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July
9th

More than 800 workers at Washington National Guard facing furloughs

Mandatory furloughs for Defense Department civilian employees are taking a bite out of paychecks on both sides of Interstate 5.

About 850 employees of the Washington National Guard – headquartered at Camp Murray in Lakewood – are scheduled to take 11 unpaid days off from this week through the end of September, just like their counterparts at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on the other side of the highway.

Washington Military Department spokeswoman Karina Shagren said the furloughs will cut into maintenance, training and morale. The Washington National Guard received four furlough exemptions, one of them for sexual assault prevention coordinator.

“While

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July
8th

Rep. Heck and JBLM commander taking calls this week on furloughs for DOD employees

Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s base commander and U.S. Rep. Denny Heck of Olympia are partnering Tuesday to answer questions about how mandatory furloughs of Defense Department civilian employees will impact military operations in the South Sound.

Heck and Col. Charles Hodges will be available to the public for dial-in teleconference at 7 p.m., Tuesday. The call-in number is (855)-246-7045, ext. 21849.

Heck and Hodges will speak to different questions. Heck, a Democrat, will talk about politics and national budget decisions that are compelling the Defense Department to furlough its civilian employees for 11 days between now and

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June
19th

After mothballing armory, National Guard returning to Pierce County with new readiness center

4:10 p.m. update: Wait, wait there’s more.

The state Military Department is budgeting $33.6 million for this project, with the Army setting aside about $27 million and the state contributing $6.6 million.

These details came to light when State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, called. She helped the state Military Department find the Buckley location and she views the readiness center as a vital addition to that community’s economy.

“This is so big for Buckley,” she said.

1:20 p.m. update: The National Guard might select a site outside of Tacoma for the readiness center it plans to build, a National Guard

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June
11th

Top military brass not ready to release service-wide behavioral health review spurred by Madigan complaints

Defense leaders still can’t give Sen. Patty Murray a deadline for when they plan to wrap up a service-wide review of military behavioral health programs more than a year after they first committed to her request.

Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta launched the cross-service review last year following complaints from patients at Madigan Army Medical Center who had diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder changed for reasons they could not understand.

Since then, the Army has released plans to standardize its behavioral health programs. The cross-service review remains incomplete.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Murray during his

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June
3rd

Rep. Denny Heck, JBLM’s new congressman, returns from first trip to Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s next 10 months could well determine the strength of the country’s government after U.S. forces complete their expected drawdown in 2014, said Rep. Denny Heck of Olympia who just returned from his first visit to the war zone as a U.S. Congressman.

He was one of five lawmakers who spent seven days traveling to U.S. military installations in Germany, Qatar and Afghanistan, as well as stopping in Kosovo for a meeting with leaders there.

Heck was elected in November to represent a district that includes some 46,000 military service members stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. He’s been getting up

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May
24th

Army Pacific commander hints at Stryker review, but says downsizing could have a light touch in the region

A new interview from the top Army commander in the Pacific raises some interesting questions about how the Pentagon’s plans for its Stryker brigades as it draws down it forces over the next few years.

Lt. Gen. Frank Wiercinski suggested to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the Army might not need a Stryker brigade in Hawaii when it has three at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and one in Alaska.

“We have three additional Stryker brigades at Fort Lewis that we didn’t have 10 years ago,” Wiercinski told the newspaper. “That’s a lot of Stryker brigades.”

(The Star-Advertiser has  a pay

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May
14th

South Sound DOD employees still facing furloughs, but new plan calls for fewer unpaid days off

Thousands of Defense Department employees in Pierce and Thurston counties are still facing the likelihood of unpaid time off this summer, but not as much as the Pentagon initially proposed.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Tuesday released a plan requiring about 680,000 civilian employees across the country to take 11 furlough days through the end of September.

The furloughs are scheduled to begin July 8 unless Congress allocates money to prevent the spending reduction, meaning workers will take off about one day a week for three months.

That’s down from an initial Pentagon furlough proposal that would have mandated 22

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May
7th

Murray proposal would reform military sex assault trials, empower prevention office

Sen. Patty Murray today is introducing a bill to curtail military sexual assault by offering more support to victims and explicitly prohibiting certain unethical behavior, such as having sex with new recruits.

Murray, a Washington Democrat, is submitting the bill with New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte. They’re timing the release of the bill with a Defense Department report coming out today detailing a rise in military sexual assaults in 2012.

An early copy of the Defense Department report obtained by USA Today shows that 26,000 service members were victims of sexual assault last year, up from 19,300

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