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Thursday, February 28, 2013

NEW SECURITY FOR DOD MOBILE DEVISES

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

DOD Implements Secure Program for Mobile Devices
by Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

2/26/2013 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Defense Department is rolling out a program that will allow users of a range of mobile devices -- working anywhere from remote battlefields to the Pentagon to rapidly share classified and protected data across all components.

More than 600,000 DOD employees, from soldiers on the front lines to Joint Staff planners, use government-issued mobile devices, mostly BlackBerry phones. Several thousand of the mobile devices in use in DOD are capable of handling classified data.

The goal of the implementation plan announced today is to ensure that mobile devices throughout the department -- as well as their apps, email and other functions, and the wireless networks supporting them -- can operate securely in often hostile and remote environments and can adapt to ever-changing technology, even as the number of users expands.

Teri Takai, DOD's chief information officer, told American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel that the challenge for the Defense Department has been to design a unified system capable of fully leveraging the potential of devices that often differ in capabilities and sophistication in a way that will allow users to communicate in a secure, wireless environment.

"We will be able to not only use multiple commercial devices, but we will have a better process for bringing new commercial devices onto the network," she added.

Takai, along with the Defense Information Systems Agency, is leading the effort, which will use commercial carrier networks capable of handling classified data.

"This new capability will actually allow us to use secure devices on [DOD's classified network] and give us more flexibility in terms of what those devices are," she said.

Takai added that the security of wireless communication amid increasingly frequent cyberattacks on government and corporate networks is chief among her concerns.

"The challenge for DOD is to balance the concern of cybersecurity with the need to have the capability of these devices," she said. But given both their ubiquity as well as their rapidly changing technology, Takai said, the Pentagon had to act quickly to develop a comprehensive program.

"The commercial mobile device market is moving so quickly, we can't wait," she said. "If we don't get something in place, we will have multiple solutions, just because the demand out there to be able to use these devices is so strong."

Officials are planning for a phased implementation involving vendor competition for development of a system that Takai suggests, given DOD's 3 million plus employees, could prove to be a model for large companies that also need to protect the transmission of both open and confidential data.

"We are paving the way for many aspects on both networks," she said.


 

Press Briefings | The White House For February 28, 2013

Press Briefings | The White House

U.S. DOD Contracts for February 28, 2013

Contracts for February 28, 2013

BRAZILIAN FIRM GIVEN CONTRACT TO PROVIDE AIRCRAFT TO AFGHAN AIR FORCE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Brazilian Firm to Provide Aircraft to Afghan Air Force
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2013 - Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter called Brazilian Minister of Defense Celso Amorim this evening to inform the Brazilian government about the decision made by the United States Air Force to award Sierra Nevada Corp./Embraer SA a $427 million contract to provide light air support aircraft and associated maintenance and training for the Afghan air force, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

Sierra Nevada Corp. is based in Sparks, Nevada, and Embraer SA is its Brazilian subcontractor.

Under this contract, 20 aircraft are scheduled to be delivered to operational air bases in Afghanistan beginning in the summer of 2014 to conduct advanced flight training, surveillance, close air support and air interdiction missions, Little said.

This platform, he said, is critical to providing enabling support to the Afghan National Security Forces as part of United States enduring support to Afghanistan following the completion of the ISAF mission at the end of 2014.

Minister Amorim also extended his best wishes to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on his first day in office, Little said.

The two leaders, Little added, noted they look forward to scheduling the next U.S.-Brazil Defense Cooperation Dialogue and continuing defense cooperation between the United States and Brazil.

DOE AND CNCS ANNOUNCE NEW SCHOOL TURNAROUND AMERICORPS PROGRAM

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
Department of Education and the Corporation for National and Community Service Announce New School Turnaround Americorps Program

As education leaders from across the country gather at the Grad Nation Summit in Washington, D.C., we are pleased to announce a new collaboration between our agencies: School Turnaround AmeriCorps.

This competitive, three-year grant program is designed to strengthen and accelerate interventions in our nation’s lowest-performing schools. The new initiative will engage hundreds of AmeriCorps members in turnaround schools across the country. AmeriCorps members will help students, teachers, and principals to transform struggling schools by providing opportunities for academic enrichment, extended learning time, and individual supports for students. These interventions will lead to increased academic achievement and improved high school graduation rates and college readiness among our most disadvantaged students.

We know that students are most successful when they have personal, attentive support. We believe this initiative is an important step forward in the effort to provide our lowest-performing schools with the additional resources that they need to improve.

Turning around struggling schools is challenging work that requires everyone to play a part – from teachers, administrators, and counselors to business leaders, the philanthropic sector, and community members. This partnership will expand the role of AmeriCorps members in helping students, teachers, parents, and school administrators to transform persistently underachieving schools into models of success.

Public or private nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and other community groups; schools or districts; institutions of higher education; cities and counties; Indian Tribes; and labor organizations are eligible to apply to this program, along with partnerships and consortia of these entities.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

DOD Contracts for February 27, 2013

Contracts for February 27, 2013

Prostate cancer with that?

Prostate cancer with that?

ISAF OFFICIALS SAY NO EVIDENCE FOUND CONNECTING U.S. TROOPS TO WARDAK PROVINCE ALLEGATIONS

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Joint Commission Reviews Wardak Province Allegations
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2013 - A joint commission composed of International Security Assistance Force and Afghan officials is being formed to review the Afghan government's concerns surrounding abuse and murder allegations in Afghanistan's Wardak province, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

Consultations to address Afghan President Hamid Karzai's claims are under way, with Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. the ISAF commander, leading the review, Little said at a Pentagon news conference.

"We take those concerns seriously and will work with the Afghans," Little said.

ISAF officials said yesterday that they had found no evidence connecting U.S. troops to allegations of abuse, torture, harassment and murder of innocent Afghans in the region. Talks will continue despite Karzai's order for special operations forces to end operations throughout the insurgent-dense province and to leave it within two weeks.

"We look forward to consulting with our Afghan partners," Little said, "as we do on a daily basis on other matters."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The class pet

The class pet

U.S. DOD Contracts for February 26, 2013

Contracts for February 26, 2013

FIRST LADY WORKS FOR VETERAN VOCATIONAL CERTIFICATIONS

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, FIRST LADY MICHELLE OBAMA
First Lady Asks Governors to Aid Certification for Veterans
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2013 - As the war in Afghanistan winds down and more than 1 million veterans return to civilian life, the nation's responsibility to help them in that transition will ramp up, First Lady Michelle Obama told the National Governors Association at the White House today.

Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, spoke to the nation's governors to seek their help with the "Joining Forces" initiative to foster support for service members and their families.

The first lady noted that President Barack Obama created a task force to help service members obtain the national certification that they need to fill high-demand civilian jobs with the manufacturing industry.

"We're expanding this effort to the state level to focus on the health care and transportation industries," she told the governors. "We want to make it easier for those who served as medics or drivers in the military to get new jobs as paramedics and nurses and physician assistants or truck drivers."

Troops who have these skills shouldn't have to start from scratch in the civilian job market, the first lady said.

"If a service member has spent years treating wounded troops in a military hospital, they shouldn't have to then spend thousands of dollars to get back into the classroom and study things that they've already learned just to get the same kind of job in the civilian world," she said. "We want to make it easier for those who served as medics or drivers in the military to get new jobs as paramedics and nurses and physician assistants or truck drivers."

Just as the governors have helped to make it easier for military spouses with professional licenses move from state to state without starting over -- an effort still in progress and which Biden addressed in her remarks -- they can help to put troops back to work while retaining their state's standards.

"This is not about lowering standards," the first lady said. "We've done this for our troops with manufacturing skills, and hundreds of them have earned advanced certifications already. So now it's time to get them back to work in the medical and transportation fields as well, and to do it right away."

