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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Ending Homelessness

Ending Homelessness

Cyber Security and American Power

SECRETARY SHINSEKI ADDRESSES VFW ANUUAL CONVENTION 2012

FROM:  U.S. VETERANS AFFAIRS
Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
VFW Annual Convention
Reno, Nevada
July 24, 2012
Senior Vice Commander-In-Chief [John] Hamilton, thank you for that kind introduction, and congratulations on your election as the next Commander-in-Chief. I look forward to working with you on making things better for Veterans.

Commander-in-Chief [Richard] DeNoyer, thank you for your many years of devotion to Veterans, and for your significant leadership of the VFW this past year. Godspeed to you and your family as you turn over leadership to John.

Let me also acknowledge National Adjutant "Gunner" Kent, National Executive Director Bob Wallace, National Service Director Bill Bradshaw, and other members of your leadership.

To Gwen Rankin, President of your VFW National Ladies Auxiliary, let me offer my thanks for the unwavering support the Auxiliary has provided to Veterans and their families for 100 years now. Congratulations to you and your members—past and present—on reaching such a distinguished milestone of service on behalf of America's Veterans!

Other members of the VFW, fellow Veterans, VA colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

I am greatly honored to be addressing an organization that has been, for well over a century now, a powerfully important voice for Veterans' rights in the halls of Congress, in the Oval Office, and across the country. Bob Wallace has been your diligent representative and our reliable partner in doing what's needed.

I am especially honored to be following President Obama, who addressed you yesterday, to thank you and your families for your patriotism and service to the Nation. The President's commitment to Veterans was clear from our first meeting. It is genuine, it runs deep, and it is unwavering. His vision to transform VA resonated with me when we first met in November of 2008. His initiatives to provide Veterans and families better transitions from the military; better healthcare—especially mental health; faster and more accurate processing of compensation claims; better educational opportunities, jobs counseling, employment opportunities—that's why I am proud to be here today to report to you on the state of your VA.

Let me review how things looked three and a half years ago, what changes we have put into motion since, and where we are headed in the future.

Three and a half years ago, the country was heavily engaged in two operations—the first major war of the 21st century being fought by a smaller, all-volunteer force. Repeated deployments of that force have created issues that don't show up until later deployments. It takes a superb, disciplined fighting force to handle this kind of strain. The men and women who wear our Nation's uniforms today are magnificent. More of them are surviving catastrophic injuries because of improved body armor, better combat lifesaving skills, and rapid medical evacuation from battle zone to state-side hospitals.

But higher battlefield survival rates also mean more complex casualties—the compounding effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and multiple amputations—five quadruple amputees from this war—with complications of blindness and deafness and genitourinary injuries. We had to create a word for this—polytrauma—and we have since built five polytrauma centers of excellence, the best in the world, and an entire system of polytrauma care to treat these patients and enable them to go home.

Three and a half years ago, we were also still grappling with unresolved issues from two past wars—the Gulf War, over 20 years ago, and the Vietnam War, nearly 50 years ago now. We didn't take care of business back then, when we should have, and some Veterans were dying without benefits.

Three and a half years ago, 107,000 Veterans were estimated to be homeless in this rich and powerful country. The President has said, "[We won't] be satisfied until every Veteran who has fought for America has a home in America." But this rich and powerful country had suffered an economic downturn the likes of which we had not seen since the Great Depression—certainly, not in my lifetime. In spite of a collapsing economy, the President was determined not to let Veterans homelessness spiral out of control.

In 2009, there were over 23 million living Veterans in this country, but only 7.4 million of them were enrolled in VA healthcare and only 3 million were receiving compensation and pension benefits from VA. With less than a third of the Veteran population enrolled in VA, we had an outreach problem: Many didn't know about VA or their possible benefits. We had an access problem: Even if they knew about us, they had difficulty getting the services they needed. And we had, even then, a backlog in disability claims, one which had been there for decades.

Well, that was the landscape in 2009, and we needed to put things into motion. We immediately focused on three key priorities that came out of my talks with a variety of stakeholders. Bob Wallace and I, and the executive directors of the five other major VSO's, still meet near monthly today. Those priorities are unchanged:
Increase Veteran access to VA benefits and services—one-third market penetration is not good enough;
Eliminate the backlog in disability claims in 2015;
And end Veterans homelessness in 2015.

Folks tighten up whenever you tag dates to goals, meaning the sense of urgency is probably about right.

The first order of business was to establish closer, more collaborative working relationships with DoD. As I often remind folks, very little of what we do in VA originates in VA—most originates in DoD. It takes both departments to create a seamless transition for separating Servicemembers to return home "career ready" to live, work, raise children, and contribute to restoring the strength of our economy.

The Secretaries of Defense—Bob Gates and Leon Panetta—and I have personally met nine times in the past 17 months. Leon Panetta is a dedicated public servant, who has been insightful, decisive, and a good friend to me and to Veterans, as is Bob Gates. Tomorrow, Secretary Panetta and I will testify together before a joint hearing of the house Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees—perhaps for the first time.

Our second priority was to fix VA's budget process. You can't create change without resources, and money is firepower. For the past three and a half years, VA has presented compelling arguments for strengthening VA's budget, and the President has been stalwart in his support.

In 2009, VA inherited a budget totaling $99.8 billion—a good budget, not spectacular, but a good one. In 2010, the President increased our budget to $127.2 billion—a near 30 percent increase in a single year. The President's 2013 budget request, currently before the Congress, is for $140.3 billion—a 40 percent increase since 2009.

During this period of economic downturn, few private-sector businesses and federal departments have sustained this kind of budget growth. In a discussion about values, I was once lectured, "Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value." Now, by that standard, there is no question where the President stands. He gets it—he understands our obligation to Veterans. He's provided VA the budgets that allow for meaningful change.

So, what have we put into motion these past three and a half years? First, we took care of some long overdue business:
For you Vietnam Veterans, we granted presumption of service connection for three new Agent-Orange–related conditions: Parkinson's disease, hairy cell and other chronic b-cell leukemias, and ischemic heart disease.
For you Gulf War Veterans, we granted presumption of service connection for nine diseases associated with Gulf War illness for Veterans of Desert Storm and Afghanistan. While we must continue to research what might have caused this illness, our responsibility is to diagnose and treat symptoms of these verifiable diseases.
And for all combat Veterans with verifiable PTSD—World War II, Korea, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Somalia, Operation Desert Storm, Iraq, Afghanistan, and others—we granted the presumption of service connection.

These three decisions alone have dramatically expanded access to VA medical care for hundreds of thousands of Veterans. In addition, we have mounted an aggressive outreach campaign to educate Servicemembers and Veterans about VA's capabilities and their benefits. Since January 2009, enrollment in VA healthcare is up by nearly 800,000—a 10 percent increase. That's great news—we are expanding access.

And in expanding outreach and increasing access to VA healthcare, we also, understandably, increased the number of compensation claims—also good news. Veterans who previously had no access are now enrolling and submitting claims.

Three and a half years ago, the total claims inventory was roughly 400,000. Today, it's approximately 880,000. The backlog—the number of claims older than 125 days—was about 135,000 in 2009 and is roughly 580,000 today. Growth in these numbers—total and backlogged claims—is what happens when we increase access. But it was the right thing to do—for Vietnam Veterans, for Gulf War Veterans, and for combat Veterans of all wars.

One last snapshot of the claims backlog. In 2009, we completed 900,000 claims decisions—but took in one million claims in return. In 2010, we completed, for the first time, one million claims decisions—and took in 1.2 million claims. In 2011, we again produced a million claims decisions, but took in 1.3 million claims in return. Now look, if the total number of claims in our inventory today is 880,000 and we generated nearly three million claims decisions over the past three years, you know that today's inventory and backlog are not the same claims that were there three years ago, two years ago—not even a year ago. Now, there are sure to be a handful of exceptionally complex cases, but the process is dynamic.

It's also a big numbers process, and we do most all of it on paper. Paper is what we receive from DoD. With the planned draw-down of up to a million troops over the next five years, the number of new claims will continue to grow. It will take both departments for VA to go paperless. Hence, my close working relationship with Secretary Panetta—he and I are pulling our departments into the future.

