Saturday, June 20, 2015

Weekly Presidential Address: Creating New Pathways of Opportunity for Americans Like You

The President Speaks at the Annual Meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors

First Lady Michelle Obama: 'This Father’s Day, I Hope All Americans Will Join Me in This Effort'

The following op-ed by First Lady Michelle Obama appeared in McClatchy Newspapers.

First Lady Michelle Obama: Banding Together To Serve US Military Dads
Two days before Father’s Day, I visited U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza, our military installation in northern Italy that is home to thousands of American service members and their families. For most Americans, the fathers and families who serve here probably aren’t very well known. Their incredible service often just doesn’t make it onto our radar.
So often, when we think of our men and women in uniform, we think of troops serving in a combat zone; families living on bases in California, Texas or North Carolina; or maybe a friend or neighbor who serves in the National Guard or Reserves.
But the fact is that we’ve got tens of thousands of military families stationed overseas in places like Germany, Korea and Japan. So this fall, thousands of military kids will start the school year on another continent, just hoping to make a few friends. Thousands of military spouses will put their careers on hold to move halfway around the world, worrying about whether they can keep their skills current for the job hunt when they return home.
For these families, being stationed overseas means they have to learn new customs and languages, and find their way around new parts of the world. For those at Vicenza, daily tasks like picking up supplies in town, taking a bus or planning a family outing can be a lot more complicated than they are back home. When a child has a fever or takes a fall, they have to speak to the doctor through a translator at the emergency room. When something happens back in America – a wedding, a funeral, a medical crisis – it takes a lot of time and money to get back to their families.
On top of all the usual challenges of leaving home and adjusting to a new culture, our troops in these places can be called at any moment to respond to threats or crises, often with just a few hours of lead time. And when that happens, their families serve right alongside them. Yet they never complain or ask for any special favors. They endure the stress of those deployments with courage and grace, celebrating milestones, birthdays and holidays with an empty place at the table. 
That was certainly the case in Vicenza where, just a few days before I arrived, many of the troops had recently deployed to Eastern Europe for three or four months. So Sunday, on a day when families across the country are spending time with Dad – cooking him his favorite meal, writing notes in those construction-paper cards, maybe getting together with Grandpa, too – many of the kids at Vicenza will be thousands of miles away from their dads.
We did our best to make their Father’s Day weekend special, teaming up with USO, Disney, Blue Star Families, Operation Shower and Glam4Good to hold a barbeque, give new books to kids on base and surprise expecting mothers with gifts for them and their babies. 
But supporting our military families simply cannot be just a one-day event. We need to serve these families every day, all year round. That’s why, four years ago, Dr. Jill Biden and I started Joining Forces, a nationwide effort to rally all Americans to honor and support our veterans, troops and their families.
And on this Father’s Day weekend, I want to challenge all Americans to ask themselves what they can do for our military families, especially those stationed overseas. You can start by going to or reaching out to organizations like USO and Blue Star Families that support our military families.
These families have given us so much – even if we don’t always see their service and sacrifice on TV or in the news. That’s why, as first lady, I’m working as hard as I can to honor their commitment and dedication to this country. It’s why I intend to keep serving these families long after my time as first lady ends. And it’s why I’m going to ensure that whoever follows our family into the White House continues to honor these incredible families – not just with words, but with real action that makes a difference in their lives.
So, this Father’s Day, I hope all Americans will join me in this effort – because together, we can serve our military families as well as they have served us.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Defense Department Briefing: Marine Corps Brigadier General Thomas Weidley

Marine Corps Brigadier General Thomas Weidley briefed reporters on operations against the ISIS* and the threats the militant group poses to Iraq, Syria, and the region.

* The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is a militant group that has called itself the Islamic State.

State Department 2014 Terrorism Report

Tina Kaidanow, Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism, briefed reporters and answered questions on the release of the State Department’s annual terrorism report.

Washington Journal: Clarence Page

Clarence Page talked about the implications of the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, the controversy over former Washington State NAACP official Rachel Dolezal, and the 2016 Democratic primary field.

West Wing Week: 06/19/15

Prayer Vigil for Charleston Church Shooting Victims

Members of Congress held a prayer vigil for the victims of the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Nine people were killed.

Source: C-Span

Senate Majority Leader McConnell on Charleston Church Shooting

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) spoke on the Senate floor about the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in which nine people were killed.

Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) are among the speakers at the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority conference in Washington, D.C.

