Brac update 59 ► Pentagon Supports McCain/Reed 2019 Proposal



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October 2, 2017

BRAC Update 59Pentagon Supports McCain/Reed 2019 Proposal

The Pentagon supports a proposal to authorize a base closure round in 2019 from Sens. John McCain and Jack Reed, the top Pentagon official in charge of military installations said Tuesday. The Pentagon’s new assistant defense secretary for energy, installations and environment, Lucian Niemeyer, said the Department of Defense backs their proposal to launch a base realignment and closure, or BRAC, process. That proposal would have the Government Accountability Office, and not an independent commission, validate the analysis before Congress makes the final call.

Speaking at a Heritage Foundation forum, Niemeyer said base closures could not only save money but help the military reorganize for the next generation of military technologies as it conducts a highly anticipated defense strategy review. “For us, it’s not just a matter finding efficiencies; it’s a matter of improving military value and effectiveness and lethality of our forces,” Niemeyer said. “That’s why we continue to push hard and we support the Senate’s attempt to try to get a BRAC authorization started in 2019 [through] the [National] Defense Authorization Act.”

Yet the proposal faces headwinds in Congress, where BRACs are notoriously unpopular for hurting communities where bases are closed. Because McCain and Reed — the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman and ranking member respectively — are championing the BRAC round, “there is real hope this year” it will be approved, said Andrew Hunter, a former congressional staffer now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies. McCain (R-AZ) and Reed (D-RI) proposed a new BRAC round as an amendment to the annual defense policy bill. Under the plan, the list of potential base closures and realignments would be compiled by the DoD and reviewed by the GAO before it is certified by the president and submitted to Congress by the fall of 2019. There would be a 60-day public comment period and, finally, an up or down vote by Congress.

Niemeyer hailed its provision, capping the cost of the closures and realignments at $5 billion and nodded to a BRAC alternative from the House Armed Services Committee’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) that would require more detailed cost estimates to be submitted to Congress. That may be a step toward winning over lawmakers like HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX),, who is among lawmakers who have attacked the upfront costs associated with the last BRAC round in 2005. He quashed a pro-BRAC amendment during a floor debate on the House defense policy bill in July.

There has been pushback against the McCain-Reed proposal from at least one SASC member, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM). He told the Albuquerque Journal earlier this month it would invite more lobbying of the Pentagon by Congress, a development he says would not be productive. “I understand that the Pentagon wants to divest of assets that aren’t materially contributing to our national security, but I’m not sure what problems are addressed by a new version of BRAC that involves more lobbying,” Heinrich told the newspaper. Military leaders have pushed for another BRAC round since 2013, arguing that their current domestic footprint is too large given reductions in force size and equipment modernization in recent years. The DoD estimated under the last administration that it could close 22 percent excess capacity for a savings of $2 billion or more annually by 2027.

In any case, almost none of that excess capacity is in the Navy, with most in the Army and Air Force, Hunter noted. He suggested lawmakers with ties to naval facilities may as a result find it easier to vote for a BRAC round. Still, the politics will likely be difficult to overcome. “In the past, the theory has been: When you know whose bases you are targeting with your vote, and that may be your friend, that may be someone who’s an ally to you on other issues, it makes it harder,” Hunter said. “That will be an interesting dynamic to see.” [Source: NavyTimes | Joe Gould | September 5, 2017 ++]

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BRAC Update 60Support For The Initiative Is Gaining

The Pentagon may finally get its wish for a new round of base closures. After requesting a new round of Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, for each of the last five years, it appears that support for the initiative is gaining. The intent of BRAC is efficiently maximizing readiness; having the right people, supplies, and support programs in the right places. The final decision on proceeding with a new round of BRAC will be made in conference committee during discussions on the National Defense Authorization bill. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Jack Reed (D-RI), the top two lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services Committee, filed a joint amendment to the annual defense authorization bill to authorize a new BRAC. In the House, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the number two member of the Armed Services Committee, spearheaded the initiative.

BRAC rounds often are justified by billions in annual savings from the defense budget. However, loss of military facilities can drastically change the economic dynamic of a region, occasionally for the worse. Some lawmakers remain skeptical, citing the initial losses incurred from the last round of closures in 2005 before any savings could be claimed. This week, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) penned an op-ed in the Washington Times arguing that resources to conduct a new BRAC could be better spent on military readiness. But with three of the top four members of the Armed Services Committees actively supporting a BRAC, it looks increasingly likely that the initiative could make it into the defense authorization bill's final language.