You heard the President yesterday—solve the backlog! We are working hard and smart to solve this correctly. We already have a new automation tool called VBMS—the Veterans Benefits Management System—being piloted at two regional offices for over a year now. We'll have it up and running at 16 regional offices by the end of this year, and at all 56 regional offices by the end of 2013. We are also re-directing 1,200 of our most senior claims adjudicators—37 percent of our experienced staff—to the backlog, which ballooned while I asked them to focus on the 250,000 Agent Orange claims they just completed.

I have committed to ending the claims backlog in 2015, by putting in place a system that processes all claims within 125 days at a 98 percent accuracy level. With the President's strong support, we have the resources we need, and we are on track to do it.

To further increase access, we have added 57 new community-based outpatient clinics, 20 more mobile health clinics, and our fifth polytrauma center, opened in San Antonio last year. We have four new hospitals under construction—in Denver, Orlando, Las Vegas, and New Orleans. We will open Las Vegas on 6 August—the first new VA hospital opened in 17 years—and provide Veterans and Servicemembers stationed nearby the state of the art facility they need and deserve. As the President said yesterday, we keep our promises.

We have also invested heavily in new telehealth-telemedicine technologies to overcome the tyranny of distance and extend our reach into the most remote rural areas where Veterans live. Enhanced IT technologies are also making it easier for Veterans to make appointments, access their medical records, and find out about available benefits and services.

We have placed full-time women Veterans' program managers at 144 medical centers to advocate for women Veterans, and named women Veterans coordinators at all 56 regional offices to assist women with their claims. Since 2009, we've opened 19 clinics designed specifically to serve women, and provided training in women's health to more than 1,200 healthcare providers.

We've also increased access to our national cemeteries, opening three new national cemeteries and 14 new state cemeteries. Additionally, five more national cemeteries are planned, as well as five columbaria-only cemeteries in urban areas, and eight burial grounds in rural areas, owned and managed by VA but collocated with non-VA cemeteries. As some of you know, for the past 10 years, NCA has been the top-rated public or private customer service organization in the country, according to the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index—outperforming Google, Lexus, Apple, all the others—not a surprise when nearly three-quarters of NCA employees are Veterans.

In 2009, I told you that Veterans lead the Nation in homelessness, depression, substance abuse, suicides, and they rank right up there in joblessness, as well. As I mentioned earlier, 107,000 Veterans were estimated to be homeless in 2009. By January 2011, that estimate was down to 67,500. We believe that when the Department of Housing and Urban Development announces its 2012 estimate before the end of the year, that the estimated number of homeless Veterans will be below 60,000, keeping us on track to break 35,000 in 2013 and moving to end the rescue phase of Veterans' homelessness in 2015.

The prevention phase of defeating Veterans homelessness is ongoing and requires VA to focus all our capabilities to keep an invisible "at risk" population of Veterans and families from slipping into that downward spiral that ends up in homelessness. We have over 900,000 Veterans and eligible family members in training and education today—universities, colleges, community colleges, tech schools, and in the trades. Part of our prevention mission is to see them all graduate. Every one who flunks out in this economy is at high risk of homelessness. So my one-word speech to any student Veteran audience is "Graduate!" If I sound like your dad, I am. I'm paying most of your bills. So, graduate!

In 2005, at the height of operations in Iraq, we had 13,000 mental health professionals handling the healthcare needs of our Veterans. Today, we have over 20,000. We recently announced that we are hiring another 1,600 to increase our ability to address the growth in mental health requirements spawned by a decade of repetitive deployments.

We know that when we diagnose and treat, people usually get better, and the long-term trends of our treatment efforts are good. Among the 8.6 million Veterans enrolled in VA healthcare, the number receiving mental health treatment is up. At the same time, for Veterans who receive treatment, our suicide rates are down—an indication that treatment, including evidence-based therapies, works.

However, too many Veterans still leave the military with mental health issues we never find out about—because the issues weren't noted in their DoD records or because Veterans never enrolled in VA's healthcare system. Most Veterans who commit suicide—perhaps as many as two out of three—were never enrolled in VA. As good as we think our programs are, we can't help those we don't treat—another reason two secretaries meet regularly, and another reason increasing access is so important.

One of our most successful outreach efforts is our Veterans Crisis Line. DoD knows it as the Military Crisis Line—same number, same trained VA mental health professionals answering the phone, no cost to DoD. Since start-up in 2007, over 640,000 people have called in, including over 8,000 active-duty service members. We've made over 99,000 referrals for care and rescued over 23,000 from potential suicide. Some younger Veterans are more comfortable with chatting and texting, so in 2009 we added an on-line chat service and in 2011 a texting service.

We have worked to ensure greater collaboration between VA and DoD, especially in that critical phase before Servicemembers leave the military. We simply must transition them better. We do this best with warm handoffs between the departments—that is key to preventing the downward spiral that often leads to homelessness and sometimes to suicide. Last year we completed expansion of our joint DoD/VA Integrated Disability Evaluation System (IDES) from the original 27 sites to 139 sites—a major improvement towards a seamless transition to Veteran status. But there's still more VA and DoD can do together.

Secretary Gates and I worked these initiatives hard, and Secretary Panetta and I have worked them even harder. We are both committed to a fully operational integrated electronic health record (IEHR) by 2017.

Good jobs are essential for Veterans, and we are proud to have partnered with the First Lady's Joining Forces initiative and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Hiring Our Heroes campaign. The President, the First Lady, Dr. Biden have provided strong leadership in increasing employment opportunities for Veterans and spouses of military members. The President challenged private companies to hire or train 100,000 Veterans and spouses by the end of 2013. They have already received commitments from 2,100 companies for 175,000 hires—and 90,000 Veterans and spouses have already been hired.

VA has also joined private companies and other departments, like Defense, Homeland Security, and Transportation, in efforts to hire Veterans and assist others in hiring them.

In January, our hiring fair in Washington, DC, attracted over 4,100 Veterans, resulted in over 2,600 on-the-spot interviews, and more than 500 job offers on one day. We followed that success with an even bigger hiring fair last month in Detroit—in conjunction with our national Veterans small-business exposition. Over 8,000 Veterans participated, more than 5,700 were interviewed, and over 1,200 received job offers on the spot.

Simultaneously, 3,500 people participated in the Veteran small-business training exposition—it was our opportunity to bring Veteran small business owners into direct contact with our acquisition decision makers so they could better understand our procurement requirements, demonstrate their capabilities, and improve their ability to prepare competitive proposals for government contracts. It also increased the opportunity to hire unemployed Veterans—because Veterans hire Veterans.

So, where are we headed? I intend to be here to update you again next summer, and here's what I intend to report:
We will have increased spinal chord injury funding by 28 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 36 percent.
We will have increased TBI funding by 38 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 51 percent.
We will have increased mental health funding by 39 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 45 percent.
We will have increased long-term care funding by 39 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 50 percent.
We will have increased prosthetics funding by 58 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 75 percent.
We will have increased women Veterans funding by 123 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 158 percent.
We will have increased OEF/OIF/OND funding by 124 percent between 2009-2013. By 2014, that increase will likely be 161 percent.
Our Veterans Benefit Management System will be fully operational at most regional offices, and just 40 percent of claims will be older than 125 days.

Now, who doesn't think the President gets it down deep where it counts? "Show me your budget, and I'll tell you what you value." There is no question that our President highly values what Veterans, their families, and our survivors have meant to this country.

God bless our country. God bless our President. And may God continue to bless the men and women who serve and have served our Nation in uniform.

Thank you.

It's not 911 over there

It's not 911 over there

59TH ANNIVERSARY OF KOREAN WAR ARMISTICE OBSERVED

FROM: U.S DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE A member of the honor guard brings a wreath to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta as South Korean Ambassador Choi-Young jin looks on during a ceremony to mark the 59th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va., July 27, 2012. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
Panetta Salutes Korean War Vets at 59th Armistice ObservanceBy Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2012 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta observed the 59th anniversary of the Korean War Armistice today by reminding a gathering of Korean War veterans that America will not permit cuts to the military to again "allow us to lose our edge", as he says happened on the eve of that conflict more than 60 years ago.

