28 January 2009

New Military Charity Promotes “Civilians for Service Members.”

Task Force G.I. Concentrates on Creating Military Service Member Opportunity While Addressing Overseas Environment and Educational Needs.

Task Force G.I. is a non-profit Military charity that has been developed for the exclusive benefit of current and future members of the Armed Forces. Taskforce G.I. concentrates on five programs developed specifically to enhance overall overseas deployment environments and further the pursuit of obtaining educational degrees for enlisted members on active duty status with the five branches of service.

Taskforce G.I. has developed and promotes a lean operating platform designed to improve the return of all program investment. The focus is to use technology and volunteers to enhance the overall value received by Soldiers, Sailors, Airman and Marines. The website, TaskforceGI.org offers no obligation news letters to keep those interested in the progress of each Donor and Volunteer program. Interested parties can register for the newsletters by visiting the website, no Donor obligation is necessary to participate. Taskforce G.I. welcomes all involvement, allowing the largest voice possible so they can effectively contribute toward the betterment of Military Service Member’s education and environment.

“A very important part of my life was serving overseas in extreme conditions and hostile environments with the 82nd Airborne during Operation Desert Shield and the Persian Gulf War after reflection of that experience and consulting with others from current conflicts,” said Task Force G.I. founder Doug Wattenburger, “we feel that the initial program offering, serves members of the Military well.”

Task Force G.I. has five specific programs designed to address topics relating to overseas environment issues and educational progress for enlisted personnel. Taskforce G.I. has setup detailed donor programs for Individuals and Businesses that will permit rewarding experiences for all stakeholders involved. Specific program names are as follows: Education, Overseas Environment, Tools of the Trade, Emergency Assistance and Patriot. Detailed information on each program can be found on the website at TaskforceGI.org.
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Army restores pay to militia members

Army restores pay to militia members
Sen. Mark Begich says the Secretary of the Army has decided to provide emergency funds to surviving members of a World War II Alaska militia whose retirement pay was being cut off because of a legal technicality.

23 January 2009

Alaska Article re: Army Cutting Pay for Alaska WWII Vets

Thought you might find this one of interest. Be sure to read the comments under the story, too, there are some interesting thoughts:

Army cuts off pay for Alaska WWII vets
The Army is terminating retirement credit for a largely Native militia formed to guard the territory of Alaska from Japanese attack during World War II. Gov. Sarah Palin said the Army action is "unacceptable."
http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/story/664327.html

22 January 2009

SBA Holding Veterans Forum on February 12th At the Agency’s Georgia District Office in Downtown Atlanta

The U.S. Small Business Administration will present a forum for veterans on February 12th in Atlanta which will cover agency programs and services for both active and retired military personnel who are starting or expanding small businesses.

The free forum will run from 10:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the SBA Georgia District Office, 233 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, GA 30303. The office is on the 19th floor in Harris Tower. The forum will focus on loan programs and other assistance available from the SBA and its resource partners including the agency’s SCORE Program, the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center (SBDC) network and the Georgia Institute of Technology Procurement Assistance Center (GTPAC).

Attendees will also be given information on the SBA Patriot Express Loan Initiative. This program offers guaranteed business loans of up to $500,000. It can be used by:
  • Veterans, service-connected disabled veterans, active duty military personnel within 24 months of retirement or 12 months to transition into civilian society,
  • National Guard and Reservists and the current spouse of all the aforementioned,
  • The widowed spouse of a service member or veteran who died during service, or of a service-connected disability.
The forum will also discuss service-connected disabled veteran-owned small business concerns and unique contracting opportunities with the Federal Government.

Pre-registration is mandatory. To register, contact Jorge Valentin-Stone by email at Jorge.valentin-stone@sba.gov. You can register by fax at 202/481-5239. To register online, go to www.sba.gov/ga and select Public Training and Seminars, “Register Now,” in the Spotlight section of the web site’s main page. Please include your name, telephone number and/or email address.

For additional information on SBA programs for veterans, go to www.sba.gov/vets
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19 January 2009

Chambliss, Isakson Applaud Navy’s Decision to Base Aircraft Carrier at Naval Station Mayport

.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today announced that the U.S. Navy has signed the official Record of Decision to base the next aircraft carrier to be commissioned at Naval Station Mayport located near Jacksonville, Florida. The move will benefit Georgia’s Coastal communities by creating growth and jobs at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Camden County, which would likely provide repair and maintenance capability as well as training opportunities for the Navy in the local fleet operating area.

