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Speier touts 15 amendments to Pentagon budget

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, is touting 15 amendments she successfully attached to the Pentagon’s budget during an Armed Services Committee markup session Wednesday, 11 of which deal with sexual assaults in the military.

Jackie SpeierSpeier’s amendments would make it easier to track military sex offenders after they leave the service; make more records public from courts-martial; require that military sex-offense victims be advised a special counsel is available to them before they’re interviewed by investigators; make those special counsels available to former dependents of current and former servicemembers; and ensure those special counsels can represent the victims if they face retaliation for reporting crimes.

Other amendments would give military sexual assault victims access to hearing officers’ case analyses at the same time they’re delivered to the alleged offenders; require the Defense Department to prepare a complete trial record for all courts-martial, regardless of the verdict or sentence; require retention of investigators’ case notes for at least 50 years; and require the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office‘s annual report to include statistics on sexual harassment, sexual assaults related to domestic violence, and retaliations against those reporting sexual assaults.

Still others would let victims take part in proceedings where their attackers are non-judicial punishment or administrative separation, with access to those proceedings’ records; and would direct the Defense Department Inspector General to review cases in which those who’ve reported sexual assaults leave military service.

“This collection of reforms will make the Uniform Code of Military Justice more fair and responsive to victims of military sexual assault,” Speier said in a news release. “We are nowhere near eliminating this epidemic, but today we have made concrete progress toward adopting a modern military code that treats victims with the respect they deserve.”

Speier also successfully amended the military spending bill to let veterans who change their gender identity after leaving the service update their discharge papers to reflect their new name, so the documents are easier to use for official purposes such as job, college and loan applications. Other amendments would guarantee that servicewomen deployed for long periods of time are dispensed enough of whatever contraception their doctor prescribes to cover their full deployment; and would make reduce the burden of proof for whistleblowers to show that they suffered retaliation for their actions, bringing it in line with civilian court standards.

Speier didn’t win on everything, however. The committee killed her amendment to shift $589 million (out of a proposed $1 billion) away from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and into an equipment account for the National Guard and Reserves.

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Tauscher to chair new Governor’s Military Council

Gov. Jerry Brown probably believes it’s fine for the nation to speak softly, but he’s enlisting a former East Bay Congresswoman to ensure California remains part of its big stick.

Ellen TauscherBrown today appointed former East Bay Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher to chair a new Governor’s Military Council, tasked with protecting California’s military installations against the deep budget cuts being made by the Pentagon under the sequestration approved by Congress and President Obama.

“California plays a crucial role in our nation’s defense, and military bases and activities are vital to our state’s economy,” Brown said in a news release. “As federal priorities shift to cyber security and new military technology, this Council will work to expand defense-industry jobs and investment in California.”

California is home to 29 federal military installations, and the Defense Department directly employs more than 236,000 people in California. This new council will work to protect those installations and operations amid ongoing Defense Department budget cuts, and to push for changes in federal military strategy that will keep California at the front of defense innovation.

“California’s military infrastructure is critically important to national security,” Tauscher said. “The Council will send a unified message to Washington, D.C., that highlights the value of our military bases.”

Tauscher, 61, represented her East Bay congressional district from 1997 until 2009, when she resigned to take a post as U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs; she left that post in February 2012. More recently, she served as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Strategic Stability and Missile Defense and Vice Chair-Designate of the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security. She is now a strategic advisor to the Baker Donelson law firm in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., noted defense is key sector of the state’s economy.

“With federal budgets continuing to be cut — including many defense programs — it is my hope that the Governor’s Military Council will help protect jobs and investments and attract new missions associated with California’s military presence,” she said. “I also believe that Ellen Tauscher is an excellent choice to chair this council, as she brings a wealth of experience at the State Department and as a member of the House of Representatives.”

The council will convene for one year and draft specific recommendations to the governor and Legislature. It includes retired admirals and generals from all military branches, the Adjutant General of the California National Guard and lawmakers selected by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez. The appointments don’t require Senate confirmation and there is no compensation.

See the full roster of council members as described by the governor’s office, after the jump…
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Local House members seek targeted defense cuts

Three Bay Area House members were among a bipartisan contingent that asked President Obama and congressional leaders Monday to find targeted but substantial cuts in defense spending as part of the “fiscal cliff” negotiations.

The letter’s 22 signatories included Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-San Rafael; and Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell.

“The Pentagon’s budget has increased dramatically over the last decade, due in large part to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq,” they wrote. “As we transition from wartime to peacetime, and as we confront our nation’s fiscal challenges, future defense budgets should reflect the conclusion of these wars and acknowledge that our modern military is able to approach conflicts utilizing fewer – but more advanced – resources. Congress must consider these changes, not past spending or percentages of GDP, and move toward defense budgeting that focuses on meeting specific military requirements.”