Source: C-Span

"Flashback Friday": Ross Perot in 1992 on NAFTA and the "Giant Sucking Sound"

In the 1992 Presidential Debates, the participants were William Jefferson Clinton, George Herbert Walker Bush, and H. Ross Perot, the third party (Reform) candidate.

Today in History: June 19th

The FCC Fines AT&T $100 Million For Unlimited Data Plan

The commission is accusing the cell phone giant of slowing down internet access for certain customers.

Jessica Alba Urges Congress to Strengthen Laws on Chemicals Present in Everyday Products

The actress and business owner took to Capitol Hill to urge chemical law reform.

Notable Democrats Talk About Gun Control in Wake of Charleston Shootings

Gov. Nikki Hayley: Charleston Shooting 'An Absolute Hate Crime'

Coroner Releases Names of Dead in Church Shooting

Charleston Church Shooting Leaves Jon Stewart Jokeless

Jon Stewart apologized to his audience tonight for not having any jokes for them, as he just dropped the comedy to get serious about Charleston. He said, “I honestly have nothing, other than just sadness.”

Charleston Church Shooting Another Setback for Race Relations

EU Calls Crisis Summit After Greece Bailout Talks Fail

Source: Euronews

Right-Wing Danish People’s Party Makes Huge Gains in Election

Source: Euronews

Russia Threatens Retaliation as State Assets Seized Over Yukos Affair

Source: Euronews

NATO’s Latest Military Exercises Sends Clear Message to Russia

Source: Euronews

Egyptians Mark Ramadan with New Enthusiasm

Source: Euronews

Thursday, June 18, 2015

President Obama Praises Pope for Position on Climate Change

Statement by the President on Pope Francis’s Encyclical

I welcome His Holiness Pope Francis's encyclical, and deeply admire the Pope's decision to make the case - clearly, powerfully, and with the full moral authority of his position - for action on global climate change.

As Pope Francis so eloquently stated this morning, we have a profound responsibility to protect our children, and our children's children, from the damaging impacts of climate change. I believe the United States must be a leader in this effort, which is why I am committed to taking bold actions at home and abroad to cut carbon pollution, to increase clean energy and energy efficiency, to build resilience in vulnerable communities, and to encourage responsible stewardship of our natural resources. We must also protect the world's poor, who have done the least to contribute to this looming crisis and stand to lose the most if we fail to avert it.

I look forward to discussing these issues with Pope Francis when he visits the White House in September. And as we prepare for global climate negotiations in Paris this December, it is my hope that all world leaders--and all God's children--will reflect on Pope Francis's call to come together to care for our common home.

The President Delivers a Statement on the Shooting in South Carolina

The Bidens: 'We Will Never Forget Those Innocent Souls Who Lost Their Lives'

 A woman prays outside Emanuel AME Church shortly after the attack. David Goldman/AP

Statement by Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden on the Shooting in Charleston, South Carolina

Hate has once again been let loose in an American community. And the senseless actions of a coward have once again cut short so many lives with so much promise. Our hearts ache with sorrow with the entire Emanuel AME Church family as they seek solace and comfort in the shadow of a gunman’s act of pure evil and hatred. Our love and prayers are with them.

We last saw Reverend Clementa Pinckney less than a year ago at a prayer breakfast in Columbia. He was a good man, a man of faith, a man of service who carried forward Mother Emaunel’s legacy as a sacred place promoting freedom, equality, and justice for all. We pray for him and his sister as we do for the seven other innocent souls who entered that storied church for their weekly Bible study seeking nothing more than humble guidance for the full lives ahead of them. 

We have no doubt the coward who committed this heinous act will be brought to justice. But as a nation we must confront the ravages of gun violence and the stain of hatred that continues to be visited on our streets, in our schools, in our houses of worship, and in our communities.

As Mayor Riley made clear, all of Charleston’s heart bleeds today—but the overwhelming display of unity will bring forth the city’s healing. We will never forget those innocent souls who lost their lives. We will be there with all the strength and support and prayers we can offer to the families who now grieve. And as a nation we will come together.

Charleston Church Shooting: Suspect Dylann Roof Captured

Police have apprehended the suspected gunman who killed nine people at an historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Dylann Roof, 21, was caught Thursday following the deadly shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday night, according to sources.

Before the shooting spree, he asked for the church's pastor, the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, and sat among parishoners during a Bible study meeting, a survivor later told one of Pinckney's cousins.

He then opened fire on the gathering. 

Visit the NBC News website for updates on this breaking story. 

