The Scout Report 63rd Edition
Military, Veterans and Defense Industry Issues and Analysis
April 30, 2012
VA had a tough week on its handling of mental health care patients and is slightly under siege thanks to an internal Inspector General report that found gaming of the system to keep statistics on track while veterans waited weeks to see providers. President Obama issued an executive order adding more pain for the for-profit schooling industry. The Marines moved to kick out the founder of the Armed Forces Tea Party due to his Facebook rants against the President and there were a host of leadership changes in the defense industry.
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The week ahead:
Themes: Congress is out for the week so the beatings for the various military branches and VA will be on reprieve for at least a few days. Expect some maneuvering based on the flurry of additions to the Pentagon budget by the House Armed Services sub-committees as the full committee mark-up starts the week after next and both sides seek to stake their positions ahead of this crucial next step.
NDIA Global Explosive Ordnance Disposal Conference and Exhibition (Wed-Thurs, 2-3 May) Emerald Coast Convention Center, Ft. Walton Beach, FL
NDIA’s annual EOD conference is the premier event in this unique space bringing together military EOD leaders and industry to discuss the full spectrum of ordnance disposal missions from combat to homeland security.
Congress: Congress is not in session this week.
Think tanks and other news events:
Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies: Corporate Social Responsibility In the MENA Region: New Trends and Future Challenges
Washington, D.C. (12:00PM, Mon 30 April)
Description: A luncheon to discuss the latest CSR initiatives in the MENA region and investigate the obstacles to but also the opportunities for the promotion of responsible business behavior in the region. RSVP online.
Participants: Dr. Mohamed Mattar, Executive Director of The Protection Project, and Dr. Amr El Adawi, President of Beirut Arab University in Lebanon.
Location: 1717 Massachusetts Ave NW, BOB Building, Room 500, Washington D.C., 20036
Stimson Center: Chairman’s Forum
Washington, D.C. (12:00 PM, Tues 1 May)
Description: General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, sits down with Lincoln Bloomfield, Jr., Stimson’s Chairman of the Board, for an informal discussion. RSVP online.
Participants: General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, and Lincoln Bloomfield, Jr., Stimson’s Chairman of the Board
Location: 1111 19th Street, 12th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: A Conversation with General Martin Dempsey
Washington, D.C. (2:00 PM, Tues 1 May)
Description: General Martin Dempsey, the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will deliver remarks at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. RSVP online.
Participants: General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Location: 1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C. 20036
Heritage Foundation: A Nation and Its Veterans – What’s Next? A Plan for Action
Washington, D.C. (10:00 AM, Thurs, 3 May)
Description: How can Americans best organize their efforts to give back? Three respected organizations working with veterans and their families reflect on their efforts and how their work can point the way to what others can do for this great generation of veterans. RSVP online.
Participants: John A. Baden, Ph.D., Co-Founder, Warriors and Quiet Waters, Lieutenant Commander Edie Rosenthal, USN (Ret.), Public Relations Director, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Colonel Jack Jacobs, USA (Ret.), Medal of Honor Recipient and Vice Chairman, Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation
Location: 214 Massachusetts Ave, NE, Washington D.C. 20002
ScoutComms and Client News:
Lauren Jenkins, ScoutComms
The 7th Annual Milblogger Conference is coming up on May 11-12th and ScoutComms will be there in force. Fred Wellman will be the moderator for the ‘Rise of Social Media in Service Branches’ panel discussing the latest issues with the military’s relationship with social media. Based on this week’s stories below it should be a robust discussion. Other panels will also include top journalists, military bloggers, members of advocacy groups, the VA and the military. It promises to be an interesting conference and worth your Saturday. Check it out and register to attend.
Major themes and issues from last week:
Veterans and Military Issues:
Larry Peterson, Savannah Morning News
President Obama signed an executive order on Thursday levying a host of new restrictions and rules for schools advertising to military veterans and their families after several years of growing concern in how for-profit schools are utilizing federal student aid for vets. The new rules include restrictions on schools operating on military installations, misleading websites steering potential students with false claims and new “know before you owe” documents that inform loan recipients of details and pitfalls of their loans. Another interesting twist is the plan that the administration will attempt to trademark the term “GI Bill” to limit its use in marketing. Many of the changes are welcome and get ahead of various proposals in Congress while everyone positions for the veterans vote in this election year.
Patricia Kime, Army Times
The Veterans Health Administration had a tough week on Capitol Hill with the release of an internal Inspector General’s report and Senate hearing on the failure of the agency to meet mandated timelines for seeing mental healthcare patients. It seems the VA had been embellishing its record of success at meeting appointment deadlines through manipulations of the process to make up for shortfalls in caregivers. In addition, a former mental health administrator from the Manchester VA Medical Center reported to Congress his belief that a VA culture exists that encourages manager’s game performance metrics ahead of actually taking care of patients. The VA for its part has announced hiring efforts towards 1900 new employees in mental health programs while admitting of the shortcomings found in the IG report. Expect this issue to continue with the added juice of an election cycle to propel the narrative.
Further reading: The VA’s @AlexHortonVA responds eloquently on the VAntage Point Blog: On VA’s Mental Health Wait Times
Student Veterans of America
Student Veterans of America made news last week when they announced they would be revoking the charters of a number of chapters at for-profit schools when it was discovered they were in violation of SVA by-laws including not being founded or lead by actual students. In total 35 chapters at 23 different for-profit schools are being disbanded and this week the SVA posted the actual school names on their website. Included on the list were such well-known schools as campuses of Art Institutes, ITT Tech, ECPI and DeVry University. Many of these schools have heavily advertised that they are military and veteran friendly and appeared on marketing lists touting their SVA chapters as proof. More and more we are seeing organizations and non-profits popping up to skim as much money as they can from the nation’s desire to take care of our veterans.
Gregg Zoroya, USA Today
In a rare show of candor and public acknowledgement of a commonly known problem in the ranks, the Command Sergeant Major of Special Operations Command has been touring bases with his wife to talk about the strains on marriages and what can be done to staunch the tidal wave of divorces in the ranks. The effort is part of a broader push by commander Admiral William McRaven to deal with ongoing challenges for his 66,000-member force of special operators who are among the most deployed and combat tested members of the U.S. military. CSM Faris and his wife Lisa talk candidly about the near dissolution of their own marriage and offer lessons learned for others to follow in hopes of avoiding the same fate for themselves. Interesting stuff and unusual openness for such a highly secretive organization.
Military, Budget and Industry Issues:
Marjorie Censer, Washington Post Capital Business
@CommonCenser looks at the rise to prominence of female executives at some of the defense industries biggest corporations. This week General Dynamics promoted Phebe Novakovic to become president and chief operating officer just on the heels of Lockheed Martin naming Marilyn Hewson as their new president and chief operating officer as well. They join BAE Systems, Inc. president and CEO Linda Hudson as part of a surge of female leaders in what has been a traditionally male dominated business sector.
Marcus Weisgerber, Defense News
Even though Congress has not yet approved a budget which includes the Air Force’s sought after cuts in the C-27J aircraft program the service has already begun the various processes aimed at mothballing the fleet. They have already stopped training new National Guard pilots and aircraft destined for Battle Creek, Michigan will instead go to a facility in Texas to be finished and likely headed to storage upon completion. SASC leaders Levin and McCain have already weighed in but the Air Force insists these moves can easily be reversed if plans change. Either way the controversy around the decision to deactivate brand new aircraft that are popular with the Army isn’t soon to die down. DoDBuzz’s Phil Ewing has a review from the field about how much the Army loves the aircraft at the same time its being killed in Washington here: Far from DC battles, C-27 gets glowing reviews
Gopal Ratnam and Tony Capaccio, Bloomberg Businessweek
The DoD wants to expand a pilot program launched two years ago with 37 companies on the sharing of cybersecurity threats all the way up to 200 participants. The Defense Industrial Base Information Sharing Environment is a voluntary program for private companies to participate in an information sharing system to minimize cyber threats that are growing each year and seem to be emanating from China. Increasingly defense contractors are the target of hackers who can then leverage the holes into the larger defense eco-system.
