CHIEF SEEKS TO REDUCE TURBULENCE
Army Chief of Staff GEN Eric K. Shinseki announced at AUSA’s Annual Meeting in October that the Army will implement a series of policies and programs designed to reduce turbulence within the force. Job position turnover, absences and a lack of predictability create turbulence within the Army, according to Shinseki. The Army’s top officer instructed the U.S. Army War College (AWC) to make recommendations to reduce this turbulence. Highlights of the AWC’s recommendations include:
- increasing the Present Duty Assignment Reenlistment Bonus from three to 11 locations;
- establishing a three-year KFOR/SFOR rotation;
- expanding the Korea extension bonus to $2,000 and examining whether to establish more accompanied two-year tours in Korea;
- scheduling PCS moves during June/August for all soldiers with school-age children;
- increasing lead-time for PCS notification from 8-10 months to 12 months in advance of movement.
General Shinseki is also considering a policy that prohibits weekend work in garrison unless the first general officer in the chain of command approves the exception to give soldiers four-day weekends in conjunction with federal holidays. (From a U.S. Army News Release.)
SMA TILLEY AT AUSA’S ANNUAL MEETING
The Army will tackle the problems of pay, education, health care and retirement together and as a family, Sergeant Major of the Army Jack Tilley said at his senior NCO conference during AUSA’s Annual Meeting in October. Tilley told nearly 200 sergeants major that pay ranks at the top of soldiers’ priority lists of problems that need to be fixed.
"We need to continue to focus on pay," Tilly said, but there are other quality-of-life and family issues that also need to be addressed. In one critical issue - health care - Tilley said DoD and the Army are doing more to get the word out about changes in the military’s health care system.
"As professional noncommissioned officers, you need to know what your responsibilities are," said Tilley. "We have to, as a noncommissioned corps, focus on what’s important to our soldiers," he said, referring to what he called "basic fundamentals." These fundamentals include family support, education, financial planning and discipline - responsibilities that help make a soldier successful. Tilly said the Army’s University Access Online initiative is on track and the first soldier should enroll in January 2001. "We’re trying very hard" to push for education and also provide schooling for soldiers’ spouses.
As for retirement, soldiers need to know more about financial planning earlier in their careers, Tilley said. "We need to talk more about financial planning." In order to keep Army leaders in tune with what concerns soldiers have, Tilley plans to hold a focus group meeting in January 2001 that will find six or seven pressing issues he intends to focus on during his tenure.
Tilley, former Central Command Sergeant Major, told the senior noncommissioned officers in attendance "to be proud about everything you do and know what your responsibilities are, and the Army will find the way to solve the issues facing soldiers. [The Army is] a family; we’re going to do this all together."
NEW CSM FOR RESERVE AFFAIRS
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen announced recently that Army National Guard Command Sergeant Major John J. Leonard, Jr. has been selected as the sixth senior enlisted advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. Leonard will serve as the principal enlisted advisor for all seven branches of the U.S. military reserve components. Since 1997 Leonard has served as the Army National Guard command sergeant major. CSM Leonard reports to the Pentagon in November.
SENIOR NCO PROMOTION SEQUENCE NUMBERS FOR DECEMBER 2000
DECEMBER 2000 PROMOTIONS TO E-4 & E-5
Soldiers who are otherwise eligible and held recommended list status as of 31 October 2000 and who meet or exceed the cutoff scores at PERSCOM's Web site may be promoted 1 December 2000 as follows:
- To SSG primary zone: SGT with a BASD of 1 Dec 93 or earlier;
- To SSG secondary zone: SGT with a BASD from 2 Dec 93 to 1 Dec 96;
- To SGT primary zone: CPL/SPC with a BASD of 1 Dec 97 or earlier;
- To SGT secondary zone: CPL/SPC with a BASD from 2 Dec 97 to 1 Jun 99.
Eligible soldiers who meet the following criteria may appear before a promotion board in December 2000 as follows:
- To SSG primary zone: SGT with a BASD of 1 Feb 94 or earlier (82 months’ AFS);
- To SSG secondary zone: SGT with a BASD from 2 Feb 94 to 1 Feb 97 (81 to 46 months’ AFS);
- To SGT primary zone: CPL/SPC with a BASD of 1 Feb 98 or earlier (34 months of AFS);
- To SGT secondary zone: CPL/SPC with a BASD from 2 Feb 98 to 1 Aug 99 (33 to 16 months’ AFS).
