Military, Veterans and Defense Industry Issues and Analysis

November 28, 2011


The week ahead:


Themes:  The Super Committee failed officially so Washington will be a burst of activity to stave off the sequestration in between blame game antics.  There are two very interesting hearings this week on the controversial Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business certification program at VA and a look at mental health care programs for vets.



Society of Military Engineers Small Business Conference (28-30 Nov) National Harbor, MD

The SAME Small Business Conference for DOD Engineering, Construction and Environmental Programs provides business leaders an opportunity to identify key contracting partners, learn of upcoming projects and opportunities and generate new business.  The Small Business Conference has grown in both size and influence over the past few years. Boasting an audience of more than 1,800 attendees and with more than 200 companies exhibiting their goods and services, the SAME Small Business Conference presents unprecedented opportunities for small business owners, large companies and others to network and partner.


I/ITSEC 2011 (Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation & Education Conference)(28-30 Nov) Orlando, Florida

I/ITSEC is the world’s largest modeling, simulation and training conference.  Last year’s show had over 20,000 registrants with 595 companies exhibiting their products with attendees from 57 countries.  It has become the show to attend for those in the simulation and training business and will only grow in importance as quality training becomes increasingly important again as our wars wind down and garrison cycles begin for the U.S. military.

Congress:   The full Congress is in session this week.  


Senate Veterans Affairs Committee-Hearing (10:00, Wed, 30 November)

Full committee hearing on “VA Mental Health Care: Addressing Wait Times and Access to Care.” (Rescheduled hearing from November 10, 2011)

Witnesses: Michelle Washington, coordinator of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) Services and Evidence Based Psychotherapy, Wilmington, Del. VA Medical Center, representing American Federation of Government Employees; retired Army Col. Doctor Charles Hoge; Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and president of Give an Hour; John Roberts, executive vice president for mental health and warrior engagement at the Wounded Warrior Project; Mary Schohn, director of mental health operations for the Veterans Health Administration; Antonette Zeiss, chief consultant in the Office of Mental Health Services; and Janet Kemp, national director of the Suicide Prevention Program, testify

Location: 418 Russell Senate Office Building

House Veterans Affairs Committee-Hearing (10:00, Wed, 30 November)

Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee and Economic Opportunity Subcommittee joint hearing on “U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Certification Process.” (Note: Rescheduled from November 3, 2011)

Witnesses: TBA

Location: 334 Cannon House Office Building


House Small Business Committee-Hearing (1:00, Thurs, 1 December)

Healthcare and Technology Subcommittee hearing on “Cyber Security: Protecting Your Small Business.”

Witnesses: Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas; David Beam, senior vice president, North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, Raleigh, N.C., on behalf of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association; Glenn Strebe, CEO, Air Academy Federal Credit Union Colorado Springs, Colo., on behalf of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions; Michael Kaiser, executive director, National Cyber Security Alliance

Location: 2360 Rayburn House Office Building

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee-Hearing (11:00, Thurs, 1 December)

Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee hearing on “Protecting U.S. Sovereignty: Coast Guard Operation in the Arctic.”

Witnesses: Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert Papp Jr.; and others, testify

Location: 2167 Rayburn House Office Building


House Veterans Affairs Committee-Hearing (10:00, Fri, 2 December)

Health Subcommittee hearing on “Understanding and Preventing Veteran Suicide.”

Witnesses: TBA

Location: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Think tanks and other news events:


Woman’s National Democratic Club –The Central Role of Reductions in Military Spending in Making Rational Cuts in the Deficit (11:30 AM, Tues, 29 November) RSVP Requested

Description: “Congressman Frank will discuss the issue of excessive military spending in order to ensure prosperity in the future. “  Frank has been an outspoken proponent of slashing military spending as the primary means of deficit reduction.  He will have plenty to say on Tuesday.

Participants:  Congressman Barney Frank

Location: Woman’s National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Ave, NW, Washington DC, 20036

RAND – VA Mental Health Care:  How good is it and how can we make it better?  (1:00, Thurs, 1 December) Registration Required

The lead author RAND’s four year study on VA mental health care will discuss the findings of the study.  The study released in October found that VA actually does a better job than most health systems in dealing with mental health issues but offers several areas for improvement.  Lunch will be served.

Link to the full study:

Participants: Katherine Watkins, Senior Natural Scientist, RAND Corporation

Location: B-369 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC

Major themes and issues from last week:


1) Veterans and Military Life Issues:  It was a tough week to choose just a few stories on veterans with the LA Times on fire on the issues this week among others.  We take another look at the jobs challenges including what companies are doing and training in the renewable energy space for vets.  There are great pieces on some fascinating research being done on PTSD and another on the effects of blasts on the brain.


2) Budget and Industry:  The Super Committee failed which was shocking to no one really.  The scramble is on to stave off the doomsday cuts and the Wall Street Journal’s dynamic duo of Hodge and Barnes take a look at the options.  Mother Jones firebomb writer and veterans Adam Weinstein takes a tough look at the make-up of the notorious Defense Business Board.  The FAA may be letting UAV’s fly in U.S. airspace in January and the Air Force wants to cut the Army’s small cargo plane program after fighting to take it over.