Source: NBC News

Charleston Shooting Suspect Identified by FBI as Dylann Roof, 21

The alleged gunman police say is responsible for killing nine people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church Wednesday night has been identified as Dylann Roof, 21, FBI sources say.

Charleston police also identified Roof, of Lexington, South Carolina, as the suspect.

The suspect opened fire on a bible study group at the historic predominantly black Emanuel AME Church on Calhoun Street, killing eight people in an "unfathomable" act of violence. One other person was rushed to the hospital and died. Police originally said two people were hospitalized.

Police said the alleged gunman, whom the mayor called a "horrible scoundrel," was inside the church attending the prayer meeting with worshipers for almost an hour. 

Visit the ABC News website for updates on this story. 

Source: ABC News  

Police Searching for the Gunman in the SC Shooting

Sharpton: '“I Am Shocked and Outraged About the Killing...'

Statement by the Rev. Al Sharpton on the Killing of Nine People at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC

NEW YORK – Rev. Al Sharpton, President of National Action Network (NAN), released the following statement on the shooting death of nine people at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina:

“I am shocked and outraged about the killing of nine innocent people at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. What has our society come to when people in a prayer meeting in the sacred halls of a church can be shot in what is deemed s possible hate crime?

“The Pastor of the church, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, worked closely with our National Action Network Chapter leader and our Vice President of Religious Affairs, Rev. Nelson Rivers. It is chilling to me that just over two months ago while I was in North Charleston over the police shooting of Walter Scott, I’m reminded that Rev. Pinckney was among the clergy who stood with me at that occasion and now he has fallen victim to senseless violence.

“We must do what we can to apprehend the killer and we must support the families involved in this tragedy. Demagoguery, increasing tension, and talk of violence will only make a mockery of what we face.” 

Politics in Action: S. 1558

S. 1558 – Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2016
(Sen. Cochran, R-MS)

The Administration strongly opposes Senate passage of S. 1558, making appropriations for the Department of Defense (DOD) for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016, and for other purposes.  The Administration supports investments essential to execute the President's national security and defense strategies, and appreciates the Committee's recognition that increased resources are needed for national defense.  However, the bill drastically underfunds critical investments in DOD's base budget and instead uses Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding for base requirements in ways that leaders in both parties have made clear are inappropriate.  Base budget sequestration levels will damage our ability to restore readiness, advance badly-needed technological modernization, and keep faith with our troops and their families.  Meanwhile, shifting base budget resources into OCO risks undermining a mechanism meant to fund incremental costs of overseas conflicts and fails to provide a stable, multi-year budget on which defense planning and fiscal policy are based.  The use of OCO funding to circumvent budget caps in defense spending also ignores the long-term connection between national security and economic security and fails to account for vital national security functions carried out at non-defense agencies.

In addition, the bill fails to support many of the needed force structure and weapons system reforms included in the President's Budget, and undermines a new Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round that would allow DOD to properly align the military's infrastructure with the needs of its evolving force.  The President's defense strategy depends on investing every dollar where it will have the greatest effect, which the Administration's fiscal year (FY) 2016 proposals will accomplish through critical reforms that divest unneeded force structure, slow growth in compensation, and reduce wasteful overhead.  The Committee's changes would constrain the ability of DOD to align military capability and force structure with the President's defense strategy, and would require the Department to retain unnecessary force structure and weapons systems that cannot be adequately resourced in today's fiscal environment, contributing to a military that will be less capable of responding effectively to future challenges.  The bill also includes unwarranted restrictions regarding detainees at Guantanamo Bay.  If the President were presented with S.1558, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.  

Enacting S. 1558, while adhering to the congressional Republican budget's overall spending limits for FY 2016, would hurt our economy and shortchange investments in middle-class priorities.  Sequestration was never intended to take effect:  rather, it was supposed to threaten such drastic cuts to both defense and non-defense funding that policymakers would be motivated to come to the table and reduce the deficit through smart, balanced reforms.  The Republican framework would bring base discretionary funding for both non-defense and defense to the lowest real levels in a decade.  Compared to the President's Budget, the cuts would result in tens of thousands of the Nation's most vulnerable children losing access to Head Start, more than two million fewer workers receiving job training and employment services, and thousands fewer scientific and medical research awards and grants, adversely impacting the pace of discovery and innovation, along with other impacts that would hurt the economy, the middle class, and Americans working hard to reach the middle class. 

