Entries in Department of Defense (8)


Colin Powell Calls On Congress to Support Abortion Coverage for Military Rape Victims

ABC/Donna Svennevik(WASHINGTON) -- In a letter sent to key lawmakers on Capitol Hill former U.S. Secretary of State and retired U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell called on Congress to support abortion coverage for military rape victims.

“Restoring abortion coverage to our servicewomen and military family members who are survivors of rape and incest would bring the Department of Defense in line with the policy that governs other federal programs, such as Medicaid or the Federal Employee Health Benefit program,” Powell, along with dozens of military leaders wrote. “At the very least, our military women deserve the same access to care as civilian women who rely on the federal government for their health care.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced the amendment which would allow the Department of Defense to cover the cost of abortions for servicewomen who are survivors of rape and incest.

Under current law, the Department of Defense is allowed to only provide coverage for an abortion if the servicemember’s life is in danger. There is no exemption for abortion coverage in the case of rape or incest, unlike many other federal health programs.

“The current policy is unfair and must be changed,” Powell and the other signers say in the letter. “Our servicewomen commit their lives to defending our freedoms; Congress should respect their service and sacrifice and provide them with the same level of health care coverage it provides civilians.”

The amendment is included in the National Defense Authorization Act which passed unanimously in the Senate last week.

The legislation is currently being worked on in a conference between the House and the Senate. If the provision is included in the final defense authorization bill each chamber, the House and Senate, will be able to vote on it during final passage of the bill.

The letter was sent to the Chairman and Ranking Member in the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, who will be in charge of hammering out a final Defense Authorization Bill that can pass in both houses of Congress.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Missile Defense Chief Patrick O’Reilly Facing Possible Discipline

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- It’s still unclear whether Lt. Gen. Patrick O’Reilly, the outgoing director of the Missile Defense Agency, will be disciplined by the Army following a blistering internal report highly critical of his management style.

A May 2 report from the Defense Department’s inspector general criticized O’Reilly, whose successor was proposed by the White House earlier this week; O'Reilly was cited for routinely yelling and screaming at subordinates in public and private settings.

The inspector general concluded that O’Reilly “demeaned and belittled” his staffers and, “failed to treat subordinates with dignity and respect.”  It said that leadership style, “resulted in the departure of several senior staff members, and caused his senior officials to hesitate to speak up” in meetings.

The report recommended the Army consider “appropriate corrective action” for O’Reilly because his behavior violated Army regulations on ethics and leadership.

Army Secretary John McHugh has reviewed the inspector general’s findings and, after consulting with the Army’s general counsel, referred action to Gen. Lloyd Austin, vice chief of staff for the Army, for “appropriate disposition,” the standard process for actions related to senior general officers, Army spokesman George Wright said.

On Monday, the Pentagon announced Rear Adm. James Syring’s nomination to be the next director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA).  The post requires Senate confirmation, so it remains unclear when Syring would take over the agency.

O’Reilly indicated earlier this year that he would retire in November after completing four years in charge of the agency. Prior to Syring being named his successor, speculation centered around whether O’Reilly would be allowed to continue to head the agency until that date in the wake of the inspector general’s negative report.

Many of the 37 witnesses interviewed for the report provided multiple incidents where they said O’Reilly hurled expletives at staffers.

One staffer provided a written record of staff meetings where he was berated by O’Reilly.  In one 2009 meeting, according to the written record, O’Reilly, “proceeded to curse me out and angrily, irrationally tell me how inept I was and that he could ‘f***ing choke me.’”  

The same staffer said that once while on a video conference, O’Reilly became so upset with him he said, "If I could get my hands through the phone right now I’d choke your f***ing throat.”

Witnesses interviewed for the inspector general’s report likened the work atmosphere at MDA to “walking on eggshells” and described  the pressure as “almost palpable,” an environment they said brought morale down throughout the agency.

In a response included in the May report, O’Reilly denied that he had, “yelled or screamed at anyone,” or, “insulted or verbally abused anyone.”  He also denied having used inappropriate language or threatening anyone.  O’Reilly challenged the objectivity of witnesses and said their testimony contained “subjective perceptions” and said that their version of events consisted of “extrapolations of inaccurate perceptions of isolated incidents.”

The agency drew more bad press last week when a memo from a top agency official emerged that cautioned employees from using their secure computers from visiting porn sites on the Internet.  The memo resulted from monitoring of the agency’s computers that showed a handful of MDA’s 8,000 employees had visited unauthorized websites.