3) Communications and Social Media:  Social media has become part of the fabric of military deployments and DoD is taking a look at its effect as part of the stress of family separation.  Twitter is also battling with Senator Lieberman on stifling Taliban feeds as part of his ongoing efforts to kill of terrorist propaganda on the social networks.


4) Other Stories of Interest:  Great stuff at the bottom of the mail today with a look at ten years of war and its effect on families at Camp Pendleton; the oldest enlistee in combat wants more time downrange; University of Virginia law students are trying to roll back the female combat exclusion regulations and the New York Times Sabrina Tavernise returns to defense issues with a look at a recent Pew study showing a growing gap between the military and the younger generations of Americans.



Veterans and Military Issues:


Vets Join Tough Job Market

Emily Glazer, Wall Street Journal

Pretty good roll up of the challenges veterans face in the job market as well as some of the interesting programs being developed to fight the issue including the ‘100,000 Jobs Mission’ from 17 corporations including JP Morgan Chase, Delta Airlines and AT&T.   But vets face many of the same issues as always.  Though most have the absolute best of soft skills an employer would want from leadership experience, ability to work in teams and strong work ethics the problem remains that most folks hire for hard skills specific to a job and without those experiences matching a deserving veteran with a job will always be a problem.  Simply put the best squad leader on earth won’t be a great investment banker without training and education.

For vets returning to US, green energy jobs await

Andy Brownfield, Associated Press

The green energy industry has become a growing job source for veterans across the country.  Tipping Point Renewable Energy in Columbus, Ohio is only hiring veterans for their installation crews while a Denver based non-profit called Veterans Green Jobs has trained 370 veterans in the last four years as solar panel installers.  During our work with The Home Depot Foundation’s Celebration of Service we helped a small non-profit in St. Louis called the Renewable Energy Training Institute run by a retired Marine Colonel that will train vets for the same things.  All of these efforts are in line with what will likely be a growing industry with skills for the future.


Study suggests feelings of guilt may be a top factor in PTSD

Gregg Zoroya, USA Today

An ongoing study of active-duty Marines is finding that a leading cause of PTSD is resulting from moral dilemmas faced in combat as much if not more than actual physical danger and witnessing of traumatic incidents.  Issues such as “survivor’s guilt” from living through an attack others perished in or witnessing the killing of innocents result in PTSD symptoms.  This concept of a “moral injury” as a cause of PTSD is simply never been defined before and is only now being defined by the psychiatric community.  These moral injuries seem to be leading to the most severe issues of family violence and suicide. It makes absolute sense to many veterans and should be addressed as the VA has found that almost half of all Iraq and Afghanistan veterans experience some form of mental health issues from depression to PTSD.

Groundbreaking research looks at how blasts injure brain

Seth Robbins, Stars and Stripes

This is just a fascinating look at the research going into identifying the effects of blasts on the brains of service members and how to detect that damage earlier and more accurately.  A veteran doctor is now leading ground breaking research at Harvard and working with DARPA to develop devices like recently fielded blast detectors that alert medics to the level of exposure suffered by casualties right on the battlefield.  More and more research is identifying those low frequency shock waves as extremely dangerous for the human brain and leading to results in both the near term and unknown future issues.  This takes us beyond even the obvious effects of Traumatic Brain Injuries and into a realm of veterans with low level brain problems that will prove devastating over the long term.  What will be the effect for all of society and the VA?  Alcoholism? Mental illness?  Early onset Alzheimer’s? There is much to learn.

Budget and Industry Issues:

Fight is Just Beginning Over Cuts in Defense

Nathan Hodge and Julian Barnes, Wall Street Journal

The failure of the Super Committee to find the necessary cuts has sent folks into full scramble on Capitol Hill as to how to address the threatened sequestration of funds starting in January, 2013. Hodge and Barnes find that the Pentagon still refuses to discuss that scenario.  In the meantime there are some clever accounting methods such as shifting funds between wartime accounts and operations budgets to keep efforts funded on an even basis.  The hope is that an intense lobbying effort will avert the worst case scenarios and the dust will settle quickly.

Inside the Corporate Plan to Occupy the Pentagon

Adam Weinstein, Mother Jones

Adam takes a hard look at the Defense Business Board and discusses their more radical ideas to make the Pentagon run more like a corporate entity in a dream first realized by Donald Rumsfeld to cut through the bureaucracy of the department.  It’s an interesting look at some of the spectacular failures like the failed personnel management system and the danger that is coming from their recommendations for military pay and benefits that now seem to be getting some traction and could result in dramatic changes to the keystone set of benefits offered to our all-volunteer military.  This one is worth the long read.

