbed the Great Green Fleet, is the culmination of several years of testing in the biofuels arena and will serve as the Navy’s first top-to-bottom test of a force that could go to war powered by alternative energies. But parochial interests in Congress threaten to undo the Navy’s progress on biofuels and undermine efforts to build a cost-competitive biofuels market.

When the House Armed Services Committee took up its annual debate over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2013, questions about the Navy’s biofuels program quickly came to the forefront. When the bill hit the House floor in May, two provisions had been added during markup of the bill by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX). Biofuels backers see the provisions as an attempt to undercut the Navy’s ambitious effort, which they contend hurts efforts to stabilize Defense Department fuel costs and offset DOD’s dependence on foreign fossil-based fuels.

The first provision, which is more symbolic than substantive, exempts DOD from the so-called Section 526 requirements contained in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The section requires government-purchased alternative fuels to have a lower greenhouse gas impact than current fossil fuels. DOD says it doesn’t need the waiver, but, within the biofuels industry, section 526 is seen as a levy holding back cheaper but more pollutant-intensive fuels like coal-to-liquid.

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Stolen Valor Still an Option

Stolen Valor Still an Option

xaiver

Xavier Alvarez

The oath taken on commissioning or enlisting in the armed forces, begins, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” In constitutional law classes at our military service academies, cadets and midshipmen are taught that in honoring that oath they may be called upon to fight and die to protect a citizen’s First Amendment right to burn the flag, preach hate or damn U.S. warfighters.

Last week, in a less melodramatic vein, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Alvarez that service members also may fight and die to protect the First Amendment rights of frauds who falsely claim military decorations for heroism. The Stolen Valor Act criminalized the act of falsely claiming to hold the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross and Purple Heart, among other awards. With sad regularity, we hear of imposters claiming outrageous feats in combat that resulted in high decorations. Quickly recognized as pathetic liars by those of us with military backgrounds, an unknowing public, eager to honor heroes, embraces the liars. The 2005 Stolen Valor Act finally gave authorities the means to convict and imprison imposters. Dozens of convictions followed. Athough sentences were usually no more community service, at least a federal criminal conviction resulted.

Xavier Alvarez was a particularly bold liar and fraud, claiming to be a retired Marine officer wounded multiple times and awarded the Medal of Honor. In fact, he never served a day in uniform. Across the nation, many others who wove heroic fantasies for themselves have been honored in a variety of ways, but it was Alvarez whose 2010 conviction came before the Supreme Court.

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