Panetta was the keynote speaker at an observance of the armistice that ended the 1950-1953 conflict, held at Arlington National Cemetery, just across the river from Washington. It was an opportunity to remember the more than 50,000 U.S. service members who lost their lives in the Korean War, and to celebrate the "sheer grit, determination, and bravery" of those who fought for a noble cause in a distant land to make the world a safer place, he said.

"For three long, bloody years, American troops fought and died in Korea, in difficult conditions, where the country's mountainous terrain and the unrelenting cold of winter were bitter enemies in themselves," Panetta said.

"It was an uncompromising war, where capture by a vicious enemy often meant summary execution. In Korea, American troops and their allies were always outnumbered by the enemy, awaiting the chilling sound of bugles and horns that would signal another human wave attack."

Panetta said the troops that fought during that Cold War conflict will never forget the battles waged in the country's mountains and at Massacre Valle, Bloody Ridge, Chosin Reservoir and Pork Chop Hill. Those fights, he said, "became synonymous in our lexicon with the heroic sacrifice and the grim determination of the American fighting man."

The Korean War caught America unprepared, Panetta said, and the mighty military machine that liberated Europe and conquered the Japanese empire had been rapidly demobilized. Only a few years of under-investment had left the United States with a hollow force, he added.

"The American soldiers and Marines initially sent to Korea were poorly equipped, without winter clothing and sleeping bags, with insufficient ammunition and inadequate weapons, including bazookas that weren't strong enough to stop North Korean tanks."

But those green troops sent to stem the tide of communism soon turned into savvy combat veterans, he said, and what they weren't taught before their baptism by fire, they quickly learned on the unforgiving battlefield. They soon became a battle-hardened force, Panetta said, that fought from one end of Korea to the other, halting repeated drives to capture the peninsula, and in the process inflicting massive casualties on the enemy.

"As we honor our Korean War veterans we must also remember the more than 7,900 Americans missing in action," he said. "The Department of Defense is dedicated to resuming the search [to find] the remains of fallen service members missing in action in Korea. We will leave no one behind ... until all of our troops come home."

South Korea has grown strong and has become independent, and the Korean War's moniker as "The Forgotten War" no longer holds true, he added.

"Thanks to the service and sacrifice of our veterans six decades ago ... South Korea is a trusted ally, an economic power, a democracy and a provider of security in the Asia-Pacific region, and in other parts of the world."

Panetta contrasted the South's progress with "the bleakness" of the North, which he said remains a dangerous and destabilizing country bent on provocation, "and is pursuing an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction while its people are left to starve."

Two crucial lessons were learned from the Korean War, Panetta said.

"Too many American troops paid a heavy price in Korea because they were not provided the necessary training and the right weapons. They were sent into a tough fight with little preparation ...Only a few short years after World War II, dramatic cuts to the force made us lose our edge -- even though the world remained a dangerous place. We will not make that mistake again. That's why today, coming out of a decade of war, we have put forward a strategy-driven defense budget to meet the challenges of the future. The world remains a dangerous place, and America must maintain its decisive military edge."

America "must remain the strongest military power in the world, and ... make no mistake: We will be ready to defeat aggression – anytime, anyplace."

Panetta said the second lesson taught by the Korean War is the service and sacrifice made by a generation that bravely fought on its battlefields.

"Some 60 years ago, a generation of Americans stepped forward to defend those in need of protection and to safeguard this great country. America is indebted to them -- to you, for your service and your sacrifice. Sixty years ago, the bugles sounded and you helped strengthen this country for 60 years. America will never forget you."

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, another generation stepped forward to lead, and its strength will be America's strength for decades to come, Panetta said.

"Over the past decade of war this new generation has done all this country has asked of them and more," he said. "They take their place alongside all of you -- another greatest generation of heroes that exemplifies the best that America has to offer. Our nation is great because generation after generation after generation, when the bugle sounded, our [military] responded."

In commemoration of the Korean War, Panetta said America should always remember "the sacred call to duty," and to "renew our commitment to honoring those who have fought, who have bled, and who have died to protect our freedoms and our way of life."

SEC. OF DEFENSE SPEAKS BEFORE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON MEETING NEEDS OF VETERANS

FROM: U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT
Spoken Statement on DOD-VA Collaboration before the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committees
As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta, Washington D.C., Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Thank you very much.
Chairman McKeon, Chairman Miller, Ranking Member Smith and Ranking Member Filner, dear former colleagues of mine, I appreciate the opportunity to be here. And I also want to pay my respects to the members of both committees. This is a unique event. It's an important event.

And first and foremost, I want to thank all of the members of both the Armed Services Committee and Veterans Committee for the support that you provide the Department of Defense, our men and women in uniform, and our veterans. We could simply not do the work that needs to be done in protecting this country and in serving those who are our warriors and their families – we just could not do it without the partnership that we have with all of you. And for that reason, let me just express my personal appreciation to all of you for your dedication and for your commitment to those areas.

I also want to thank you for the opportunity to appear this morning alongside Secretary Shinseki. He is a great public servant, a great military leader and a great friend to me and to our nation's veterans, and I appreciate the opportunity to appear alongside of him.

I'm pleased to have this chance to discuss the ways that the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are working together to try to meet the needs of our service members, our veterans and their families. This hearing comes at a very important time for our nation and for collaboration between our two Departments.

DoD and VA are in the process of building an integrated military and veteran support system. It's something that should have been done a long time ago, but we are in the process of trying to make that happen and develop a support system that's fundamentally different and a lot more robust than it's been in the past.

Today, after a decade of war, a new generation of service members, of veterans, are coming home. Our nation has made a lifetime commitment to them for their service and for their sacrifice, for their willingness to put their lives on the line for this country. These men and women have shouldered a very heavy burden. They've been deployed, as you know, time and time and time again.

They've fought battles in Iraq. They've fought battles in Afghanistan. They've been targeted by terrorists and by IEDs. They've been deployed from Kuwait to South Korea, from the Pacific to the Middle East. Many are dealing with serious wounds, as well as with complex and difficult problems, both seen and unseen. They fought, and many have died, to protect this country, and we need to fight to protect them.

We owe it to those returning service members and to the veterans to provide them with a seamless support system so that they can put their lives back together, so that they can pursue their goals, so that they can not only go back to their communities but be able to give back to their communities and to help strengthen our nation in many ways.

None of this is easy. It takes tremendous commitment on the part of all Americans – those in government, those in the military. It takes tremendous commitment on the part of those in the private sector, our business leaders and frankly all citizens across our country.

There is no doubt that DoD and VA are working more closely together than we have before. But frankly, we have much more to do to try to reach a level of cooperation to better meet the needs of those who have served our nation in uniform, especially our wounded warriors.

Since I became Secretary a little over a year ago, Secretary Shinseki and I have met on a regular basis in order to personally guide efforts to share resources and expand cooperation between our departments. The partnership between our departments extends to all levels, led by a joint committee co-chaired by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness and the Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Senior military leaders have been deeply committed to this effort. This is about the care of their troops, but it's also about recruiting and retaining the very best military force in the world. When it comes down to it, caring for those who have served and their families is not only a moral imperative, it is a national security imperative as well.

For those who have fought for their nation, we need to protect their care and their benefits, but we also need to protect their integrity and their honor. It's for that reason that before I discuss the specifics about DoD and VA collaboration, I want to announce an important step that my Department is taking in order to help maintain the integrity of the awards and honors that are earned by our service members and their veterans.

You're all aware of the Supreme Court decision that determined that free speech allows someone to lie about military awards and honors. Free speech is one thing, but dishonoring those who have been honored on the battlefield is something else.

For that reason, today we are posting a new page on the Defense Department's website that will list those service members and veterans who have earned our nation's highest military awards for valor. Initially the website will list the names of those who have earned the Medal of Honor since 9/11, but in the near term, it will include the recipients of the Services Crosses and the Silver Star since 9/11. We'll look at expanding that information available on the website over time.

This effort will help raise public awareness about our nation's heroes and help deter those who might falsely claim military honors, which I know has been a source of great concern for many veterans and members of these committees and members of the Congress. I want to thank you for your concerns and for your leadership on this issue. And our hope is that this will help protect the honor of those who serve the United States in battle.