Promotions in November numbered 3,740, according to PERSCOM. The list authorizes promotions as follows:
- 2,500 to sergeant;
- 660 to staff sergeant;
- 350 to sergeant first class;
- 170 to master sergeant;
- 60 to sergeant major.
Despite these promotions, PERSCOM designated 44 MOSs as experiencing a shortage of sergeants for the month. More soldiers could have been promoted to staff sergeant as well in an additional 13 shortage specialties if there had been more soldiers on a standing promotion list, according to PERSCOM.
MASTER SERGEANT PROMOTION BOARD
A DA selection board is scheduled to convene at the Enlisted Records and Evaluations Center (EREC), Indianapolis, IN, on 30 January 2001 to consider soldiers for promotion to master sergeant. In addition, the board will review SFC records for possible bar to reenlistment and subsequent separation under the Qualitative Management Program (QMP).
The board will consider all eligible sergeants first class with DOR of 31 Jul 98 and earlier with a BASD between 1 Jan 78 and 30 Jan 93 (both dates inclusive). Primary zone DOR is 31 Jul 97 and earlier. Secondary zone is 1 Aug 97 through 31 Jul 98.
For QMP consideration, the board will review all sergeants first class with DOR of 31 Jul 98 and earlier and BASD of 1 Jan 78 or later.
RESERVE COMPONENT DENTAL BENEFITS
National Guard and Reserve families will be included as beneficiaries of the new TRICARE Dental Program (TDP) beginning 1 February 2001. The new feature allows National Guard and Reserve members called to active duty in support of contingency operations to sign their family members up for the TDP by excluding them from the mandatory enrollment period.
Under the current program, all military personnel are required to have at least 24 months remaining on active duty to enroll in the TRICARE Family Member Dental Plan (TFMDP). The new program will reduce this mandatory enrollment period from 24 to 12 months of service commitment. It also combines the TFMDP and the TRICARE Selected Reserve Dental Program (TSRDP). For National Guard and Reserve members, this means more covered services than were available under the TSRDP and a larger provider network.
NTC TO EXPAND
The Departments of Defense and Interior have agreed on proposed legislation to expand the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, CA. Advances in equipment, doctrinal changes, and future warfare scenarios have created a need for additional training land suitable for live maneuver training of heavy brigade-sized forces. When Fort Irwin was designed as the NTC in 1981, battlefield tactics employed equipment that could engage an enemy at ranges up to 12 miles. Today, the Army can engage the enemy at ranges up to 60 miles. The pace of tactical operations also has increased, from 10 to more than 25 miles an hour. Brigades and battalions are required to cover more ground than ever before, disperse and operate across wide areas, concentrate forces to conduct decisive combat operations, and then disperse again to fulfill diverse missions. These changes in battlefield tactics require the Army to obtain additional lands for training.
Under this new concept, the Army would seek the use of about 131,000 more acres for maneuver, including approximately 21,000 acres of Fort Irwin lands that are not currently being used for training.
GOOD NEWS FOR SOLDIERS SEEKING HIGHER EDUCATION
The new Veterans Benefits and Health Care Improvement Act of 2000 makes some important changes to the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) and Veterans’ Educational Assistance Program (VEAP). The new law provides a substantial increase in monthly payments for eligible veterans under the MGIB, and for eligible family members (spouses and children of veterans with permanent and total service connected disability or veterans whose death was service connected) under the Dependents’ Educational Assistance (DEA) program. It also gives some veterans (including some VEAP beneficiaries) who previously missed out on the GI Bill another chance to become eligible.
Effective 1 November 2000, MGIB monthly rates for full-time training will increase from:
- $522 to $650 for eligible veterans with three-year periods of service, and
- $449 to $528 for eligible veterans with two-year periods of service.
DEA monthly rates for full-time training will increase from $485 to $588 for eligible spouses and children.
Annual increases for both benefits will be effective on 1 October each year and will be based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases.
Other significant changes to educational benefits are included in the new law. To review them in their entirety, visit the Department of Veterans Affairs. Once there, click on "news" and select the appropriate subject. You may also call (toll-free) 888-442-4511.
More than $22,000 will be available next year to the children of active duty and retired servicemembers through the Commander William S. Stuhr Scholarship Fund. Five scholarships in the amount of $4,500 each will be given to the children of one member of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. To be eligible, applicants must be:
- a 2001 high school senior;
- ranked in the top 10 percent of class in junior and first half of senior years;
- active in extracurricular activities;
- able to demonstrate strong leadership potential;
- a bona fide dependent of an active duty or retired military member of any rank;
- planning to attend a four-year accredited college;
- prepared to attend the fund’s scholarship awards function in May or June 2001.
