21 January 2011

Airman Missing in Action from Korean War is Identified

The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) announced today that the remains of a serviceman, missing in action from the Korean War, has been identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors.

Air Force 1st Lt. Robert F. Dees, 23, of Moultrie, Ga., will be buried Jan. 22 at the Longstreet Historical Cemetery in Ozark, Ala. On Oct. 9, 1952, he was flying an F-84 Thunderjet, attacking several targets in North Korea. After he and three aircraft from the 430th Fighter-Bomber Squadron completed their attack on their primary target, they began their bombing run against enemy boxcars on the railroad near Sinyang. Other members of his flight reported seeing an explosion near the target they were attacking. They believed it to be the crash of Dees' aircraft and could not raise any radio contact with him. Airborne searches over the battlefield failed to locate him or his aircraft.

Following the armistice in 1953, the North Koreans repatriated 4,219 remains of U.S. and allied soldiers during Operation Glory. In November 1954, they turned over remains which they reported were recovered from Sinyang. Accompanying the remains were portions of a pilot's flight suit and a pneumatic life preserver. But after two attempts, the Army's mortuary at Kokura, Japan, was unable to identify the remains. They were buried in 1956 as "unknown" at the Punch Bowl Cemetery in Hawaii.

Beginning in the late 1990s, analysts from DPMO and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) undertook a concentrated review of Korean War air losses, as well as a review of the Kokura mortuary files. They made a tentative association to Dees, based on U.S. wartime records as well as the information provided by the North Koreans. These remains were disinterred from the Punch Bowl Cemetery in June 2010.

Dees' remains were identified by making extensive dental comparisons with his medical records.
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11 January 2011

Veterans Sue Obama Administration Over 76 Year Old War Memorial: VFW Wants Obama to Restore Mojave Desert Cross

/PRNewswire/ -- Liberty Institute, representing the VFW Department of California and VFW Post 385, just filed a lawsuit against the Obama Administration because it refuses to transfer ownership of the land on which stood the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial to the VFW, as directed by a 2003 Act of Congress. The Obama Administration also refused to allow the VFW to rebuild the memorial after vandals destroyed it in May 2010, and it opposed the VFW's intervention into the lawsuit brought by the ACLU. The ACLU is attempting to permanently remove the VFW's Memorial as the case returns to the district court at the U.S. Supreme Court's direction.

"The way our government has treated the veterans in this case is a disgrace to their service and dedication," said Kelly Shackelford, president/CEO of Liberty Institute. "Members of the VFW and those this Memorial represents paid for this land with their own blood, sweat, and tears."

The U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in April 2010 reversed the rulings of the district court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals which had demanded the removal of the Mojave Desert Memorial, and sent the case back to the district court for further consideration.

As Justice Kennedy observed in the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Memorial, the Mojave Desert Veterans Memorial "evokes thousands of small crosses in foreign fields marking the graves of Americans who fell in battles, battles whose tragedies are compounded if the fallen are forgotten."

The VFW then filed a motion to intervene in the district court case, which was denied after the Obama administration and the ACLU together opposed the veterans' attempt to defend their own Memorial on land transferred to them by an Act of Congress. The Memorial remains in a vandalized state since criminals tore it down on May 9, weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling protecting the Memorial.

"This land belongs to the VFW, and the court should honor the congressional act that conveys the land and the memorial to the veterans," said Ted Cruz, a Partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP and co-counsel with Liberty Institute. "The veterans have an acute interest in restoring and preserving this 76-year-old memorial to those brave American soldiers who gave their lives in World War I."

"This is our land, our memorial and we want it back," said James Rowoldt, State Adjutant/Quartermaster of the VFW Department of California. "To deny the veterans a chance to defend our own is to continue to dishonor those for whom the Memorial stands."

In a disturbing trend, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the same court that originally ruled against the Mojave Desert Memorial, recently ruled that the Mount Soledad Memorial, a 43-foot-tall veterans memorial in San Diego, is also unconstitutional. Liberty Institute represents The American Legion as an amicus in the case, and launched a petition at www.DontTearMeDown.com asking President Obama to appeal the disgraceful ruling.

Liberty Institute works to uphold Constitutional and First Amendment religious freedoms and free speech in the courts. Liberty Institute represented all the major veterans groups as amici in the Supreme Court case of Salazar v. Buono involving this 76-year-old war memorial.

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Defense Official Outlines Pay Freeze Details

Defense Department civilian employees affected by the federal pay freeze for 2011 and 2012 will still have the opportunity to receive performance awards, promotions and normal longevity increases, a senior defense official said.