Sequestration funding levels would also put our national security at unnecessary risk, not only through pressures on defense spending, but also through pressures on State, USAID, Homeland Security, and other non-defense programs that help keep us safe.  More broadly, the strength of the economy and the security of the Nation are linked.  That is why the President has been clear that he is not willing to lock in sequestration going forward, nor will he accept fixes to defense without also fixing non-defense.

The President's senior advisors would recommend that he veto S. 1558 and any other legislation that implements the current Republican budget framework, which blocks the investments needed for our economy to compete in the future.  The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress to reverse sequestration for defense and non-defense priorities and offset the cost with commonsense spending and tax expenditure cuts, as Members of Congress from both parties have urged.

The Administration would like to take this opportunity to share additional views regarding the Committee's version of the bill.

Department of Defense

Sequestration and Misuse of OCO Funds.  The Administration strongly objects to the sequestration-level for the appropriations in the bill for items that were requested in and belong in the base budget, as well as the use of OCO—a funding mechanism intended to pay for wars and not subject to the budget caps—to pay for $36 billion in base requirements.  Sequestration adds risk to our national security by threatening the size, readiness, presence, and capability of our military, and threatens the economic security on which our national security depends.  The Committee clearly recognizes that increased investment in defense is needed, but proposes to fund it by circumventing instead of increasing the budget caps.  This approach fails to provide the stable, multi-year budget on which defense planning is based; undermines a mechanism meant to fund incremental costs of overseas conflicts; locks in unacceptable funding cuts for national security activities at non-defense agencies such as the Departments of State, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs; and weakens national security by undermining the Nation's economic security.

Guantanamo Detainee Restrictions.  The Administration strongly objects to sections 8100, 8101, and 8102 of the bill, which would restrict the Executive Branch's ability to manage the detainee population at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba detention facility.  Sections 8100 and 8101 would prohibit the use of funds for the transfer of detainees to the United States and for the construction, acquisition, or modification of any facility to house Guantanamo detainees in the United States, except in accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA for FY 2016).  Section 8102 would restrict detainee transfers abroad in accordance with the NDAA for FY 2016.  The President has repeatedly objected to the inclusion of these and similar provisions in prior legislation and has called upon the Congress to lift the restrictions.  Operating the detention facility at Guantanamo weakens our national security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, and emboldening violent extremists.  These provisions are unwarranted and threaten to interfere with the Executive Branch's ability to determine the appropriate disposition of detainees and its flexibility to determine when and where to prosecute Guantanamo detainees based on the facts and circumstances of each case and our national security interests.  Sections 8100 and 8102 would, moreover, violate constitutional separation-of-powers principles in certain circumstances.

Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC).  The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress and MCRMC to improve our military compensation and retirement systems, and encourages the Congress to support the additional recommendations for which the Administration has transmitted legislation.  The Administration strongly supports enacting a Blended Retirement System, which would ensure that 85 percent of servicemembers receive Government contributions toward their retirement—compared to fewer than 20 percent under the current system, provide DOD with better tools to recruit and retain the All-Volunteer Force, and produce significant savings over the long term. The Administration looks forward to continuing to work with the Congress and MCRMC on other provisions, to meet our solemn responsibility to ensure that any changes protect the long-term viability of the All-Volunteer Force, improve quality-of-life for servicemembers and their families, and safeguard the fiscal sustainability of the military compensation and retirement systems.

Compensation Reform.  The FY 2016 Budget request provides the funding and common-sense reforms that will ensure that servicemembers receive competitive pay and benefits and critical training and equipment.  These proposals would save $1.7 billion in FY 2016 and $18 billion through FY 2020.  The Administration appreciates the Senate's support of DOD's efforts to slow the growth of basic pay and housing allowances and strongly encourages members of the Congress to support all of DOD's requested compensation reforms.

Prohibition on Conducting Additional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Round.  The Administration strongly objects to the proposed $10.5 million reduction to funds that would support a 2017 BRAC round.  This reduction would impair the ability of the Executive Branch to plan for contingencies or make other needed adjustments that would improve military effectiveness and efficiency.  The Administration strongly urges the Congress to provide the BRAC authorization as requested, which would allow DOD to right-size its infrastructure while providing important assistance to affected communities, freeing resources currently consumed by maintaining unneeded facilities.  In the absence of authorization of a new round of BRAC, the Administration will pursue alternative options to reduce this wasteful spending and ensure that DOD's limited resources are available for the highest priorities of the warfighter and national security.