Despite the bad press O’Reilly and the agency he still leads continue with the testing and operations of developing the nation’s missile defense system.

Preparations are underway for the agency’s most complex missile test ever as five interceptors will be launched almost simultaneously against five separate targets over the Pacific Ocean. The test will include a mix of sea-based SM-3 missiles as well as land-based THAAD and Patriot missiles.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


New Military Legal Board to Review Civilian Casualty Cases

Department of Defense Photo by Glenn Fawcett(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked the Pentagon to review the way the military’s legal justice system processes cases in combat zones where U.S. troops have committed criminal offenses against civilians.  In a memo released Friday Panetta said the review will look at cases where U.S. service members are “alleged to have caused the death injury or abuse of non-combatants in Iraq or Afghanistan.”  

Panetta says the application of military justice remaining fair and credible in such cases “is of particular concern to me.  We know that, over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, bad things have happened involving combat excesses and innocent civilians in deployed areas.”
He’s ordered the creation of a new Pentagon Defense Legal Policy Board, that will be made of prominent legal experts and former military commanders.  Among the former senior military leaders who will participate in the review are retired Army General Pete Chiarelli and retired Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler.

A board subcommittee will be tasked with looking at how the U.S. military justice system can be improved given its experience in the past 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In announcing the review, Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson said the group won’t be reviewing the judgments in individual cases like that of Sgt. Robert Bales, the alleged shooter in the murders of 16 Afghan civilians in March.  Instead, they’ll look broadly at cases over the past decade and come up with recommendations for ways to improve reporting and working with local and national law enforcement officers.  
The panel will have until next March to present its findings.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Senate Focuses on China’s Role in Military Counterfeit Parts

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Describing the national security implications of counterfeit electronic parts as a “serious problem,” the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday heard testimony from companies and agencies with firsthand knowledge of the way goods are counterfeited and how they dangerously circle back into the Defense Department’s supply chain.

“The failure of a single electronic part can leave a soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine vulnerable at the worst possible time,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said.  “A flood of counterfeit electronic parts has made it a lot harder to have confidence that won’t happen.”

“The problem of counterfeit electronic parts in the defense supply chain is more serious than most people realize,” said Sen. John McCain, the committee’s ranking member.  “The committee uncovered over 1,800 incidents, totaling over 1 million parts, of counterfeit electronic parts in the defense supply chain.  That is an astounding number.  And it begs the question: if 1 million counterfeit parts were caught in the supply chain, how many were not?”

The committee’s investigation uncovered suspected counterfeit parts on thermal weapons sights delivered to the Army, on computers for the Missile Defense Agency’s THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile, and on military airplanes including the C-17, C-130J, C-27J, and P-8A as well as on AH-64, SH-60B, and CH-46 helicopters.

It also found that the vast majority of cases, where parts suspected to be counterfeits have been identified by companies in the defense supply chain, go unreported.

The Senators pointed a firm finger at China for what they call it’s “refusal to act against brazen counterfeiting that is openly carried out” in their country that end up in critical defense systems in the United States.

“China must shut down the counterfeiters that operate with impunity in their country,” Levin said.  “If China will not act promptly, then we should treat all electronic parts from China as suspected counterfeits.  That would mean requiring inspections at our ports of all shipments of Chinese electronic parts to ensure that they are legitimate.  The costs of these inspections would be borne by shippers, as is the case with other types of border inspections.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pentagon's Number-Two Official to Step Down

Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- William Lynn, the Deputy Defense Secretary, has announced his intention to step down from his post for personal reasons.

The second-highest ranking official at the Defense Department communicated his future plans to Leon Panetta last Friday on Panetta’s first day on the job as Defense Secretary.

He’ll remain at his post until Panetta can name a successor sometime this fall.

Lynn is citing personal reasons for his desire to return to private life.  

In a statement issued by the Pentagon, Lynn said, "It has been a rare privilege to serve in the Department of Defense during such a challenging time." He added that, “it has been an honor to serve alongside an outstanding group of civilian and military members who every day demonstrate the value to this nation of their unwavering commitment and dedicated service."

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta praised Lynn for providing “outstanding advice and counsel to this department and to the nation over the course of his long career.”