Now let me discuss the five priority areas that DoD and VA are trying to work on to enhance collaboration.

The first is this transition program, the Transition GPS program. At the Department of Defense, our goal is to provide a comprehensive transition assistance program that prepares those who are leaving the service for the next step – whether that is pursuing additional education, whether it's trying to find a job in the public sector or the private sector, or whether it's starting their own business.

On Monday, the President announced the new "Transition GPS program" that will extend transition preparation through the entire span of each service member's military career. The program will ensure that every service member develops their own individual transition plan, meets new career readiness standards and is prepared to apply their valuable military experience however and wherever they choose.

The second area that we focused on is trying to integrate the Disability Evaluation System. We've overhauled the legacy disability evaluation system in trying to make improvements with regards to developing a new system. In the past, as you know, service members with medical conditions preventing them from doing their military jobs had to navigate separate disability evaluation systems at both DoD and VA. We've replaced that legacy system with a single integrated Disability Evaluation System that enables our departments to work in tandem. Under the new system currently in use, service members and veterans have to deal with fewer layers of bureaucracy, and they are able to receive VA disability compensation sooner after separating from the military.

But let's understand as we try to do this, this is a tough challenge to try to make this work in a way that can respond to our veterans effectively. After all, veterans have rights. They have the right to ensure that their claims are carefully adjudicated. But at the same time, we need to expedite the process, and to ensure that as we do that we protect their benefits. And that's what we're trying to do with this system.

The third area is to try to integrate – as was pointed out – a new Electronic Health Record system. We're working on a major initiative to try to do that. For too long, efforts to achieve a real seamless transition between our health care systems have been hamstrung by separate legacy health record systems. In response to the challenge that was issued by the President – and frankly, presidents in the past who have tried to address this issue – DoD and VA is finally working steadily to build an integrated Electronic Health Record system. When operational, that system will be the single source for service members and veterans to access their medical history and for clinicians to use that history at any DoD and VA medical facility.

Again, this is not easy, and so the way we're approaching it is to try to see if we can complete this process at two places – San Antonio and Hampton Roads – and then try to expand it to every other hospital. It's tough, but if we can achieve this, it would be a very significant achievement that I think could be a model not only for the hospitals that we run but for hospitals in the private sector as well.

Fourthly, we need greater collaboration on mental and behavioral health. Beyond these specific initiatives that I mentioned, we are trying to focus on enhancing collaboration in areas that involve some of the toughest challenges we face now, related to mental and behavioral health. Post-traumatic stress has emerged as a signature unseen wound of this last decade of war. Its impact will be felt for decades to come, and both the DoD and VA must therefore improve our ability to identify and treat this condition, as well as all mental and behavioral health conditions, and to better equip our system to deal with the unique challenges these conditions can present.

For example, I've been very concerned about reports of problems with modifying diagnoses for post-traumatic stress in the military disability evaluation system. Many of these issues were brought to my attention by members of Congress – and I appreciate their doing that – particularly the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Patty Murray, who addressed this issue because it happened in her own state in a particular way.

To address these concerns, I've directed a review across all of the uniformed services. This review, led by the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Erin Conaton, will help ensure that we are delivering on our commitment to care for our service members. The review will be analytically sound, it will be action-oriented and it will provide hopefully the least disruptive impact to behavioral health services for service members. The effort here is to determine where those diagnoses take place, why they were downgraded downward, what took place, so that we know exactly what has happened. I hope that the entire review will be completed within approximately 18 months.

The last area is an area that has really concerned me, which is the area of trying to prevent military suicides. We've strongly focused on doing what we can to try to deal with this issue, which I've said is one of the most frustrating problems I have come across as Secretary of Defense. Despite increased efforts and attention by both DoD and VA, the suicide trends among service members and veterans continues to move in a very troubling and tragic direction. In part, it is reflective of the larger society. The fact is, numbers are increasing now within the military.

In close cooperation with the VA, DoD is taking aggressive steps to try to address this issue, including promoting a culture to try to get people to seek the kind of help that they need, to improve access to mental and behavioral health care, to emphasize mental fitness and to work to better understand the issue of suicide with the help of other agencies, including the VA.

One of the things that I'm trying to stress is that we have got to improve the ability of leadership within the military to see these issues, to see them coming and to do something to try to prevent it from happening. Our efforts to deliver the best possible services depend on the dedication of our DoD and VA professionals who work extremely hard every day on behalf of those who have served in uniform, and I extend my thanks to all who help support our men and women in uniform today, to our veterans and to our families.

Let me just say, we are one family. We have to be one family at the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs, a family that supports one another and all those who have answered the call to defend our country. Together, we will do everything possible to ensure that the bond between our two Departments and between our country and those who have defended it only grows stronger in the future.

Let me also say this. As a former Congressman – now as Secretary of Defense – and someone who's spent over 40 years involved in government in some capacity or another, I am well aware that too often the very best intentions for caring for our veterans can get trapped in bureaucratic infighting. It gets trapped by conflicting rules and regulations. It gets trapped by frustrating levels of responsibility.

This cannot be an excuse for not dealing with these issues. It should be a challenge for both the VA and DoD, for the Congress and for the Administration to try to meet that challenge together.

Our warriors are trained not to fail on the battlefield. We must be committed not to fail them on the homefront. I realize that there have been a lot of good words and a lot of good will and a lot of good intentions. But I can assure you that my interest is in results, not words. I'm grateful for the support of the Congress and particularly these two committees. And I thank you and look forward to your questions.

Life with asthma

Life with asthma

Soldiers to the Olympics: U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program

U.S.-CHINA HUMAN RIGHTS DIALOGUE SPECIAL STATE DEPARTMENT BRIEFING

Map Credit:  U.S. State Department.
FROM: U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Briefing on the 17th U.S.-China Human Rights DialogueSpecial Briefing

VIDEO LINK: http://bcove.me/9uobdsfi




TRANSCRIPT
Michael H. Posner
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Washington, DC
July 25, 2012

MS. NULAND: Afternoon, everybody. Thank you for joining us. As you know, we have a special briefing today by Assistant Secretary of State Mike Posner to talk about our just-completed Annual Dialogue with China on Human Rights. So without further ado, Assistant Secretary Posner.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Thanks, Toria. Before I begin, I want to say how much we welcome the appointment of – by the European Union of a new position, a Special Representative for Human Rights, and we welcome the first appointee, Stavros Lambrinidis. We have a long record of working with the European Union on issues of human rights, and the creation of this position strengthens their commitment and we look forward to working with him.

I want to make a short statement and then I’m glad to answer questions. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, we hosted our Annual Human Rights Dialogue with the Chinese Government. I was pleased to lead the U.S. delegation to these meetings for the third time. Our delegation included representatives from the Department of Justice, USAID, the Department of Labor, U.S. Trade Representative, the Office of the Vice President, National Security Staff, and the Department of State. My counterpart, Chen Xu, is the Director General for International Organizations in the Chinese Foreign Ministry, and he led a Chinese delegation which also included representatives from a range of government ministries.

These meetings take place in the broader context of U.S.-China relations. As President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made clear many times, we welcome the rise of a strong, stable, and prosperous China, and we’re committed to building a cooperative partnership with China. We recognize China’s extraordinary record of economic development over the last three decades. During this period, hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens have been lifted out of poverty, and this is a remarkable achievement.

At the same time, we see that political reforms in China have not kept pace with economic advances. Like people everywhere, Chinese people want to be treated with dignity. This means they seek economic opportunity and jobs; at the same time, they seek a lawful way to voice legitimate grievances and have a meaningful role in the political development of their own society.

In our Human Rights Dialogue, we focus particular attention on the growing discourse on human rights in China today. We discuss restrictions on free expression and internet freedom, on religious and ethnic minorities, and on internationally recognized labor rights that Chinese citizens are raising with their own government. We also discuss legal reform issues in China.

This dialogue is about applying universal human rights standards, and indeed regular news from China makes clear that the subjects of our discussion are matters of great concern to millions, many millions of ordinary Chinese citizens whose voices are increasingly being heard around the world.

