Secretary of Defense: Expect Furloughs to Continue in 2014

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, served in the senate from 1997-2009 representing Nebraska. Photo credit: Congress.com

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, served in the senate from 1997-2009 representing Nebraska. Photo credit: Congress.com

JOINT BASE CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The audience gasped in surprise and gave a few low whistles as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivered the news that furloughs, which have forced a 20 percent pay cut on most of the military’s civilian workforce, probably will continue next year, and it might get worse.

“Those are the facts of life,” Hagel told about 300 Defense Department employees, most of them middle-aged civilians, last week at an Air Force reception hall on a military base in Charleston.

Future layoffs also are possible for the department’s civilian workforce of more than 800,000 employees, Hagel said, if Congress fails to stem the cuts in the next budget year, which starts Oct. 1.

On the heels of the department’s first furlough day, and in three days of visits with members of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, Hagel played the unenviable role of messenger to a frustrated and fearful workforce coping with the inevitability of a spending squeeze at the end of more than a decade of constant and costly war.

You can read the full article HERE.

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Rambo’s Days Are Over, GI Jane May Have to Wait Years

The ban on women in combat was lifted Jan. 23, 2013. Though 99 percent of the careers offered in the Air Force are open to women, the decision will open more than 230,000 jobs across all branches of the military. 2013 marks the 20th year that the Department of Defense allowed women to serve as combat pilots. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony/Released)

The ban on women in combat was lifted Jan. 23, 2013. Though 99 percent of the careers offered in the Air Force are open to women, the decision will open more than 230,000 jobs across all branches of the military. 2013 marks the 20th year that the Department of Defense allowed women to serve as combat pilots. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Senior Airman Micaiah Anthony/Released)

The days of Rambo are over (a quote from a special ops officer), but it could be years before GI Jane appears in some combat roles.

That’s a broad summary of plans to integrate women into previously closed combat positions. The plans were reviewed and released by the Department of Defense earlier this week.

Among the services, the Marines have the fewest women, only 6 percent, and therefore are taking a “slow and deliberate” pace to assess what combat positions should be opened to women according to NPR reporter Larry Abramson.

Abramson’s story examines how quickly the various branches are moving but the overall process is expected to take years.

Some women are worried that arbitrary barriers such as social concerns will pop up because there is resistance from small, elite teams reports Abramson.

But the special operations officer said that “combat isn’t about strength any longer.” Special Operations and other military are looking for smart qualified operators who can learn and speak foreign languages and understand culture. You can listen to the NPR story HERE.

The Stars and Stripes reports that as early as the end of this year the Navy may open up jobs to women in its Riverine Force’s small craft.

In the near future, the plans call primarily for study of institutional and cultural factors of putting women into units closed to them under the 1994 combat exclusion policy, which former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta lifted in January.

In addition, a key step will be the establishment of gender-neutral physical and mental standards for each position, including infantry, artillery, armor and special operations forces.

The Army, which has hundreds of thousands of jobs in combat units closed to women, said in its plan that it would present gender-neutral standards to qualify for those positions during 2015.

 

All Sexual Assault Prevention Personnel Must Be Re-trained

Courtesy Dept. of Defense

Courtesy Dept. of Defense

Increased incidents of military sexual assault coupled with reports of alleged abuse by military members assigned to prevent such assaults has prompted Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to order the retraining, re-credentialing and re-screening of all personnel involved with sexual assault prevention and military recruiting.

Defense Secretary Orders Retraining

The retraining was directed by Hagel after he was briefed on the second incident involving prevention personnel according to the American Forces Press Service.

“I cannot convey strongly enough his frustration, anger and disappointment over these troubling allegations and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.

… Little said Hagel directed the retraining, re-credentialing and rescreening to address the broader concerns that have arisen out of these allegations and other recent events. Continue reading

Chuck Hagel Approved as Next Defense Secretary

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel will lead the U.S. Dept. of Defense.

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel will lead the U.S. Dept. of Defense.

With a vote of 58 to 41, the Senate voted to confirm Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense according to National Public Radio.

The vote was mostly along party lines after an unprecedented filibuster by Republicans, that temporarily blocked the nomination of the two-term Republican senator from Nebraska.

Hagel will become the first Vietnam veteran to led the Department of Defense. The president said in Hagel he had found someone who understood “the consequences of decisions we make in this town.”

Panetta Calls Gen. John Allen Outstanding, Selfless, Brilliant

The following is a statement released by Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta on General John Allen’s Decision to Retire:

Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta. Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Defense website.

Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta. Photo courtesy of the Dept. of Defense website.

“Gen. John Allen has proven himself to be one of the United States military’s most outstanding battlefield leaders, a brilliant strategist, and an exemplary Marine, and I am deeply grateful for his many years of dedicated service to our country.

“I will be forever thankful that the international effort in Afghanistan was in Gen. Allen’s capable hands during much of my tenure as secretary of defense.  His leadership over the last 19 months will long be remembered as pivotal to this campaign.  The strategy he developed and implemented has put us on the right path towards completing this mission, with Afghan forces now on track to step into the lead for security nationwide this spring and to assume full security responsibility by the end of next year.

“Gen. Allen’s selfless dedication to our troops and to their mission was a source of inspiration to those who served with him, as well as to those of us here at home.  He has earned the lasting thanks of this nation for carrying the heavy burden of leadership with utmost professionalism and courage.  I wish him and his entire family all the best in the next chapter of their lives.”

Five Myths About Women in Combat by a Marine Major

Maj. Jane Blair Photo credit JaneBlair.com

Maj. Jane Blair Photo credit JaneBlair.com

The old myths started swirling as soon as word got out that women would be allowed to serve in combat roles. You’ve heard the fears – the questions:

  • “I just hope they don’t lower the standards to let women in.”
  • “Will women HAVE TO serve in combat?”

“The answers are no and no.

But, those fears and comments will only come faster and with more fervor as the Pentagon makes it formal announcement today, Jan. 24, 2013.

So, I want to share an opinion piece published in 2011 in the Washington Post, Five Myths About Women in Combat. I found it enlightening.

It’s written by Maj. Jane Blair, a Marine Corps reservist, the author of “Hesitation Kills: A Female Marine Officer’s Combat Experience in Iraq.”

Blair takes on the top assumptions on why women should not serve in combat in an opinion piece published in the Washington Post:

1. Women are too emotionally fragile for combat.

This myth is based on cultural stereotypes and Hollywood hype. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that women are any more susceptible to combat stress than their male counterparts…

2. Women are too physically weak for the battlefield.

While it is indisputable that the average man has more upper-body strength than the average woman, women have different physical abilities that enable them to offer unique capabilities in combat…

3. The presence of women causes sexual tension in training and battle.

 This notion insults men as much as women. For nearly 10 years, the U.S. military has been fighting two wars with a majority of units that include both men and women. Why hasn’t supposed “sexual tension” undermined the stellar performance of gender-integrated units? …

4. Male troops will become distracted from their missions in order to protect female comrades.

This myth conjures an image of a heroic soldier, attacking the enemy and about to win, until catastrophe strikes: He spots a wounded woman on the battlefield and abandons his assault to save her life, costing his side the battle. It’s the “women and children first” argument translated to the battlefield…

5. Women can’t lead men in combat effectively.

Why not? Across the planet, women have proven their worth as leaders as diplomats, heads of state and corporate titans. This is no less true in the military and in combat. In history as well as ancient mythology, women have often emerged as heroic leaders of men and women in battle, with Joan of Arc and the Assyrian queen Semiramisjust two of the most notable examples. In the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been countless women who, often unrecognized, have served as leaders of military men and women…

You can read the full opinion piece by  Marine Maj. Jane Blair here.

Author Maj. Jane Blair in Iraq. Photo credit JaneBlair.com

Author Maj. Jane Blair in Iraq. Photo credit JaneBlair.com

AP: Secretary Panetta Lifts the Ban on Women in Combat

Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta

Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta

The Associated Press is reporting that Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is removing the military’s ban on women serving in combat. The move opens hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs to women in the military

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.

Panetta’s decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.

The Defense Secretary was sued last year by four women in the military and the American Civil Liberties Union who claimed the exclusion of women from combat positions was unconstitutional.

NPR reports that the ACLU website  published a post from one of the plaintiffs, Major Mary Jennings Hegar, who has been deployed twice to Afghanistan.

She tells the story of being shot at in a helicopter while trying to rescue a fellow soldier and concludes:

“If there is one thing I’ve learned about the differences between us all throughout my years of service, it’s this: putting the right person in the right job has very little to do with one’s gender, race, religion, or other demographic descriptor. It has everything to do with one’s heart, character, ability, determination and dedication.

“That’s the problem with the military’s combat exclusion policy. It makes it that much harder for people to see someone’s abilities, and instead reinforces stereotypes about gender.

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