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CRS — The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA): An Explanation (August 27, 2014)

September 16, 2014 Comments off

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA): An Explanation (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Recognizing the special burdens that members of the military may encounter trying to meet their financial obligations while serving their country, in 1940 Congress passed the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). The law was amended from time to time, ordinarily in response to military operations that required the activation of the Reserves. P.L. 108-189, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), was enacted on December 19, 2003, as a modernization and restatement of the protections contained in the SSCRA. Much like with the SSCRA, the SCRA has been amended since its initial passage and proposed changes continue to be introduced in Congress. This report summarizes the rights granted to persons serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, and in some instances, to their dependents, under the SCRA.

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Medical Aspects of Transgender Military Service

September 16, 2014 Comments off

Medical Aspects of Transgender Military Service
Source: Armed Forces & Society

At least eighteen countries allow transgender personnel to serve openly, but the United States is not among them. In this article, we assess whether US military policies that ban transgender service members are based on medically sound rationales. To do so, we analyze Defense Department regulations and consider a wide range of medical data. Our conclusion is that there is no compelling medical reason for the ban on service by transgender personnel, that the ban is an unnecessary barrier to health care access for transgender personnel, and that medical care for transgender individuals should be managed using the same standards that apply to all others. Removal of the military’s ban on transgender service would improve health outcomes, enable commanders to better care for their troops, and reflect the military’s commitment to providing outstanding medical care for all military personnel.

New Remote Control Report: US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Record

September 12, 2014 Comments off

New Remote Control Report: US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Record
Source: Oxford Research Group

A new report that analyses a US procurement database to shed light on the activities of US military special operations contracting has found that private corporations are integrated into some of the most sensitive counter-terrorism activities.

US Special Operations Command Contracting: Data-Mining the Public Record, commissioned by the Remote Control project, examines federal spending by the US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) through transaction records. The report, by Crofton Black, is the first to mine the Federal Procurement Data System, an open access database, to look into the financing of US counter-terrorism operations. The dataset has revealed that corporations are integrated into some of the most sensitive aspects of special operations activities: flying drones and overseeing target acquisition, facilitating communications between forward operating locations and central command hubs, interrogating prisoners and translating captured material, and managing the flow of information from regional populations to the US military presence and back again.

Among the report’s focal points are a group of transactions in the dataset referencing “ISR” (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance services). Over two thirds of these were with US corporation Boeing, with performance divided between Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and the US. By looking at key references in the dataset, the report reveals how contractors are involved with drone operations in Afghanistan and a US counterinsurgency campaign in the Philippines.

The report also uncovers the role in interrogation operations of Shee Atika, a company whose provision of translation services accounts for one of the largest single transactions in the dataset ($77 million), raising concerns over the mechanisms for ensuring effective accountability and oversight in these operations.

Veteran Hiring in the Civil Service: Practices and Perceptions

September 12, 2014 Comments off

Veteran Hiring in the Civil Service: Practices and Perceptions (PDF)
Source: Merit Systems Protection Board

This report describes the laws and regulations for hiring veterans into the civil service. It explains that the laws and regulations regarding the preferences in hiring that can or must be given to veterans and certain family members are extremely complicated. It includes survey data of perceptions by employees regarding both violations of veterans’ preference rights and inappropriate favoritism of veterans. Furthermore, it explains the history behind—and implementation of—a law that was designed to ensure that the hiring of recently retired service members as civilian employees of the Department of Defense is based on merit and not favoritism.

Department of Defense Releases First Quarter Suicide Information

September 12, 2014 Comments off

Department of Defense Releases First Quarter Suicide Information
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

The Department of Defense released the quarterly suicide report (QSR), today, for the first quarter of calendar year 2014. The report summarizes suicide counts for all services and components. During the months of January through March of this year, there were 74 suicides among service members in the active component, 24 suicides among service members in the reserves, and 22 suicides among service members in the National Guard.

The report also shows 2013 annual counts and annual rates as published last month in the 2013 4th Quarter DoD QSR, as well as 2012 annual counts and annual rates as published in the DoD Suicide Event Report (DoDSER) Calendar Year 2012 Annual Report. The QSR is intended to communicate the department’s suicide data on a routine and frequent basis.

Remotely Piloted Aircraft and War in the Public Relations Domain

September 11, 2014 Comments off

Remotely Piloted Aircraft and War in the Public Relations Domain (PDF)
Source: Air & Space Power Journal

Many of the RPA articles, opinions, and interviews produced over the last decade are either based on false premises (option a) or employ a logical fallacy of analogy (option c); therefore, many of their conclusions are invalid. This article does not attempt to show that most of the writing on RPAs over the last decade contains fallacies of some kind. Rather, it recognizes the ease with which sincere people can commit such errors as a result of the epistemic problem inherent in any discussion of RPA operations.

The argument, then, begins by asserting that such a problem exists and suggesting that it has three causes. First, enemy forces (here referring specifically to al-Qaeda and the Taliban) have an effective public relations (PR) campaign against RPAs. Second, the United States conducts an ineffective PR campaign in support of RPAs. Third, RPA operations are necessarily concealed by security classifications and national security precautions. The article expounds upon the significance of these causes and provides evidence for them—evidence that will demonstrate not only the three causes but also the reality of the epistemic problem. Its conclusion offers two ways that individuals can mitigate the dilemma and one means by which the US government can rectify it.

New From the GAO

September 10, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office

Reports

1. Federally Funded Research Centers: Agency Reviews of Employee Compensation and Center Performance. GAO-14-593, August 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-593
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665285.pdf

2. Foreign Assistance: USAID Should Update Its Trade Capacity Building Strategy. GAO-14-602, August 11.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-602
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665281.pdf

3. Veterans Affairs: Better Understanding Needed to Enhance Services to Veterans Readjusting to Civilian Life. GAO-14-676, September 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-676
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665724.pdf

4. DHS Training: Improved Documentation, Resource Tracking, and Performance Measurement Could Strengthen Efforts. GAO-14-688, September 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-688
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665700.pdf

5. Defense Planning: DOD Needs Specific Measures and Milestones to Gauge Progress of Preparations for Operational Access Challenges. GAO-14-801, September 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-801
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665696.pdf

Testimonies

1. Department of Education: Status of Prior GAO Recommendations, by Jacqueline M. Nowicki, acting director, education, workforce, and income security, and Melissa Emrey-Arras, director, education, workforce, and income security, before the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training and the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, House Committee on Education and the Workforce. GAO-14-848T, September 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-848T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665694.pdf

2. Older Americans: Inability to Repay Student Loans May Affect Financial Security of a Small Percentage of Retirees, by Charles A. Jeszeck, director, education, workforce, and income security, before the Senate Special Committee On Aging. GAO-14-866T, September 10.
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-866T
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/665710.pdf

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