Obama set the end of 2015 as a goal for all 50 states to have taken legislative or executive action to help troops get the credentials they need. "We don't want our men and women -- and their families -- in uniform and veterans to be limited to where they can live because not all states are on board," she added.

"You're not going to have to twist many arms to make this happen," the first lady said. "People on both sides of the aisle will start lining up to help on this issue, because they know ... we're not just upholding our values and honoring our troops -- we'll also be lowering the unemployment rate. We'll be improving our health care system; we're going to be boosting economic growth in this country through these efforts."

Obama emphasized the long-term value of not only supporting troops on the battlefield, but sustaining the support to them and their families when they come home. And that's what the Joining Forces initiative is all about, she added.

It's not just about supporting our heroes while they're on the battlefield," she said. "It's about standing with them in these times -- standing with them and their families when they come home. When they come, it's a forever commitment, because we know that they don't stop serving this country when their military service ends. That is the beauty of our service members. They keep on going."

DOD Daily Press Briefing - February 25, 2013

Daily Press Briefing - February 25, 2013

NASA Long-Distance Google+ Hangout to Connect with Space Station


EPA WORKING TO ALLOW CONSUMERS ACCESS TO TOXIC CHEMICAL INFORMATION

FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Declassifying Confidentiality Claims to Increase Access to Chemical Information

Background


Under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), EPA collects a range of data, including health and safety studies on chemicals, some of which may be claimed as
Confidential Business Information (CBI) by the submitter.

The Agency uses this information to carry out a range of activities including prioritizing chemicals for review, conducting risk assessments and taking risk management action if needed. This information is equally important to entities outside the Agency including product formulators, manufacturers, state governments, communities and others.

Access to chemical safety information allows a greater understanding of the possible implications of certain chemicals and enables users to make informed chemicals-related decisions. Through these efforts, EPA is attempting to make this information available in as timely a manner as possible.

In the past, public access to many of these studies on human health and the environment had been restricted by confidential business information claims. In 2010, the Agency initiated a program to review and where appropriate challenge confidentiality claims for chemical identity. The criteria for review were that the filing needed to contain health and safety data that had been submitted to the Agency under TSCA and relate to chemicals in commerce. The FY 2011-2015 EPA Strategic Plan included a measure to review, and challenge where appropriate, more than 22,000 existing TSCA cases with CBI claims for chemical identity, potentially containing health and safety studies.

EPA continues to encourage TSCA submitters to declassify unnecessary CBI claims made in submissions under TSCA section 8(e) through the
TSCA CBI Voluntary Challenge. Additionally, EPA is reviewing certain older submissions made under TSCA sections 4 and 8(d) to verify that these cases contain CBI claims for chemical identity and health and safety studies. Finally, EPA is reviewing the non-CBI data recently collected under the Chemical Data Reporting Rule to determine if there are related cases with health and safety data and the chemical identity claimed as CBI that can be declassified.

The effort supports both legitimate CBI claims and protecting the public’s right to know about potential risks posed by widely-used chemicals. In addition to reviewing existing cases, all new cases containing health and safety data submitted under TSCA that claim the chemical identify as CBI and are chemicals in commerce are being reviewed upon receipt to determine if the claim is appropriate.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Contracts for February 25, 2013

Contracts for February 25, 2013

Press Briefing | The White House

Press Briefing | The White House

La valle del fiume Cotmeana in Romania

La valle del fiume Cotmeana in Romania

POST-2014 AFGHANISTN

U.S DOD PHOTO
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
NATO, Partners Still Considering Size of Post-2014 Force
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2013 - NATO and partner nations are still considering the size of the force that will remain in Afghanistan once the International Security Assistance Force mission ends in December 2014, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said today.

Little, in Brussels with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, issued a statement to put down rumors about the size of the U.S. force that will remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

In a statement, Little said news reports that American officials told partners that 8,000 to 12,000 U.S. troops would be part of a follow-on force are incorrect. "A range of 8,000 to 12,000 troops was discussed as the possible size of the overall NATO mission, not the U.S. contribution," he added.

President Barack Obama still is reviewing options for American forces in Afghanistan following the end of the ISAF mission, the press secretary said. Officials have said the United States will continue to have a presence in the country aimed at training and mentoring Afghan security forces, and a small counterterrorism force aimed against extremist groups such as al-Qaida.

More than 100,000 NATO troops are in Afghanistan today. The United States provides about 66,000 service members.

In his Feb. 12 State of the Union address, Obama announced his intent to withdraw 34,000 U.S. service members from Afghanistan over the next year. The United States already has withdrawn the 33,000 troops that surged into the country beginning in 2009. Officials have said the U.S. presence will shrink as Afghan capabilities grow.

Afghanistan's national security forces now have 352,000 members, and they will assume the lead in missions throughout the country in the spring.

In his statement today, Little reiterated that U.S. officials will continue to discuss the situation in Afghanistan with NATO and partner nations.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

NATO SECRETARY GENERAL ON NEW AFGHAN MISSION POST

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
NATO Secretary General Pledges New Afghan Mission Post-2014
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

BRUSSELS, Feb. 22, 2013 - The NATO secretary general today pledged "a new and different NATO-led mission after 2014" in Afghanistan.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen spoke to open the session of NATO and non-NATO troop-contributing nations here on the last day of a two-day NATO defense ministers meeting. The International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan will end late in 2014, when Afghan forces will have assumed security responsibility for their nation's people, he said.

"But our partnership with Afghanistan will continue well beyond the end of transition, and the end of our ISAF mission. ... I am pleased that many partners have already offered to join us and are working with us to plan the new mission," Rasmussen added.

NATO and its ISAF partner nations remain resolute in their support for a sovereign, safe and secure Afghanistan, the secretary general said.

In a news conference here yesterday, Rasmussen noted that while the alliance plans a follow-on mission in Afghanistan, it also is focused on maintaining and building on the capabilities it has gained through two decades of operations from Kosovo to Afghanistan to Libya. Over the next decade, NATO must preserve and pass on those skills, he said, "as our biggest operation comes closer to completion."

The secretary general said the alliance has adopted the "connected forces" initiative to expand education and training and enhance exercises.

"Today we took an important step forward in that initiative," Rasmussen said at the news conference. "We agreed on its goals, and asked our military experts to come up with concrete proposals on how to put them into practice."

NATO's goal for the initiative, he said, is to hold "more ambitious" military training exercises, with a broader range of scenarios, more often.

"The initiative will include a comprehensive training plan out to 2020, to make sure that our exercises are coherent, comprehensive, and cover the full range of alliance missions," Rasmussen said. "It will include, in 2015, a major live exercise -- that is, one involving significant numbers of deployed forces, not just command and staff units."

The NATO Response Force will be the core of the connected forces initiative, he said.

"And we will build on its exercises -- for example, by including the battalion which the United States government has pledged to rotate through Europe for precisely this purpose, and by building in more contributions from other allies and partners," Rasmussen said. This will make the response force "a cooperation school, as well as a quick-reaction tool -- an immediate resource, but also an investment in the future," he added.

Rasmussen said NATO also is working to use its common funding, which comes from member nations' budgets, for high-priority missions that include training, rapid response, and improving intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

"Over the coming months, we will make those improvements so that every dollar and every euro we spend is well spent," he said.

The secretary general acknowledged that multinational cooperation doesn't solve all of NATO's problems and is not a response to all of its challenges.

"We also need a sufficient level of defense investment," he said. "And that's my major concern -- that if cuts continue, it will damage severely our ability to meet and address the future security challenges."