A-10 Aircraft.  The Administration objects to the additional $467 million for unneeded A-10 aircraft, which is inconsistent with DOD's fiscal constraints and current priorities.  Funding the A-10 above the requested amount puts at risk the future health of the Air Force fighter enterprise and $4.7 billion in savings through FY 2019.  DOD needs to focus its resources on the Joint Strike Fighter and other multi-mission aircraft, which will replace the A-10's singular mission of close air support while also providing other critical capabilities.

Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI).  The Administration strongly objects to section 8106 of the bill, which limits the transfer of AH-64 Apache helicopters to 36 until 60 days after the release of the National Commission of the Future of the Army report.  This delay in transfers would negatively affect the Army's readiness and ability to prepare and deploy forces for ongoing operations.  The FY 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) established limitations on the ARI, but provided for the transfer of certain numbers of aircraft in time for congressional review of the report of the Commission on the Future of the Army before transfer of additional aircraft.  Delaying the transfer until the passage of the FY 2016 NDAA would damage the readiness of Army units in the 1st Infantry Division whose 24 AH-64s must transfer in October 2015, the 25th Infantry Division whose 24 AH-64s must transfer in February 2016, and the 10th Mountain Division whose 24 AH-64s must transfer in June 2016.  The remaining combat aviation brigades would bear the rotational burden of meeting current and projected operational requirements around the world, and would be forced to increase operational tempo and deploy-to-dwell ratios for these low-density, high demand units.  The National Guard Bureau has developed a plan for the transfer of the first 48 AH-64 Apaches as well as a plan to receive the first 20 UH-60 Blackhawks.  DOD's plan for the transfer of select numbers of aircraft between the components in FY 2016 is in compliance with the FY 2015 NDAA and is the same as the number of Apache aircraft (72) that the National Guard Bureau agreed to transfer in its aviation proposal.  These new limitations also would likely lead to a significant reduction of AH-64D inductions into the AH-64E remanufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona and affect supporting activities in Huntsville, Alabama, and elsewhere.  The Administration urges the Congress to permit the transfer of 72 Apache aircraft in FY 2016.

Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF).  The Administration strongly objects to the reduction of $1.1 billion of CTPF and the limitations imposed on the Fund, which would severely restrict the flexibility and resources required to empower and enable partners in responding to shared terrorist threats around the world.  For the CTPF to build partner capacity effectively, funds need to remain available for two years in order to support the acquisition of long-lead equipment some partner nations require.  Without the needed resources and multi-year flexibility, the important security assistance programs begun in FY 2015 would be in jeopardy.  The Administration strongly encourages the Congress to appropriate the $2.1 billion originally requested and remove unnecessary limitations to continue support for CTPF activities in FY 2016.

Rocket Engine Development.  The Administration strongly objects to the $144 million in unrequested and unnecessary funding for a new Government-developed rocket engine.  The Administration is committed to transitioning from non-allied engines; however, an engine-centric approach as provided for in this bill would not preserve the Nation's assured access to space.  While rocket engines are a major component of a launch vehicle, they are only one of many critical components.  Developing a rocket propulsion system independent of the rest of the space launch system risks the Government investing hundreds of millions of dollars without ensuring the availability of operational launch systems.  Sound systems engineering principles and over a half-century of launch vehicle design work demonstrate that a rocket propulsion system must be developed in conjunction with the rest of the space launch vehicle.  This unnecessary funding comes at the expense of more important programs, and would create ripple effects across the rest of the budget.

Defense Meteorological Satellite Program.  The Administration strongly objects to the elimination of all funding for the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP)-20 and its launch.  By 2017, only one DMSP satellite will be within its design life.  DOD has certified that this fully-built and recently-refurbished satellite is a cost-effective solution to the expected shortfall in polar-orbiting weather satellites, which the Government Accountability Office has chronicled in its High Risk List.  Because weather satellite data are shared among defense, intelligence, civil, and international users, eliminating this satellite would have broad implications, including reduced accuracy of weather prediction models and degraded efficiency of surveillance and reconnaissance platforms.