Let me say what this dialogue is and is not. It is a chance for us to engage on human rights issues and to do so in an in-depth manner focusing both on specific issues and specific cases. It’s not a negotiation. Rather, it’s a forum where we meet to engage frankly and candidly. And most importantly, it’s the only forum among many where we – it’s only one forum among many where we raise these issues. These issues are and will continue to be raised by numerous senior U.S. Government officials in a variety of settings. For example, Secretary Clinton addresses human rights as part of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue each year.

The overall human rights situation in China continues to deteriorate. Over the last two days, we’ve focused on a number of cases where lawyers, bloggers, NGO activists, journalists, religious leaders, and others are asserting universal rights and calling for peaceful reform in China. A number of these individuals have been arrested and detained as part of a larger pattern of arrest and extralegal detention of those who challenge official actions and policies in China. Among the cases we raised were lawyers like Gao Zhisheng and Ni Yulan, who have been imprisoned because of their legal advocacy on behalf of clients who espouse controversial positions and who are critical of official actions. We urge the Chinese Government to release such lawyers as well as imprisoned democracy activists like Liu Xiaobo, Chen Wei and Chen Xi, who have actively pursued political openness and the promotion of fundamental freedoms for Chinese citizens.

We also expressed concern about the denial of access to legal counsel, to criminal defendants such as Chen Kegui, whose lawyers Ding Xikui and Si Weijiang have not been able to meet with him. We continue to state our position that China’s policies in ethnic minority areas are counterproductive and aggravate tensions, and that preceptions. of human rights activists trying to give these communities a voice violates their human rights. We’ve raised and will continue to raise our deep concern about more than 40 self-immolations in Tibetan parts of China.

We believe that societies that respect human rights and address aspirations of their own people are more prosperous, successful, and stable. In China as elsewhere, we strongly believe that change occurs from within a society. These discussions then are ultimately about Chinese citizens’ aspirations and how the Chinese themselves are navigating their own future. In every society, we believe it’s incumbent on government to give its own people an opportunity to voice their concerns and pursue their aspirations.

Let me end with that thought. I’m pleased to take your questions.

QUESTION: You mentioned, I think, Chen Guangcheng’s nephew and that he’s been denied legal counsel. How did the Chinese delegation respond to that? And more generally, how would you characterize their responses to the individual cases that you’ve raised, and did you get any assurance that they would take any taking action?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We, in a range of – in discussing a range of issues, the general approach we take to these discussions is it’s important to talk about the broad subject and then to use specific cases to illustrate and to get into a deeper discussion. We did that in the case of Chen’s nephew and the denial of access. A number of his lawyers who the family have reached out to have tried to meet with him, tried to represent him actively, and been denied access. We raise those concerns openly. We will continue to raise those concerns. At this stage, I’m not going to characterize every response we got from the Chinese Government, but I can assure you that’s an area of great concern to us.

QUESTION: But in general, I mean, did you get any assurance that they would – they were mindful of your concerns?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: They’re certainly mindful of our concerns and they’re mindful of our concerns and they’re mindful of the fact that these are issues we will continue to raise. These are issues that address fundamental human rights protections. Every individual charged criminally, especially with a felony, is entitled to a lawyer of his or her choosing, and that lawyer needs to have access to represent them.

So that’s a broad concern we have. We raised it in the particular case of the nephew, and we’ll continue to do so.

MS. NULAND: Andy.

QUESTION: As a step back, this is maybe the third of these that you yourself have been in this seat*. I’m just wondering if you could tell us, from your perspective, what this dialogue has accomplished in concrete terms. I mean, every year you come up, you say that they take on our complaints or our things onboard. but I’ve never seen – but you, yourself, are saying the situation is deteriorating. For those who are interested in human rights in China, why is this dialogue really worth the time that it takes to do it?

And secondly, can you tell us if the Chinese raised any issues that they might have with the U.S. human rights record? And if so, what were they and what was the response?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We take our lead from those within China who are advocating for human rights and who are on the receiving end of improper actions. What people in China tell us – lawyers, activists, people whose family members are detained – is that it’s critically important for us to raise these issues, raise specific cases, to do so privately, to do so publicly, to do so on an ongoing basis, and not forget about them. This is a piece of that effort. It’s not the only effort. We work on these issues 365 days a year. I’m not the only one raising these concerns.

But this is an opportunity for us to go into these cases and these issues in greater depth and to appear, as I am here today, to make clear what our concerns are. We will continue to raise these issues throughout the year, and I think over time we’re responding to a very heartfelt desire by people living in China that these issues – that their cases, their issues, not be forgotten.

We’re amplifying their voices, in effect. And as I said in my opening statement, there’s greater attention to these issues by Chinese people on the web, in the blogs. These are issues that are now commanding greater attention.

The – I’m sorry. The second --

QUESTION: Any Chinese concerns about U.S. human rights?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah. As always, there’s back and forth, both about issues in China and the United States. There were some questions and discussions raised about issues, for example, of discrimination, prison conditions, and the like, which we discussed openly. And I think the point that we made, which I feel very confident and proud to make, is that we have human rights issues in the United States, but we also have a very strong system to respond to them. We have an open press. We have lawyers who are ready to represent unpopular defendants, and they do so without fear of retaliation. We have a political process that is robust, to say the least.

And so we’re open to that discussion. We also had some visits yesterday. We took them to Politico. We took them to the American – Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee to get a better sense of how our free press works and how minority communities are represented by advocacy groups. And I think that also is part of the dialogue that’s important.

MS. NULAND: Jill, do you have something?.

QUESTION: Yes, thanks. Two questions: Was the case of Li Wangyang raised – the gentleman who dies in Hunan province last month and whose death has been described by Chinese authorities as a suicide? But I think there’s a certain amount of disbelief as to whether it really was a suicide.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I’m not going to – I don’t remember, honestly. I can come back to you on that particular case. We raised several dozen cases, honestly, and I’m not going to get into every one of them. I mentioned a few in my opening statement, but I think in general, we – in addition to the cases we specifically described and discussed, we have a list of broader number of cases of people in detention whose cases we continue to follow and whose – and information we continue to seek from the government.

QUESTION: And secondly, you mentioned –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I can get back to you on that particular case.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. That would be helpful. And secondly, you mentioned that you’d raised issues about minority areas. Specifically, was there any discussions about the Uighur and what’s happening in Xinjiang province?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yeah. On Monday afternoon, we had a quite lengthy discussion, both of the issues relating to the Uighurs in Xinjiang as well as the Tibetan population in the various places where they reside. And we discussed a range of concerns about both the self-immolations, which I mentioned with the Tibetans, but broader issues that apply both to the Uighur and Tibetan community relating to discrimination in terms of language rights, ability to practice their religion freely, discrimination employment – a range of issues involving their cultural rights, their religious freedom, et cetera.

QUESTION: And sorry. Just – could I – what was their response to raising these concerns?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Again, I’m not going to characterize every aspect. We had a quite long discussion. Our position is that these are – these minority communities and representatives of religious minorities are entitled to live freely, to express their religious views, to practice their religion, to express their cultural differences and customs. And this is an area where clearly the Chinese Government has a different view.

MS. NULAND: Over here.

QUESTION: Comparing to the past U.S.-Sino, like, human rights dialogue, do you see any progress of Chinese doing human rights and – because you are saying that the human rights is kind of deteriorating. Why you say that?

MS. NULAND: I think that question was already asked and answered here, but I don’t know if you want to –

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: I would say on the positive side, I think it is becoming a more – it’s – the discussion is now firmly embedded and one where we are raising these issues in a variety of ways and a variety of contexts. We are managing and as we should, to make human rights a priority along with a range of other priorities in the relationship. And I feel very confident that the more we raise these issues in different contexts, we’re going to have an effect over time.

It is a frustrating time in China because lawyers, bloggers, journalists are having a difficult time, and we raise those issues very directly. Part of it is that there is a growing frustration, I think, among many Chinese people that they don’t have the ability to express their differences in a peaceful way. And our message to the Chinese Government is you’ve made progress on the economic front; this is the moment to open up the space to allow people to dissent, to question government actions, and to do so without fear of retribution.

