Action Corps Weekly

March 24, 2017

In This Issue:

1. Congress Passes Legislation Honoring Vietnam War Veterans
2. Southeast Asia Fact-Finding Trip
3. Hearing on VA Recruitment and Retention Authorities
4. Hearing on DOD Civilian Personnel Reform
5. Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services
6. Mattis-Dunford Budget Testimony
7. Social Media Scrutiny
8. State of the Air Force
9. Hearing on Use of Union Time
10. MIA Update

1. Congress Passes Legislation Honoring Vietnam War Veterans: The House of Representatives passed a bill which would amend the flag code to include National Vietnam War Veterans Day on the list of days that Americans should fly the U.S. flag. March 29 of each year is the designated day. The bill, which cleared the Senate in February, now goes to the President’s desk for signature.

2. Southeast Asia Fact-Finding Trip: VFW Senior Vice Commander-in-Chief Keith Harman returned from a two-week POW/MIA fact-finding trip to Southeast Asia late last week in which he was able to meet with U.S. military and diplomats assigned to U.S. Embassies in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and the People’s Republic of China, as well as host-country officials. He also visited an MIA recovery site west of Danang, Vietnam, to personally thank the 17 U.S. military and DOD civilians working hard on a 45-degree sloop and in 90-degree temperatures to recover and return a missing American soldier home to his family. It was the senior vice commander’ first trip back to Vietnam since he departed it in 1969. 

3. Hearing on VA Recruitment and Retention Authorities: On Wednesday, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Health held a hearing to discuss ways to improve VA’s ability to recruit and retain high quality health care professionals. The members of the subcommittee explored ways to expedite the hiring process to ensure candidates aren’t required to wait months to be hired by VA. VFW National Legislative Service Director Carlos Fuentes submitted testimony urging Congress to give VA direct hiring authority for frontline staff, who currently wait up to six months for an entry level job. VA testified on its challenges with human resources staff and agreed that having more direct hire authority for health care staff would improve its ability to deliver timely and high quality care to veterans. Read the testimony.

4. Hearing on DOD Civilian Personnel Reform: On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel held a hearing to discuss needed reforms of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) civilian personnel system. Former Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Peter Levine and other former senior officials testified on hiring, training, and performance issues within the DOD civilian workforce. VFW National Security and Foreign Affairs Director Sarah Maples submitted testimony expressing VFW’s objections to DOD’s new Reduction in Force (RIF) policy, which reduces the value of veterans’ preference and failed to meet a congressional mandate to base DOD’s RIF policy on performance.

5. Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services: On Wednesday and Thursday, the VFW attended the quarterly meeting of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS). Created in 1951 by then Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall, DACOWITS provides advice and recommendations to the Secretary of Defense on matters and policies relating to the recruitment, retention, treatment, employment, integration, and well-being of women in the Armed Forces. This meeting’s topics included: retention, propensity to service, physiological gender differences, and boxing programs at the Military Service Academies. Review a summary of the meeting.

6. Mattis-Dunford Budget Testimony: On Thursday, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. Testimony focused on a three-phased multi-year approach to restore readiness in the Armed Services, with fiscal year (FY) 17 funding focused on filling readiness gaps, FY18 funding on restoring balance caused by sequestration and continuing resolutions, and FY19 funding on returning to a sustained, high quality force prepared to meet the current security environment. Secretary Mattis stated: “Failure to reverse sequestration would bring about the need to recalibrate our approach to asserting U.S. influence around the world.” Watch the hearing.

7. Social Media Scrutiny: Congress continues its inquiries in the wake of the “Marines United” scandal, where naked images of female service members were posted online accompanied by denigrating comments. On Tuesday, Mr. Anthony Kurta, Performing the Duties of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and representatives from the Personnel directorates of the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force testified on their respective social media policies. Testimony focused on the steps each Department is taking to address this issue, including the creation of task forces and providing additional assistance to victims, as well as possible changes to the Uniformed Code of Military Justice to make it easier to punish individuals who engage in such behavior. Watch the hearing.

8. State of the Air Force: Senior officials from the Air Force testified to the House Armed Service Committee Wednesday on the impact sequestration and unpredictable funding have on readiness and modernization. Testimony focused on the critical shortage of nearly 3,400 maintainers and 2,900 pilots across the Total Force, including 723 fighter pilots in the active force; the increased demand for Air Force assets over the last 15 years, including a 1,200 percent increase in the demand for Remote Piloted Aircraft; and the desire for another round of Base Realignment and Closure in order to reduce unnecessary infrastructure costs. Additionally, a 38 percent decrease in end strength since 1991 has increased reliance on civilian personnel - increasing their numbers to 26 percent of the Total Force. With the hiring freeze, however, the Air Force now has more than 8,000 civilian vacancies. Watch the hearing.

9. Hearing on Use of Union Time: On Tuesday, the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity held a hearing to discuss how much time VA employees should be allowed to spend on union activities, known as official time. Subcommittee members argued whether official time detracts from VA’s ability to provide care to veterans or if it serves to improve quality of care. AFGE Local 390 President Shirley Parker Blommel testified that she uses official time to address problems at the St. Cloud VA Health Care System which interfere or impede delivery of care to veterans. VA supported a bill introduced by chairman Arrington which would limit how much time VA employees can spend on official time to ensure VA health care personnel can spend more time caring for veterans rather than union duties. View a webcast of the hearing.

10. MIA Update: The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced the identification of remains of five Americans who had been missing in action from WWII and Korea. Returning home for burial with full military honors are:

  -- Marine Pvt. Harry K. Tye, 21, of Orinoco, Kentucky, will be buried March 28 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. Tye was assigned to Company E, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Tye’s unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against fierce Japanese resistance. Tye was killed on Nov. 20, 1943. Read more on Tye.

  -- Army Air Forces Capt. Albert L. Schlegel, 25, of Cleveland, Ohio, will be buried March 30 in Beaufort, South Carolina. Schlegel disappeared Aug. 28, 1944, while piloting his P-51D Mustang on a ground strafing mission near Strasbourg, France. In his final communication, the fighter “ace” radioed he’d been hit by heavy anti-aircraft fire and would need to bail out. Historical records indicated that locals in Valmy, France reported that an unknown American aviator was captured in their village that same evening. Read more about Schlegel.

-- Army Cpl. Jules Hauterman Jr., 19, of Hampden, Massachusetts, will be buried March 31 in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Hauterman was a medic with the Medical Platoon, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division, attached to the 31st Regimental Combat Team deployed east of the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. The RCT was attacked by an overwhelming number of Chinese forces in late November 1950. Hauterman was among 1,300 members of the RCT killed or captured in enemy territory. He was reported missing as of Dec. 2, 1950. Read more about Hauterman.

  -- Army Cpl. Joseph N. Pelletier, 20, of Berlin, New Hampshire, will be buried March 28 in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C. Pelletier was assigned to Headquarters Battery, 15th Field Artillery Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, near the Central Corridor in North Korea. While supporting Korean-led attacks on Chinese forces, they were caught in a massive Chinese counterattack on Feb. 11, 1951. Pelletier was declared missing on Feb. 13, 1951. Read more about Pelletier.

-- Marine Corps Reserve Pvt. Donald S. Spayd was assigned to Company F, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines, 2nd Marine Division. On Nov. 20, 1943, Spayd’s unit landed on the small island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll against fierce Japanese resistance. Spayd was killed on Nov. 20, 1943. Interment services are pending. Read more on Spayed.

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