NATO officials said yesterday they are discussing a proposal to maintain Afghan army and police forces at 352,000 combined members after 2014, when a previous plan had called for reducing the number to some 240,000.

"Let me stress that no final decisions have been made," the secretary general said at the news conference. "But I can confirm that it's one of the ideas that is being considered. I feel confident that we will be able to finance Afghan security forces of that size."

The international community has pledged to help in financing those forces, he added, "because a security force of that size goes well beyond the financial capacity of the Afghan government."

Rasmussen said NATO alone should not bear the cost for Afghan forces. "This is actually a responsibility for the whole of the international community," he said. "And that has been confirmed at international conferences."

Rasmussen noted the proposal makes sense both politically and economically.

"It's better to give the defense of Afghanistan an Afghan face," he said. "And from an economic point of view, it is actually less expensive to finance Afghan security forces than to deploy foreign troops."

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is attending this week's meetings, and is scheduled to hold a news conference here later today.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Phoenix Program Demonstration of Latest Advances


Health care law protects consumers against worst insurance practices

Health care law protects consumers against worst insurance practices

USDA CONSUMER ALERT ON KEEPING FOOD SAFE DURING EMERGENCIES

FROM:  USDA
USDA Consumer Alert: Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2013—
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is issuing recommendations to help minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses in the wake of the winter snow storm that brought heavy snow and ice to the Midwestern United States and could leave communities without power.

"Severe weather can affect food safety," said USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Administrator Al Almanza. "Consumers who have been impacted by the winter storm in the Midwest can ensure the safety of the food and water they may consume, even in the event of power outages by accessing information available from the USDA."

Steps to follow to prepare for a possible weather emergency:
Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature inside the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.
Make sure the freezer is at 0° F or below and the refrigerator is at 40° F or below.
Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.
Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.
Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
Group food together in the freezer — this helps the food stay cold longer.
Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.


Steps to follow after the weather emergency:
Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.
The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.
Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after 4 hours without power.
Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40° F or below when checked with a food thermometer.
Never taste a food to determine its safety!
Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.
If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40° F or below, the food is safe to refreeze.
If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
When in Doubt, throw it Out!


FSIS has available a Public Service Announcement (PSA), available in 30- and 60-second versions, illustrating practical food safety recommendations for handling and consuming foods stored in refrigerators and freezers during, and after, a power outage. Consumers are encouraged to view the PSA at:
www.fsis.usda.gov/news/Food_Safety_PSA.

News organizations and power companies can obtain hard copy (Beta and DVD) versions of the PSA by contacting the Food Safety Education Staff in FSIS' Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education by calling (301) 344-4757.

FSIS's YouTube channel,
www.youtube.com/USDAFoodSafety, provides a video in English and Spanish titled "Food Safety During Power Outages." The channel also includes the SignFSIS video in American Sign Language titled "Food Safety During a Power Outage." Food Safety at Home podcasts regarding food safety during severe weather, power outages, and flooding are available on the FSIS website in English and Spanish at www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events
/Food_Safety_at_Home_Podcasts/index.asp
.

Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at
www.AskKaren.gov or via smartphone at m.AskKaren.gov. "Ask Karen" live chat services are available Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day.

THE NATIONAL GUARD AND THE SEQUESTRATION AFFECT

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Possible Furloughs Could Affect Guard Members Nationwide
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau


ARLINGTON, Va., Feb. 21, 2013 - National Guard members nationwide -- especially military technicians -- could be affected by the Defense Department's furlough without pay of civilian employees that could begin in late April unless Congress overrides a "sequestration" provision in budget law that would mandate deep spending cuts beginning March 1.

Many of the Defense Department's 800,000 civilian employees perform critical functions such as maintenance, intelligence, logistics, contracting and health care. Officials have expressed concern that furloughs would substantially harm the Defense Department's ability to reset and restore the force's full-spectrum combat capability after more than a decade of hard fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The unpaid furloughs likely would be one day per week for the last 22 weeks of the fiscal year, from late April through September -- effectively a 20 percent pay cut for Defense Department civilians that would yield an expected $5 billion in spending reduction.

More than half of the National Guard's full-time members may be furloughed, resulting in maintenance backlogs for all states and curtailment of critical training, especially aviation crew training, that potentially cripples one of the essential 10 capabilities that governors and first responders rely upon in disaster situations, National Guard officials said.

Readiness of nearly 13,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen who mitigate the effects of chemical, biological and nuclear terrorist attacks or industrial accidents in the United States would see exercises and training either delayed or canceled by reductions in operations and maintenance funding, officials said.

The furlough is just one of the potential impacts of a looming sequestration deadline now less than 10 days away, and officials also have expressed concern over the prospect of the government operating under a yearlong continuing resolution in lieu of a budget.

"In the event of sequestration, we will do everything we can to be able to continue to perform our core mission of providing for the security of the United States, but there is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force," Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said in a message to the Defense Department workforce yesterday.

Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called sequestration potentially "devastating" to the Defense Department and the National Guard.

"The greatest threat the National Guard faces today is continued uncertainty over the budget and the risk of even greater sequestration cuts," Grass said. "Sequestration would have a devastating impact on our readiness, modernization and workforce."

The National Guard is the only part of the Army and Air Force in which soldiers and airmen would be directly affected. In addition to civilian furloughs, Army and Air National Guard military technicians could be furloughed, temporary technicians could be terminated, and vacant positions could be frozen.

"We face the potential furlough of civilians and military technicians who provide day-to-day maintenance and training of soldiers and airmen in the states and territories," Grass said. "One potential readiness impact is a decrease in response time and capabilities to respond to fires, floods and defense support of civil authorities events in the homeland.

"On the Army National Guard side, we face the prospect of a rapid return to year-2000 readiness levels, consistent with a time when the National Guard was postured as a strategic reserve," Grass continued. "This would be a giant step backward to pre-Sept. 11, 2001, readiness levels at a time of global uncertainty."

Defense officials also have warned of potential second- and third-order effects and unintended consequences from sequestration.

"The National Guard has installations, wings and armories in more than 3,000 communities in every state and territory and the District of Columbia," Grass said. "Potential furloughs and cuts will gravely impact local economies."

Other immediate potential effects on the National Guard include:

-- Decreased equipment and personnel readiness as the 2013 flood, wildfire and hurricane seasons begin. One example: Army leaders have indicated equipment redeployed to the states from the warfight will be returned without depot-level repairs.

-- An almost 80 percent reduction in planned National Guard rotary-wing flying support to Customs and Border Protection for Southwest border security.

-- A halt in flying training hours -- and a corresponding steep decline in readiness -- in the Air National Guard in the next few weeks to sustain essential missions such as aerospace control alert.

-- Reduced maintenance of Army National Guard wheeled and tracked vehicles.

-- Overall decrease in aviation readiness for domestic emergencies.

-- Cancellation of 115,000 medical or dental exams that could render 39 percent of the Army National Guard medically unable to deploy over the coming months.

Longer-term effects anticipated by National Guard leaders include declining retention rates because of decreased training and deployment opportunities, declining equipment, and little or no opportunity for career progression.

"My highest priority is that we in the National Guard leadership do everything in our power to minimize the impact of this on our most important asset, our people," Grass said.

"A strong National Guard comes from a strong and ready active component," he added. "We have the opportunity to leverage and maintain this operational reserve and apply it more broadly to serve our national defense strategy. The value of the National Guard is well-documented."

But regardless of fiscal constraints, Grass said, the National Guard will continue to meet emerging challenges and safeguard the nation and its communities.