QUESTION: I’m wondering if the one-child policy was raised. Just yesterday, Secretary Clinton was at the Holocaust Museum and brought this issue up.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Yes, we did. We raised in particular the case of Feng Jianmei, who was beaten, detained, and then forced to have an abortion at seven months. And as a matter of U.S. policy, any coercive measures, including forced abortion, we deplore. There are a number of other cases, including some that have been reported recently. We did raise it and raised our concern about it.

QUESTION: And what was their response?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Again, this is – I’m not going to get into every back-and-forth here, but this is clearly an issue we’ll continue to raise with them.

QUESTION: The U.S. Congress always have a strong voice against the Chinese human rights conditions. If there anyone from the Congress participate in these talks? If not, have you passed their message to the Chinese delegation?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We’ve been eager, in fact, to have a broader discussion beyond the two governments, the two executive branches of government, that could include Congress. It could also include nongovernmental organizations. To date, we haven’t been able to persuade the Chinese Government to do that. So at this stage, it’s a discussion among the executive branch from their side and ours, but we will continue to encourage that broader discussion to take place. And we will certainly inform members of Congress of the discussion that we had.

MS. NULAND: Speaking of which, I’m told Assistant Secretary Posner has to be on the Hill shortly, so we’ll take two more --

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. The U.S. State Department included organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Can you just speak up a little bit?

QUESTION: Sorry. The U.S. State Department included organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners in its Human Rights Report this year. Was that raised in the dialogue, and what was that response? What was their response?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: We did also raise – in the context of religious freedom and other kinds of discrimination, we did raise the issue of some of the Falun Gong representatives. And again, I’m not going to go into every back-and-forth, but it’s part of our discussion.

QUESTION: How – just a follow-up?

MS. NULAND: Follow-up on that one?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. NULAND: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Because I just wonder if you specifically talk about the organ harvesting, because we know, earlier this year, Wang Lijun, police chief, he went to the U.S. consulate in Chengdu, and so there’s evidence he’s deeply involved in the crimes like organ harvesting. So I’m wondering if he provided any useful material to the U.S. Government on that aspect, and so --

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: There’s no – we have plenty of our own information from our own Embassy and our own reporting, and we’ve relied on that for the discussions.

MS. NULAND: Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY POSNER: Thanks, everybody.

 

 

U.S. ARMY SOLDIER READIES FOR 2012 OLYMPIC GAMES

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Face of Defense: Soldier Gears Up for Fourth Olympic Games
Army World Class Athlete Program pistol shooter Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski practicing at Fort Benning, Ga., U.S. Army photo by Tim Hipps

By Tim Hipps
Army Installation Management Command

LONDON, July 26, 2012 – Army World Class Athlete Program pistol shooter Sgt. 1st Class Daryl Szarenski is taking a businesslike approach to his fourth Olympic Games.

"To go there just to be in the Olympics doesn’t really appeal to me anymore," said Szarenski, 44, a native of Saginaw, Mich., who is stationed at Fort Carson, Colo. "I’m going for a medal. If we can’t get a medal, then what are we doing this for? I really couldn’t care about the participation at this point."

Szarenski’s latest medal quest will begin July 28 in the men’s 10-meter air pistol event at the Royal Artillery Barracks. On Aug. 5, he’ll compete in the men’s 50-meter free pistol, his stronger event.

At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Szarenski placed 25th in free pistol. Four years later, he finished 13th in both free and air pistol in Athens, Greece -- a feat he repeated at the 2008 Beijing Games. At that point, he said, he realized something had to change.

"It just kind of felt like we’ll go to the Olympics and do the best we can, but there wasn’t really a hope," he recalled. "I kind of lost a little bit of hope and thought maybe I was just going to be an also-ran."

"I decided we’re not going to the Olympics for a fourth time just to be an also-ran," he continued. "That’s why I dug deep. This might be my last one. I’m getting close to the end of my military career, so we’re going to go all-out and give them everything we’ve got. I’m hoping to keep wearing them down and get a medal out of it."

Along the way, Szarenski changed part of his training regimen and part of his shooting game plan.

"I did a major overhaul in my training at the end of 2009, and in 2010 I won four World Cup medals," he said. "I think the training regimen that I have right now is a lot better than it was in the past. I changed a couple of technical issues, and I think I’m headed in the right direction."

Then he changed his mailing address, from one Army unit to another, and from one region of the country to another – complete with changes in attitude and altitude. Szarenski transitioned last August from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit at Fort Benning, Ga., to the thin air of Colorado Springs, Colo., where he trains at the U.S. Olympic Training Center as a soldier in the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program.

"The big thing, it’s kind of funny, but there is no oxygen up here," Szarenski said of "The Mountain Post" situated 5,835 feet above sea level. "I’m just getting used to breathing. I had to change my hold a little bit, because you’re holding the gun up there for a while. I had to add an extra breath in there to keep oxygen in me."

Szarenski has since set a Pan American Games record in free pistol, and he comes to London on a roll after reaching several World Cup finals.

"I feel that I’m shooting the best now that I’ve ever shot," he said. "I increased the amount of rounds downrange and just the intensity of making sure that they’re perfect shots every time. It’s a good score every day, and I have very few weak scores that used to be my average. My whole average has gone up five or 10 points. I think that should be all right, and I’m hoping for the best."

Szarenski said he intends to make the London Games his breakthrough Olympics.

"I think my chances are really good," he said. "I’ve been having a really good couple years, and my scores are up high. This is the best outlook I’ve had in my career. Before, it seemed like you go in and hope for the best. Now, you kind of go in and expect the best, because I’ve just been shooting a lot better these last four years."

Szarenski said he feels better suited to find Olympic success in London than anywhere before.

"When I got to WCAP, the company commander and the first sergeant said, ‘Hey, your mission is to win the Olympics.’ And I said, ‘All right, I’m in the right place. This is great.’"

The only thing greater, Szarenski said, would be to win an Olympic medal.

"I know that I can do it," he said. "I’ve beat the guys that are in the field that I’m playing against, so there’s no reason why I shouldn’t beat them during the day of the Olympics. But I’m going to have to bring my ‘A’ game and have to do everything right in order to do it. It’s the best in the world that are competing for it, so you just can’t go in there and walk away with it. But I’ve got a really good chance."

With retirement looming, Szarenski, a 20-year Army veteran, has made a career of competitive shooting since being recruited from Tennessee Tech University, where he studied industrial technology on a rifle grant-in-aid.

"I can’t speak highly enough of the Army for wanting to win the Olympics and wanting to showcase our athletes and the potential the United States has," Szarenski said. "That’s what it’s all about."

U.S.-TANZANIA RELATIONS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATEThe United States established diplomatic relations with Tanzania in 1961. The United States and Tanzania have a deep partnership characterized by mutual respect, mutual interest, shared values, and aspirations for a more peaceful and prosperous future. The United States respects Tanzania’s record of democratic progress, which has made it a model for the region and beyond, and supports Tanzania's continuing efforts to strengthen the institutions of democracy. The United States is committed to working with Tanzania on nutrition and food security, energy, women’s and children’s health, HIV/AIDS, and sustainable development.

Several exchange programs welcome Tanzanians to the United States through the Fulbright, Humphrey, and English Language program educational grants at the graduate and post-graduate levels. Other exchange programs promote artists, journalists, writers, civil servants, young leaders, musicians, and students. On the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar, the U.S. has sponsored English-teaching programs and provided science books to secondary students. The Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation program has provided funding for restoration projects, including the historic ruins at Kilwa Kisiwani.

U.S. Assistance to Tanzania
The United States has provided development assistance to Tanzania for development and capacity building to promote transparency, address health and education issues, and target development indicators to sustain progress.

