106 == Philippine U.S. Bases  ------- (Duterte Puts Alliance in Jeopardy)
108 == Philippine U.S. Bases  ------------------- (Treaty Will be Honored)
109 == Have You Heard? ------------- (The Haircut || Peeing On My Flowers)
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. * ATTACHMENTS * . Attachment - Veteran Legislation as of 15 SEP 2016
Attachment - Georgia Vet State Benefits & Discounts SEP 2016
Attachment - Military History Anniversaries 16 thru 30 SEP AUG
* DoD *
Exchange Online Shopping Update 07 ► Late 2017 Recommendation The Defense Department’s Executive Resale Board voted unanimously last week to recommend that military exchange services open online discount shopping to 19 million honorably discharged veterans starting in late 2017. The plan to extend shopping discounts to most American veterans has two purposes. One is to reward them for their service with product savings that, on average, should be 20 percent over commercial department stores, when military exemption from state and local sales tax part of the discount. The other goal is to increase exchange revenues to offset worrisome declines recently due to the sharp drawdown in active duty forces, base closures particularly overseas, elimination of on-base tobacco product discounts and reduced margins from selling cheaper gasoline on base.
Whether exchange products are sold in base stores or through online portals, the military relies on the revenue to fund its morale, welfare and recreational activities. Given the defense budget squeeze since passage of the 2011 Budget Control Act, with its sequestration mechanism, some services have had to use exchange “dividends” for needs beyond golf courses and movie theaters. The Army has used exchange earnings of late to pay for new daycare centers, a need it used to solve with appropriated dollars. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work is expected to give final approval to the Veterans Online Shopping Benefit within 60 to 90 days. He will be urged to do so not only by the resale board, which advises defense leaders on-base store operations, but also by senior Pentagon manpower officials who finally are backing the initiative after more than two years of study, internal debate and some very detailed preparations, sources said.
The Army and Air Force Exchange Service, whose chief executive officer Thomas C. Shull has led the more than two-year effort to expand online shopping, has been building out its shopper website, its customer call centers, and its warehousing and distribution systems, sources said. All the exchange services also have been working with the Department of Veterans Affairs and Defense Manpower Data Center to develop methods to verify that potential shoppers are honorably discharged veterans. And most recently, the exchange services have reached agreement on how to divide revenue from online purchases using zip codes of buyers to estimate service affiliation, said Patrick B. Nixon, president of the American Logistics Association. ALA lobbies on behalf of manufacturers, brokers and distributors doing business with military exchanges and commissaries.
By giving honorably discharged veterans only access to exchange products and only online, proponents believe they will dampen criticism from active and reserve forces, military retirees and families, that their own hard-earned shopping benefit is being diluted or improperly shared. The more highly prized commissary shopping benefit isn’t involved. Store traffic won’t increase. Exchange officials also will emphasize to current patrons that the veterans’ benefit will increase online traffic enough to deliver deeper discounts for all. Yet discounts for exchange shopping on base are expected to remain more robust than the savings available online. All of these factors helped to persuade most major military associations to support the initiative.
ALA, with its close ties to military resale executives, was first to report to its members the 9 AUG board vote in favor of online shopping for most veterans. Nixon said he agrees with plan proponents that expanding the population of online exchange shoppers will enhance the benefit for all. Exchanges acknowledge they are losing sales to popular commercial online sites such as Amazon, and as military patrons grow increasingly comfortable with using smart phones and tablets to shop. By adding veterans to the online patron base, exchange services expect total annual online sales to jump from $250 million to $1 billion in less than four years. That would produce up to $72 million in additional earnings, half of which would be dividends to support quality of life programs. If, as expected, Deputy Secretary Work approves the initiative, Congress would be notified and given 30 days to object. But department lawyers have concluded that neither congressional approval nor new legislation would be required. Work only would need to make modest changes to an instruction (DoDI 1330.21) governing exchange operation.
Exchanges are eyeing a “soft launch” of the expanded online benefit to segments of veterans by mid-2017, to gauge demand and test system capabilities including the process to verify veteran status. A full launch with much fanfare and promotion is expected by Veterans Day in November 2017. One lingering concern is the need for the plan to be approved and set before the Obama administration leaves office in January. Otherwise proponents will have to argue the merits again to a new leadership team.