Friday, February 22, 2013

U.S. DOD Contracts for February 22, 2013

Contracts for February 22, 2013

COMPUTER MODELING SHOWS HOW HEPATITIS C DRUG WORKS

FROM: LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY
Computer Modeling Reveals How Surprisingly Potent Hepatitis C Drug Works

LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Feb. 19, 2013—A study by researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and a multinational team reveals how daclatasvir, a direct-acting antiviral agent in development for the treatment of hepatitis C virus (HCV), targets one of its proteins and causes the fastest viral decline ever seen with anti-HCV drugs – within 12 hours of treatment.

Chronic infection with hepatitis C virus affects about 150 million people worldwide. It is the leading cause of cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver transplants and results in some 350,000 deaths worldwide every year.

The team’s work reveals that daclatasvir has two primary modes of action against HCV and also provides a more accurate estimate of the HCV half-life. Until 2011, treatment options were limited and offered modest effectiveness; fewer than half of treated patients were fully cured of the virus. In the last decade, active research on understanding the mechanisms of HCV replication resulted in the discovery of direct acting antivirals targeting all stages of the viral replication process.

The new mathematical analysis of the rapid viral decline observed after one dose of daclatasvir reveals that the drug blocks two stages of the viral lifecycle and that the HCV half-life in serum is four times shorter than previously thought according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

The NS5A protein within the hepatitis virus is a specific target for drug development. The first NS5A inhibitor, daclatasvir, developed by Bristol Myers Squibb, showed one of the most potent effects in combating HCV; one dose led to a thousand-fold decrease in viral levels within about 12 hours. Oddly, however NS5A has no known enzymatic functions making it difficult to understand its mode of action and design optimal drug combinations.

"Unraveling how this drug could cause such a rapid drop in the amount of virus in an infected person’s blood could greatly enhance our ability to design optimal drug therapies and ultimately cure this disease," said Alan Perelson, senior author on the paper and a senior fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

A mathematical method called "viral kinetic modeling" aims to characterize the main mechanisms that govern the virologic response to treatment. It is instrumental in understanding HCV pathogenesis and in guiding development of a variety of anti-HCV agents.

Until now, viral kinetic models did not take into account the intracellular events during viral replication and infected cells were considered as "black boxes" whose viral production was partially shut down by treatment.

The researchers demonstrated that understanding the effects of daclatasvir in vivo requires a novel modeling approach that incorporates drug effects on the HCV intracellular lifecycle. They used this new model to characterize the viral kinetics during daclatasvir therapy and they showed that this compound efficiently blocked two distinct processes, namely the synthesis of new viral genomes (like other antivirals) but also the release of the virus from infected cells.

As a consequence of this unique mode of action, the viral decline observed during treatment with daclatasvir allowed for more precise estimation of the HCV half-life in serum, about 45 minutes, instead of the previously estimated 2.7 hours. This implies that the daily viral production; and thus the risk of mutations conferring drug resistance, is four times larger than previously thought.

 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

U.S. DEFENSE DEPARTMENT SAYS SEQUESTRATION FURLOUGHS BEGIN IN APRIL

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
If Sequestration Triggers, Furloughs Begin in Late April
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2013 - If sequestration is triggered next week, unpaid furloughs for civilian Defense Department employees will start in late April, Pentagon officials said here today.

Sequestration is a provision in budget law that will trigger major across-the-board spending cuts March 1 unless Congress agrees on an alternative.

DOD Comptroller Robert F. Hale told reporters at a Pentagon news conference that if sequestration happens, the department will cut virtually every program and investment, and that almost all civilian employees will feel the pain.

Jessica L. Wright, the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said that sequestration and the continuing resolution -- a temporary funding measure for the federal government that's set to expire March 27 -- also will have a devastating on military personnel.

"But on our civilians, it will be catastrophic," she added.

"Everything is going to be affected, should sequestration go in effect," Wright said. "That's a guarantee. I think that everybody will be impacted by this action. And I think it's incumbent upon us to try to ease that where we can."

The department already has taken actions to alleviate some of the pressures. DOD has slowed spending, instituted a hiring freeze, ordered layoffs for temporary and term employees and cut back base operations and maintenance.

If sequestration hits, this pain will seem minor by comparison. Operations and maintenance funding is the only way to provide the $47 billion in required cuts for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

Within a year, two-thirds of the Army combat brigade teams will be at unacceptable levels of readiness, Hale said. Most Air Force units not deployed will be at an unsatisfactory readiness level by the end of the year. Navy and Marine Corps readiness also suffer, Hale said.

The process of furloughing civilians began today, with Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta sending notification to Congress. "That starts a 45-day clock ticking, and until that clock has run out, we cannot proceed with furloughs," Hale explained.

If sequester happens, each employee will be notified. "That starts a 30-day clock -- waiting period -- before we can take any action," the comptroller said. "The bottom line is furloughs would not actually start for DOD employees until late April, and we certainly hope that ... in the interim, Congress will act to de-trigger sequestration."

The vast majority of DOD's almost 800,000 civilian employees will be furloughed, Wright said. DOD civilians in a war zone and political appointees who are confirmed by the Senate will not be furloughed. Nonappropriated fund employees and local national employees will not be affected.

Limited exceptions will be made for the purposes of safety of life and health, Wright said, such as firefighters and police. And if a military hospital has only one neonatal nurse, for example, that person could be exempted, she added.

While military personnel accounts are exempt from sequestration, there will be second- and third-order effects, Wright said. For example, hours at exchanges and commissaries could be affected, and family programs could be reduced or cut. It is unclear at this point how DOD Education Activity schools will be affected.

The spending cuts will affect military health care, as some 40 percent of the personnel working in the system are civilians. Elective surgeries could be delayed or eliminated, and costs cannot be shifted to the TRICARE military health plan, because that program also will be hit by cuts.

Affected employees would be furloughed for 22 discontinuous days -- 176 hours -- between implementation and the end of fiscal 2013, with no more than 16 furlough hours per pay period.

Fiscal 2013 is just the beginning of a decade of budgetary problems, Hale said.

"The Budget Control Act actually requires that the caps on discretionary funding beyond fiscal '13 be lowered for defense by $50 billion to $55 billion a year," he said. "If those come to pass, then we will have to look at a new defense strategy. That would be the first thing that we'd do."

The new strategy would accept more risk and also be based on having a smaller military.

For now, officials "devoutly would wish for some budget stability right now," Hale said. "And I think it would benefit the department and the nation."

BRUNEI DARUSSALAM NATINAL DAY

FROM:  U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT
Brunei Darussalam National Day
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
February 20, 2013

On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am delighted to send my best wishes and congratulations to the people of Brunei Darussalam as you celebrate your 29th National Day this February 23.

Over 160 years ago, the United States and Brunei signed the Treaty of Peace, Friendship, Commerce and Navigation, which proclaimed that "Peace, friendship, and good understanding shall from henceforward and forever subsist between" our two countries. It is my pleasure to renew the spirit of that commitment. Our two countries are working together on a dynamic bilateral and regional agenda to promote stability and economic growth. We are partnering on initiatives to promote commercial interests, expand educational opportunities and people to people connections, and increase English language instruction in ASEAN. We especially look forward to working together this year under the auspices of the U.S.-Asia Pacific Comprehensive Partnership for a Sustainable Energy Future.

