House Passes FY 2014 National Defense Authorization Act Addressing MST

BulletsFriday, June 14th the House approved (315-108) their version of the Fiscal Year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The bill, HR 1960, authorizes $544.4 billion for DOD, Department of Energy and $85.8 billion for overseas contingency operations.

Among the key provisions were several changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) with regard to sexual assaults in the military. One would strip commanders of their authority to dismiss or reduce guilty verdicts in sexual assault cases and another would lift the five-year statute of limitations on assaults thereby allowing prosecution of these cases at any time.

The bill would also provide guidelines to commanders on the temporary reassignment or removal of someone who has been accused of committing a sexual assault and requires victim’s counsels to be specially trained to provide legal assistance to victims.

Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Ranking Member Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., announced June 14th that their committee had also completed its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act – See Senate version here…

On May 7, 2013 President Obama said he has “no tolerance” for sexual assault in the military.

President Obama“I expect consequences,” Obama said. “So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable – prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.”

Read more hereDefense Authorization Bill to Address Military Sexual Assault

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U.S. Military Women Finally Allowed to Choose Frontline Combat

Department of DefenseWomen in CobatThe Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs Chairman reversed a longstanding policy this week that barred women from serving in frontline units and holding combat arms.  Women now have the option of choosing from a slew of hazardous duty Military Occupational Specialties previously only open to men.

According to DOD, the policy change could potentially open up 53,000 unit positions and 184,000 MOS positions to women by the January 2016 implementation date. The military services will be required to set the MOS standards and some specialties could still remain closed to women, but SECDEF must approve all exceptions.  A determination whether women should be required to register with the Selective Service System will also be made.

In a Statement on Women in Service, Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta stated, “Every time I visited the warzone, every time I’ve met with troops, reviewed military operations, and talked to wounded warriors, I’ve been impressed with the fact that everyone – men and women alike – everyone is committed to doing the job.  They’re fighting and they’re dying together. And the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality.

According to a USA Today Report, the military has different physical standards based on age and sex for the Army and Marines. In either service, the standards for both sexes would be the same for those trying to get into the infantry and other combat arms specialties.

“The department’s goal in rescinding the rule is to ensure that the mission is met with the best qualified and most capable people, regardless of gender,” Panetta said.

“I’m not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job — if they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve,” he said.

According to VFW National Commander John Hamilton, “there is no question that women have and will continue to serve our nation in uniform with great valor and sacrifice. We fully recognize that not everyone volunteers for the combat arms career fields, but the VFW wishes all who apply much success in meeting the arduous physical and demanding performance standards.”

Tomodachi Radiation Response Registry for DOD Personnel in Japan During Tsunami

DOD is now building an Operation Tomodachi registry

for the 70,000 U.S. service members, family members, DOD civilians and DOD contractors who were in Japan from March 12 to May 11, 2011, as well as some 4,000 U.S. disaster responders.

The 2011 violent earthquake and subsequent tsunami off the coast of Japan caused extensive damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Although no radiation leaks were reported, DOD wants all U.S. Defense Department personnel and their families potentially exposed to radiation to register.

If you were there…Register Here: Operation Tomodachi Registry
Read more: www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=117745

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New DOD Website Deters Stolen Valor

The Defense Department has officially unveiled a new website that honors service members’ highest acts of valor.

The site can be found — at http://valor.defense.gov — and it is designed to raise awareness of service members’ heroism and to help deter those who falsely claim military honors.

Currently, the new DOD website initially listed only those service members awarded the congressional Medal of Honor — the country’s highest military honor — since the 9/11 attacks, but Pentagon officials recently added some of (and will eventually include all of) the past and present service members who have been awarded:

to the database over the next few months.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said. “One of the most important things we can do for all veterans is to honor the service of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.”  Panetta also stated that the database will “help maintain the integrity of awards and honors earned by service members and veterans”

Ultimately, officials said, the intent of the website is to honor soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who received the highest valor awards in operations since Sept. 11, 2001. These are the Medal of Honor, service crosses and the Silver Star. The listing covers only awards since Sept. 11, 2001. The site currently lists only those awarded the Medal of Honor, and will expand to include the other awards, officials said.

“It is essential that we honor and recognize our service members’ achievements, while maintaining the integrity of our award data,” said Erin C. Conaton, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. “We are working quickly to compile accurate information on the heroes of the post-9/11 conflicts. At the same time, we will work with the military services to identify and seek to address the challenges associated with compiling data from earlier conflicts.”