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Tag: politics

March
31st

Local links, March 31

I’m back from a few days off. If you haven’t read it, check out my Sunday stories about the Stryker vehicle. In the main story, I covered a bit of the history and what folks across the military (from joes to generals) and Congress think about the vehicle today. In a sidebar, I wrote about future modifications to the vehicles. And you should check out the print edition: It’s got plenty of cool graphics, a box descrbing the 10 variants and a timeline of the Strykers vis-à-vis Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Other local links:

Military spouses
Abrupt

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March
17th

Makin’ it rain

Our political folks have a good snapshot of Congressional earmarks for the 2010 fiscal year. The one thing that really sticks out? The projects coming to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, many of whom were funded by U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair. (He’s the new chairman of the defense appropriations subcommittee and controls the Pentagon budget.)

Check out the blog post or our database of federal earmarks.

March
16th

Dicks’ take on Afghanistan

U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair

I’m working on a story about the future (and past and present) of the Stryker program. So yesterday I talked to U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks the Belfair Democrat now presiding over the House defense appropriations subcommittee. (The subcommittee oversees the Pentagon’s $600 billion annual budget.)

He recently traveled to Afghanistan as part of a congressional delegation. While there, he met with Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, Gen. Stanley McChrystal and others. Dicks had lots to say about the war there that won’t quite fit the scope of my story. But this blog’s readers might enjoy reading some of what he said.

On Operation Moshtarak, which cleared the Marjah district of Helmand province of Taliban insurgents: The next part will be the most difficult part, with governance and construction and efforts to do projects in that area.

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March
12th

Anger over handling of spouse tuition program

For all the spouses of service members stationed at the U.S. consulate in Cape Town, South Africa, this could be your new college

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has added her voice to the growing levels of discontent over the off-and-then-kind-of-back-on status of the Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA) program.

The program helps pay tuition for military spouses so they can better land jobs – something that’s not always easy given the frequent moves.

The Department of Defense abruptly ended the program last month, saying there wasn’t enough money to match the unexpectedly large demand. But on Thursday, the Pentagon announced the 136,583 spouses already enrolled in the program would again be eligible to receive the tuition payments.

The release didn’t mention the countless other spouses out there who want to sign up. Some had already enrolled in college but read the announcement as they went online to sign up for the program.

“This pretty much means I can’t go to college now,” said Denise Davio, whose husband serves with Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment. “We just can’t afford for me to go at the same time as him.”

Murray, in a letter addressed to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, said called the management of the program “extremely disappointing.”

“The spouses of our active duty military also bear a significant burden of service as well, and frequent moves often make it hard for them to gain the skills and training they need to advance in their careers,” she wrote. “This is especially devastating during these tough economic conditions.”

She also expressed her concern about “the potential for future spikes in enrollment to disrupt services, as well as about how the Pentagon will pay back enrollees who have already paid tuition while the program was shutdown.”

Murray told Gates he should have asked Congress for additional funding when it became clear the program was going broke.

Her full letter is after the jump:
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March
4th

Murray ‘deeply disturbed’ at veteran suicides

Sen. Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat and long-time critic of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, took aim at the agency Wednesday for its counseling programs for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental-health issues.

From her speech:

“I was deeply disturbed by the news in January that the VA’s preliminary data show a dramatic increase in veterans suicide between 2005 and 2007. The fact that our veterans are serving and sacrificing for our nation only to return to spiral into depression and suicide is appalling. The preliminary data did suggest that access to VA services

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Feb.
26th

Bill aims to help military families

U.S. Rep. Adam Smith wants to expand the federal law covering illnesses and injuries to include up to two weeks of unpaid leave for family members of deployed service members.

The Tacoma Democrat, testifying Thursday before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity, said his bill would allow time off for the spouses, children and parents of any member of the armed forces who is deployed or mobilized for active duty or returning from a combat zone with an injury.

“It’s a complex problem,” he said, “and the needs of the families crop up in ways that surprise us as policymakers.”

It’s an expansion of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was amended in 2008 to allow military families to take time because of deployments. But a family member must work for the same employer for more than a year, he or she must work more than 1,250 hours in the past year and that company must have more than 50 employees for an individual to qualify under the current law.

Military family members sometime fail to meet those requirements because they move frequently, Smith testified. The proposed legislation would cover those who don’t qualify.
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Dec.
2nd

UPDATED: What Washington’s elected officials are saying

Want to know what Washington’s elected officials think about the president’s speech on Afghanistan troop levels? A few have posted statements on their Web sites. (And while I’m sure both senators and all nine Congressmen have an opinion, I only pulled online statements for posting.)

Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma:

“It is clear that we face an enormous and difficult challenge in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other extremist groups in the region have a complex set of relationships spanning across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and these ideologies pose a grave threat to the United States and our allies. If the Taliban were to regain control of substantial portions of Afghanistan, or recapture the government they would provide al-Qaeda a safe haven from which to operate, and we can not allow this to happen.

“At the same time we face the limitation of what an outside force can accomplish in a nation like Afghanistan, the deficiencies of our current partners in the Afghan Government, and the cost in lives and dollars of our presence in Afghanistan. Ultimately, I believe that we need a strategy to contain the threat in this region. A strategy that recognizes we cannot completely eliminate the Taliban or completely rebuild Afghanistan, but one that focuses on building the capabilities of Afghanistan’s security forces and improves the effectiveness of the Afghan Government. By focusing on these key elements, we can not only contain the threat posed by the Taliban and al-Qaeda but also reduce and eventually eliminate our presence in Afghanistan.

“I believe the President outlined such a plan tonight. It will not be easy, and I will continue to closely monitor the progress of this effort, but I believe the President made a strong case tonight that is worthy of our support.”

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