“I applaud the Navy’s decision to base its next carrier at Mayport,” said Chambliss, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I have been privileged to see firsthand the excellent work our personnel at Kings Bay do in maintaining nuclear submarines, and the Navy can capitalize on the skill and knowledge offered by our professionals at the base.”

“The Navy has made an excellent decision in choosing Mayport,” said Isakson. “The resources at Kings Bay are unmatched and this decision will save the Navy time and money in the long term.”

On November 21, 2008, Chambliss and Isakson sent a letter urging the U.S. Department of Defense to base the next aircraft carrier at Naval Station Mayport.
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17 January 2009

General Counsel Nominee to Promote Collaboration

The nominee for the Defense Department's general counsel said in his confirmation hearing yesterday that he will foster collaborative relationships between himself and military lawyers at all levels to best advise the defense secretary.

Jeh C. Johnson, whose legal career includes being a partner at a New York law firm, serving as the Air Force's general counsel under the Clinton administration and as the assistant U.S. attorney in the southern district of New York, is poised to become the chief legal officer for the department.

Johnson told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he looks forward to bringing his experience to the department and working with military lawyers to provide the best recommendations to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

"My style of legal analysis, decision-making, putting together recommendations for the secretary is collaboration," he said. "I want all points of view. I'd want to hear from the two-star, now three-star judge advocate, as well as the major who works the issue who understands it better than anybody."

Johnson said he considers himself a "traditionalist" when it comes to the mission of the military, and he believes the military needs the ability to detain enemy combatants captured on the battlefield. However, when it comes to the detainees at Guantanamo Bay and the cases against them, he said he expects to be part of an interagency review that reconsiders how those cases are handled.

While he admitted he needs to learn more about the subject, Johnson said he tends to agree with President-elect Barack Obama that the Guantanamo detainees should be tried in U.S. civilian courts as opposed to military commissions.

"But I think that ... we need to also be mindful of the future, not just the 250 or so detainees at Guantanamo," he said. "We are certainly going to have detainees in the future. So we need do build a system that has credibility and survives legal scrutiny for the future as well as the people that are currently there."
By Sara Moore
American Forces Press Service
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Defense Policy Nominee Pledges Work on Iraq, Afghanistan, National Security

During her Senate confirmation hearing yesterday, President-elect Barack Obama's pick to become undersecretary of defense for policy vowed to rebalance U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan and advance U.S. security interests in other parts of the world.

Michele A. Flournoy told the Senate Armed Services Committee that if confirmed, she will work with Obama to responsibly end the war in Iraq and shift more focus to stabilizing Afghanistan. She also said she will work to reduce the strain on the military and ensure military members have the resources they need.

"This is a critical time for our country," she said. "The stakes are high, the resources are tight and the need to make hard choices is pressing."

Flournoy said she believes the United States needs to increase its troop presence in Afghanistan, and that the increase should happen quickly. Creating a new strategy in Afghanistan by working with NATO, the Afghan government and international donors will be one of the top priorities for the new administration, she said.

"I think our objective in Afghanistan has got to be to create a more stable and secured environment that allows longer-term stabilization and prevents Afghanistan from returning to being a safe haven for terrorism," she said.

As the United States focuses more on Afghanistan, emphasis will shift away from Iraq, Flournoy said. However, she emphasized, that shift needs to be done in a responsible manner, in accordance with the status-of-forces agreement between the United States and Iraq.

"I don't know what the long-term support for Iraqi forces in our long-term relationship is going to look like," she said. "I don't know if the Iraqi government will want any U.S. forces in Iraq once ... we reach the end of the SOFA agreement. So I think it's an open question."

Flournoy, who served as the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and threat reduction in the Clinton administration, said she looks forward to again contributing to national security and working to support the troops.

"I will do my best to help the U.S. military adapt to the challenges of the 21st century," she said. "I will also do my best to ensure that our brave men and women in uniform have what they need to be successful in the field and that they have the peace of mind knowing that their families are receiving the support that they deserve."
By Sara Moore
American Forces Press Service
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Comptroller Nominee Pledges to Make Budget Reviews First Priority

President-elect Barack Obama's choice to be the Defense Department's chief financial officer said his first priority, if confirmed by the U.S. Senate, will be to review the department's fiscal 2009 supplemental budget request and the fiscal 2010 budget request.

Robert Hale, who served as the Air Force comptroller in the Clinton administration, said his top priority will be to help the department obtain the necessary resources to meet the country's national security objectives. Hale was among four nominees to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday.

