Saturday, September 22, 2012

Liars all

HUMAN PIECE OF CRAP PAUL HARRIS OF THE GUARDIAN TYPES, "President Barack Obama attacked the Republican party on Saturday, for scrapping a bill that would have established a $1bn scheme to help military veterans get jobs."

Rogin also quotes Harry Reid who has quickly become the bitch of the Senate. Like a tired drag queen attempting Joan Collins, Reid declared, "I just think my friend from Kentucky maybe should have run for secretary of state rather than the Senate." To be honest, I don't mind bitchy. I do mind poorly crafted bitchy.He whined on the Senate floor yesterday about the potential delay (but strangely avoided Rand Paul as he went after Mitch McConnell). He wasn't concerned with the nomination of Beecroft, he was talking about a delay in the Veterans Jobs Corps Act of 2012. The bill was introduced by Bill Nelson and co-sponsored by Patty Murray. We support the bill and have noted it many times here. If it's so important to Harry Reid, maybe it should have come up a lot sooner. In other words, if this bill that Harry Reid is now whining about -- whining that it could be delayed -- was so important, maybe they shouldn't have waited until July 24th to introduce a bill? According to the White House blog, to a blog post by Matt Compton, Barack gave a speech on the need for a veterans jobs corps act February 3rd. Who was draffing their feet? Who was delaying? February 3rd, Barack's calling for one and no Democrat in the Senate bothers to pick up the ball until July 24th?


Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. US House Rep Jeff Miller is the Chair of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs and he issued the following statement today:

On the third Friday of every September we pay tribute to the lives and contributions of the more than 83,000 Americans who are still listed as Prisoners of War or Missing in Action. "Leave no one behind" is a familiar refrain which echoes through the ranks of our Armed Forces. This motto is also what propels the men and women of Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC), who devote their lives to finding the remains of those unaccounted for in foreign lands.
While JPAC's task is challenging, their cause is worthy. Those who never made it home hold a special place in our hearts, and it is the responsibility of the living to give them a proper resting place here at home on American soil.
This past July, the remains of Lt. Col. Clarence F. Blanton of the U.S. Air Force, who was lost on March 11, 1968, in Housphan Province, Laos, were recovered. Lt. Col. Blanton is a symbol for all those who are missing. No matter how much time elapses -- in his case 42 years -- no cause is lost.
We are committed to finding all 83,000 POW/MIA and bringing them back to the home they sacrificed so much to defend, and to give their families an answer.

At the Pentagon today, there was a National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony attended by many including Adm James Innefeld, the Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former US Senator Chuck Hagel.

Chuck Hagel: Today the US military is one institution in this country -- by any metric -- that still enjoys the overwhelming support, confidence and trust of theAmerican people. No other institution in America can say that. That is a result of a generation after generation after generation of commitment, to what Ash Carter noted in his speech -- quoting my firend and former colleage [US Senator and former POW] John McCain -- what any POW has said, believes lived, continues to say: "If there is anything more important in society than to anchor that society with a belief in something greater than one's self interest in the future for your children, for your family, for the world, I don't know what it is. This institution, the military, all who sacrifice and serve daily, who have done that for years and through wars have built that institution that still anchors more than ever confidence and trust in our -- our free people, in our free society, and not only how we serve that society but how we keep that free society. Imperfect issues, problems, like all institutions, the world is imperfect. People are imperfect. But it is the POWs and their families, MIAs, those who serve who constantly remind this country of what's good, of what's strong, what's vital and what's decent.

Of this generation's wars -- the Iraq War and the Afghanistan War -- CNN notes there are 9 POWs and MIAs who were rescued. In addition there are two prisoners of war remaining from these two wars. In the Afghanistan War, the POW is Pfc Bowe R. Bergdahl of Ketchum, Idaho who was "Captured in Paktika province, Afgahnistan, on June 30, 2009. The Pentagon declared him Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown on July 1, 2009, and his status was changed to Missing-Captured on July 3, 2009." The Iraq War POW is Spc Ahmed K. Altaie of Ann Arbor, Michigan: "On October 23, 2006, Altaie was categorized as Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown when he allegedly was kidnapped while on his way to visit family in Baghdad, Iraq. The Pentagon changed his status to Missing-Captured on December 11, 2006."

Staying in the US, sequestration appears to be coming shortly. The Congress voted for automatic sequestration to kick in if they were not able to come up with $1.2 trillion cuts to the budget and get it signed by the White House. Veterans services will not be effected by sequestration. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta have both testified to Congress about that. The VA will be effected administratively if sequestration kicks in but both have testified it will not effect veterans care.

The House Armed Services Committee held a hearing yesterday to explore what sequestration, if it happens, will mean for DoD. US House Rep Buck McKeon is the Chair, US House Rep Adam Smith is the Ranking Member. Appearing before the Committee: DoD's Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Robert Hale, the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen Lloyd J. Austin III, Vice Chair of the Navy, Adm Mark Ferguson, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen Joseph F. Dunford and Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen Larry O. Spencer.