The United States will continue to work closely with Brunei as it chairs ASEAN and hosts the East Asian Summit this year. We are eager to share the example of the successful friendship between our two countries with the entire region. I send you our warmest wishes for continued peace and prosperity in the year to come.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

CDC Press Release: Opioids drive continued increase in drug overdose deaths

CDC Press Release: Opioids drive continued increase in drug overdose deaths

U.S. DOD Contracts for February 20, 2013

Contracts for February 20, 2013

Department of Department Press Briefing on Civilian Furlough Planning Efforts from the Pentagon

Department of Department Press Briefing on Civilian Furlough Planning Efforts from the Pentagon

Blueberries and strawberries

Blueberries and strawberries

Remarks at U.S.-Canada Innovation Conference

Remarks at U.S.-Canada Innovation Conference

DEPLOYMENT AND A HOCKEY LEAGUE

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Airman Leads Multinational Hockey League
By Air Force Senior Master Sgt. George Thompson
386th Air Expeditionary Wing

SOUTHWEST ASIA, Feb. 19, 2013 - A force protection airman with the 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron serves as a player, referee and commissioner of a multinational floor hockey league to keep his favorite sport up and running at his deployed location.

"I started playing hockey in my neighbor's driveway when I was 5, and I played ice hockey in junior high school," Air Force Senior Airman Daniel Nester said. "My cousin took me to my first St. Louis Blues game, and I've been a hockey and Blues fan ever since."

An evening physical training session reunited Nester with his favorite sport in the most unlikely of places -- Southwest Asia.

"I found out about the league in early December 2012 when I just happen to be in the gym on a Friday night and they were playing hockey," he said. "I went out and played the next couple of Fridays, and I got a lot of positive compliments about my knowledge and insight for the game of hockey."

When the redeploying commissioner asked him about taking over the league, Nester jumped at the opportunity. Over the next couple of weeks, he got his feet wet with the administrative side of the game while also playing and refereeing matches.

"I had to organize the schedule, keep the statistics, set up the games, [and] organize the playoffs, the championship game and the All-Star game," he said.

While he would rather simply play the game he loves, Nester said, he knows being an active commissioner will keep the league going. "Everything reflects on the commissioner," he said. "You are responsible for keeping it at a professional level, yet making it exciting to where people want to get out there."

The seemingly endless turnover of personnel during deployments is another challenge the young commissioner soon will face.

"The hardest part, which is coming soon, is keeping people in the league despite rotations," he said. "It's hard to get the word out when you have over half of your league redeploying back to the states or to their home stations."

Fortunately for Nester, he receives a lot of support from coalition service members whose national pastime just happens to be hockey. "The Canadians are always a great help," he said. "They arrive early when they have late games, and they are always willing to come down and offer some expertise."

The league's final match of the season pitted the undefeated Canadian team against the 12 best players from the league's other four teams in an all-star type of match-up for bragging rights and the coveted hockey trophy.

"The Canadians are a very skilled hockey team, but it is possible to put a team together to beat them," Nester said.

While Nester's all-star team fell short in a 7-3 loss to the Canadian team, the camaraderie and sportsmanship contributed to Nester's determination to make the hockey league a success.

"I love the game of hockey, and if I leave the league better than I found it -- better than when it was given to me -- then I would say I was successful as commissioner," he said.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mini satellite pour cartographier la végétation globale

Mini satellite pour cartographier la végétation globale

MAN PAYS FOR ALLEGED COMMODITY POOL FRUAD

FROM: U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION

Federal Court in Nebraska Orders Omaha Resident Michael J. Welke to Pay $387,000 to Settle Commodity Pool Fraud Charges

Welke permanently barred from the commodities industry

Washington, DC
– The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that it obtained a federal court order requiring Defendant Michael J. Welke, of Omaha, Neb., to pay $257,000 in disgorgement and a $130,000 civil monetary penalty to settle CFTC charges of fraud, failure to register with the CFTC, and failure to comply with disclosure and reporting requirements. The Consent Order of permanent injunction, entered on February 12, 2013, by Chief Judge Laurie Smith Camp of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, also imposes permanent trading and registration bans against Welke and prohibits him from violating provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC Regulations, as charged.

The Order stems from a CFTC Complaint filed on May 23, 2011, against Welke, along with Defendants Jonathan W. Arrington, Michael B. Kratville, and their companies, Elite Management Holdings Corp. (Elite Management) and MJM Enterprises LLC (MJM) (see CFTC Press Release
6045-11). The CFTC Complaint alleged that from approximately August 2005 until at least July 2008, Welke and the other Defendants operated a fraudulent scheme that solicited at least $4.7 million from more than 130 commodity pool participants, mostly from the Omaha area, to trade commodity futures contracts and off-exchange foreign currency contracts. The CFTC Complaint further charged that Welke acted as a reference to prospective pool participants without disclosing his status as an owner and officer of Elite Management and MJM and that Welke, along with the other Defendants, misappropriated more than $1.5 million of pool participants’ funds, made false representations of material facts, and issued false statements to the pool participants regarding the profitability and value of their accounts.

The CFTC has previously obtained entries of default against Arrington, Elite Management, and MJM. The CFTC’s litigation continues against Kratville.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Christopher Reed, Margaret Aisenbrey, Stephen Turley, Charles Marvine, Rick Glaser, and Richard Wagner.

GERMANY AND ECONOMIC GROWTH

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
Invoking the Importance of Partnership and Growth

At a dinner honoring German Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Ursula von der Leyen, acting Secretary of Labor Harris emphasized the importance of multinational partnership and economic development. In remarks at the German Ambassador's residence in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 13, Harris praised German skills training initiatives and highlighted the department's Community College and Career Training grants, which seek to improve career training programs at U.S. post-secondary schools. Harris also emphasized the importance of collective bargaining in ensuring that workers receive their fair share of growth. "We must continue to invest wisely and effectively in skills development," he said. "But workers must also have more leverage so that our investment in their skills and employability assures them a bigger paycheck, a pension and a better life." Before the dinner Harris and von der Leyen held a bilateral discussion on the upcoming G20 labor and employment ministerial meeting and other issues.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

U.S. MILITARY WARNS SEQUESTRATION COULD DELAY AFGHANISTAN REDEPLOYMENT

Photo Credit:  U.S. Army.
FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Sequestration Could Delay Redeployment for Soldiers in Afghanistan
By C. Todd Lopez
Army News Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 15, 2013 - The lack of an appropriations bill coupled with sequestration could eventually cause soldiers to be delayed in their redeployment home from Afghanistan, the Army's top officer said.

Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, speaking today at the Brookings Institution here, explained that replacement forces to Afghanistan in 2014 could be affected by a shortage of training dollars and be forced to delay their deployment.

Sequestration will mean an additional $500 billion in defense cuts, and shifting funding for improvised-explosive-device detection and electronic warfare equipment from overseas contingency operations budgets to service operations and maintenance budgets will mean an additional $100 billion in cuts.

"Today, in my opinion, the greatest threat to our national security is the fiscal uncertainty resulting from the lack of predictability in the budget cycles," Odierno said. "Our country's inability to put its fiscal house in order compromises the future of the joint force, the Army, and ultimately will impact our ability to provide security to our nation."

The U.S. military is looking now at a possible $1.3 trillion in defense cuts overall, Odierno said. Compounding cuts to defense budgets is the lack of a confirmed budget for the services -- the military is operating now on a "continuing resolution," which is how Congress funds the government if it has not passed an appropriations bill. A continuing resolution makes military planning difficult.

Right now, Odierno said, the continuing resolution has created a "mismatch of funds" that doesn't leave enough in the operations and maintenance accounts. There's a $6 billion shortfall there compared to what the Army needs, and sequestration will add another $5.4 billion to that shortfall.

Operations and maintenance funding allows the Army to train, so a shortfall in those funds means that fewer soldiers will be able to train for Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We're funding, totally, Afghanistan. We're going to fund, totally, Korea, and sustain the readiness level in Korea," Odierno said. "What that means is the rest of the forces that are now back in the United States will not be able to train. They will be able to do very small-level, squad-level training. They will not be able to do platoon-level, company-level, battalion-level training back at their installations. They will not be able to go out to combat training centers, which is what provides them the final readiness certification at the battalion and brigade level."