To obtain a scholarship application, send a written request with a self-addressed return envelope to: Executive Director, Comdr. Stuhr Scholarship Fund, 1200 Fifth Ave., Suite 9D, New York, NY 10029. Applications must be received by 15 February 2001.
ARMY UNIVERSITY ACCESS ONLINE
A major new education initiative designed to offer soldiers a wide variety of online postsecondary degrees and technical certificates. Planned program features include tuition assistance, books, fees for online courses, a technology package (laptop, printer, commercial Internet account, maintenance and warranty of equipment) and help-desk assistance.
The program will be implemented initially at three CONUS installations in January 2001 and will be subsequently expanded throughout the Army. Information on Army University Access Online as well as archived keynote addresses can be found at eArmyU.com.
PET OWNERS GET HELP
Servicemembers are getting help when they have to quarantine their pets during PCS moves. As of 1 October 2000, the government will contribute $275 to help defray the cost of quarantining pets. The payment is limited to costs associated with quarantining cats and dogs. (From an American Forces Press Service release.)
BENNING TESTING BUDDY SYSTEM
The Infantry Center at Fort Benning, GA, is testing a new program called the Buddy Team Assignments Program. The program is designed to help initial-term infantry soldiers through the first rough months of adjusting to Army life after training. The program is currently being tested only with soldiers in the "11M" or mechanized infantry MOS.
PERSCOM will work to ensure both soldiers are assigned to the same unit for at least six months. The Army Research Institute will track the soldiers’ progress to see if the attrition rate of those soldiers assigned to units with a buddy is lower than that of soldiers not assigned with a buddy. Approximately 2,400 test-group soldiers began arriving at duty stations in late August. Some of the soldiers are assigned as buddy teams and others are assigned individually to act as a control group.
The program is in line with Army Chief of Staff GEN Eric K. Shinseki’s guidance for reducing initial-term soldiers’ attrition rate to below 5 percent annually. (From an Army News Service release.)
CONSUMERS URGED TO CASH BONDS
The Bureau of Public Debt says retirees own billions of dollars in matured U.S. Saving Bonds - some 30 to 40 years old, some worth more than five times their fair value. To assist retirees in redeeming the bonds, the bureau is taking action to notify customers and to provide assistance in determining final maturity dates.
U.S. Saving Bond information is posted on the Public Debt Web site. It is designed to help owners determine the value of their savings bonds, final maturity dates, interest accural dates and yield information.
Retirees are urged to redeem old bonds at their local financial institutions. For more information, bond owners can call 800-487-2663 or write to Savings Bonds, Attn: Old Savings Bonds, Parkersburg, WV 26106-1328.
The FY 2000 National Defense Authorization Act required all services to start tracking individual deployments with the start of FY 2001. The act clarified the deployment definition of the management approval authorities and authorized payment of $100 per diem to each servicemember deployed more than 401 days within a rolling 730-day window.
Congress defined a "deployment day" as "any day which, pursuant to orders, the member is performing service in a training exercise or operation at a location or under circumstances that make it impossible or infeasible for the member to spend off-duty time in the housing in which the member resides when on garrison
duty at the member’s permanent duty station." What it does not count is disciplinary confinement, absence without leave, schools, hospitalization, and leave in conjunction with a deployment event. Deployment tracking and per diem pay requirements apply to both the active and reserve components.
Soldiers may review their PERSTEMPO count on their leave and earning statements starting in the first quarter of FY 2001. A statement will appear on the end-of-month October LES to show where the PERSTEMPO information will appear in later months. (From an ArmyLINK News story.)
The Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) plans to mail all calendar year 2000 Army W-2s by mid-January 2001.
DFAS advises that some year-end adjustments will not be included in the original W-2 but will be included in a corrected W-2 (Form W-2C). If soldiers have reason to believe individual W-2 forms do not include all pertinent data and they have not received W-2C forms, they can call their servicing finance office. Separated soldiers can call military pay customer service at 888-PAY ARMY or commercial 317-510-2800.
This year’s Army National Guard W-2s and Student Loan Repayment Plan W-2s will be sent to the U.S. Property Fiscal Offices for distribution. Army Reserve personnel will continue to receive W-2s mailed to their address of record as they did last year. (From an ArmyLINK News release.)
STORM DAMAGES MTMC CARGO
A raging storm in the English Channel has damaged a portion of a Military Traffic Management Command (MTMC) cargo carrying servicemember’s possessions. The merchant vessel Faust encountered heavy weather on the afternoon of 5 November 2000, said Capt. Mike Frego, of MTMC. "They had hurricane force winds," said Frego. "At one point the ship rolled 32 degrees."