"At a time when we have tens of thousands of Americans serving overseas and in harm's way, we all need to work together to be sure they have the resources that they need," Hale said.

Part of finding those resources will be ensuring the department does not waste taxpayer money. His job has the authority and responsibility for overseeing defense financial management and financial operations.

"We need to make continued improvements in how we pay our people and how we pay our vendors," he said. "We need to improve financial systems and improve the way we account for funds in the department."

Hale said this is crucial to continued progress toward auditable financial statements.

"The department also needs better financial information in order to spend the dollars that are appropriated to it efficiently and effectively," he said. "I think wise spending of defense dollars is always important, but it's especially important right now as the nation weathers this really serious economic crisis."

Hale, who served in the Navy on active duty and in reserves, said personnel is another priority.

"The department must have a capable and well-trained work force in order to accomplish defense financial management," he said. "We can have the best systems in the world. We can have the best accounting practices. If we don't have the people out there that are well-trained and in adequate numbers, it's not going to work."

If confirmed, he said, he plans to support the military departments and the agencies as they recruit, train and retain the right defense financial management work force.
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
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Lynn Vows to Reform Processes if Confirmed as Deputy Secretary

The nominee to be deputy defense secretary promised the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that he will do his utmost to improve processes in the "sometimes vast and unwieldy bureaucracy" of the Defense Department.

The committee held hearings for four nominees to serve in the Defense Department as part of the administration of President-elect Barack Obama. They are Lynn; Robert Hale as undersecretary of defense for financial management; Michele Flournoy as undersecretary for policy; and Jeh Charles Johnson as the department's general counsel.

Lynn, who served as the department's comptroller in the Clinton administration, said he sees the deputy job as having co-equal responsibilities.

"On one hand, I'll work alongside the secretary to advance our national security strategy," he said. "On the other hand, as the chief management officer, I will have primary responsibility for ensuring the smooth functioning of a vast and sometimes unwieldy bureaucracy."

If confirmed, Lynn initially would focus on three challenges. The first is a smooth civilian transition, he said.

"I would work with the secretary and the Congress to assemble a top-quality cadre of civilian leaders," he said. "As part of that effort, I would also place a high priority on strengthening the capabilities of the career staff who are essential to address the many near-term challenges as well as the longer-term tasks of the department."

Lynn said he also would like to conduct at least three sets of major program and budget reviews in the next few months. These include a review of the 2009 supplemental appropriation, revisions to the draft fiscal 2010 budget and its timely submission to Congress, and the expeditious completion of the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Part of this will be to establish the right balance among capabilities for addressing "irregular and counter-insurgency warfare, potential longer-term threats from a high-end or a near-term competitor and the proliferation of threats from rogue states or terrorist organizations," Lynn said.

Another challenge, he said, is to reform Defense Department processes.

"If confirmed, I would devote considerable time and energy to improving the department's processes for strategic planning, program and budget development and acquisition oversight," he said. "At a time when we face a wide range of national security challenges and unprecedented budget pressures, acquisition reform is not an option; it is an imperative."

Lynn vowed to ensure that every tax dollar to the department is used wisely and effectively, adding that good processes would be key.

"The key to getting a handle on program costs is to ensure that we are able to establish the requirements up front and adhere to those requirements," he said.

An important part of reforming the system is to rebuild the acquisition workforce, Lynn said.

"We've had an increase in the program costs and not a corresponding increase in the acquisition workforce," he said. "There's also a bubble of retirement. Many of the current workforce is eligible for retirement. They're going to need to be replaced with expert personnel."

Workforce development is going to be an important part of improving and developing the future cadres of the defense acquisition workforce, he said.

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
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12 January 2009

Inspiring Alliance Wounded Warrior Program Announces New Web Site Hosting 500 Programs for Military Families

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Ruth Adkins, executive director for this nonprofit organization states, "Inspiring Alliance is excited about the official release of our web portal at www.inspiringalliance.org. We support more than 500 programs to provide medical, financial, educational and employment needs for military families across the Globe through one Web site. No-cost, long-term Direct Client Relationships are provided exclusively to severely wounded Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom service members, but our Web portal is available to all military families."

"We pick up where the military leaves off to provide support through hundreds of resource outlets by recognizing programs we host for every military family, whether they are injured, active, reserve, retired and/or support for families of fallen soldiers who lost their lives defending our country's freedom. We continue to align with programs such as Colorado State University -- Global Campus, a highly recognized university whose online educational program offers special tuition discounts of nearly 50% to military members, their spouses and dependents. We seek more discount offers like this -- those that find value in the service our veterans provide while defending our country's freedom -- so that we can post information for our military communities to access from one Internet location."