E-commerce is the fastest growing segment of retail “inside and outside the gate,” Nixon said. “Normally the military resale system is a little bit behind the power curve. I applaud the fact that exchanges…have aggressively moved out [on] realizing brick and mortar will not sustain any resale program. Online is the future. And for them to keep pace with initiatives outside they really need to focus on their e-commerce capabilities. This is a great opportunity to bring a large shopping population into the fold.” Marine Corps Exchange already refers online shoppers to the Army and Air Force Exchange Service website. Navy Exchange Service Command has its own online portal and product selection. That would remain so that honorably discharged veterans would be able to use either online portal. Military retirees, 100-percent disabled veterans and Medal of Honor recipients would still be the only veterans allowed to shop in base exchanges.
Key arguments proponents used for expanding online shopping is that it will: incentivize a deeper connection between veterans and their services; send a fresh signal that the nation values their service, and reward the many recent veterans who deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan and yet had to leave service during the drawdown short of retirement eligibility. VA estimates, however, that the median age of the veteran population is 64. So exchanges are using the online shopping behavior of military retirees to predict level of use on expanding the benefit. Retirees generate 40 percent of online revenue for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service and 28 percent of online revenue for the Navy exchange system. [Source: Military.com | Tom Philpott | August 19, 2016++]
Selective Service System Update 21 ►Women Registration in NDAA A group of 17 Republican senators is urging leaders of the Armed Services committees to take language out of a defense policy bill that would require women to register for the draft. “We should not hinder the brave men and women of our armed forces by entrapping them in unnecessary cultural issues,” the senators wrote to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate committees. “Our all-volunteer military is the best military the world has ever seen, and women who wish to serve in this military are free to do so.”
The letter was spearheaded by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NB) who reiterated his criticism that the provision puts “culture wars” into the defense bill. “Republicans and Democrats should be able to agree that taking care of national security is more important than running up the score in unnecessary and divisive culture wars,” Sasse said in a statement accompanying the letter’s release 12 SEP. “Rather than reflexively jumping into a heated debate about drafting our nation’s mothers, sisters and daughters, we should consider the fact that the greatest fighting force in history our Armed Forces is an all-volunteer fighting force and no one is urging Congress to change that.” The letter comes as Senate and House conferees are working to reconcile each chamber’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act.
The Senate-passed version would require women to register for the draft for the first time. An effort to remove the provision with an amendment on the Senate floor has gone nowhere.
The House-passed version, meanwhile, would direct a study of the draft registration system, officially called the Selective Service System.
In their letter, the senators call for an independent commission to study the Selective Service System. “We believe it is better to refrain from this expansion and to instead, task an independent commission to study the purpose and utility of the Selective Service System, specifically determining whether the current system is unneeded, if it is sufficient, or if it needs an expanded pool of potential draftees,” they wrote. Whether women should register has been an issue since Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened all combat jobs to women late last year. The issue has divided lawmakers from both parties, with some saying there’s no reason women shouldn’t register, others saying they should continue to be exempt and others saying the draft should be abolished altogether.
In addition to Sasse, the letter was signed by Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), John Thune (S.D.), Pat Roberts (Kan.), James Inhofe (Okla.), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), John Boozman (Ark.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Steve Daines (Mont.), John Hoeven (N.D.), James Lankford (Okla.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.), David Perdue (Ga.), James Risch (Idaho), Tim Scott (S.C.) and Roger Wicker (Miss.). [Source: The Hill | Rebecca Kheel | September 12, 2016 ++]
DoD Tobacco Policy Update 01► Care Package Ban A California congressman wants to know why new federal regulations are stopping tobacco sellers from including cigars and other freebies in care packages headed to troops overseas. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Robert Califf on 8 SEP demanding a further clarification of the rules that went into effect in August. The move comes amid reports from several companies and charities that they’re stopping distribution of free tobacco products to deployed troops, in fear of violating federal rules. “Tobacco manufacturers and distributors have long taken part in a time-honored tradition of donating tobacco products to service members, often while deployed,” Hunter wrote in his letter. “These donations routinely improve morale and serve to relieve stress. “It would be unacceptable for the FDA to prohibit the distribution of tobacco products to service members who are fighting to protect those very rights that may now be restricted.”