Panetta says he “will rely on [Lynn's] experience and expertise during this transition period.  His service will be greatly missed."

Like his predecessors, Lynn was tasked with managing the Pentagon’s complicated administrative, procurement and budget issues.   During his tenure, Lynn has also overseen the development of a new military cyberstrategy and been praised for improving access to social media so service members can communicate with loved ones while deployed overseas.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Military Industrial: Should Pentagon Budget Be Cut?

US Dept of Defense(WASHINGTON) -- Defense accounts for the largest chunk of U.S. federal spending. Of all the money that Congress controls each year, nearly a quarter goes towards the Pentagon and defense spending.

As Congress mulls budget cuts, defense spending is coming increasingly under scrutiny and threatens to become another explosive topic that could divide Republicans as the 2012 race heats up.

Members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle have ramped up pressure on the Pentagon to find ways to trim its budget amid growing concern about the rising deficit.  House Speaker John Boehner has repeatedly said that "there is no part of this government that should be sacred" and that there's room in the Defense Department's budget to "find savings."

President Obama has proposed cutting $400 billion through the 2023 fiscal year in security spending, more than double what his Defense Secretary Robert Gates proposed.

Gates ordered a budget review last week but offered few specifics on what would be cut.  Rather, the outgoing secretary has talked more about what should be off the chopping block, such as expensive fighter jets and aircraft for the Air Force, new ships for the Navy and ground forces in various parts of the world.

The cost of owning and operating the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet would top $1 trillion over more than 50 years, including an additional $385 billion to purchase 2,500 of the stealthy planes through 2035, according to a report published in the Wall Street Journal.

Proponents of keeping the defense budget steady say neither Gates' amount nor Obama's figure of $400 billion will have any real impact on the deficit, and that it's "penny-wise and pound foolish."

Despite all the rhetoric about finding savings in the defense budget, it's a politically sensitive issue that few want to touch.

Even Obama has done little on this front except to lay a rough and mostly vague outline for future cuts.  In fact, his budget for 2012 proposed $553 billion for the Defense Department's base budget, an increase of $22 billion over the 2010 budget.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Murkowski to Vote 'Yes' on 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Repeal, But There's a Catch

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The push to repeal the military’s controversial "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy potentially received a big boost Wednesday afternoon when GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the apparent winner in Alaska as a write-in candidate, announced that she will support the repeal.

“After reviewing the DOD report and the testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee by Defense Secretary Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen, I have concluded that it is time to repeal the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ law,” Murkowski said in a statement.

“We expect all who serve to serve with integrity, but under current law gay and lesbian service members may speak about their sexual orientation only at the risk of being discharged from performing the duties they have trained hard to carry out,” she said. “America is the loser when it denies those who are willing to make the great sacrifices demanded of our men and women in uniform the opportunity do so on grounds of sexual orientation. I agree with Defense Secretary Gates’ view that the military can successfully implement a repeal of the 'don’t ask, don’t tell' law provided that proper preparations are implemented.”

But there is a catch. Murkowski, who lost the GOP primary to Tea Party favorite Joe Miller but then came back to defeat him as a write-in candidate in November’s election, said her support is contingent on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid allowing for “an open and fair amendment process.”

“My support for moving the Defense Authorization bill forward, which includes a repeal of the 'don’t ask, don’t tell' policy, will depend on whether the majority allows for an open and fair amendment process,” Murkowski said. “This is a weighty, policy-laden bill that normally takes several weeks to debate and amend. If the majority attempts to push it through allowing little or no debate or votes on amendments, I will be inclined to oppose those efforts.”

The Senate is expected to hold a procedural vote on the annual defense authorization bill -- that includes a repeal of the policy -- on Wednesday night. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Ct., believes the Republicans are negotiating for a full amendment process in good faith.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, no agreement on amendments had been reached, leaving the fate of the defense bill -- and the repeal of the policy on gays -- still up in the air.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Court Orders Immediate "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Injunction

Photo Courtesy - ABC News Radio(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips on Tuesday ordered a permanent injunction barring enforcement of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, effective immediately. 

The court order, which would affect all service members abroad and in the United States, also requires the government to suspend and discontinue all pending discharge proceedings and investigation under "don't ask, don't tell."

"We have just learned of this ruling.  We are now studying it and will be in consultation with the Department of Justice," said Department of Defense spokesperson, Cynthia Smith.

The government will have 60 days to file an appeal.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio