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The Scout Report 304th Edition

Military Families and Veterans News and Analysis
Monday, February 13, 2017

Happy Monday and I hope you have a bouquet of flowers already ordered for your special someone or for yourself—because you’re your own special someone, too.

You’ll notice a few missing letters from this week’s Scout Report, the ubiquitous FPW. Fred is convalescing at home while recovering from his knee replacement and by all accounts, mostly by his Twitter account, everything is proceeding as pretty much usual. Send him your well wishes or flowers or pizza as you see fit.

This week, we take on some big questions that faced our leaders this week: does the military have enough money? Does Afghanistan have enough U.S. troops? Will the Trump Administration privatize the VA? Can suicides with firearms be decreased through better education? And much more.

Love our spicy takes on the week’s news? Tell your friends and we can all be Valentines. Don’t forget to follow us on social media, too! –LJ 

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:

American Society of Naval Engineers: TSS 2017 (Tue – Thurs, Feb. 14-16, 2017); Hyatt Regency Crystal City at Reagan National Airport, Arlington, VA

Congress:

House: 

Armed Services: Full Committee Hearing: “The Evolving Threat of Terrorism and Effective Counterterrorism Strategies”
Who: Professor Bruce Hoffman, Director, Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University; Mr. Brian Michael Jenkins, Senior Advisor to the President of RAND Corporation; Ambassador Michael Sheehan, Distinguished Chair, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point
When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Where: 2118 Rayburn

Armed Services: Military Services 5th Generation Tactical Aircraft Challenges and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program Update
Who: Lieutenant General Chris Bogdan, Program Executive Officer, F-35 Joint Program Office; Lieutenant General Jon M. Davis, Deputy Commandant for Aviation, United States Marine Corp; Major General Jerry D. Harris Jr, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans, Programs, and Requirements, U.S. Air Force; Rear Admiral Upper Half Dewolfe “Chip” Miller III, Director, Air Warfare (OPNAV N98)
When: 9:00 AM, Thursday, February 16, 2017
Where: 2212 Rayburn

Senate:

Armed Services: Long-term Defense Challenges and Strategies
Who: Honorable Robert O. Work, Deputy Secretary Of Defense; Mr. James H. Baker, Director, Office Of Net Assessment, Office Of The Secretary Of Defense
When: 9:30 AM, Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Where: SVC-217, The Office of Senate Security in the Capitol Visitor Center

Armed Services: Department of Defense Single Servicemember and Military Family Readiness Programs
Who: Daniel A. Dailey, USA, Sergeant Major Of The Army; Steven S. Giordano, USA, Master Chief Petty Officer Of The Navy; Ronald L. Green, USMC, Sergeant Major Of The Marine Corps; James A. Cody, USAF, Chief Master Sergeant Of The Air Force; Ms. Stephanie Barna, Acting Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Manpower And Reserve Affairs; Ms. Kathy Roth-Douquet, Chief Executive Officer, Blue Star Families; Ms. Joyce W. Raezer, Executive Director, National Military Family Association
When: 2:30 PM, Tuesday, February 14, 2017
Where: SR-222 Russell 

Think Tanks & Other Events:

Armed Services Arts Partnership: Veterans Open Mic
When: 7:00 PM, Thursday, February 16, 2017
Where: Dog Tag Bakery, 3206 Grace St N, Washington, DC 20007

ScoutComms in the News:

Taylor Swift, battlefield heroes among honorees on HillVets 100 list
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
We’re thrilled to announce that our Vice President and Managing Director of Scout Insight, Lauren Jenkins, was named one of the 2017 HillVets 100. The HillVets 100 recognizes influencers in the military and veteran community. This year’s list includes Taylor Swift, former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, Medal of Honor recipient Navy SEAL Edward Byers Jr. and more. We are excited to see Lauren’s work in the community recognized on a public stage. Congratulations! –MC 

ScoutComms Account Manager Margaret Clevenger Named Rising PR Star
Susan Larson (@Fxbg2Day) Fredericksburg Today
PR News recently named Margaret Clevenger, Account Manager at ScoutComms, among 2016’s best in the industry, awarding her a “2016 Rising PR Star” award. She first joined ScoutComms in 2014 as an account executive and earned a promotion to account manager before the end of the next year. Clevenger, a Syracuse University Alum and daughter of a retired Army lieutenant colonel, now leads the junior staff team that serves clients, covering the spectrum from nonprofits like Student Veterans of America to corporate leaders like USAA. Congrats, Margaret! ­­–JG 

Military and Veteran Issues: 

Trump’s mix of politics and military is faulted
Michael R. Gordon (@gordonnyt), New York Times
Donald Trump’s remarks at MacDill Air Force Base on Monday, which mentioned the election and the military’s support of his candidacy, have drawn criticism from many in the field of defense policy. According to these experts, such remarks demonstrate Trump’s unfamiliarity with military policy, stating that military personnel must remain committed to whomever is in the position of Commander in Chief, regardless of party lines. –KB 
Bottom line: Of all the reasons to be outraged about the actionstaken and words spoken by President Trump since his inauguration, his appearance at MacDill falls pretty far down the list. Everything he did that Gordon notes in his reporting is largely predictable and expected, given his track record in three weeks in office and months on the campaign trail. Of course he’s going to talk about the election. Of course he’s going to talk to the military like it is a constituency. Of course he’s going to promote his political agenda. Service members, based on surveys, broke heavily for Trump, which is not too surprising, as the Republican candidate generally benefits from a plurality or majority of military voters. To be frank, there is little in Trump’s appearance MacDill that is new or different from his appearances since January 20. For the service members in the audience, they were and are likely hoping for assurances that their missions and their families will be supported. They will be watching the president in the coming months to see if he can deliver on the promises he made to them. –BW 

Military chiefs warn of force-readiness struggles
Joe Gould (@ReporterJoe), Defense News
Senior military officials recently voiced their concerns over readiness, especially in the wake of several years of declining budgets that challenged personnel training and equipment maintenance. HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) expressed his grave concerns over the damage that under-funding has caused. Thornberry said that with the new administration and Republican control in the House and Senate, congressional Republicans are ready to introduce a supplemental defense spending plan to get the military back to necessary readiness levels. While the amount of the spending increase has not been released, informal plans circulating in the Pentagon propose an increase of $30 billion. –JG
Bottom Line: It is not uncommon for military leaders to bemoan the lack of funding to meet all their needs, but that does not mean that such complaints are without merit. Congress has been largely dysfunctional in dealing with military budget needs—how else to explain the abomination of sequestration and the ensuing spate of continuing resolutions?—and the extended military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan has drained resources and exhausted readiness at a level that no nation’s military can really be prepared for. Throwing more money at the military is a stopgap solution that is going to either increase the deficit or reduce the amount of money available for critical domestic programs. To achieve a long-term resolution that satisfactorily address force-readiness challenges, Congress needs to develop a more practical, reasoned approach to budgeting, while also charting a new, clearer course for U.S. military involvement overseas after years of abdicating responsibility. Funding military readiness is important, but if not coupled with smart policies, throwing more money at the military will do nothing to address long-term national security needs. –BW 

Thousands more troops are needed in Afghanistan, top commander tells Congress
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
Gen. John Nicholson Jr., the head of U.S troops in Afghanistan, said that the effort overseas needs several thousand additional troops to break a “stalemate in the fight against terrorists.” The additional troops would focus on training, which he considers to be the key to stabilizing the Afghan military, rather than counter-terrorism efforts. The U.S. currently has approximately 8,500 service members in Afghanistan, and lawmakers are anxious to learn President Trump’s plan for the ongoing conflict. –MC
Bottom line: Gen. Nicholson is certainly correct that Afghan troops could benefit from more training from U.S. military forces, but his request must also be considered within the long-term context. Does the Afghan government have a clear plan to gain full control of the country through the deployment of military force? Will the benefits of increased American support outweigh the costs of potential American deaths? There is really no good way to answer this question without referring to America’s overall policy and posture on Afghanistan, and that is a complete gray area after January 20. No one yet knows how President Trump plans to move forward on the U.S. policy toward Afghanistan, as he has said nothing on the topic since inauguration. The greatest tragedy for Afghanistan and for American veterans of the war would be for our efforts to continue with no clear plan or long-term goals, only the slow and steady draining of our resources. The Afghan people, American troops and the country as a whole are standing by to learn what the new administration’s policy will be to end or extend one of the longest military conflicts in U.S. history. –BW 

Veteran teaches therapists how to talk about gun safety when suicide’s a risk
April Dembosky (@adembosky), NPR
For many service members, having experience with both guns and post-traumatic stress can prove to be a deadly mixture, as nearly 70 percent of veterans who die by suicide use a firearm. For Jay Zimmerman, his approach to guns saved his life on multiple accounts: he would deconstruct his guns and store ammunition separately to prevent himself from making a rash decision. Zimmerman, a former Army medic, recently spoke at a conference on how improving therapists’ knowledge on guns can help them better understand how to prevent firearm-related suicides. –KB 
Bottom line: Zimmerman is playing an important role in mentoring mental health providers about gun culture and veterans’ relationship to firearms. Few in the field of social work have a passing knowledge of firearms, let alone a deep understanding of how gun enthusiasts and veterans use, store, or consider their access to those firearms. As Zimmerman noted at the conference, some veterans will be wary of talking about suicide or other issues because they are afraid the VA or government could take away their gun, access to which they understand is a right. If mentalhealthcare providers can talk about guns intelligently—like being able to ask if the ammunition is stored separately from the firearm—that gives them another tool in understanding how at risk patients may be. Veterans’ familiarity with firearms shouldn’t be seen as a risk factor, rather it needs to be understood within the context of how mental health care providers can more precisely target their care to patients’ unique backgrounds by honing their own skills and knowledge. –LJ 

Unemployment rate for young vets up again in January
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Military Times
In January, unemployment among young veterans rose to 6.3 percent. This is the fourth uptick in unemployment in the last seven months for this age group. In December unemployment among post 9/11 vets was 5.7 percent, and 4.4 percent in September by comparison. In January, the overall veteran unemployment rate was 4.8 percent, a slight increase from 4.7 in December. Unemployment among civilians was 5 percent. ­–JG
Bottom line: We often point out that veteran unemployment, and young veteran unemployment in particular, today show the power of collaboration in the community. Upon seeing it was a crisis, businesses and political leaders rallied around campaigns and initiatives to get veterans into careers. Organizations like our client Hiring Our Heroes were launched and the Obama Administration started its Veteran Employment Initiative to get more veterans into federal government careers. It worked, too. Veteran unemployment hit highs in 2011 and has consistently gone down over the years and months. That focus that has led to so much success will have to be sustained, particularly if next month’s job numbers tell a different story. We’ll be keeping an eye on how the 90-day hiring freeze on all federal employees (with some exemptions at VA and DOD) will impact employment on veterans, whose preference in federal hiring has played a factor in their rising share of the government workforce and their decreasing rate of unemployment.–LJ 

Trump held his first VA listening session without veterans advocates
Leo Shane III (@LeoShane), Military Times
Last week President Donald Trump held his first meeting at the White House regarding the Department of Veterans Affairs. Leading veteran advocates said they were not invited and only found out about the meeting on the president’s public schedule released the night before it was held. White House officials released a statement saying the meeting was held with health care executives and that there will be another meeting involving veterans groups in the near future. –DD
Bottom line: Should veterans advocates be cautiously optimistic that the president has finally sat down face-to-face with at least one veteran’s spouse, among a group of executives like Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove and, uh, Marvel CEO Ike Perlmutter? So far, the president has been a little hands-off on veterans’ issues, including elevating an Obama era official to VA Secretary. Veterans groups would, of course, like to have more insight into what the administration is thinking when it comes to long-term goals for the VA or strategies to improve veterans’ care and services. By taking his first meeting on veterans issues with executives, President Trump could be signaling he intends to take a more business-like approach to VA and the veteran community. Or he could just be shaking up the traditional order of how things are done in DC. Since Trump has for the most part followed through on his campaign promises, perhaps there is little reason to remain uncertain about what his veterans policies will be. He laid out a 10-point planduring the campaign, on which the final point is: “Ensure every veteran has the choice to seek care at the VA or at a private service provider of their own choice.” VSOs, which represent millions of veterans, are eagerly awaiting the chance to learn what comes next and to express the very real impact VA has had on their members.–LJ 

Client News:

Best workplaces for giving back 2017
Last week, USAA was recognized for its corporate responsibility efforts and was named a 2017 Best Workplace for Giving Back. The ratings are based on survey responses from more than 357,000 employees from Great Place to Work-certified companies. USAA ranked 35th in its first appearance on the list, and 96 percent of employees said they feel good about the ways USAA contributes to the communities in which they serve. Read more about how USAA gives back by visiting their best workplace page. Congratulations to the entire team at USAA, and special congratulations are for the Corporate Responsibility team! –MC    
 

Wounded Warrior Project names senior VP of government and community relations
René Carbone Bardorf is joining Wounded Warrior Project as Senior Vice President of Government and Community Relations. Bardorf has vast experience working with nonprofits and within the military community, and comes to WWP from the National Defense Industrial Association where she served as Chief Communications Officer. Bardorf has also worked with the Secretary of Defense, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Regiment, and co-founded the Semper Fi Fund alongside a group of Marine spouses. –MC 