The letter noted the Cato Institute, Taxpayers for Common Sense, the National Taxpayers Union, the Project on Defense Alternatives have released plans to save up to $550 billion in defense spending without harming national security.

The sequestration scheduled to hit in January – enacted under the mid-2011 budget deal that ended that summer’s debt-limit standoff – will mean $110 billion in cuts, split evenly between defense spending and discretionary domestic spending. But these are across-the-board cuts, affecting all programs regardless of utility; lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see this as surgery with a chainsaw rather than a scalpel.

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Obama, Romney, Biden & Ryan on 9/11

President Barack Obama, at the Pentagon (excerpt):

“This anniversary allows us to renew our faith that even the darkest night gives way to a brighter dawn. Today, we can come here to the Pentagon, and touch these names and kneel beside a building where a single stone still bears the scars of that fire. We can visit the field of honor in Pennsylvania and remember the heroes who made it sacred. We can see water cascading into the footprints of the Twin Towers, and gaze up at a new tower rising above the New York skyline.

“And even though we may never be able to fully lift the burden carried by those left behind, we know that somewhere, a son is growing up with his father’s eyes, and a daughter has her mother’s laugh — living reminders that those who died are with us still.

“So as painful as this day is and always will be, it leaves us with a lesson that no single event can ever destroy who we are. No act of terrorism can ever change what we stand for. Instead, we recommit ourselves to the values that we believe in, holding firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.

“That’s the commitment that we reaffirm today. And that’s why, when the history books are written, the true legacy of 9/11 will not be one of fear or hate or division. It will be a safer world; a stronger nation; and a people more united than ever before.”

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, in a statement:

“Eleven years ago, evil descended upon our country, taking thousands of lives in an unspeakable attack against innocents. America will never forget those who perished. America will never stop caring for the loved ones they left behind. And America shall remain ever vigilant against those who would do us harm. Today we again extend our most profound gratitude to our brave troops who have gone into battle, some never to return, so that we may live in peace. On this most somber day, those who would attack us should know that we are united, one nation under God, in our determination to stop them and to stand tall for peace and freedom at home and across the world.”

Vice President Joe Biden, at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. (excerpt):

“My hope for you all is that as every year passes, the depth of your pain recedes and you find comfort, as I have, genuine comfort in recalling his smile, her laugh, their touch. And I hope you’re as certain as I am that she can see what a wonderful man her son has turned out to be, grown up to be; that he knows everything that your daughter has achieved, and that he can hear, and she can hear how her mom still talks about her, the day he scored the winning touchdown, how bright and beautiful she was on that graduation day, and know that he knows what a beautiful child the daughter he never got to see has turned out to be, and how much she reminds you of him. For I know you see your wife every time you see her smile on your child’s face. You remember your daughter every time you hear laughter coming from her brother’s lips. And you remember your husband every time your son just touches your hand.

“I also hope — I also hope it continues to give you some solace knowing that this nation, all these people gathered here today, who are not family members, all your neighbors, that they’ve not forgotten. They’ve not forgotten the heroism of your husbands, wives, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers. And that what they did for this country is still etched in the minds of not only you, but millions of Americans, forever. That’s why it’s so important that this memorial be preserved and go on for our children and our grandchildren, and our great-grandchildren, and our great-great-grandchildren — because it is what makes it so exceptional. And I think they all appreciate, as I do, more than they can tell you, the incredible bravery your family members showed on that day.”

Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., in a statement:

“Eleven years ago today, from Capitol Hill, I could see the smoke rising from the fires burning in the Pentagon. Like all Americans, I will never forget the moment that our homeland came under attack. For me, this is a day to remember those who perished on that day of terror, including the first responders. It is also a day to pay tribute to all those who have worked quietly and tirelessly both on the home front and abroad to prevent a repetition of such terrible events. And it is a day to give honor to those in our military who have sacrificed so much, including their lives, for the same end. Their courage and heroism and willingness to answer the call of duty have kept America safe and strong and free. We are truly the home of the brave.”

See what some Bay Area members of Congress have been tweeting about today’s anniversary, after the jump…
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What they’re saying about ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Bay Area members of Congress and California elected officials reacted with joy at today’s repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against openly gay and lesbian service members.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“Today, we celebrate the end of a discriminatory era against gay and lesbian service members in America with the official repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ For too long, this failed policy unfairly denied fundamental civil liberties to highly qualified individuals who wished to serve our country. As a Vice-Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality caucus, I am pleased that the tireless work of my Congressional colleagues, the Administration, and the LGBT community resulted in the end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’

“Although this is a remarkable step forward, we still have a long way to go to attain full equality for LGBT people. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people continue to be targets of discrimination in our policies, our laws, and our society.