Though all states are subject to review, five states harbor over half of all active duty military personnel: California, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. And just the rumors of another round of BRAC have several states scrambling to establish task forces to find ways to preserve their bases. This time, there is a new cause for concern. Typically, BRAC commissions decide how best to go about closing bases and shifting resources. The McCain-Reed amendment gives the Government Accountability Office (GAO) responsibility for picking which bases will be targeted. With recent reports suggesting over 20 percent excess capacity throughout current military infrastructure, GAO could be looking to make significant cuts. GAO is a numbers-based assessor, unlike commissions comprising individuals with knowledge of force-structure needs from past BRAC rounds.

Given an appropriate business case and the needs of servicemembers and their families are addressed, MOAA could support a BRAC. But it is imperative that GAO must look at this as more than just a numbers game. “If a BRAC is approved, we will work with our members to ensure the cascading effects on our retirees and veterans and their families are being addressed,” says Col. Dan Merry, USAF (Ret), MOAA's vice president of Government Relations. “And we will have time to watch this develop, given the lengthy lead time and notification requirements.” [Source: MOAA Leg Up | September 15, 2017 ++]

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Exchange Online Shopping Update 12 Registration Required

More than 95,000 people visited the military exchanges' VetVerify.org website in its first month, seeking to register for the new veterans online shopping benefit that starts 11 NOV, officials said.  All honorably discharged veterans will have access to the online exchanges as of that date. VetVerify is the first step in the eligibility process. Some veterans will be chosen as "beta testers" and will have access to the online stores before 11 NOV; the earlier veterans complete the verification process, the better their chances of becoming beta testers, according to officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which administers the verification for all the military exchange services. Veterans who register through VetVerify.org will receive notification of their acceptance as eligible online shoppers or, if their records are incomplete, will receive guidance on the steps they can take to update those records.


Officials were not able to provide information about how many of the 95,000 verification attempts have been successful. About 13 percent of the site's visitors have been chosen as beta testers, AAFES spokesman Chris Ward said, and others who registered for verification already were eligible to shop.  Officials started the verification process early in preparation for at least 13 million people who will be newly eligible to shop online at the exchange. Until now, online military exchange shopping was available only to active-duty, reserve and National Guard members; retirees; 100 percent disabled veterans; the dependent family members of those individuals; and certain others.Online pricing can be seen only by those who are authorized to shop at the exchange websites:

  • www.shopmyexchange.com; 

  • www.shopcgx.com; 

  • www.mymcx.com; and

  • www.mynavyexchange.com.

Military Times and the exchanges continue to get questions about the VetVerify website and the new shopping benefit. Here are a few frequently asked questions, and some answers, supplied by AAFES:



Q. Is this site a phishing scam? 

A.  No. VetVerify.org is a shared service for all the military exchanges with the sole purpose of supporting the newly approved veterans online shopping benefit. VetVerify.org uses data from Defense Manpower Data Center, which holds the most comprehensive dataset on veterans, to verify eligibility.

Q. Do I qualify if I served for four years, or if I was in the reserves, or if I'm on disability? 

A.  All honorably discharged veterans and those with a general (under honorable) discharge can shop their military exchanges, through the veterans online shopping benefit, beginning on Veterans Day.
Top of Form

Bottom of Form



Q. Can my spouse (or other family member) shop? 
A.  No. The new benefit is specific to veterans with honorable and general (under honorable conditions) discharges. 

Q. Does the veterans online shopping benefit extend to shopping at the commissary? 
A.  No.  
Q. What if my service can't be verified? 
A.  There may be further information needed, so you will need to submit a digital copy of your discharge paperwork to be reviewed for eligibility. After you submit your verification form through VetVerify.org, you will be prompted to upload the necessary paperwork.
Q. Who should I call if I have problems with the verification process? 
A.  The VetVerify.org customer call center, toll-free, at 844-868-8672. 

Q. Why does VetVerify ask for my entire Social Security number? 

A.  VetVerify is required to obtain the last four digits of your Social Security number, date of birth and last name in order to validate and authenticate shoppers. If a match is not found with the minimum information, then the Social Security number is requested for a more detailed search. Social Security number is the unique identifier by Defense Manpower Data Center data. When customers visit the website of their favorite online exchanges for the first time, however, they will create a new username to be used as the unique identifier with the exchange. VetVerify has taken appropriate measures to safeguard your personal information.  

[Source: MilitaryTimes | Karen Jowers | July 10, 2017 ++]

**********************

Exchange Online Shopping Update 12 Registration Required

More than 95,000 people visited the military exchanges' VetVerify.org website in its first month, seeking to register for the new veterans online shopping benefit that starts 11 NOV, officials said.  All honorably discharged veterans will have access to the online exchanges as of that date. VetVerify is the first step in the eligibility process. Some veterans will be chosen as "beta testers" and will have access to the online stores before 11 NOV; the earlier veterans complete the verification process, the better their chances of becoming beta testers, according to officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which administers the verification for all the military exchange services. Veterans who register through VetVerify.org will receive notification of their acceptance as eligible online shoppers or, if their records are incomplete, will receive guidance on the steps they can take to update those records.