Kate Brannen and Marcus Weisgerber, Defense News
Expressing frustration with the Pentagon’s planned cuts to several major weapons systems the House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces added $1.1 billion above what DoD requested for a few programs. Upgrades include the Global Hawk Block 30 program and additional combat vehicles such as M1’s and Bradley Fighting Vehicles for the Army. In addition, they would fully fund the purchase of 35 more F-35’s and 36 more MQ-9 Reaper UAV’s among other add-ons. It remains to be seen if the additions will survive through full committee mark-ups and the actual budget vote.
Sandra Erwin, National Defense
The Pentagon procurement system is trying to change language in regulations that further defines what is considered “commercial” for off the shelf purchases of equipment. To the DoD this is an effort to get more transparency on pricing models for items they purchase and avoid inflation of price tags. However, to industry this is just another pile of red tape they will have to navigate in an industry that is already buried in the material. Current rules are fairly broad as items that are listed as commercial aren’t even sold to the general public at all but seem to be marked as such to prevent audits of the pricing models. In the end it will be up to Congress to change existing laws and allow the Pentagon to change the rules.
Social Media and Communications Issues:
Joe Gould, Army Times
Recent reports of spouses being notified ahead of the official casualty notification process has amped up concerns about the use of social media and its misuse after the deaths of servicemembers. The Army will be updating its Social Media Handbook to address the issue. On this note, last week we posted about the case where a wife was notified “by Facebook” that garnered a huge amount of hype and unfortunately is being misinterpreted as a problem with the social network. In that case the spouse was sent a message to call a soldier who then informed her on the phone of her husbands death. In all of the cases being used as examples the real culprit was not inadvertent social media posts but servicemembers making the conscious decision to reach out to spouses and ignore the proper protocols. The issue is not a social media problem but a professionalism and discipline problem in the ranks.
Randy Clinton, Marine Corps Gazette Blog
One of the Marine Corps public affairs specialists has a blog post up on the Marine Corps Gazette page urging leaders and public affairs staff to embrace social media in times of tragedy and crisis instead of shutting it down or deleting comments. Clinton comes up with several examples he has experienced of seemingly simple communications being deleted or social media sites ignoring events for apparently random reasons. What’s interesting about the blog post as well is the rather heated debate occurring in the comments section that even includes an anonymous Marine saying that the author should be brought up on charges for his criticism of the commands involved. It truly illustrates that the battle for information disclosure still rages on in in the military.
Isolde Raftery, MSNBC.com
Sgt. Gary Stein, the Marine Corps NCO from California who created the Armed Forces Tea Party Facebook site, has been dismissed from the service with an Other Than Honorable discharge by his senior commander. Stein has waged an ongoing battle trying to stop his ouster for a host of inappropriate comments about the president and other military leaders made on various Facebook pages. As we have mentioned before, this wasn’t an issue of just one post on his personal Facebook wall. Stein has consistently posted negative comments about the commander-in-chief and other acts while flipping his finger at the Marines. In this interview Stein says he wishes he could take it all back now. Sadly, that’s not possible and it seems logical that like other military political activists who were encouraged to buck their chain-of-command by supporters outside the service, Stein will find himself all alone when the dust settles with no benefits or pride in his service.
Other Items of Interest:
Gregg Jaffe, Washington Post
This is a funny little dispatch from @GreggJaffe on the unique world that is combat when working with local interpreters that have gotten used to the vernacular of American soldiers. He tells the tale of the day a U.S. battalion commander tried to get to the bottom of why there were so few of his Afghan counterparts on duty. He discovered it was because many were abandoning their duties after getting paid and were home “chillin’ like willains”.
Phil McKenna, Wired.com Danger Room
In another example of veteran entrepreneurship at its best, Wired has the story of Doug Moorehead who is the president of a clean-tech startup he founded that his producing hybrid solar-diesel generators for the military. An idea that was sparked during his service in combat led the veteran to leave his former company and start out on his own to create hybrid power sources that reduced fuel requirements in the field by 93% during testing and are right now in combat in Afghanistan. Always good to see veterans leading the way in industry.
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Upcoming event? Have an event you would like us to include on our look ahead? Drop us an email at fwellman@ScoutCommsUSA.com and we will make sure we let our readers know.
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