“I have always said that discrimination is un-American and we, as a nation, must continue to fight for policies that bring us closer to fulfilling the principles we espouse. I encourage my constituents, my colleagues and our country to stay committed to ensuring that sexual orientation and gender-identity are no longer a cause for inequality.”

From Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove:

“Embedded in American patriotism is the hope and expectation that our country’s best days are still to come. Today, as we celebrate the end of the discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, I’m proud to say that America the country is one step closer to living up to America the idea.

“Since the founding of our great Republic, LGBT service members have selflessly fought and died in defense of our country. For too long, our country in return forced these brave heroes to live a lie in order to serve. This has led to thousands of dismissals and jeopardized national security by denying skilled Americans the opportunity to serve. As of today, this injustice is relegated to the dustbin of history – where it belongs.

“This is a day of celebration for gay and lesbian troops who can now serve openly, and for their families, who can now comfort their loved ones without fear. This is also a day of celebration for every American who believes that we must live up to our ideals. The leaders of the free world, the great defenders of democracy, should not promote policies that are discriminatory, harmful, and against the principles of a free and just society.

“Because of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, somewhere a young LGBT American is coming to the realization that the discrimination and barriers to equality they’ve grown up with are eroding. For people who have been marginalized all their lives, to know that someday soon they will no longer be excluded from their American dream can make all the difference in the world.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“Today, after nearly two decades of discrimination and injustice, the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy has officially come to an end. When this policy was put into effect, I said it was ‘just plain un-American.’ I am so grateful that equality, freedom and justice have won out over fear and prejudice. A barrier has been lifted, and our military and our nation will be stronger because of it.”

More, after the jump…
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Boehner-backed fighter spending shot down

Maybe Speaker John Boehner has found a way to unite the parties in his fractious House: by getting them to team up against $3 billion in defense spending that he supported for his home state of Ohio, even though the Pentagon doesn’t even want it.

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., yesterday offered an amendment to the House Republicans’ budget plan, HR 1, that would zero out spending on the develop a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. As the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank reports, the Pentagon is satisfied with the engine it has, made by Pratt & Whitney, and it doesn’t want the second engine, made by General Electric and others. Eliminating the second engine would save $450 million this year and some $3 billion over 10 years, a cut President Barack Obama supports and for which Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been advocating for years.

Rooney discussed the spending on the House floor yesterday:

Reps. John Larson, D-Conn.; Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga.; Chellie Pingree, D-Maine; and Tim Griffin, R-Ark., co-authored the amendment with Rooney. As ABC News notes, the main F-35 fighter engine is built by Pratt & Whitney in Larson’s home state of Connecticut; as the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald reports, Pingree’s district hosts a Pratt & Whitney plant that would gain jobs if that company was the sole contractor for the engine.

But, per Milbank, a GE plant that develops the second engine employs 7,000 people in Evendale, Ohio, near Boehner’s district, and so he has pushed to keep the funding.

Ultimately, the House today voted 233-198 to cut the spending, with no party lines in sight: 110 Republicans and 123 Democrats carried the day on this one. The only Bay Area member to vote against Rooney’s amendment was Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton.

UPDATE @ 0900 THURSDAY: McNerney spokeswoman Sarah Hersh just sent me this statement:

“As someone with years of experience in engineering, Congressman McNerney has a strong appreciation for the benefits of competition between manufacturers as well as the value of an alternate design in a project of this magnitude. Also, according to analysis by the Government Accountability Office, competition between multiple manufactures will likely yield savings in the long-run as well as reduce the risk of dependence on a single design produced by one manufacturer.”

Rooney had addressed this argument Wednesday in a news release:

By this argument, if two engine sources are better than one, then three or four or even ten would be better than two. Just like we cannot afford ten engines, we cannot afford two. Competition does not mean buying two of everything. If that were the case, every aircraft would have multiple source engines.

Secretary Gates has said, “Even after factoring in this unneeded finding, DoD’s cost Analysis and Program Evaluation (CAPE) estimates that the engine still requires a further investment of $2.9 billion to make this program truly competitive by FY17.

“The $2.9 billion cost is real and certain but the benefits of a second engine are not. CAPE has concluded that a second engine might provide savings if both engine vendors respond to competitive pressure and drive prices lower and the second engine supplier matches the F135’s vendor prices for the duration of the competition. The navy has stated they will only buy one engine to avoid having to maintain two different engines aboard a ship. While DoD favors competition where possible, in this case there would not be true competition between the engine vendors. Therefore, it is DoD’s strong judgment that these real costs outweigh the theoretical benefit.”