Wounded Warrior Project cleared of ‘spending lavishly,’ reportfinds
Emily Wax-Thibodeaux (@Emily_Wax), The Washington Post
A review from the Better Business Bureau cleared Wounded Warrior Project of “lavish spending” accusations that came out in January 2016. The organization had been accused of spending more than $3 million on an annual conference in Colorado, but a review showed that the total costs were less than $1 million and were “consistent with its programs and missions.” WWP has continued to provide meaningful resources to wounded and injured veterans throughout the last year, and will reach a new milestone of serving its 100,000th warrior this year. –MC 

Quick Hits:

Senate panel unanimously approves VA secretary nominee
Rebecca Kheel (@Rebecca_H_K), The Hill
Dr. David Shulkin, Trump’s nominee for VA Secretary, was unanimously approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee last week; the next step will be confirmation by the full Senate through a floor vote. Shulkin has received praise from both Republicans and Democrats after promising reform within the VA and asserting that the VA will not be privatized. Much of his favorability comes from his plan to improve accountability, accessibility, and to expand care options. –DD

Veterans living in U.S. territories are crowd-funding a legal pitch for voting rights
Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen), The Star-Telegram 
Veterans living in U.S. territories face an interesting dilemma: they can fight for their country, but usually have no hand in electing the presidents who send them off to war. This has prompted a group of veterans living in Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to begin a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds to address the civic rights of these areas. –KB 

‘You had me at Tricare:’ Controversial Tricare slogan sparks outrage 
Amy Bushatz (@AmyBushatz), Military.com
A bold social media manager at Tricare posted a controversial message on Facebook last week, sparking outrage among the military spouse community. Although some Facebook fans found it funny, the phrase “you had me at Tricare,” used as a #NationalWeddingMonth post, contributed to a harmful stereotype in the military community: that many military spouses only marry service members for the benefits. Tricare has since edited the post and apologized for offending beneficiaries. –MC

Portland’s innovative American Legion post no longer under threat from state leaders
Lizzy Acker (@lizzzyacker), The Oregonian
As mentioned in last week’s Scout Report, American Legion post commander Sean Davis was under investigation from the American Legion’s Oregon state leadership, and as a result his post was facing possible closure. Davis, who runs Post 134, cleared up the miscommunication and reported that the state leadership has now changed their investigation to a routine audit after understanding that his intention was to create a new membership category for people who weren’t veterans, not to get rid of existing categories. –DD 

Veterans return to Standing Rock, ‘not backing off’ pipeline protests
Nikki Wentling (@NikkiWentling), Stars and Stripes
On Dec. 5, thousands of veterans alongside other protestors of the Dakota Access Pipeline cautiously celebrated a temporary stay from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers preventing the construction of the pipeline. Members of the Standing Rock reservation have adamantly opposed the construction since 1,100 feet of the pipeline would be under Lake Oahe, a nearby reservoir that they rely on for their drinking water. However, on Jan. 24, President Trump signed an executive order approving the construction of the pipeline. Veterans group “Veterans Stand,” formed to join the peaceful protests opposing the pipeline, has raised $181,000 to cover travel expenses and supplies for the veterans returning to the protest camps­. ­­–JG 

GAO: Technology is a ‘high risk’ area for VA
Nikki Wentling (@NikkiWentling), Stars and Stripes
The VA currently is fourth in the federal government in spending for information technology, with out-of-date technology being blamed for many of the wait time issues experienced over the past few years. An update to these systems is warranted but will require heavy oversight, especially in light of the fact that the agency spent nearly all of its $4 billion budget on projects that ultimately failed. –KB

 

The Scout Report is a weekly analysis of news and events in the veterans and military family communities produced by the staff of ScoutComms, Inc. and is emailed each Monday morning except on holidays. Follow us on Twitter at @ScoutComms to get up to the minute news on defense and veterans issues all week. Did you get this as a forward? Subscribe yourself for free here right now!

About Us: ScoutComms, Inc. is an award winning social enterprise supporting veterans, military families, and organizations committed to their well-being. Our mission is to empower veterans and military families through communications grounded initiatives and collaborative alliances that lead to greater awareness of veterans’ needs and expanded access to economic and social resource opportunities. We are one of the first Benefit Corporations, B-Corps, focused on veterans and military family issues in the nation. We accomplish our mission by supporting companies, non-profits and foundations who are providing programs and charitable giving efforts in support of veterans and military families. To learn more about what we can do for your organization visit our website at www.ScoutCommsUSA.com.

Questions? Comments? Additions? If you have any questions, comments, or have an event you would like us to include, send an email to LJenkins@ScoutCommsUSA.com and we will make sure we let our readers know. For questions about ScoutComms, email FWellman@ScoutCommsUSA.com.

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