Officials were not able to provide information about how many of the 95,000 verification attempts have been successful. About 13 percent of the site's visitors have been chosen as beta testers, AAFES spokesman Chris Ward said, and others who registered for verification already were eligible to shop.  Officials started the verification process early in preparation for at least 13 million people who will be newly eligible to shop online at the exchange. Until now, online military exchange shopping was available only to active-duty, reserve and National Guard members; retirees; 100 percent disabled veterans; the dependent family members of those individuals; and certain others.Online pricing can be seen only by those who are authorized to shop at the exchange websites:

  • www.shopmyexchange.com; 

  • www.shopcgx.com; 

  • www.mymcx.com; and

  • www.mynavyexchange.com.

Military Times and the exchanges continue to get questions about the VetVerify website and the new shopping benefit. Here are a few frequently asked questions, and some answers, supplied by AAFES:



Q. Is this site a phishing scam? 

A.  No. VetVerify.org is a shared service for all the military exchanges with the sole purpose of supporting the newly approved veterans online shopping benefit. VetVerify.org uses data from Defense Manpower Data Center, which holds the most comprehensive dataset on veterans, to verify eligibility.

Q. Do I qualify if I served for four years, or if I was in the reserves, or if I'm on disability? 

A.  All honorably discharged veterans and those with a general (under honorable) discharge can shop their military exchanges, through the veterans online shopping benefit, beginning on Veterans Day.
Top of Form

Bottom of Form



Q. Can my spouse (or other family member) shop? 
A.  No. The new benefit is specific to veterans with honorable and general (under honorable conditions) discharges. 

Q. Does the veterans online shopping benefit extend to shopping at the commissary? 
A.  No.  
Q. What if my service can't be verified? 
A.  There may be further information needed, so you will need to submit a digital copy of your discharge paperwork to be reviewed for eligibility. After you submit your verification form through VetVerify.org, you will be prompted to upload the necessary paperwork.
Q. Who should I call if I have problems with the verification process? 
A.  The VetVerify.org customer call center, toll-free, at 844-868-8672. 

Q. Why does VetVerify ask for my entire Social Security number? 

A.  VetVerify is required to obtain the last four digits of your Social Security number, date of birth and last name in order to validate and authenticate shoppers. If a match is not found with the minimum information, then the Social Security number is requested for a more detailed search. Social Security number is the unique identifier by Defense Manpower Data Center data. When customers visit the website of their favorite online exchanges for the first time, however, they will create a new username to be used as the unique identifier with the exchange. VetVerify has taken appropriate measures to safeguard your personal information.  

[Source: MilitaryTimes | Karen Jowers | July 10, 2017 ++]



DoD Fraud, Waste, & Abuse Reported 16 thru 30 SEP 2017

Atlanta GA -- A defense contractor was found guilty 20 SEP of knowingly transmitting malicious code with the intent of causing damage to an Army computer, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina said in a statement Thursday. Mittesh Das, a 48-year-old resident of Atlanta, unloaded the computer virus in November 2014 — days before the company he was contracted under was supposed to hand over operations to a different firm. The code affected a national-level computer program the Army Reserve uses to handle pay and personnel actions for nearly 200,000 reservists, according to the statement. Five of the servers associated with the program were located at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The Army projected the total labor cost to remove the computer virus and restore the corrupted information as roughly $2.6 million. “Cyber-sabotage is not a ‘prank.’ It is a very serious crime with real victims and real costs. In this case, the crime cost taxpayers $2.6 million,” said John Stuart Bruce, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina. Das was indicted on April 5, 2016, for the offense that occurred in 2014. In December 2014, the Army Times reported on incidents of delayed payments to Army reservists. The delay — which averaged about 17 days — was attributed to a glitch in the Regional Level Application Software, said Lt. Col. William Ritter, a spokesman for the Reserve. That software’s functions included processing pay and orders, as well as transfers, awards and promotions, Ritter added.

The Justice Department was pleased with the outcome of the indictment, said Director Daniel Andrews of the Computer Crime Investigative Unit, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. “Let this be a warning to anyone who thinks they can commit a crime in cyberspace and not get caught. We have highly trained and specialized investigators who will work around the clock to uncover the truth and preserve Army readiness,” Andrews said in the statement. [Source: ArmyTimes | Kyle Rempfe | September 23, 2017 ++]

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Hampton Roads VA -- A Navy sailor has been indicted on six charges of maliciously conveying false information by calling in a series of bomb threats to various ships and bases across Hampton Roads in early August, according to federal court documents. Petty Officer 3rd Class Allante Martanaze Arrington, 24, is a boatswain's mate who has been assigned for more than three years to the USS Oak Hill, a dock landing ship homeported at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Virginia Beach, according to a Navy biography. The Oak Hill, which has been in the Caribbean since early September helping with hurricane relief, was on the receiving end of at least one of those threats, the indictment says.