The general said the forces that are slated next to go to Afghanistan are going to be ready to go, insofar as training and equipping is concerned.

"What my concern is, the ones who come after them, they will now be behind," he said.

What that means for the forces in Afghanistan in 2014 is that they might have to wait to redeploy while the follow-on forces are readied for their deployment.

Earlier this week Odierno told Congress as much, saying he offered two options to lawmakers on how to keep forces in Afghanistan.

"If I can't make them up quickly, I then have to send forces that aren't ready, or I have to extend forces that are already there," he said. "That'll be a decision I have to make as we get closer. We will continue to try to divert money so we do not have to extend people in Afghanistan."

The Army's share of defense cuts could mean the loss of civilian employees at Army depots where war-ravaged combat equipment is "reset" and made serviceable again for soldier training and deployment to combat zones.

Odierno said looming budget cuts will mean smaller depots and a drop in the civilian workforce. That translates directly into a backlog of equipment to be reset -- including the equipment that still needs to be reset from Iraq, and equipment coming out of Afghanistan right now.

The general said that due to those backlogs, it's expected that delivery of that reset equipment could be delayed by two to three years -- with some being delivered as late as 2016.

Unfortunately, not having that critical combat equipment available -- tanks and helicopters and infantry fighting vehicles, for instance -- means that soldiers who need to train on it won't be able to train. Additionally, that equipment won't be ready for deployment if the Army is called upon to fight again.

"We have not predicted very well when we will use forces," Odierno said. "When the [Berlin] Wall came down in Europe, people said, 'This is it, we don't need [the Army] anymore.' But then a year later, we are deploying to the deserts of Kuwait. Then we went into Somalia. Then somewhere in there we had Panama, and 'Just Cause.'

"You just don't know," he continued. "It is our responsibility to be prepared, that if the President decides he needs to use the military, that we are ready and prepared. And I am concerned whether we will be able to do that or not as we move to the future over the next couple of years."

Right now, Odierno said, the Army has a "fairly high level of readiness." But that will change soon, for both soldier readiness and equipment readiness. When the time comes, unexpectedly, for soldiers to deploy, he said, emergency funding will not be enough to provide soldiers the readiness they need to fight successfully.

"It slowly degrades," Odierno said of military readiness. "So over the next six or seven months, if you are not taking care of your equipment, if you are not training, you degrade that readiness. And you can't just recover that readiness by money -- it takes time."

Paying for people -- soldiers -- takes up about 48 percent of the Army's budget. Cuts to the budget means a reduction in the number of soldiers the Army will have in its ranks.

The Army already is reducing the number of soldiers in its ranks by about 88,000. Sequestration could bring the loss of an additional 100,000 soldiers across the active force and the reserve components, Odierno said. In all, about 190,000 soldiers will have to be cut -- though the general believes it will be more than that.

"My guess, in the end, it'll be over 200,000 soldiers we will have to take out of the active duty, Army National Guard, and U.S. Army Reserve," he said.

That cut will mean a loss of force structure, he said. It will cost the Army a 40-percent reduction in brigade combat teams, when it's all done.

A smaller Army means a loss of ability to influence and deter conflict, the general said.

If the Army gets too small, "you lose your ability to deter conflict," Odierno said.

"My concern is -- you have people who miscalculate," he said. "Almost every great war we've been into, or great regional conflict, has been based on a huge miscalculation by somebody. And what I worry about is we will cause people to miscalculate, which will then cause us to have to get involved."

Odierno said that without sequestration, the Army may drop below 490,000 soldiers -- something he said is doable, if managed correctly to avoid loss of skill and capability. If sequestration does happen, he said, he is concerned about not dropping below a specific number -- one he didn't say -- to avoid losing the ability to deter conflict, and to ensure the Army has the capability to do the things the President asks the Army to do.

That number, he said, might be smaller than 490,000.

"But some of the numbers I hear are too small. I do worry that the capability will be much less than we need," Odierno said. "I think there is a certain level of capability that I need to have, that I would propose to the President and the chairmen and others that we have to have in order to sustain our capabilities in order to respond globally."

Cutting the force that deep, Odierno said, will have to be done carefully and across all components of the Army. A proper balance must be made, he said, to preserve the unique capabilities that each component brings to the fight. In particular, he added, the active component maintains a higher level of readiness, while the reserve component brings a more diverse mix of experience and capability to the table.

Odierno said he doesn't want to force soldiers out of the service -- but at some point, some of that might happen.

For the first set of cuts, he said, done over a five-year period, it'll be mostly attrition.

"There will have to be some other methods," he said. "But it will be mostly -- about 75-80 percent by attrition."

Additional budget cuts, he said, would probably "increase the amount [of soldiers] we put out each year, but I would still like to leave it at a level where I can control it.

"If we can control it," he continued, "we keep the people we want to keep, we are able to help the people transitioning to a better transition -- and that enables us to keep the level of readiness we need to respond."

Odierno said his goal is to do the "large majority" of force cuts by attrition. But personnel boards that make other cuts might have to come into the mix at some point.

"There will have to be some boards that we conduct that we maybe ask people to retire earlier than they might want," he said. "And there might be some boards that tell us we need some officers and some senior noncommissioned officers to leave. But we will try to minimize that as much as we can."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Not immune from loneliness

Not immune from loneliness

DVIDS - Video - Inside the DoD: Feb. 8, 2013

DVIDS - Video - Inside the DoD: Feb. 8, 2013

Weekly Address: Following the President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class | The White House

Weekly Address: Following the President’s Plan for a Strong Middle Class | The White House

CITADEL SHIELD 2013

FROM:  U.S. NAVY
Navy Installations to Conduct Citadel Shield 2013 in Continental U.S.

From Commander, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces (USFF) and Commander, Navy Installations Command (CNIC) will conduct an annual Force Protection and Anti-Terrorism (FP/AT) exercise Citadel Shield (CS) 2013 on naval bases and installations throughout the continental United States Feb. 19 - March 1.

This annual exercise is designed to enhance the training and readiness of Navy security forces to respond to threats to installations and units.

The CS 2013 exercise will test different areas of the Navy's anti-terrorism program and naval security force personnel's ability to respond to real-world threats.

There will be an increase in patrols on and around Navy installations as a result of this planned exercise. Exercise CS 2013 is not in response to any specific threat, but is a regularly scheduled exercise.

Measures have been taken to minimize disruptions to normal base and station operations, but there may be times when the exercise causes increased traffic around bases or delays in base access.


 

Friday, February 15, 2013

HHS announces 27 Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns awards

HHS announces 27 Strong Start for Mothers and Newborns awards

U.S. DOD Contracts for February 15, 2013

Contracts for February 15, 2013

Remarks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Headquarters

Remarks to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Headquarters

TRANSOCEAN TO PAY $400 MILLION IN CRIMINAL PENALTIES FOR ROLE IN DEEPWATER HORIZON DISASTER

FROM: U.S. EVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
Transocean Pleads Guilty, Is Sentenced to Pay $400 Million in Criminal Penalties for Criminal Conduct Leading to Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Second Corporate Guilty Plea Obtained by Deepwater Horizon Task Force, Second-largest Criminal Clean Water Act Fines and Penalties in U.S. History

WASHINGTON - Transocean Deepwater Inc. pleaded guilty today to a violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA) for its illegal conduct leading to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, and was sentenced to pay $400 million in criminal fines and penalties, Attorney General Holder announced today.

In total, the amount of fines and other criminal penalties imposed on Transocean are the second-largest environmental crime recovery in U.S. history – following the historic $4 billion criminal sentence imposed on BP Exploration and Production Inc. in connection with the same disaster.