Chair Buck McKeon: The House Armed Services Committee meets today to receive testimony on the Department of Defense planning for sequestration, The Sequestration Transparency Act of 2012, and the way forward. Thank you all for being here. This will be the last week that the House is in session until mid-November. Today's hearing will provide members a final opportunity before the lame duck session to inform themselves and their constitutents about how sequestration will be implemented and how those decisions will effect our men and women in uniform and our national security. We had hoped that the President would provide this information in the report required by The Sequestration Transparency Act. Unfortunately, he failed to comply with both the letter and the spirit of the law. Not only was the report late but the report submitted to Congress merely paid lip service to the dire national security implications of these cuts after the president has had over a year to consider this crisis. Moreover, the White House has even gone so far to instruct the Department of Defense not to make preparations for sequestration. Nevertheless, as previous testimony to this Committee has provided many of our military leaders believe that initial preparation for sequestration must occur well in advance of the January 2, 2013 implementation date. For example, when the Secretary of the Army, John McHugh, was asked this spring if plans for sequestration were underway, he stated "We are not doing as yet any hard planning. That would probably happen later this summer."

Ranking Member Adam Smith declared sequestration to be "the most pressing issue facing our nation." I think every Committee should have held hearings this month asking what was being effected. Foreign Relations/Affairs in the Senate and House should have held a hearing to find out how it would effect the State Dept, etc. The Senate and House Veterans Affairs Committees (chaired by Senator Patty Murray and US House Rep Jeff Miller) did do that, not this month, but repeatedly throughout the year. In addition, Senator Murray has asked questions about this issue in other hearings. (Murray also served on the Super Congress which may be why she takes the issue more seriously than some Committee Chairs in the House and Senate appear to do.)
If sequestration is implemented, what does it mean? We're noting what the officials told the Committee. Not what they said it might mean, not what they said they thought it might mean but they'd have to get back on that, what was actually said.

DoD's Robert Hale: We budget separately for OCO [Overseas Contingency Operations] and the Base Budget. And you approve each budget. When we actually begin executing, the budget's merge so there's one operation and maintenance army account for actives -- has both OCO and Base spending in there, we would have some authority to move money -- within that account -- and we would use it to try to protect the war time operating budgets. But I don't want to make that sound easy because what that means is we'd have to make disproportionately large cuts in the Base side and that will have some of the effects on readiness and training that are of such concern to us. So we would have some ability and we would move to use it to protect the actual wartime operating budget.

The Marine Corps Gen Joseph Dunford: Congressman [Joe Wilson], you're correct, 58% of our total obligated authority goes to personnel. Our cost per Marine is not higher, but the proportion that we spend in our budget on personnel is higher. As a result of personnel being exempt in '13, what I alluded to in my opening remarks, is that we would then have to find a preponderance of funds out of operation and maintenance, infrastructure and our modernization accounts. So we'll continue to do things like run Paris Island, we'll absolutely continue to support those Marines and sailors that are in harms way in Afghanistan, we'll support those that are forward-deployed, but where we will see the biggest impact from a training perspective and where those resources will come from are those units that are at-home station. And I think you know that right now, two-thirds of our units that are at-home stationed are already in a degraded state of readiness. They're in a C3, C4 status already and these cuts will further exaserbate deficiencies in home-station readiness. We'll also be unable to support the strategy. One of the things that we are beginning to do now and had intended to do in FY13 is reconstitute our 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force -- which was the core of our contribution to the US Pacific Command -- and the resources that are necessary to support that are unlikely to be available. And then what we'll see across the board in our modernization accounts is delays and so forth that will cause us to delay programs and in some cases do more with less.

Air Force Gen Larry O. Spencer: If sequestration is triggered, the first thing we would do is look at those accounts or those areas that we would want to try to protect and OCO or Overseas Contingency Operations would be one of those. So once you do that, that drives more of a cut into the other accounts. And so, assuming we would protect wartime operations, that would drive higher than a 9..4% cut into our other accounts like our procurement accounts. So what we would have to do -- We have not had specific conversations with the contractor for the [Boeing] KC-46. But depending upon the amount of the cut, we would -- The issue would be we would have to -- because we have a firm fixed price contract -- we would have to open up that contract and so -- and so we would then have to talk to the contractor about revising our payment schedule. And I would guess the contractor would talk to us about, 'Okay, well we can't give you as many airplanes on the schedule that you asked for or we may have to stretch out the airplane. Or, by the way, we may have to charge you more because now the contract's back open.' So clearly as we go down, as Mr. Bartlett mentioned, as we go down the thousands of contracts and thousands of lines, that's the type of process we have to go through with every kind of contract.