At the height of the storm, a U.S. Air Force vehicle came loose from its shackles, said Frego. It damaged several vehicles and then hit the side of a diesel fuel tank. The impact ruptured the tank, spilling 10 tons of diesel oil. Early damage reports indicate that some oil leaked on 85 of 261 privately owned vehicles stored on the lower decks. The vehicles were being shipped by MTMC to servicemembers in Europe. Additional damage from the diesel oil appears limited to the wooden support legs of 110 household-goods cases.
The ship loaded military cargo in both Charleston, SC, and Baltimore, MD, and was bound for Bremerhaven, Germany.
FAMILY READINESS GROUPS GUIDE
The U.S. Army Research Institute (ARI) for the Behavioral and Social Sciences has produced a short (29 pages plus appendices), user-friendly, self-contained handbook to assist company- and battalion-level Family Readiness Group (FRG) leaders in the operation of their groups. The Family Readiness Group Leaders’ handbook combines 20 years of research findings with what experienced FRG leaders at the Army War College, U.S. Army Europe and the U.S. Army Forces Command say works. It also contains lists of additional resource materials (other handbooks, films, research reports and Army regulations) and where to get them via the Internet, telephone or ordinary mail. Additional information is available by mail (from Director, U.S. Army Research Institute, 5001 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria, VA 22333-5600); telephone (commercial 703-617-8867 or DSN 767-8867).
MARINE CORPS SEEKING FAMILIES
Marine Corps officials are trying to reach 10,000 former residents of base housing at Camp Lejeune, NC, who may have been exposed to contaminants in the water supply prior to 1985. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a public health service agency, is attempting to survey previous on-base residents to determine if exposure to drinking water may be related to specific health concerns in children that were conceived during the time of exposure. The survey is seeking parents of those children born or conceived while living at base family housing at Camp Lejeune between 1968 and 1985.
To participate in this survey, call the National Opinion Research Center at 800-639-4270 or 877-261-9782. The Marine Corps has also established a Web site for general information.
VA APPLICATIONS GO ONLINE
Veterans can now apply for benefits and health care online with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Two new systems will allow veterans quick, easy and secure access to apply for compensation, pensions, rehabilitation benefits and health care. Veterans can fill out and submit an Internet-based application. The application is automatically e-mailed to the VA health care facility selected by the veteran. VA employees register the data, print the form and mail it back to the veteran for signature. Veterans can also print out the completed form and mail it to a VA health care facility themselves.
"Veterans On Line Applications" (VONAPP) is for veterans who want to apply for compensation, pension and vocational rehabilitation benefits through the Internet. Completed applications are sent electronically to the veteran’s local VA office. Processing begins right away and veterans receive a response letting them know the status of their application.
Later this year, VA plans to offer education applications on the Internet. Currently, veterans attending school under the Montgomery GI Bill can make their monthly certification of enrollment online.
VA LINKS AGENT ORANGE AND DIABETES
Vietnam veterans with Type-II diabetes will now be eligible for disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) based on their presumed exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides. The decision follows the latest in a series of reports by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) examining the impact of herbicide exposures on veterans’ health. Based on new information, IOM researchers found "limited/suggestive" evidence of an association between the chemicals used in herbicides during the Vietnam War and adult-onset (Type-II) diabetes.
VA officials cautioned it will take several months to write the rules before Vietnam veterans with diabetes can begin applying for disability compensation. They can, however, enroll in VA’s health care system immediately and begin receiving the care they need.
Additional information regarding medical care and compensation for veterans is available by calling 800-827-1000. Information is also available at VA’s website.
POV SHIPMENT PROCEDURES CLARIFIED
Military personnel who want to ship vehicles overseas must now present an original certificate of title or a certified copy of the title, according to U.S. Customs Service regulations. If the vehicle is leased or has a lien, the shipper must also present a letter from the lienholder authorizing shipment. Vehicle Processing Centers (VPCs) will no longer ship POVs to overseas locations without the title and lienholder release letter.
Center personnel have been instructed to hold POVs for no more than 30 days while the party secures the release from the lienholder. These procedures will remain in effect until 31 December 2000. Thereafter, VPCs will reject all POVs without the required documentation.
For more information, contact U.S. Transportation Command at commercial 618-229-1985 or DSN 779-1985.