Pasquale "Pat" M. Tamburrino Jr., deputy undersecretary of defense for civilian personnel policy, told American Forces Press Service in a recent interview that senior leaders are working to ensure that employees are treated fairly during the freeze.

"We value the contributions of our career federal employees, and we value their service to the nation. Nothing has changed there," he said. From the time the pay freeze was announced, Tamburrino added, the emphasis has been on ensuring all federal employees receive equal treatment.

"Whether you're the most junior civil servant on the first day of the job or you're a member of the executive leadership team, it applies to you," he said. Defense leaders, he noted, have been "very clear" in directing that the freeze should affect all employees equally.

"Not everything is covered by statute," he said, noting that heads of agencies have some administrative discretion in some dimensions of pay. But guidance on the pay freeze instructs agency heads to manage administrative privileges the same way the president treated general pay increases in the executive order, he added.

"You should not use that privilege to grant a pay raise," he said.

Tamburrino said he encourages managers to use the tools that always have been available to them -– and still are -– to reward employees.

"When it's appropriate, you give somebody a performance award," he said. "If you tell them the organization has five or six goals, and they do a lot of heavy lifting to help you get to those goals, then I think you should sit down as a leader and say, 'We have to recognize that.'"

Most employees, he said, want three things: clear guidance on the management team's priorities, the tools and resources necessary to complete their work, and coaching and feedback.

"Financial compensation is important because it is; we all have financial obligations that have to be satisfied," he said. "But what's really important as well is [that] you want to tell your employees, 'You're doing a really fine job.'"

President Barack Obama announced his intent for a two-year pay freeze for federal civilian workers Nov. 29. Congress approved the proposal, and Obama signed it into law Dec. 22.

The Office of Personnel Management issued a memorandum Dec. 30 to heads of executive departments and agencies, detailing how the freeze applies to the federal work force in accordance with existing law and presidential guidance. The Defense Department issued guidance in line with OPM's the same day.

"It's a response to the difficulties the country is facing, and I think what's really good about it is [that] it's universal," Tamburrino said. "You have to have a very clear understanding of what's in and what's out, because that's what affects employees."

The freeze covers what have traditionally been known as general pay increases, he said, which normally take effect each January and consist of a combination of base pay and locality pay increases for most civilian employees. Federal civilian pay increased an average of 3.5 percent in 2008, 3.9 percent in 2009, and 2 percent in 2010, according to government figures.

"The president determined, based on the state of the economy, that those pay raises that are statutory in nature should not be granted [during the two-year freeze]," Tamburrino said.

According to the OPM guidance, the freeze, which extends though Dec. 31, 2012, affects some 2 million federal civilian employees in most pay systems: general schedule, executive schedule, senior executive service, senior foreign service, senior-level and scientific, and professional. Postal employees and military service members are not affected by the freeze.

However, OPM officials said, the pay freeze policy may not apply to any increase that is required by a collective bargaining agreement that has already been executed.

Except for minor instances in Alaska, Hawaii and other nonforeign areas, locality pay also is frozen, Tamburrino said. "I think everybody recognizes [the pay freeze] was a really difficult decision," he said. "I think we did a tremendous job in issuing some very clear guidance, and I think the leadership of the Department of Defense did a really good job in making it very level and even across the department."

 By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

President Signs Defense Authorization Act

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10, 2011 - Noting his objection to two of its provisions, President Barack Obama signed the fiscal 2011 defense authorization act into law Jan. 7.

The Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 is named for former U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, longtime chairman the House Armed Services Committee, who lost his House seat in November's election.

"The act authorizes funding for the defense of the United States and its interests abroad, for military construction, and for national security-related energy programs," the president wrote in a statement accompanying the signing's announcement.

Obama registered "strong objections" to two of the act's provisions related to transfer of detainees from the U.S. facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. One prohibits the use of funds appropriated by the act to transfer Guantanamo detainees into the United States, and the other bars the use of certain funds to transfer detainees to the custody or effective control of foreign countries unless specified conditions are met.

But despite his objections to the two sections, the president said in his statement, "I have signed this act because of the importance of authorizing appropriations for, among other things, our military activities in 2011." The act governs a wide range of Defense Department activities, including procurement; research, development, testing and evaluation; equipment operation and maintenance; military personnel authorizations and policy; and reserve-component management.

09 January 2011

Georgia loses another brave soldier...

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Lance Cpl. Joseph R. Giese, 24, of Winder, Ga., died Jan. 7 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

06 January 2011

Detainee Transfer Announced

The Department of Defense announced today the transfer of Saiid Farhi from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the Government of Algeria. Farhi was ordered released by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Nov. 19, 2009.

