Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Reserve Soldier and Federal employee

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has just issued a decision that should be looked at carefully by any current or retired federal employee who took military leave for reserve activities. (Hernandez v. Department of the Air Force, C.A.F.C. No. 2006-3375, 8/27/07) This decision has implications for most Military technicians, and Federal employees that were also Reservist prior to 1994.

Under federal law, federal employees who are in the reserves get 15 days of military leave per year with the ability to carry over up to 15 days of unused military leave into the following year. (5 U.S.C. §6323(a)(1)) For many years it was the government's practice to charge every day that a reservist was on active duty to the 15-day military leave account, even if part of it occurred, say, on a weekend when the federal employee was not usually scheduled to work. For example, 1 week of reserve activity that included Saturday and Sunday when the employee was not scheduled to work his/her civilian job anyway, was charged 7 days of military leave. (Opinion, pp. 1-2)

This was accepted practice that affected many Federal employees serving as Reserve soldiers, including me. Federal Employees, including Military Technicians, lost two days of military leave every Annual Training – if we had to complete more that 15 days of active duty in a year we were faced with LWOP for the balance or had to use our annual leave. Prior to this decision – anyone in this position could only recoup the difference incurred back to 1994 – that may now have to change to periods before 1994.

The difficulty in gaining relief will be to document service for many of us – most of the records from the eighties were paper related and often in previous agencies or organizations making this a difficult task. The other facet of this case affecting collection of the necessary documentation is the use of discovery action pressed upon the agency rather than the employee to get the pay records for the affective periods – in this case back to 1980.

The practice was widespread and the requirement of the agency to determine the amount of relief in essence will likely drive some sort of process or settlement plan for Reservist that were also federal employees prior to 1994 – keep your eyes posted here for developments.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Petraeus notes Iraqi situation

The time we have left as a country to make positive changes in Iraq is quickly expiring. Gen Petraeus is heading a last hour charge by our forces to secure the country and contain the multiple threats and opportunist that continue to jockey for position. Gen Petraeus has a military task of incredible complexity but he is engaged by the problem of the Iraqi Government performance deficit to date. He has recently issue the warning that crosses that military/political divide when he said

If the Iraqi security forces, the Iraqi people, the Iraqi political leaders can demonstrate that there should be hope for them making the most of the opportunity, that our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines are fighting to provide them, indeed there could be time put on the clock, kept on the clock to enable this endeavor to go forward,"
Results of the emergency political summit going on in Baghdad will be critical, he said. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki called on Iraq's top Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders to meet this week in an effort to stabilize what Gen. Petraeus referred to as "political crisis."

"That's the situation we're in right now. We are waiting to see what the political leaders accomplish at the big summit that is ongoing in Baghdad," he said. "We need to see now: 'What is the progress made? ... And does that indeed point to a path that will take them forward?'"Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, said in an interview Aug. 17 with Soldiers Radio and Television's Gail McCabe.

What is noteworthy in this type of dialogue is that Gen Petraeus is continuing the question he has been quoted in past – “where does this all end”. While the Iraqi people must decide where it all ends and what steps to change or energize their leaders are needed we remain engaged as a military force and will struggle to meet a mission accomplishment that is not clearly defined.

General Petraeus is pressing for a political solution which is instrumental to any success in Iraq – not the forte of the Military but an absolute necessity to our battle plan.

As a country we must decide where we want our interaction with Iraq to end. Do we resolve to suffer the pains of a burgeoning democracy with its cost to our soldiers or do we want to abandon the quest to democracy in Iraq and allow the rival factions to immerse the country into anarchy and a cloudy future. While General Petraeus is bravely stepping out of the military realm to push the Iraqi Government to action we must decide if we are willing to give that government time to figure out how to efficiently run a government that is able to secure its people.

Petraeus is exhibiting an extrodinary amount of candor and demonstrates his acummen for results... his efforts are admirable... and I wish him success in gaining results from the Iraqi government.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Update on My Baby in Basic

My daughter graduated High School last June and shipped to Basic training on 2 July. As her father I remain pleased with her graduation and applaud her choice to go into the Army in the footsteps of her Father. I know the risks of deployment for her with her unit and accept that she knows I will worry about her no matter what course she takes.

To those that have inquired – she is doing well, having mastered the routine and come to grips with the Drill Sergeants and the regimen. My daughter was a typical American girl – she no doubt misses the mall, TV and freedom for the moment. Her biggest dream at the moment is sleep, some candy (seems that is very restricted in the first couple weeks) and to come home. She comments on how the battle buddy concept works and the team building that goes on. It seems she is being transformed from individual centric into a team member.

She has also noted the development of muscle, strength and endurance… it seems the individual is getting improved as well in a whole spirit and body manner that has to be experienced to be known. She isn’t being brainwashed, I assure you, just accepting that she can maintain some individuality and be a better team member.

Finally there has been an evolving sense of anticipation that she is serving her country. A calling that she heard as a whisper when she signed up, but has come to hear in greater volume since starting down the path as a Army Reserve Soldier. I am still so proud of the service I was privileged to provide and am gratified that the process works to this day to transform young people into soldiers.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Weapons Issue Conspiracy?

The press and conspiracy theorists are all over the GAO issued 31 Jul 2007 report, "DOD Cannot Ensure That U.S.-Funded Equipment Has Reached Iraqi Security Forces,"

The GAO report states:

Although the former MNSTC-I commander reported that about 185,000 AK-47 rifles, 170,000 pistols, 215,000 items of body armor, and 140,000 helmets were issued to Iraqi security forces as of September 2005, the MNSTC-I property books contain records for only about 75,000 AK-47 rifles, 90,000 pistols, 80,000 items of body armor, and 25,000 helmets. Thus, DOD and MNF-I cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor, and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces as of September 22, 2005. Our analysis of the MNSTC-I property book records found that DOD and MNF-I cannot fully account for at least 190,000 weapons reported as issued to Iraqi forces as of September 22, 2005.

Having been part of MNSTC-I in 2004-2005 I can offer the simple assessment of conditions found in the Fall of 2004 when large quantities of equipment were being pushed out to the Iraqi Forces. In that period – MNSTC-I was working in the middle of a war zone with few resources and personnel. We had lots of push to get forces up and operational under overly optimistic thoughts that training and equipping Iraqi forces would enable a quick exit from Iraq. Everything was a clamor to meet numbers demanded by arm chair press and congressional delegations without regard for the actual conditions on the ground.

Against that backdrop – Reserve soldiers thrown into the turmoil toiled night and day to take care of priority one – to issue equipment to all corners of the country. Set up and train the Iraqi Security forces quickly and provide Facilities, equipment, training and mentor the created from scratch organization to take over defense of the country.

Apparently orur J4 section did not always get a legible or “auditable” document from the Iraqi recipients…. Sorry… we did get enough forces equipped to hold elections and start to turn the corner in Iraq… Our tax dollars were not wasted – there is no sensational fraud or corruption…. We didn’t have the luxury of controlled conditions and software systems designed to help. I’m sure the briefed numbers of weapons issued may be slightly off as well – too bad… with the accuracy of 20-20 hindsight we could have attempted to do more… lesson learned… the truth is that this inaccuracy pales to the unaccounted equipment from other wars for this country – the difference now is the hostile press looks for every reason to criticize the effort and holds no account for the difficulty of the task…. Spend a day in the shoes perhaps would serve to cool the rhetoric.