Space and other limitations mean we cover the hearing on bare bones. You can take those answers and think about whatever other government department -- except the Veterans Affairs Department -- and explore what sequestration might mean if it takes place. In terms of the hearing, we've quoted the Chair and he's a Republican. I'm not interested in Adam Smith. Sorry. Even if we had space there's little that I'd include from him -- for reasons that are obvious if you sit through hearings. (Including but not limited to, he's very fond of using his questioning time to offer editorials that use up the entire time and never allow a witness any time to speak.) Of the Democrats, the best performer was US House Rep Susan Davis (not a surprise there, she's one of the most informed members of the Committee -- and one of the most informed members of the Congress) with US House Rep Rob Andrews following closely behind. Among others things, he noted he was voting no on Friday about the House going into recess so everyone would have six weeks before the elections off from DC to return to their home districts where all current members of Congress are either running for office or have decided (or had redistricting decide for them) that they would not run for re-election -- all 435 seats of the House will be voted on in November. Andrews spoke of not understanding how you leave DC with this problem lingering in the air and felt instead it needed to be addressed. His comments were much better than my summary but there's not room for the. My apologies. (He also offered a proposal that was a serious proposal and deserves debate. I don't support it but others might.)

Staying with the US Congress, on Wednesday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Robert S. Beecroft to be US Ambassador to Iraq. We covered that hearing in the Wednesday and Thursday snapshots. Kerry's questioning is in the Wednesday snapshot. Like others on the Committee, he was frustrated with the use of Iraqi air space to carry goods into Syria. (The Senate, like the White House, believes this is taking place. Nouri al-Maliki's government denies that it is.)

Chair John Kerry: Can you share with me an answer to the issue I raised about the Iranians using American airspace in order to support [Syrian President Bashar] Assad? What are we doing, what have you been doing -- if anything, to try to limit that use?

Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: I have personally engaged on this repeatedly at the highest levels of Iraqi government. My colleagues in Baghdad have engaged on this. We're continuing to engage on it. And every single visitor representing the US government from the Senate, recently three visitors, to administration officials has raised it with the Iraqis and made very clear that we find this unnaceptable and we find it unhelpful and detrimental to the region and to Iraq and, of course -- first and foremost, to the Syrian people. It's something that needs to stop and we are pressing and will continue to press until it does stop.

Chair John Kerry: Well, I mean, it may stop when it's too late. If so many people have entreated the government to stop and that doesn't seem to be having an impact -- uh, that sort of alarms me a little bit and seems to send a signal to me: Maybe -- Maybe we should make some of our assistance or some of our support contingent on some kind of appropriate response? I mean it just seems completely inappropriate that we're trying to help build their democracy, support them, put American lives on the line, money into the country and they're working against our interest so overtly -- again their own interests too -- I might add.

Charge d'Affaires Robert S. Beecroft: Senator, Senator, I share your concerns 100%. I'll continue to engage. And, with your permission, I will make very clear to the Iraqis what you've said to me today -- and that is you find it alarming and that it may put our assistance and our cooperation on issues at stake.

Chair John Kerry: Well I think that it would be very hard. I mean, around here, I think right now there's a lot of anxiety about places that seem to be trying to have it both ways. So I wish you would relay that obviously and I think that members of the Committee would -- would want to do so. 

Kerry proposed this. The Committee agreed with this. In a press briefing on Thursday that can be best be summed up with the line from Private Benjamin (starring Goldie Hawn, script by Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyer) about "Next time, don't be so quick to raise the white flag," spokesperson Victoria Nuland insisted the State Dept didn't support tying funding in to Iraq's behavior. Excerpt.

QUESTION: But you've been protesting all along about this issue. Yesterday, Senator Kerry warned Iraq. Are you going to further pressure Iraq and warn about the aid to Maliki government?

MS. NULAND: Well, Senator Kerry has obviously made his own statements. We do not support linking U.S. assistance to Iraq to the issue of the Iranian over-flights precisely because our assistance is in part directed towards robust security assistance, including helping the Iraqis build their capability to defend their airspace. So there's a chicken/egg thing here.

It's a shame she couldn't back up Kerry and it's a shame she couldn't have just said she'd get back to them on it. Instead, she had to waive the white flag. Always. Reuters reported today, "Iraq denied permission to a North Korean plane bound for Syria to pass through Iraqi airspace last Saturday because it suspected it could be carrying weapons, a senior official said on Friday." On Friday, they announce the denial six days prior of a North Korean plane? Why?

Because they feel and fear the pressure from the proposal John Kerry and others on the Committee floated. So now they're making some sort of effort to say, "Well, we're at least doing this." And making it because they want the US money. So, Alsumaria reports, Nouri told US Vice President Joe Biden on the phone today -- I would say whined -- that he was being doubted about his Syrian position by US officials and that this wasn't fair. Point being, John Kerry and the Committee knew what they were doing. Again, it's a shame that Nuland was so quick to raise the white flag at the State Dept yesterday. Already, Kerry and his Committee floating the idea has had impact. It's not yet where they want it, but it could get there. If Nuland and company would stop undercutting the Senate. There's more here but we'll pick it up next week, hopefully on Monday. Nuland doesn't have the sense to be embarrassed but if anyone has bragging rights today, it's John Kerry and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which, in less than 48 hours, have accomplished more than all the talk and talk and talk with Nouri that the State Dept's done for months now.

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