Unrequested Funding.  In this fiscally constrained environment, the Administration strongly objects to the billions of dollars provided for items that were not in the FY 2016 Budget request, offset by reductions to higher priority items that the military needs.  Unrequested items include $828 million for 10 extra Joint Strike Fighters (after assuming $409 million in uncertain program savings), $1.1 billion to reverse planned savings associated with compensation reform proposals, $1 billion of OCO funds for National Guard and Reserve Equipment, $1 billion in incremental funding for an Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) destroyer, $225 million to fund an additional Joint High Speed Vessel, $250 million of Advance Procurement funding for the Navy's amphibious warship replacement program, and $31 million to fund Operation Phalanx.  The Administration has made extensive efforts to assess, prioritize, and balance force capacity, capability, and readiness.  The FY 2016 Budget supports the defense strategy and rebalances the Joint Force for the Nation's current and future security challenges.  The Administration also objects to section 8006 of the bill, which places spending on unrequested items into statute.

Operation and Maintenance and Military Personnel Reductions.  The Administration objects to the billions of dollars of undistributed reductions in the bill across the operation and maintenance and military personnel accounts.  The operation and maintenance reductions would be applied to those programs that support readiness, depot maintenance, base operations support, and facilities sustainment, restoration, and modernization line items.  These reductions would delay the Department's full-spectrum readiness recovery efforts and increase the backlog of maintenance at the military departments' depot facilities.

Defense Health Program.  The Administration strongly objects to the $786 million reduction in Defense Health Program Operation and Maintenance funding.  Military medicine has had dramatic cost increases in FY 2015, and overall costs are projected to rise.  DOD has taken aggressive action, where possible, to address these cost increases.  However, ensuring the health of the force and their families, along with upholding our commitment to retirees will be increasingly difficult, absent sufficient funding at the level established in the President's Budget request.  Without funding at the level requested, the Department will be forced to reduce or eliminate needed medical support programs and initiatives.

Aircraft Carrier Replacement Program.  The Administration objects to the bill's $191.5 million reduction to the Department of the Navy's Aircraft Carrier Replacement Program, ship construction account.  This funding reduction would present unacceptable risk to CVN 80 being delivered on schedule and would result in a significant increase to the ship's cost.  With respect to previous Ford-class aircraft carrier funding profiles, CVN 80 incorporates a reduced advanced procurement funding profile thus exacerbating the impact of the proposed funding reduction to this ship.  A delay in delivering CVN 80 would result in unacceptable risk in the Department of the Navy's aircraft carrier force structure by causing a gap that reduces the force level below congressionally mandated requirements.

Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Mine Countermeasures Mission and Remote Minehunting System Packages.  The Administration objects to the proposed $104.5 million in reductions to LCS Mission Module procurement, including LCS Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Mission Package (MP), Remote Minehunting System (RMS), Shallow Water MCM and LCS Common Mission Modules Equipment programs.  These reductions would leave the programs with insufficient funds to procure needed MCM equipment in the quantity required to deploy LCS with MCM MPs in FYs 2018-2020, resulting in a warfighting gap in the Middle East.  The Navy would be required to extend operations of aging MCM class ships and MH-53 systems at additional operating and sustainment expense.  All testing will be completed prior to FY 2016 planned procurements.  The MCM MP reduction would also lead to increased unit costs in component mission systems impacting multiple production lines.  The Navy's procurement profiles carefully balance risk to meet testing needs and provide improved MCM capability to the Fleet.

MQ-4 Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle.  The Administration objects to the reduction of
$152 million from the Triton program that reduces the low rate initial production procurement by one aircraft in FY 2016 and associated advanced procurement for two aircraft.  In the FY 2016 President's Budget request the quantity of aircraft was reduced for FY 2016 and FY 2017 from four to three aircraft for each year.  Further reduction of the quantities to two aircraft each year would increase the aircraft cost by as much as 30 percent due to suboptimal economic order quantities.  In addition, this reduction would delay Triton Initial operational capability.

Joint Urgent Operational Needs Fund (JUONF).  The Administration objects to the elimination of the base funding request of $99.7 million.  This funding is critical to the Department's ability to quickly respond to urgent operational needs.  Eliminating these funds may directly lead to unnecessary risks to servicemembers and their ability to accomplish critical missions.

Missile Defense Programs.  The Administration objects to the $149.3 million in total funding reductions to ballistic missile defense programs.  The Administration opposes the $12.3 million reduction to the Command, Control, Battle Management and Communications program, which is needed to meet the President's European Phased Adaptive Approach Phase III, as well as the $22.4 million reduction to the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) program, which would negatively affect the warfighter by delaying delivery of automated engagement coordination between THAAD and Aegis by 12 months.  The Administration also opposes the Senate-proposed reduction of $63.8 million to missile defense technology development programs and $50.8 million for Missile Defense Agency (MDA) Special Programs that are needed to ensure the United States stays ahead of future ballistic missile threats.  These reductions would significantly harm MDA's ability to develop a mid-term discrimination capability, directed energy programs and other classified activities needed to defend friends and allies and address evolving threats against the homeland.

Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV).  The Administration appreciates the Committee's continued support of meaningful launch competition.  For example, section 8045 would improve assured access to space and provide significant savings to the taxpayer.  However, the Administration objects to the rescission of $125 million that would eliminate a competitive launch opportunity in FY 2015.  The Air Force is committed to increasing the number of competitions and the request for proposal is planned for release in FY 2015.  The Administration urges the Committee to support improving assured access to space and allow this competition. 

Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014 (DATA Act).  The Administration appreciates the Committee's support for the DATA Act by fully funding the FY 2016 Budget request for the Department of Defense to implement the Act.  This funding will support the Department's efforts to provide more transparent Federal spending data, such as updating information technology systems, changing business processes, and employing a uniform procurement instrument identifier.

Classified Programs.  The Administration looks forward to providing its views on the adjustments contained in the Classified Annex to the bill once it becomes available.

Additional Constitutional Concerns.  Several other provisions in the bill raise constitutional concerns.  For instance, section 8071 and language in title IX may interfere with the President's authority as Commander in Chief and section 8009 could interfere with the President's authority with regard to sensitive national security information.

The Administration looks forward to working with the Congress as the FY 2016 appropriations process moves forward.

The Youth Unemployment Crisis

Sen. Bernie Sanders details his youth job bill which would employ hundreds of thousands of young Americans.

Clip created by MyC-SPAN user Josh Miller-Lewis

Today in History: June 18th

Candidates Head to Washington to Court Evangelical Activists

A number of Republican presidential candidates will flock to Washington, D.C. over the next three days to court religious and conservative activists gathered for the Faith and Freedom Coalition.

The event is the latest in a series of GOP candidate confabs that have taken place in 2015. A number have already taken place in the early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. The most recent took place in Iowa earlier this month where current and potential candidates like Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rick Perry and Ben Carson tried to woo Hawkeye State voters at Sen. Joni Ernst's "Roast and Ride." 

Ex-Boy Scout Admits Killing Former Troop Leader Who He Says Raped Him

U.S. to Pay Benefits to Vets Exposed to Agent Orange in C-123s

Ending years of wait, the government agreed Thursday to provide millions of dollars in disability benefits to as many as 2,100 Air Force reservists and active-duty forces exposed to Agent Orange residue on airplanes used in the Vietnam War.

The new federal rule, approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, takes effect Friday. It adds to an Agent Orange-related caseload that already makes up 1 out of 6 disability checks issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The expected cost over 10 years is $47.5 million, with separate health care coverage adding to the price tag.

"Opening up eligibility for this deserving group of Air Force veterans and reservists is the right thing to do," VA Secretary Bob McDonald said in a statement. He planned to announce the decision in private meetings with veterans' organizations. 

Source: NBC News

Chad Bans Burqa After Two Suicide Bombings

Pro-Democracy Revolt Scuppers China’s Reform Plans for Hong Kong

Source: Euronews

Eurogroup Ministers Meet as Greece’s Future Hangs in the Balance

Source: Euronews

MERS Death Toll Reaches 23; WHO Says Rate of Infection Slowing

Source: Euronews

Record 59.5 Million People Displaced by Conflict Worldwide in 2014

The number of people displaced by war, violence, or persecution hit a record 59.5 million in 2014, the United Nations said in a report published on Thursday, amid an ongoing row amongst EU members on how to deal with an influx of migrants into Europe.

The figure, the highest ever recorded by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) since it was established in 1950, represents a 16 percent rise from the 2013 overall number of 51.2 million.

Source: Euronews

Bomb Blasts Rip Through Sanaa – ISIL Blamed

Four explosions rocked the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Wednesday killing at least 50 people.

Three car bombs targeted Mosques and a fourth struck a rebel headquarters.

militants claimed responsibility saying the attacks were in “revenge” against Shiite Houthi rebels who have overrun Sunni majority Sanaa.

Source: Euronews 

'Assange Can Spend Rest of His Life in Our Embassy', says Ecuador President

Julian Assange

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy for nearly three years under threat of extradition. Swedish prosecutors wish to question him about allegations of sexual assault, although he has never been charged.