As directed by the President's Jan. 22, 2009, executive order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of this case. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, Farhi was approved for transfer by unanimous consent among all six agencies on the task force. In accordance with Congressionally-mandated reporting requirements, the administration informed Congress of its intent to transfer this individual.

The United States is grateful to the Government of Algeria for its willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. The United States coordinated with the Government of Algeria to ensure the transfer took place under appropriate security and humane treatment measures.

Today, 173 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

Statement by the Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James Amos on Efficiencies

"Today the Secretary of Defense announced the termination of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program. I support his decision. After a thorough review of the program within the context of a broader Marine Corps force structure review, I personally recommended to both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Navy that the EFV be cancelled and that the Marine Corps pursue a more affordable amphibious tracked fighting vehicle.

"Despite the critical amphibious and warfighting capability the EFV represents, the program is simply not affordable given likely Marine Corps procurement budgets. The procurement and operations/maintenance costs of this vehicle are onerous. After examining multiple options to preserve the EFV, I concluded that none of the options meets what we consider reasonable affordability criteria. As a result, I decided to pursue a more affordable vehicle.

"Our nation's amphibious capability remains the Corps' priority. In the complex security environment we face, the execution of amphibious operations requires the use of the sea as maneuver space. A modern amphibious tracked vehicleis the means towards this end. It enables the seamless projection of ready-to-fight Marine rifle squads from sea to land. It is thus the key to allowing ship-to-shore operations in permissive, uncertain, and hostile environments; assuring access where infrastructure is destroyed or nonexistent; and creating joint access in defended areas. It is also central to the entire Marine tactical vehicle strategy for operations ashore. Once on land, an amphibious armored fighting vehicle provides the Marine rifle squad with the protected mobility and firepowerto maneuver to a position of advantage to rapidly close with, engage, and defeat the enemy.

"The Marine Corps remains committed to develop and field an effective, survivable and affordable amphibious tracked vehicle. To bring this capability to the force sooner rather than later, we intend to capitalize on the Office of the Secretary of Defense's recent efforts to streamline procurement and to rapidly accelerate the acquisition and contracting processes in developing our new amphibious tracked vehicle requirement.

"Shortly, we will issue a special notice to industry requesting information relative to supporting our required amphibious capabilities. We look forward to working with industry in meeting this challenge to field a modern and affordable amphibious tracked vehicle that will support our nation's needs."

04 January 2011

Mullen: Leadership Key to Nation's, Military's Future

Because leaders at all levels are key to U.S. success, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a CNN interview broadcast yesterday, his main concern is ensuring the military continues to develop and encourage great leaders for the country.

Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told Fareed Zakaria on the "GPS" program that America's toughest problems are solved by great leaders. The chairman gave the interview in November, but the network didn't broadcast this portion of the interview until yesterday.

"As I become more senior, ... one of the things I worry about the most is how do I stay in touch with those that I affect the most," Mullen said.

The chairman noted that he meets wounded warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. In addition, he said, he and his wife, Deborah, go to Dover Air Force Base, where the remains of fallen warriors return to the United States, "to meet those families and to face the most difficult part of it."

"We attend the funerals at Arlington [National Cemetery]," he added. "We meet with the ... families of the fallen. I certainly intend to be there for them."

The chairman also meets service members in the field. His most-recent trip to Afghanistan took him to Marja in Helmand province and to Forward Operating Base Wilson in Kandahar province.

"Local commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq don't necessarily want me out in the middle of the fight, and I can understand that," he said. "But when I visit, I try to get as far into that as I can, because one of the things that's been a leadership principle for me forever is ... I want to understand as much as I can about what I'm asking a young man or a young woman to do, including to die for our country."

That impetus, he said, is "just in my soul. I need to do that." The need, he added, comes from feeling accountable for their lives.

Mullen also spoke about leadership at the senior level, which he said requires a different set of capabilities.

"Another thing that I try to subscribe to, particularly as I've gotten more senior is listening, learning and leading," he said. "The more senior I've become, the more I try to listen to others and to see challenges and problems through other people's eyes, whether they are service chiefs, combatant commanders or ... military leaders throughout the world."

Still, Mullen said, he is not shy about making decisions and pushing the team forward.

The chairman said he is concerned about the military retaining the right kind of officer and noncommissioned officer leadership in the future. The military's young, mid-grade officers and NCOs have deployed repeatedly, he noted, and are the most combat-tested force in U.S. history. "They are exceptional in what they've done," he said. "And if we retain them in our military in the right proportion, the right numbers, then our military is going to be fine for the future, and it's going to be fine because they will lead us."

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service