Random thoughts on almost anything and everything, with an emphasis on defense, intelligence, politics and national security matters..providing insight for the non-cleared world since 2005.
Sunday, October 30, 2011
The Marines Change Course
Just days after implementing a major cut in tuition assistance funding, the Marines shifted course last Wednesday, announcing that TA funding would be restored to previous levels. That means Marines will again receive $4500 a year for college tuition, paid at a maximum rate of $750 per course. Under the reduced rates, the yearly cap was cut to $3500 a year, but most Marines would receive only $825, based on data that most program participants took only 5-7 credit hours per year.
Why the sudden change? We're guessing that senior leadership got an earful from unit commanders and senior NCOs, who understand that TA is a very effective retention tool. If the tuition assistance program is gutted (or eliminated entirely, as some in the Pentagon prefer), it will wreak havoc with experience levels, particularly at the platoon and company levels.
The reason, as we've explained in previous posts, is simple. Without access to TA (or limited education funds under that program), Marines will use GI Bill benefits to fund their education. And, the highest payments under that program go to veterans who have left the military and receive their full housing allowance, along with education benefits.
Under proposed defense cuts, the Marine Corps will undergo a 10% reduction by 2015, a move that will eliminate 20,000 personnel. So, the TA reduction was aimed (in part) at convincing more Marines to leave the service, so the Corps can meet its new manning totals. But there was clear concern that a lot of experienced E-4s and E-5s--Marines who should be senior NCOs and officers down the road--will exit the Corps as well. That realization is what prompted the Marines to reverse course on the TA program.
Still, tuition assistance for the military is facing an uncertain future. As the Marines were modifying their position, the Air Force was unveiling changes for its personnel. Beginning in November, airmen can only apply for TA within 30 days of a course start date. Currently, they can apply for financial aid two months in advance, giving them more flexibility in planning their studies.
With a shorter timeline for signing up, the Air Force believes it can achieve savings in its TA program, since some airmen won't have enough time to complete the process. The USAF spends more than $200 million a year on TA; at the DoD level, the total bill for tuition assistance is about $600 million annually.
As we've noted in previous posts, the TA program has been under fire in recent months--and targeted for major reductions. According to various critics, tuition assistance isn't very cost effective, and does little to keep troops in uniform.
But the facts tell a different story. Thousands of military members earn their associate's, bachelor's or master's through the TA program each year. Payment caps within the program encourage participating schools to keep costs low, and the armed forces recoup money from service members who fail a course.
By comparison, the new Post 9-11 GI Bill is shaping up as a multi-billion dollar boondoggle. Two years into the program, costs are running three times higher than projected ($15 billion a year), and vets attending school under the program have an 88% dropout rate and only 3% remain in school long enough to earn their degree. But so far, no one is talking about "reforming" the latest version of the GI Bill.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
Today's Reading Assignment
Far from being cause for celebration, Obama’s announcement that we will keep only 150 U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of the year–down from nearly 50,000 today–represents a shameful failure of American foreign policy that risks undoing all the gains that so many Americans, Iraqis, and other allies have sacrificed so much to achieve. The risks of a catastrophic failure in Iraq now rise appreciably. The Iranian Quds Force must be licking its chops because we are now leaving Iraq essentially defenseless against its machinations. Conversely the broad majority of Iraqis who fear Iranian influence and who want their country to become a democracy will come to rue this day, however big a victory it might appear in the short term for the cause of Iraqi nationalism.
Ostensibly this pull-out was dictated by the unwillingness of Iraqi lawmakers to grant U.S. troops immunity from prosecution. But Iraqi leaders of all parties, save the Sadrists, also clearly signaled their desire to have a sizable American troop contingent post-2011. The issue of immunity could have been finessed if administration lawyers from the Departments of State and Defense had not insisted that Iraq’s parliament would have to vote to grant our troops protections from Iraqi laws. Surely some face-saving formula that would not have needed parliamentary approval could have been negotiated that would have assuaged Iraqi sovereignty concerns while making it unlikely in the extreme that any U.S. soldier would ever go before an Iraqi court for actions taken in the line of duty.Clearly, we can't stay in Iraq forever, but the Obama plan runs counter to the security interests of both the United States and our Iraqi allies. As Mr. Boot notes, both the U.S. military and much of the Iraqi government favored a continuing American presence, for counter-terrorism operations; as a deterrent against Iranian meddling, and to ensure adequate training for Iraqi security forces.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The Death of Tuition Assistance
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
The AP reports that McCain supports President Obama’s proposal to start charging older military retirees a $200 annual enrollment fee for TRICARE for Life. In addition, McCain urged the supercommittee to consider restricting working-age military retirees and their dependents from enrolling in TRICARE Prime. McCain pointed out that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that such a move would save $111 billion over 10 years.
McCain also said he supports the administration’s proposal for a commission to review possible changes to the 20 year military retirement system and the current military pay and compensation model.Not that we're surprised; look up "Rino" in the dictionary, and you'll find McCain's picture in the margin. But it's also worth remembering that Mr. McCain is also a retired Naval officer who spent more than two decades on active duty, including five-and-a-half years as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Curious, but Sloppy
Friday, October 07, 2011
“We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back,” says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. “We think it’s benign. But we just don’t know.”
Military network security specialists aren’t sure whether the virus and its so-called “keylogger” payload were introduced intentionally or by accident; it may be a common piece of malware that just happened to make its way into these sensitive networks. The specialists don’t know exactly how far the virus has spread. But they’re sure that the infection has hit both classified and unclassified machines at Creech. That raises the possibility, at least, that secret data may have been captured by the keylogger, and then transmitted over the public internet to someone outside the military chain of command.
Wednesday, October 05, 2011
Today's Reading Assignment
At the end of his first hitch, he reenlists and is promoted to sergeant, and is sent to Germany to join the 1st Armored Division. Our infantryman knows he is going to have to work and train hard. But, as the Cold War is over, he is also expecting a bit of downtime and a chance to see some of Europe. What he did not expect was to be ordered into the Balkans.