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Defense Communities 360 Headlines

Vermont High Court Rules in Favor of Basing Plan for F-35s

  • March 9, 2015
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Opponents of the Air Force’s plan to base 18 F-35A fighter jets at Burlington Air Guard Station lost their appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court last week after the court ruled that the city of Burlington, Vt., did not need to obtain a state land use and development permit to account for the additional noise impacts and new facilities associated with the fifth-generation aircraft. Opponents of the Air Force’s plan believe the new aircraft will be significantly louder than the F-16 it will replace and poses a greater safety risk to the surrounding community. Last May, the state environmental court said the upgrades needed to accommodate the F-35s did not require a state permit because the Guard served a federal purpose …

BRAC Process Would Help VA Replace Obsolete Facilities

  • March 9, 2015
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Veterans Affairs officials have concluded the agency is badly in need of a BRAC-like process that would allow it to dispose of hundreds of facilities that are either antiquated or no longer needed because they are located far from veteran populations. “VA cannot be a sound steward of the taxpayers’ resources with the asset portfolio we carry. No business would carry such a portfolio, and veterans deserve better,” Secretary Robert McDonald told the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee last week. “It’s time to close VA’s old substandard and underutilized infrastructure …

Unemployment Rate for Recent Veterans Reaches Record Low

  • March 9, 2015
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The unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans fell to 6.7 percent in February, a drop of more than one point from January that left the rate at its lowest level on record, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the unemployment rate for all workers remained lower, falling to 5.5 percent in February, post-9/11 veterans have made marked progress in finding jobs in recent years. The 2014 annual unemployment rate for recent veterans was 7.2 percent, nearly 2 points lower than the 2013 rate and nearly 5 points lower than the 2011 rate, reported Military Times. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate for all veterans remained below the average for all workers, falling to 5.3 percent in February …

Condition of Facilities Remains at High Risk, Installation Officials Say

  • March 8, 2015
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DOD’s fiscal 2016 budget request would help the services restore some of the backlog in facility maintenance caused by previous years’ spending cuts, but it still would leave installations scrambling to keep pace with building maintenance requirements. The proposal would cover only 81 percent of the funds the services need to adequately maintain their infrastructure, reported Federal News Radio. And that’s assuming Congress comes up with a way to pay for the administration’s request to exceed the Budget Control Act spending caps by $35 billion next year. “Facility sustainment is still the place where I see the highest risk,” said John Conger, acting assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment …

Carter Testimony Highlights BRAC Successes

  • March 8, 2015
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The 19-page testimony on DOD’s fiscal 2016 budget request that Secretary Ashton Carter submitted to two congressional committees last week argued for a BRAC round in 2017, but it also included a nod to several communities that have successfully recovered from a base closure. The justification for a new round is clear, Carter says. “Simply put, we have more bases in more places than we need. We estimate DOD has about 25 percent more infrastructure capacity than necessary,” according to his written testimony. “We must be permitted to divest surplus infrastructure as we reduce and renew force structure. With projected recurring savings from a new BRAC round totaling some $2 billion a year, it would be irresponsible to cut tooth without also cutting tail …

Budget Caps Threaten Activity at Fort Hood, Support Group Official Says

  • March 8, 2015
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If Congress fails to provide the Pentagon relief from the Budget Control Act spending caps, Fort Hood will experience “death by a thousand cuts,” the head of the post’s local support group told the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corp. last week. “Fort Hood is an enduring, capable installation,” said Bill Parry, executive director of the Heart of Texas Defense Alliance. “The question is, at what level? …

New Group Intends to Serve as Forum for Existing Veterans Providers

  • March 8, 2015
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A new membership organization intended to serve as a resource for existing veterans groups through information-sharing and increased collaboration formally launched last month. According to the executive director of the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations, Chris Ford, the group will serve four primary missions — connecting many of the nation’s 40,000-plus veterans groups, promoting collaboration, enhancing coordination among service providers to eliminate overlap and maximizing the collective impact of the organizations. NAVSO will “have a unique perch to look across the entire country” at who is succeeding and who is failing on different fronts, Ford told the Chronicle of Philanthropy …

OEA Providing Assistance to Communities Coping with Defense Industry Cutbacks

  • March 8, 2015
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Communities responding to the cancellation of a defense contract or a major reduction in DOD spending that results in a significant economic impact can apply to DOD’s Office of Economic Adjustment for planning assistance to carry out community adjustment and economic diversification activities, according to an announcement scheduled to be published Monday in the Federal Register. To be eligible, state or local governments, or regional entities need to have experienced one of the following circumstances: a publicly announced planned major reduction in DOD spending; the cancellation or termination of a DOD contract; or the failure to proceed with an approved major weapons system program …

Army Can’t Keep up with Failing Facilities

  • March 6, 2015
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Army facilities deteriorated significantly following the first two years of mandatory budget caps, fiscal 2013 and 2014, Katherine Hammack, assistant secretary for installations, energy, and environment, told lawmakers this week. Currently, 7 percent of the service’s facilities are failing — including ones housing operating units — and 24 percent are in poor condition, Hammack told the House Armed Services’ Readiness Subcommittee on Tuesday. “The challenge is that facilities are failing at a rate faster than we’re being funded …

Strong Push by Defense Hawks Could Force Compromise over Raising Budget Caps

  • March 6, 2015
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The lack of a consensus within the Republican Party over whether to stick with or adjust the statutory spending caps is placing heightened attention on the fiscal 2016 budget resolution each chamber is required to draft. With markups of the resolutions by the House and Senate Budget committees only two weeks away, battle lines between defense hawks and fiscal hawks in the party are becoming increasingly clear. Defense hawks are insisting the Obama administration’s $534 billion base DOD budget proposal for FY 2016 is not high enough — even though it exceeds the Budget Control Act cap by $35 billion — while fiscal conservatives favor sticking with the spending limits as the best way to trim the deficit. Several defense experts interviewed by Politico underscored the heightened support among Republicans for raising the defense cap, but said at this point it’s still too soon to say how congressional leaders will settle on topline spending levels …

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