The new FDA rules expanded the list of products covered under existing tobacco regulations, including cigars, hookah tobacco, e-cigarettes and other smokeless tobacco products. They also prohibit “free samples of cigarettes and free samples of smokeless tobacco, except in qualified adult-only facilities.” That stems from the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, passed by Congress as a way to regulate sale and distribution of tobacco products. In the legislation, lawmakers approved prohibiting “the charitable distribution of tobacco products,” which included cigarettes and certain other products. But the expansion of the rule last month brought even more items in line with the ban on tobacco gifts. FDA officials have said the rules do not apply to friends or family members sending tobacco products to troops overseas, just to manufacturers and vendors handing out free cigars and products.
Hunter -- who earlier this year drew criticism for vaping (i.e. inhaling vapor from E-cigarettes) during a congressional hearing on smoking regulations onboard passenger flights -- has criticized the FDA’s expanding regulations in the past, and said the recent reports of troops’ care packages being targeted are “adding to my growing list of concerns.” FDA officials said they are planning a response to the congressman. The agency has spent the last several months warning of the upcoming changes and providing information on its website on how customers and retailers would be affected. Earlier this year, defense officials announced plans to end discounts on the price of tobacco products at stateside military bases in an effort to discourage young troops from picking up unhealthy habits. The military estimates that tobacco use costs the department more than $1.6 billion annually in health costs and productivity impact. [Source: Military Times | Leo Shane | September 9, 2016 ++]
DoD Voting Assistance ► 18% Fewer Website Users Than in 2012 The number of military and overseas voters who have downloaded voting forms from DoD's voting assistance website has decreased by 18 percent compared to the 2012 presidential election, according to Defense Department officials. Officials aren't sure what to make of that drop-off, and whether it represents a trend in this year's voting among the military and overseas citizens communities. It may be related to more online voting options from the states -- allowing voters to register and request ballots online directly from local election officials. All year, DoD and service officials have been publicizing the resources available to help service members and families register to vote and request an absentee ballot.
Voters can go directly to their local election officials, and DoD's Voting Assistance Program site, FVAP.gov, can help direct voters to the right place. Or, voters can use the Federal Post Card Application, which is available at www.FVAP.gov or from unit voting assistance officers or installation voting assistance offices. Within two weeks, the message to troops and families will change, urging voters to return their absentee ballots. Officials will also tell voters that if they haven't received their state absentee ballot by 30 days before the election, they should use the backup Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot. Election Day is 8 NOV. As of 1 SEP, absentee ballots of overseas military members and family members are given special treatment. Overseas military postal clerks attach the Express Mail Service label 11-DoD, which expedites delivery to local election officials. The label also allows the voter to track the ballot until final delivery to local election officials.
Officials have sent out monthly emails to active-duty members as one part of their outreach effort. And for the first time, FVAP has been conducting a direct mail campaign, sending voting reminder mailings to active-duty members; another mailing scheduled for Sept. 22. Mailings to known addresses of military spouses were sent 2 SEP , with another scheduled for 15 SEP. Overseas citizens mailings were sent 30 AUG, with another scheduled for 15 SEP. “My layman’s assessment is that an 18 percent drop is a fairly significant drop by any standard,” said Mike Turner, executive director of the Military Officers Association’s Military Family Initiative. “This is just as engaging an election as 2012 was.”
But it’s not clear whether the 18 percent reduction is significant, said Katherine Roddy, a spokeswoman for the DoD Federal Voting Assistance Program. After the election, when FVAP does a survey of military members and spouses, it will be able to gain insight into their voting patterns, she said. There are also fewer active-duty personnel in 2016 than there were in 2012, and fewer deployed personnel. [Source: Military Times | Karen Jowers | September 9, 2016 ++]