"Transocean’s guilty plea and sentencing are the latest steps in the department’s ongoing efforts to seek justice on behalf of the victims of the Deepwater Horizon disaster," said Attorney General Holder. "Most of the $400 million criminal recovery – one of the largest for an environmental crime in U.S. history – will go toward protecting, restoring and rebuilding the Gulf Coast region."

"The Deepwater Horizon explosion was a senseless tragedy that could have been avoided," said Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. "Eleven men died, and the Gulf’s waters, shorelines, communities and economies suffered enormous damage. With today’s guilty plea, BP and Transocean have now both been held criminally accountable for their roles in this disaster."

Transocean’s guilty plea was accepted, and the sentence was imposed, by U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo of the Eastern District of Louisiana. During the guilty plea and sentencing proceeding, Judge Milazzo found, among other things, that the sentence appropriately reflects Transocean’s role in the offense conduct, and that the criminal payments directed to the National Academy of Sciences and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation are appropriately designed to help remedy the harm to the Gulf of Mexico caused by Transocean’s actions. The judge also noted that the fines and five year probationary period provide just punishment and adequate deterrence.

Transocean pleaded guilty to an information, previously filed in federal court in New Orleans, charging the company with violating the CWA. During the guilty plea proceeding today, Transocean admitted that members of its crew onboard the Deepwater Horizon, acting at the direction of BP’s well site leaders, known as "company men," were negligent in failing to investigate fully clear indications that the Macondo well was not secure and that oil and gas were flowing into the well.

The criminal resolution is structured to directly benefit the Gulf region. Under the order entered by the court pursuant to the plea agreement, $150 million of the $400 million criminal recovery is dedicated to acquiring, restoring, preserving and conserving – in consultation with appropriate state and other resource managers – the marine and coastal environments, ecosystems and bird and wildlife habitat in the Gulf of Mexico and bordering states harmed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This portion of the criminal recovery will also be directed to significant barrier island restoration and/or river diversion off the coast of Louisiana to further benefit and improve coastal wetlands affected by the spill. An additional $150 million will be used to fund improved oil spill prevention and response efforts in the Gulf through research, development, education and training.

Transocean was also sentenced, according to the plea agreement, to five years of probation – the maximum term of probation permitted by law.

A separate proposed civil consent decree, which resolves the United States’ civil CWA penalty claims, imposes a record $1 billion civil Clean Water Act penalty, and requires significant measures to improve performance and prevent recurrence, is pending before U.S. District Judge Carl J. Barbier of the Eastern District of Louisiana.

The charges and allegations pending against individuals in related cases are merely accusations, and those individuals are considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The guilty plea and sentencing announced today are part of the ongoing criminal investigation by the Deepwater Horizon Task Force into matters related to the April 2010 Gulf oil spill. The Deepwater Horizon Task Force, based in New Orleans, is supervised by Assistant Attorney General Breuer and led by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John D. Buretta, who serves as the director of the task force. The task force includes prosecutors from the Criminal Division and the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice; the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, as well as other U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; and investigating agents from: the FBI; Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigative Division; Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General; Department of Interior, Office of Inspector General; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Office of Law Enforcement; U.S. Coast Guard; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality.

This case was prosecuted by Deepwater Horizon Task Force Director John D. Buretta, Deputy Directors Derek A. Cohen and Avi Gesser, and task force prosecutors Richard R. Pickens II, Scott M. Cullen, Colin Black and Rohan Virginkar.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

U.S. DOD Contracts for February 14, 2013

Contracts for February 14, 2013

FDIC PROPOSED RULEMAKING TO CLAIFY STATUS OF MONEY DEPOSITED IN FOREIGN BRANCHES OF U.S. BANKS

FROM: U.S. FEDERAL DEPOSITORY INSURANCE CORPORATION

The Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) today approved a notice of proposed rulemaking to clarify that while deposits in foreign branches of U.S. banks can be deposits for purposes of the national depositor preference statute enacted in 1993, they are not FDIC-insured. Currently, under the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, money deposited in foreign branches of U.S. banks are not considered deposits, unless the funds are payable in the U.S. A recent proposal by the United Kingdom's Financial Services Authority (FSA) relating to the effect of national depositor preference laws makes it likely that large U.S. banks will change their deposit agreements to make their U.K. branch deposits payable in both the U.K. and U.S.

"Today's proposed regulation would allow U.S. banks with U.K. branches to exercise existing authority that would bring them into compliance with the FSA's proposal by making the deposits payable in the United States, without triggering U.S. deposit insurance coverage or the restructuring of branches in subsidiaries," said FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg.

The proposed rule, which will be issued with a 60-day comment period upon publication in the Federal Register, would not affect deposits in overseas military banking facilities governed by regulations of the Department of Defense. These funds will continue to be insured by the FDIC to the same extent that they have been.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Panetta Condemns North Korean Test, Calls Regime Danger to U.S.

Panetta Condemns North Korean Test, Calls Regime Danger to U.S.

Contracts for February 13, 2013

Contracts for February 13, 2013

Stacia Robinson discusses networking with U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen Jocelyn Seng of Washington, D.C., Chief Master Sgt. Carl Collins of Florence, Ala., and Chief Master Sgt. Lawrence Kirby, of Philadelphia.

Stacia Robinson discusses networking with U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen Jocelyn Seng of Washington, D.C., Chief Master Sgt. Carl Collins of Florence, Ala., and Chief Master Sgt. Lawrence Kirby, of Philadelphia.

The Benefits of a Paperless Claim

The Benefits of a Paperless Claim

Romesha: MOH for Eight Soldiers "Who Didn't Make It"

Romesha: MOH for Eight Soldiers "Who Didn't Make It": After receiving the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony, Staff Sgt. Clinton Romesha dedicated it to the Soldiers who served alongside him. Also available in high definition.

Navy News Service - Eye on the Fleet

Navy News Service - Eye on the Fleet

The 2013 State of the Union Address | The White House

The 2013 State of the Union Address | The White House

CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS SAYS SEQUESTRATION CAUSES MORAL DELEMMA

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE
Sequestration Will Force Moral Dilemma, Dempsey Says
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12, 2013 - Looming spending cuts could put the military on the path to a moral dilemma, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said that if Congress allows major across-the-board spending cuts to go forward, the military eventually will be asked to deploy troops who are unready and ill-equipped.

"None of us walk away or run away from a crisis or a fight," Dempsey said, sitting alongside representatives of the services and the National Guard at the committee hearing. "That's not our nature. But I will tell you personally, if ever the force is so degraded and so unready, and then we're asked to use it, it would be immoral."

The cuts, known as sequestration, would be the sharpest and largest reduction in total obligating authority for the Defense Department in history, the chairman said. And they would come at a time that the world is more dangerous than it's ever been, he added.

The magnitude of another $500 billion in defense cuts over 10 years, on top of the $487 billion in cuts over that period made under the 2011 Budget Control Act -- along with efficiencies previously implemented -- will make the current defense strategy unfeasible, Dempsey said.

"Any additional cuts will change the strategy," he said.

For example, he said, special operations forces were somewhat protected as part of the new defense strategy in the cuts that followed the 2011 Budget Control Act. But if sequestration occurs, everybody will be affected, the chairman added.

"We have to maintain a joint force of conventional and unconventional capability," the general told the senators.

The question members of Congress must address, Dempsey said, is what defense strategy they are willing to live with, noting that the cuts could affect U.S. interaction with its military partners.

"The Joint Chiefs are responsible for balancing global responsibilities, ... sometimes directly ourselves, sometimes through partners in a region," he said. "Our ability to do that is going to be called into doubt, given the effects of sequestration."