  • The U.S. Agency for International Development has provided funding to improve public health and quality of basic education, biodiversity conservation, and natural resource management.
  • Feed the Future has provided funding to boost agricultural growth and productivity, promote market development and trade expansion along with equitable rural economic growth, invest in global innovation and research, and address mother and child malnutrition.
  • The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief supports national, international, and civil society organizations in Tanzania in the areas of HIV and AIDS care and treatment, prevention, impact mitigation, and health systems strengthening.
  • The President’s Malaria Initiative is an expansion of U.S. Government resources to reduce malaria and poverty in 17 African countries, including Tanzania.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assists the Tanzanian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in responding to emerging public health threats and infectious disease outbreaks such as H1N1, Rift Valley fever, measles, and avian influenza.
  • A 5-year Millennium Challenge Corporation compact that entered into force in 2008 addresses critical transport, energy, and water infrastructure needs.
  • The Partnership for Growth economic development initiative seeks to accelerate and sustain broad-based economic growth through engaging government, the private sector, and civil society to unlock new sources of investment, including domestic resources and foreign direct investment in the areas of energy and rural roads.
  • Peace Corps volunteers serve in Tanzania as math and science teachers in secondary schools, teacher trainers in information and communication technology, leaders of health education projects that increase basic health knowledge and improve health attitudes and behaviors, and leaders of environmental projects addressing basic village-level needs for sustaining natural resources.

Military to Military Relations
Military-to-military ties between the U.S. and Tanzania in recent years have expanded and deepened to include capacity-building and training in coastal water surveillance, international peacekeeping and humanitarian projects, civil military operations, and investigation/clean-up of munitions dump sites.

Bilateral Economic Relations
Tanzania's exports to the United States are dominated by agricultural commodities, minerals, and textiles while imports from the United States include wheat, agricultural/transport equipment, chemicals, used clothes, and machinery. Tanzania is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. The United States has Trade and Investment Framework Agreements with two regional organizations to which Tanzania belongs--the East African Community and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa. The United States and Tanzania do not have bilateral investment or taxation agreements.

Tanzania's Membership in International Organizations
Tanzania and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

RET. LT. GENERAL WILLIAM BROWN JR. RECALLS FIGHTER PILOT EXPERIENCE IN KOREAN WAR

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Korean War Fighter Jet Pilot Recalls Missions
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2012 - He flew fighter planes his entire career, and as a wingman during the Korean War in 1952 and 1953, he flew 100 missions and extended his tour to perform 25 more.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. William Earl Brown Jr. spent 34 years in the military, but his experiences as a young pilot in the Korean War left a lasting impression, he said in an interview with the Pentagon Channel.

In Korea, Brown said, he flew the F-86 Saber fighter jet, the first operational swept-wing aircraft in the Air Force inventory.

"Our mission was to prevent the MiGs from attacking the other aircraft. The MiG-15s were being flown by the Chinese communists and by active-duty Soviet fighter wings."

A typical mission took up to two hours. "If we were lucky, we'd run into the MiGs and manage to down a few of them," he added.

As a wingman, Brown flew with a more-experienced major or captain in the lead, many of whom had World War II experience. They flew in flights of four, in "fingertip" formation with a leader and a wingman, and an element leader and a wingman, he explained.

"The wingman's job was to look to the rear and protect the leader from any aircraft closing [in] to shoot him," Brown said. "And the second lieutenants were invariably assigned to the jobs as wingmen, while the captains and majors would shoot down the MiGs."

Brown said he was fortunate to fly with some good aviators in the Korean War.

"I'd been flying maybe 10 or 15 missions and never saw a MiG," he said, "Except one day, ... I was No. 4 in a flight. A MiG-15 that was obviously flown by a guy who was superior to me in skill latched onto me."

The MiG was so close, Brown said, he could hear the sound of its guns firing. It had two 23 mm cannons in addition to a larger one, compared to the Americans' six machine guns – three on each side of the aircraft.

Brown said he is alive today because his element leader came in behind the MiG, and while it shot at Brown, the element leader poured bullets into the MiG and shot the aircraft down. "That encounter really got my attention," he said. "Up until that point, I had no real understanding of what it meant to have some guy really try to kill you."

Brown, an African-American, said he didn't face any discrimination during the Korean War.

"I never ran into the kinds of discriminatory practices that the Tuskegee airmen had to face when they began flying in the Air Force," he said. "One thing about flying in fighters [is] when you don the fighter pilot's helmet and don the oxygen mask and pull down the visor, no one can see what color you are. All they can see is how you position your aircraft. Is it where it should be? Do you drop the weapons? Do they strike the target?

"I guess I was fortunate," he said.

BAIL BONDSMAN PLEADS GUILTY TO BRIBING PUBLIC OFFICIALS

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, July 26, 2012
Portsmouth, Va., Bail Bondsman Pleads Guilty to Bribing Public Officials

A bail bondsman in Portsmouth, Va., pleaded guilty today in the Eastern District of Virginia for bribing public officials in exchange for receiving favorable treatment, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride for the Eastern District of Virginia announced today.

Ulysses "Tugger" Stephenson, 52, of Portsmouth, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Bradford Stillman. The sentencing is scheduled in front of U.S. District Judge Rebecca Smith on Nov. 2, 2012.

Stephenson was charged in a criminal information filed on July 9, 2012, with one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and one count of federal programs bribery. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the conspiracy, and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 for the bribery.

According to a statement of facts filed with his plea agreement, Stephenson earned money by charging arrestees a percentage of the amount of bond set by a magistrate. Thus, the larger the bond amount set, and the more arrestees that were referred to him as prospective clients, the more money Stephenson would earn. To obtain additional clients and therefore maximize his profits, Stephenson gave cash and gifts to Deborah Clark—a local magistrate who pleaded guilty to federal programs bribery on May 2, 2012—in exchange for her referring arrestees as prospective clients and seeking and accepting Stephenson’s advice on the amount of bond to set in particular cases. During this time period, Stephenson gave up to $150 per month to Clark, as well as expense money for trips and numerous cash payments for gas and meals. Additionally, in exchange for referrals, Stephenson made cash payments to an officer in the Portsmouth Sheriff’s Office. From January 2009 through July 2010, he paid that officer up to $150 per week.

Stephenson is subject to prosecution for bribery under a federal statute because the two people he bribed were agents of an organization or state receiving annual benefits in excess of $10,000 under federal programs involving grants and other forms of assistance.

This case was investigated by the FBI. Trial Attorneys Peter Mason and Monique Abrishami of the Public Integrity Section in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Alan M. Salsbury and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy E. Cross of the Eastern District of Virginia are prosecuting the case.

CHEMICAL WARFARE DEFENSE

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE


120629-N-IK959-416
GREAT LAKES, Ill. (June 29, 2012) Seaman Recruit Ryan McNena, center, from Queens, N.Y., and other recruits don MCU-2P gas masks in the USS Chief Fire Fighting trainer at Recruit Training Command. More than 35,000 recruits go through five days of training at USS Chief, learning to fight shipboard fires and handle chemical, biological, radiation attacks. (U.S. Navy photo by Scott A. Thornbloom/Released)

 

 Written on July 13, 2012 at 7:50  by jtozer
Neutralizing The Threat of Chemical Warfare, One "Inator" At A Time
In with the good and out with the bad.

Our lungs (and yoga teachers) are masters of this concept. Filtering the useful things and expelling the bad. There’s little that can take the place of our lung filtration, but even our highly-functioning biological machines need a little help every now and then (see: gas mask).

The problem is that even our most effective of ventilation devices aren’t all-powerful (although they do make for wonderfully creepy Doctor Who episodes). That’s because, frankly, it’s a bit of a challenge to neutralize hazardous things into something that won’t, you know, injure/kill you.

And to this the Naval Research Laboratory is saying "challenge accepted".

NRL is looking to make our air cleaner, better, and less hostile thanks to the reactive and catalytic air purification materials and catalytic self-decontaminating materials they’ve created to combat hazardous materials.

Makes sense right? Okay, well my work here is done…

Oh all right, at first it didn’t make sense to me, either. So let’s break that down (Ah? Break it down? Oh you’ll think that’s funny later)

So, the self-decontaminating and air purification technologies are essentially two approaches to the same idea. Basically, this technology aims to remove something that is undesirable – whether that be a gas or a liquid – and then convert that undesirable compound into something that would be more desirable.

As in, less toxic.So let’s say you have a building in which there’s a lot of ammonia generated. A restroom for example. Part of the smell you get is ammonia from urine. For that type of regular environment (as in for gas filtration), this technology would act as a filter that could actually remove ammonia and convert it to something else. This is unlike a carbon that would just absorb it and hold onto it until maximum capacity was reached (yuck) rendering it useless at that point.

The difference is that this technology that NRL is developing will actually keep working.