With the signing into law of the Fiscal Year 2001 Defense Authorization Bill, military retirees have won a huge victory in their fight to obtain health care for life. AUSA is proud to have been at the front of the formation fighting for these advances.
The bill restructures the military health care program and provides permanent lifetime TRICARE eligibility to Medicare-eligible military retirees and their family members beginning 1 October 2001.
There will be no copays or deductibles and no TRICARE enrollment fees or premiums. Enrollment in Medicare Part B will be required. TRICARE will become the second payer after Medicare, and the first payer for Medicare-eligible individuals living overseas.
Further, the bill expands the Department of Defense mail-order and network retail pharmacy programs to allow participation by all beneficiaries, including Medicare-eligible military retirees, their eligible family members and survivors, without enrollment fees (out-of-network pharmacy use requires a $150 per year deductible).
TRICARE-Prime Remote coverage is extended to family members of active duty personnel. The bill also eliminates copays for all active duty family members covered under TRICARE-Prime.
The maximum out-of-pocket annual expense for TRICARE beneficiaries is reduced from $7,500 to $3,000 annually. DoD will be authorized to reimburse beneficiaries who travel more than 100 miles to obtain primary health care.
A 3.7 percent pay raise will be effective 1 January 2001, as will a reduction in out-of-pocket housing costs leading to a zeroing of out-of-pocket housing costs by 2005.
The raise is above the rate of inflation, but AUSA notes that it falls short of the amount needed to close the pay gap in a time frame we consider reasonable. Also included is pay table reform for grades E-5 through E-7, beginning July 2001.
A targeted subsistence payment, up to $500 per month, is included for the most economically disadvantaged personnel (principally those living on food stamps).
Impact aid for school districts with military and federal children was reauthorized at $35 million.
The Special Supplement Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, will begin at some locations overseas in early 2001. By mid-2001, WIC is scheduled to be available at most other overseas duty stations that have suitable medical facilities and commissaries. The program focuses on low-income pregnant women, new mothers, infants and toddlers.
SPECIAL ALLOWANCES FOR FOOD STAMP ELIGIBLES
Servicemembers currently receiving food stamps may soon be eligible for a special DoD subsistence allowance. The Floyd D. Spence National Defense Authori-zation Act for Fiscal Year 2001 allows for a cash allowance in the amount of the food stamp allotment or $500, whichever is less, said Navy Capt. Elliott Bloxom. According to Bloxom, DoD’s director of military compensation, the allowance is scheduled to begin in spring or summer 2001.
"For instance, if a person gets $350 a month in food stamp allotments, he would get a $350 cash payment," Bloxom said. Individuals who receive more then $500 in food stamps would get $500 cash.
There is one major caveat to this example, Bloxom said. The value of base housing will be added to the income of members in computing their eligibility for the new allowance. "For example, for someone living in government quarters in Jacksonville, Florida, we’d have to count the value of what somebody in Jacksonville at that pay grade and dependency status would get in [basic allowance for housing] into determining whether they would still be eligible for food stamps, and what their allotment would be if that value counted," Bloxom explained.
Receiving the special subsistence allowance doesn’t disqualify an individual from receiving food stamps, although it could lower the member’s food stamp entitlement because it’s paid in cash. "We believe that many people will receive the special subsistence allowance of a cash value and still be eligible to receive food stamps. Based upon their additional income, their food stamp allotment may go down somewhat but not to zero," Bloxom said.
DoD does not keep track of individual servicemembers receiving food stamps, but officials estimate there are currently about 5,000. Bloxom said compensation experts estimate this new allowance will remove about 500 of those from the food stamp rolls. (From an American Forces Press Service release.)
ABSENTEE VOTING SURVEY.
DoD is surveying military absentee voters in an effort to improve the program for the next election cycle. Voting officials sent surveys to a random sample of U.S. citizens on 6 November 2000. The survey asks for the opinions and experiences of military personnel and other federal employees. Participants have the option of filling out the paper version of the survey or responding to the survey over the Internet. The website access information is provided on the survey.
Refer questions to Elaine Perna, 703-588-1584 or DSN 425-1584, or visit the Federal Voting Assistance online.
NCO UPDATE is published bimonthly by the AUSA Institute of Land Warfare to help senior Army noncommissioned officers keep up to date on matters affecting the military profession and to better inform their soldiers. Reproduction is encouraged.
MSG (Ret.) George E. Ehling, Sr., Editor
Lori Johnston, Production
CSM (Ret.) Jimmie Spencer, Director, NCO and Enlisted Affairs
2425 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington VA 22201-3385
Phone 800-336-4570, ext. 632, or 703-907-2632