Idea of civilians using drone aircraft may soon fly with FAA

W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times

The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to release rules that will allow unmanned aerial vehicles to fly in the U.S. civil airspace for the first time this January.  There is a clamor in a host of industries to allow these small, inexpensive aircraft to fly from uses for law enforcement to farmers wanting to use them for spraying the potential on the civilian market is almost limitless.  It isn’t without serious concerns of privacy, misuse and criminal activity that this market could come open.  Imagine TMZ with their own drone to peak into every courtyard and backyard to make your hair stand on end.  The manufacturers will have to prove their products can be used safely in the airspace as well as appropriately to open up these opportunities.

Air Force wants to cancel program that supports Army

Marcus Weisgerber, Army Times

In the ironic twist of the week department the Air Force is quietly scaling back a small cargo aircraft program it campaigned to take over from the Army that is solely designed to support small hard to reach bases.  The Army had been in charge of developing the C-27J Joint Cargo Aircraft until recently to replace the aging C-23 Sherpa fleet but the Air Force took full control of the program and is now looking at cutting it off before its fully realized against the wishes of the Air Guard who operates the aircraft fleet.  Expect a battle on this as it’s a similar battle that was fought forty years ago over the Caribou cargo aircraft in Vietnam that the Air Force took over, cut then returned to the Army.  It certainly sounds like a case of repeating history.  For their part Air Force leadership claims that the existing C-130 fleet can support small bases but it’s common knowledge that C-130’s can’t land in some of the truly tiny airstrips or tight valleys in Afghanistan.

Communications and Social Media:


DoD studies social media’s impact on deployment

Mike Chalmers, USA Today

University of California researchers have begun a three years study for the Department of Defense on how military families handle the stress of deployment and a key component will be the impact of social media on that separation.  Until just two years ago social media access on official computers was severely limited but today it presents a nearly continuous link to home with service members using Facebook, Skype and other means to stay in contact like a day at the office.  The impacts can be both positive and negative as living in both worlds has its impact on both sides of the equation.  Many of us have stories of having to break off a chat or video call to take cover from an attack which can have a pretty stressful impact back home as well as down range for the warrior.

Lawmakers, Twitter locked in dispute over Taliban tweets

Brian Bennett, McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Some U.S. lawmakers are going after Twitter to ban feeds from alleged Taliban sources celebrating the deaths of U.S. service members or spreading propaganda on the insurgency in Afghanistan.  Twitter is defending itself saying that since the State Department hasn’t designated the Taliban as a terrorist organization their terms of use are not being violated.  Congress has already gotten YouTube to delete accounts that show terrorist and insurgent attacks but Google is now under fire for allowing its Blogger platform to still host postings by terrorist sympathizers.  This will be a battle as long as new communications platforms exist.  The good news is that NATO and the U.S. are not ceding the battlefield to the enemy and have been actively engaging in countering the propaganda.

Other Items of Interest:

Some of the war’s battles are fought at home

Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times

A great look from the LA Times at the effects of ten years of war on the families of Marines at Camp Pendleton and how they are coping with a nearly continuous cycle of combat deployments.  It has changed how everyone views the world when two day breaks without hearing from Dad prompts toddlers to ask if he died and how families are choosing to stay on base during deployments instead of going home to family like in the early days of the war.  All of this has led to innovative support programs both for spouses and even in the schools to help with the stress and challenges faced by military families.

Oldest U.S. Soldier Wants to Do Another Tour

Conor Powell, Fox News (Video)

Fox News looks at Staff Sergeant Don Nicholas who is reputed to be the oldest U.S Army soldier serving in combat.  A Vietnam veteran and podiatrist he decided to re-enlist after 9/11.  When asked why he did it he simply replies “I don’t know…it seemed like the right thing to do.”  Interesting profile of the kind of person driven to serve in today’s military.

U.Va. student project aims to allow women in combat

Kate Wiltrout, The Virginian-Pilot

Four University of Virginia law school students have taken on an unusual task called the Molly Pitcher Project to seek a repeal of laws banning women in combat units in the U.S. military.  They are aided by a professor and an Air Guard pilot and graduate of the school in their task to ensure that fair standards are applied to give women an equal opportunity to serve in positions they are physically qualified to accomplish.  The military has been steadily rolling back restrictions on women in combat for the last decade with less and less of a front line to discern the difference between a rear echelon and a combat unit many of the restrictions have simply been overcome by events in the real world.  It will be interesting to see how this project unfolds.


Younger Americans losing family connection to military

Sabrina Tavernise, New York Times

A new study from the Pew Research Center has found that there truly is a growing gap between younger Americans and the military with less and less U.S. citizens knowing someone or having family that have served.  This change stems from the fact that in the last decade less than one-half of one percent of Americans have served in uniform compared to 9 percent who served during World War II.  Thus less than one third of those aged 18-29 have a family member who has served compared to over 50 percent for older generations.  The implications of this are hard to measure but it becomes clear that a growing gap of understanding between the military and the nation leads to sort of a Foreign Legion of strangers who server the countries martial needs.

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