Our "First Annual 2009 Corvette -- $40,000 Cash Raffle" to raise operating capital is currently under way -- details about this fundraiser are available on the web site. If you would like more information about supporting the Inspiring Alliance, either through monetary donations or by having your program hosted on our web portal, please email us at contact@inspiringalliance.org or contact Ruth Adkins directly at 480-710-1277.

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06 January 2009

VA Assisting Veterans with Health Care Costs

/PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For veterans struggling financially due to a job loss or decreased income, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers an assortment of programs that can relieve the costs of health care or provide care at no cost.

"With the downturn in the economy, VA recognizes that many veterans will feel the effects," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake. "Therefore, it is important that eligible veterans learn of the many ways VA has to help them afford the health care they have earned."

Veterans whose previous income was ruled too high for VA health care may be able to enter the VA system based upon a hardship if their current year's income is projected to fall below federal income thresholds due to a job loss, separation from service or some other financial setback. Veterans determined eligible due to hardship can avoid copays applied to higher-income veterans. Qualifying veterans may be eligible for enrollment and receive health care at no cost.

Also eligible for no-cost VA care are most veterans who recently returned from a combat zone. They are entitled to five years of free VA care. The five-year "clock" begins with their discharge from the military, not their departure from the combat zone.

Each VA medical center across the country has an enrollment coordinator available to provide veterans information about these programs. Veterans may also contact VA's Health Benefits Service Center at 1-877-222 VETS (8387) or visit the VA health eligibility website at www.va.gov/healtheligibility .

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03 January 2009

U.S. Turns Over Green Zone Security Responsibility to Iraq

The United States formally transferred the Republican Palace back to the Iraqi government today, a concrete symbol of the continuing improvement in the country.

The transfer came about as the status of forces agreement between the United States and Iraq took effect.

The agreement replaces the United Nations mandate under which the coalition went into Iraq and has conducted operations there since. Under the agreement, Iraqi forces are now in the lead with U.S. forces in a supporting role or in overwatch.

Officials said that American troops are still on duty at some of the checkpoints in Green Zone, but they are there to train their Iraqi counterparts rather than with operational control.

"When you come up to a checkpoint, the Iraqis will check your identification. They will make the decision if you come in or go out, " said Army Maj. Gen. Dave Perkins, U.S. spokesman in Iraq. As a colonel, Perkins led the 2nd Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division that conducted the Thunder Run in April 2003 that first entered Baghdad.

"We will continue to be there to provide some technical capacity, to provide some mentoring, but you will see less and less American forces and more and more Iraqi forces – and they will have the majority of the responsibility for making those key decisions which determine the security of the capital," Perkins said.

The American effort has shifted down the river to the embassy. The new embassy – the largest U.S. embassy in the world – is open for business. Officials at the embassy are working with the Iraqis in detailing how other portions of the SOFA agreement will play out.

Iraqi security forces have made tremendous gains over the past 18 months, officials in Baghdad said. The U.S. surge of five brigades into Iraq announced in January 2006 brought security and stability to the country. Behind this, the Iraqi army and police were able to develop and train. The agreement recognizes this progress and now Iraqi forces have primary responsibility for security in the country.

The agreement also calls for all American combat troops to be out of cities and villages by June. Planning is underway for this move already, U.S. officials in Baghdad said. The agreement says all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

The transfer of responsibility for security of the Green Zone is the most visible outcome of the agreement. The palace on the banks of the Tigris River was the seat of the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein. U.S. servicemembers called the building the "three-headed palace" because of three huge busts of Saddam that decorated it.

Soon after American soldiers rolled into Baghdad, the palace became the headquarters of the coalition forces in the country. It also served as the U.S. embassy in the country.

While spared any direct attack in the "shock and awe" campaign in March 2003, the building still had no glass in the windows and American soldiers bunked in some of the rooms decorated with pictures of missiles and other portrayals of Saddam's might.

The palace became the hub of the Coalition Provisional Authority – the coalition group that ruled Iraq before the first government. U.S. Ambassador Paul Bremer transferred sovereignty back to the Iraqis in a ceremony at the palace in June 2004.

The grounds behind the palace was filled with hundreds of trailers that coalition officials lived in as they worked with Iraqi governmental departments.
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
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