In an interview with euronews, Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa said that Assange would always be welcome in the embassy, for the rest of his life in necessary. He added that the solution lies with the UK government, and called on them to grant him immunity adding, “If we had a European refugee in a European embassy in Quito, if we were to keep him three years without letting him stay, we would be called dictators, fascists. We would be brought in front of the International Criminal Court.”

It comes as a Swedish prosecutor cancelled an appointment to interview Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in the British capital on Wednesday, a move which Assange described as reckless. Prosecutor Mariane Ny said she had not received permission to enter the embassy. Speaking to euronews earlier on, Correa said that Sweden could have acted sooner to resolve the issue.

Full article and video available here:

Source: Euronews

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

White House Press Briefing

White House Spokesman Josh Earnest briefs reporters and answers their questions on a variety of topics, including an upcoming second House vote on Trade Adjustment Assistance legislation and a promised veto threat on the Defense Authorization bill.

Attorney General Lynch Investiture Ceremony

President Obama delivered remarks at a formal investiture ceremony for Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

U.S. House Debate on Troop Withdrawal from Iraq and Syria


The House debates and votes down 288-139 a resolution requiring U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq and Syria in the absence of a congressional vote on an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) resolution against ISIS.

Source: C-Span

Monetary Policy and the Economy

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen held a news conference following the quarterly Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting on current economic projections.

NY Reps Reach Agreement on Legislation to Protect and Support Nail Salon Workers

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie today announced that a three-way agreement has been reached on legislation that protects and supports workers in nail salons. 

The legislation authorizes the Department of State to shut down businesses that violate the law and establishes new opportunities for individuals to work while studying for their licensing exam.

“With this agreement, we are sending a message that exploitation in the workplace will not be tolerated in the State of New York,” said Governor Cuomo. 
“This legislation allows the State to crack down on bad actors in the nail salon industry and hold them accountable. It also streamlines the licensing process for workers so they can get the training they need to move forward professionally without being held hostage to their employers. Our actions will make the nail salon industry safer and fairer, and I am proud that New York is standing up to protect workers who cannot protect themselves.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said, “This legislation continues New York’s longstanding commitment to ensuring that its businesses foster a safe and healthy environment for both workers and consumers. I thank the Governor, Senator Venditto and our colleagues in the Assembly for helping us reach an agreement on this bill."

“It is our duty to pass legislation that ensures the safety and welfare of all New Yorkers,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. 

“Employees in all fields who are untrained, mistreated or underpaid deserve our support as we work to strengthen our economy and build a better, more equal New York.”

Senator Michael Venditto, Chair of the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection, said, “This legislation strikes the right balance by protecting the employees of nail salons from exploitation as well as our consumers. It requires the registration of a new class of employees who are going to be called nail specialty trainees. By giving employees the proper training and protecting them from unsafe working conditions we can in turn give our consumers peace of mind."

“Nail salon workers, like many people in low wage positions, can suffer exploitation that puts themselves and others at risk. While this is not a problem in all salons, statewide regulations are vital to ensuring the health and wellbeing of both the workers and patrons of nail salons,” said Assemblymember Ron Kim. 

“This legislation not only establishes those regulations, but also provides salon workers and operators with the training and resources they need to be successful.”

Many nail salon employees endure unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices. Inadequate ventilation, lack of personal protective equipment, non-payment of wages, nonexistent worker’s compensation coverage, missing business liability insurance, and the unlicensed operation of facilities jeopardize the health and safety of employees and patrons alike.

The agreement ensures the state’s ability to act swiftly in order to protect the public and provide employee justice by establishing:

Authority to Shut Down Businesses that Violate the Law: The legislation authorizes the Department of State to take immediate actions against a business that is not following the law. The Department may shut down a business by ordering the cessation of unlicensed or uninsured activities, and increases financial penalties for violations.

Traineeship for Workers: The legislation establishes new opportunities for unlicensed nail practitioners to register with the State as trainees, instead of relying on often prohibitively high cost education programs, so they may continue to work while studying for their licensing exam. With this tool, workers can more effectively obtain relevant training and explore opportunities in the industry without being held hostage to any employer.

Further, all nail salon workers are given access to the full range of resources available through the Department of Labor to find a job.

The legislation complements administrative and regulation changes announced by Governor Cuomo earlier this year. It supports the work of Governor Cuomo’s multi-agency task force, which has enforcement teams in the field to recover stolen wages and shut down the industry’s worst offenders, and a multilingual public outreach campaign targeted toward workers, employers and customers to ensure that all are educated on their rights, duties and responsibilities.