MORE MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS HIRED BY VETERANS AFFAIRS

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
VA Hires More Mental Health Professionals to Expand Access for Veterans
February 11, 2013
Part of Comprehensive Effort to Boost Mental Health Services

WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced that it has made significant progress in providing increased access to mental health care services for our Nation’s Veterans by hiring new mental health professionals. Last year, Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced a goal to hire 1,600 new mental health clinical providers and 300 administrative support staff. The President’s Aug. 31, 2012, Executive Order requires the positions to be filled by June 30, 2013. As of Jan. 29, VA has hired 1,058 mental health clinical providers and 223 administrative support staff in support of this specific goal.

"We aren’t slowing down our efforts even after these initial positive results," said Shinseki. "We still need to hire more mental health professionals in order to reach our goal, but each new hire means we can treat more Veterans and provide greater access to our mental health services."

Overall, VA has set aggressive goals to fill these new positions as well as existing and projected mental health vacancies within the VA system. As of Jan. 29, VA has hired a total of 3,262 mental health professionals and administrative support staff to serve Veterans since the goal was announced, which includes the new 1,058 mental health clinical providers and 223 administrative support staff. The mental health professionals hired include psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses, licensed professional mental health counselors, licensed marriage and family therapists, and addictions therapists.

VA provides a comprehensive system of high-quality mental health treatments and services to Veterans. The department is utilizing many tools to recruit and retain one of the largest mental health care workforces in the nation to serve Veterans better by providing enhanced services, expanded access, longer clinic hours, and increased telemental health capability to deliver services.

"Today, as Veterans return home from missions in Afghanistan and those who previously returned from Iraq, it is imperative that we ensure they have access to timely, high-quality mental health care," said Undersecretary for Health Dr. Robert A. Petzel. "The invisible scars of war follow them as they return from theater. It is our responsibility to identify these wounds, treat them and prevent the long-term physical, mental and social consequences of them."

In accordance with the President’s Aug. 31, 2012,
Executive Order, VA has also completed hiring and training of additional staff to increase the capacity of the Veterans Crisis Line (1-800-273-8255, press 1) and phone lines have been increased by 50 percent. As of Dec. 31, 2012, the Veterans Crisis Line has received over 747,000 calls, over 83,000 chats, as well as over 5,000 texts, and has saved more than 26,000 Veterans in imminent danger.

There are many Veterans who are willing to seek treatment and to share their experiences with mental health issues when they share a common bond of duty, honor, and service with the provider. VA is in the process of hiring and training 800 Peer Specialists in the coming year. Additionally, VA has awarded a contract to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance to provide certification training for Peer Specialists. This peer staff is expected to all be hired by Dec. 31, 2013, and will work as members of mental health teams.

The number of Veterans receiving specialized mental health treatment from VA has risen each year, from 927,052 in fiscal year (FY) 2006 to more than 1.3 million in FY 2012. One major reason for this increase is VA’s proactive screening of all Veterans to identify those who may have symptoms of depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), problem use of alcohol or who have experienced military sexual trauma (MST).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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NATIONAL GUARD HEROS ASSIST IN BABY DELIVERY DURING BLIZZARD

FROM: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE

Guardsmen Help Paramedics Deliver Baby During Blizzard
By Air Force Senior Airman Bonnie K. Harper
Massachusetts National Guard

HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass., Feb. 11, 2013 - As a historic blizzard battered Massachusetts in the early hours of Feb. 9, soldiers from the Massachusetts National Guard's Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment, assisted Worcester emergency medical services personnel in delivering a baby.

Army Sgt. Kenneth Hickey said he, Army Spc. Joshua Catalano and Army Spc. Derek Demelo were assisting Worcester EMS with their operations and supporting the city by using their military field ambulance to access areas unreachable with the city ambulances.

"This is an outstanding example of the strong partnership between the National Guard and local emergency responders," said Air Force Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Massachusetts adjutant general. "Together, with the encouraging support of the citizens we serve, we find great strength in our mission.

The soldiers received a call to assist Ericka Bueno, who had gone into labor around 2:30 a.m. and called 911. Within 10 minutes, EMS personnel arrived at her home.

"It was quickly determined that the woman would not reach the hospital before giving birth and must deliver at home," Hickey said. EMS personnel delivered the baby girl, named Nohely, around 3
a.md.

The soldiers did all they could to assist EMS in their efforts by shoveling the walkway to provide a clear access to the woman's home and assisting with transporting materials needed for a successful delivery. Shortly after the delivery, the Guardsmen assisted the Worcester medical team with getting Ericka, her baby, and her boyfriend, Joel Gonell, into the ambulance to transport them to the hospital.

"I'm really grateful for them," Gonell said. "They really helped a lot. They actually ensured that we made it to the hospital safely."

The National Guard soldiers helped to fix the stretcher and had to clear a path for the stretcher to be wheeled from the house to the ambulance, Gonell said. After the baby and her family were safely inside the ambulance, they made their way to the hospital with the National Guard following behind them the entire way.

"It was definitely a blessing to have them there," Bueno said. "It's just good to know that we had so many people behind us -- that it wasn't just the EMTs, that we had the National Guard there. I was just a regular person giving birth, and they went and they shoveled us out and they made sure that we made it to the hospital.

"When my daughter grows up, I'm going to let her know that we had a lot of very supportive, important people there to make sure that she got to the hospital safely," she added.

EPA SAYS CHEMICAL DATA REPORTING WILL IMPROVE SAFETY

FROM: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
EPA Makes Public Comprehensive Information on Use of Chemicals in the U.S.

The Chemical Data Reporting information will help EPA and others assess chemicals more quickly and encourage the use of safer chemicals

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today released the 2012 Chemical Data Reporting (CDR) information on more than 7,600 chemicals in commerce. The CDR database contains comprehensive use and exposure information on the most widely used chemicals in the United States.

Companies are now required to provide information on chemicals used in children’s and other consumer products, along with reports on commercial applications and industrial uses of chemicals. For the first time ever, EPA also required companies to substantiate confidentiality claims in order to ensure that as much information as possible is made available to the public.

"The 2012 Chemical Data Reporting information will help EPA and others better assess chemicals, evaluate potential exposures and use, and expand efforts to encourage the use of safer chemicals," said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson. "The CDR data also highlight the clear need for TSCA reform. Updating this critical law will ensure that EPA has access to the tools and resources it needs to quickly and effectively assess potentially harmful chemicals, and safeguard the health of families across the country."

The CDR rule, the source of this new data, was issued under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The rule requires companies that manufacture or import chemicals to report manufacturing and import data every four years when site-specific production volume exceeds 25,000 lb. This report is for calendar year 2011. The EPA received reports on 7,674 chemicals, including 354 that were reported as used in children’s products. 1,704 chemicals were reported as used in consumer products and 3,073 were used in commercial applications or products. The remaining chemicals reported were for industrial use only. The CDR information includes data on chemicals that are used in children’s products such as toys, playground and sporting equipment, arts and crafts materials, and textiles and furniture.

Chemicals used in consumer products, particularly those intended for children, present potential for direct exposure to the public and are priorities for assessment by the agency. Although reporting on these chemicals is compulsory, currently there are no requirements under TSCA that existing chemicals be evaluated for safety.

Yet EPA has taken action and begun a process to ensure that chemicals used by the public on a daily basis are safe. The process identifies potential chemicals for near-term review and risk assessment under TSCA. In 2012, EPA released a work plan of 83 chemicals for further review as part of the agency’s existing chemicals management program. From that list, seven chemicals were identified for risk assessment development in 2012 and 18 for assessment in 2013 and 2014. In January, 2013, EPA released for public comment and peer review an initial set of draft risk assessments of five chemicals for particular uses found in common household products