So how does that affect the troops? Well first of all, if you have to ask that you’ve likely never had to clean a latrine. Or didn’t get in trouble often enough to do that. Either way, it’s more than just the emotional scar tissue of Simple Green that makes me think this air purifier/decontaminator is a good idea.

And that’s where Dr. Brandy White comes in.Dr. White is a research chemist for the Center for Bio/Molecular Science & Engineering at the US Naval Research Laboratory. Among her many specialties, Dr. White is working on making this technology work for the service men and women everywhere, and we’re not talking about a bathroom air freshener.

"In the military, gas mask technology currently is based on carbon," Dr. White explains. "So essentially what happens is you absorb [the bad chemicals] into the carbon until all the capacity is used up, and then it stops absorbing. Also carbon doesn’t absorb everything equally well."

And because mediocrity and ineffectiveness isn’t really an ideal choice, Dr. White is working toward an alternative to our love affair with carbon.

"So the kind of sorbents that I’m trying to make are intended to incorporate reactivity that would grab targets that you usually wouldn’t catch using carbon. They’re intended to give you something beyond one-to-one interaction," she says.

Essentially, this technology can take an element – ammonia let’s say – and process it into something else less offensive. Or just plain less obnoxious (take my ammonia! Please!). The decontaminator would then be then be ready to process more ammonia after it had already neutralized the nasal threat. Basically, you you could keep using the decontaminator for a much longer period of time

More effective, more longevity, and it sounds like the thing a super villain would use to take over a metropolis (anything with an "inator" at the end = comic book super device). I’d say that’s pretty cool. And it makes sense, too.

"The first goal is to see the improvement in the technology that is available for gas masks and respiratory protection," said Dr. White. "Then the second thing that we’re really excited for is the potential for incorporation of the photo catalytic sorbents into next generation protective garments. This is so you can extend exposure of the warfighter to toxic compounds. Not to replace MOPP gear, but more of the idea of making it less necessary to don MOPP gear under all circumstances, and making situations more survivable without the need for that extreme action."

The NRL scientists like Dr. White are not just attempting a novel approach to air purification, but also protective fabrics and protective surfaces. For example, self-decontaminating fabrics or services. Clothes smart enough to clean themselves? Oh how cool would that be?

"Whether that be a garment or a tent structure or the hood or a car, [when] the target when it comes in contact it is rapidly sequestered, so a person can’t come in contact with it anymore," says Dr. White. "That allows times for the catalytic process to occur. So while it might not be destroyed immediately on contact, it’s sequestered on contact and broken down into something that’s non-toxic."

Now, this doesn’t mean you can just scotch guard your weekend wear with this decontaminator and poof! You’re chemical-agent proof. This is more of an augmentation, so if you have a garment that’s protective already and you can add this to it, it would enhance that protective capability.

And this kind of enhancement is something the troops could really use. "Most of the things that are available to the warfighter currently don’t do what we’re talking about. Most of the protective garments just capture the target and then hold onto it. And then you need to throw that garment away, or further decontaminated with further processing steps. And we’re trying to get around that. "

Neutralizing the threat of chemical warfare one "inator" at a time. That’s just how NRL rolls.
You know, this might be something we can log away for future use when we encounter an alien species.

Hey, don’t laugh! You don’t know what kind of biological incompatibility they could have with us. Haven’t you people read War of the Worlds? I’m just saying, when the Martian plague descends upon humanity you’re going to thank your lucky stars that NRL thought of this stuff ahead of time.

I’ve already preordered my decontamination clothes. In TARDIS blue, of course.

 

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CAPITAL ONE REACHES SETTLEMENT ON ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF SERVICEMEMBERS CIVIL RELIEF ACT

FROM: U.S. DELPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Thursday, July 26, 2012

Justice Department Reaches $12 Million Settlement to Resolve Violations of the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act by Capital One

Capital One N.A. and Capital One Bank (USA) N.A. (together Capital One), have agreed to pay approximately $12 million to resolve a lawsuit by the Department of Justice alleging the companies violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), the Justice Department announced today. The settlement covers a range of conduct that violated the protections guaranteed service members by the SCRA, including wrongful foreclosures, improper repossessions of motor vehicles, wrongful court judgments, improper denials of the 6 percent interest rate the SCRA guarantees to service members on some credit card and car loans and insufficient 6 percent benefits granted on credit cards, car loans and other types of accounts. The proposed consent order, which was filed simultaneously with the complaint, is one of the most comprehensive SCRA settlements ever obtained by a government agency or any private party under the SCRA.

"Today’s action makes clear that the Justice Department will fight for our service members, and use every available tool, resource and authority to hold accountable those who engage in discriminatory practices targeting those who serve," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "Every day, our brave men and women in uniform make tremendous sacrifices to protect the American people from a range of global threats – and my colleagues and I are determined to ensure that they receive our strongest support here at home."

The agreement requires Capital One to pay approximately $7 million in damages to service members for SCRA violations, including at least $125,000 in compensation plus compensation for any lost equity (with interest) to each servicemember whose home was unlawfully foreclosed upon, and at least $10,000 in compensation plus compensation for any lost equity (with interest) to each servicemember whose motor vehicle was unlawfully repossessed. In addition, the agreement requires Capital One to provide a $5 million fund to compensate service members who did not receive the appropriate amount of SCRA benefits on their credit card accounts, motor vehicle finance loans and consumer loans. Any portion of the $5 million that remains after payments to service members are made will be donated by Capital One to one or more charitable organizations that assist service members.

"This settlement demonstrates that the Justice Department will take any and all actions to ensure that the rights of service members are protected. We rely on these brave men and women to protect the safety and security of this country and we will be vigilant in protecting their rights at home," said Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez. "We commend Capital One for taking steps to develop strong SCRA policies before they knew the full results of our investigation."

Capital One cooperated fully with the Justice Department’s investigation into its SCRA practices and has also agreed to pay above and beyond the $12 million if ongoing, independent audits required by the settlement turn up violations in accounts that it recently acquired from HSBC or ING Direct USA. Capital One has also, on its own initiative, recently adopted several policies that go beyond the requirements of the SCRA, such as extending a 4 percent interest rate to qualifying service members and giving an additional one-year grace period before de-enrolling service members from the reduced interest rate program.

Service members will be identified and compensated, with no action required on their part, on accounts dating back to July 15, 2006. As a result of the decree, Capital One has agreed to treat a service member’s request for a 6 percent rate relief in one area of its lending, such as credit cards, as a request for a 6 percent rate relief for any loan the servicemember may have with Capital One or its affiliates. This is the first time the Justice Department has obtained this type of enterprise-wide rate reduction relief from a lender under the SCRA. The settlement also requires Capital One to adopt policies and practices to prevent violations of the SCRA in the future.

The settlement was filed in conjunction with the Department’s complaint, which alleges that Capital One violated the SCRA, from at least July 15, 2006 to Nov. 21, 2011, when it: 1) wrongly denied certain written requests made by SCRA-protected service members to have the interest rate on their credit cards and motor vehicle finance loans lowered to 6 percent per year; 2) provided insufficient interest rate benefits on certain accounts that were enrolled after written requests were received from SCRA-protected service members; 3) foreclosed on the mortgages of certain SCRA-protected service members without court orders; 4) repossessed certain SCRA-protected service members’ motor vehicles without court orders; and 5) obtained default judgments on certain debts owed on credit cards, mortgage foreclosures, and/or motor vehicles without filing accurate affidavits of military service .

"We rely on the SCRA to guard and protect the rights of our men and women of the armed forces so that they can focus on their service to our country," said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Neil MacBride. "This case underscores the need for financial service providers to be aware of the wide-ranging protections and benefits the SCRA provides and to have in place policies and procedures that ensure service members’ SCRA rights are protected."

The agreement, which is subject to court approval, was filed today in federal court in Alexandria, Va. The lawsuit resulted from a referral to the Justice Department by the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. The referral involved a claim of a single service member’s failure to receive an interest rate reduction on his Capital One credit card account. The settlement comes after a two-year investigation of Capital One by the Department of Justice.

The SCRA provides critical consumer and other protections to the men and women serving our nation in the military. Its enactment was recognition that those who are making great sacrifices to protect us deserve our full support at home.