Arrington, of Ohio, enlisted in 2014. He appeared in his working uniform 22 SEP for an initial appearance in U.S. District Court and was released on his own recognizance. With conviction, each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. An arraignment was scheduled for 27 SEP. Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice would not say how Arrington came to investigators' attention. The threats rolled out in quick succession 2 AUG. They caused a series of lock-downs and evacuations that affected ships and pier operations for hours as emergency responders and NCIS investigators fanned across Little Creek and Naval Station Norfolk.

According to the indictment, filed Wednesday, the threats began about 6 a.m. Arrington is accused of using a cellphone to call the Navy Region Mid-Atlantic's emergency line and saying "three bombs will go off on base at 9:30." He's accused of calling it again at about 6:40 a.m., and -- about 11 a.m. -- calling the quarterdeck at Little Creek with a more specific threat of a bomb on the dock landing ship Gunston Hall. Additional calls followed. The indictment accuses Arrington of phoning Little Creek's Rockwell Gym about 1 p.m. to report a bomb on board the Oak Hill, and calling the dock landing ship Whidbey Island's stateroom about 3:49 p.m. with a similar threat. The threats didn't end Aug. 2. The indictment further charges that Arrington again called Rockwell Gym about 9:56 a.m. Aug. 17 and claimed there was a bomb in a parking lot for the Whidbey Island.

Those incidents followed two others from earlier that week in which sailors at Naval Station Norfolk reported seeing a diver in the water near Pier 7. In another incident later that day at Little Creek, a Navy spokesman said a caller threatened the Oak Hill before hanging up. The indictment did not address at least two other threats reported Aug. 2: 9:55 a.m. to Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story's Admiral Joel T. Boone Branch Medical Clinic and 10:55 a.m. against the base's Personnel Support Detachment. The Navy later said none of the bomb threats was credible. [Source: The Virginian-Pilot | Courtney Mabeus| September 23, 2017 ++]



-o-o-O-o-o-

Pentagon/DEA -- If you contract to the tune of $64 million for a counternarcotics plane and it never flies, should you keep your job? That’s what Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wondered in a 20 SEP letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis blasting the Defense Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration for their seven years of work on a “hangar queen,” as the senator called it. The ATR-42-500 aircraft was adopted for the joint-agency Global Discovery Program aimed at curbing the opium trade in war-torn Afghanistan. But it became the subject of probes for waste by inspectors general for both the Justice and Defense departments.

“Aside from a small number of routine transport missions, it has been up on jacks in a hangar and never flew a single counter-narcotics mission in Afghanistan as intended,” Grassley wrote. In line with the secretary’s call to “take aggressive steps to end waste in the department,” the Judiciary Committee chairman said in routine language that he wants Mattis to conduct a review to determine who in the department is responsible, and take “appropriate measures of accountability, including potential disciplinary action.” In a more pointed, handwritten post-script, Grassley wrote, “Common sense dictates that if an admiral can be fired or the captain of a vessel can be dismissed because their ship rams another (if that action is taken because of dereliction of duty), then these people connected with this farcical plane need to be fired. If heads don’t roll, nothing changes.”

The problems with the ATR-42-500 laid out by the watchdogs began after 2008, when the Defense Department was brought in to modify the DEA’s plane with surveillance equipment at a time when the U.S. effort in Afghanistan was flagging. In a report released this month by the Pentagon IG, the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats was accused of not tracking costs, using inexperienced managers and of changing too many personnel. “Despite the [deputy assistant secretary’s office ] knowing in late 2013 that DEA personnel were significantly reducing their presence in Afghanistan in 2014,” the report said, that official “stated that she decided not to cancel the program because she believed the ATR 42-500 aircraft was near completion. As a result, the DASD CN> wasted at least $64.8 million.”

Justice’s IG had released a similarly critical report in March 2016, after performing an audit of the DEA’s contracting memoranda and finding violations of the Federal Acquisition Regulation, cost overruns and missed deadlines, based on whistleblower complaints. It reported that the plane never flew (it is now to be auctioned off). A Defense spokeswoman confirmed the department had received the letter and said officials would respond directly to Grassley. The Pentagon Counternarcotics and Global Threats office agreed with the IG’s recommendations for lessons learned from the mishap. But Grassley asserted in his letter that “not a single official took any responsibility.” [Source: GovExec.com | Charles S. Clark | September 25, 2017 ++]


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