Naval Term of the Day

Posted: September 2, 2012 in Uncategorized
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'Bravo Zulu”. The term originates from the Allied Signals Book (ATP 1), which in the aggregate is for official use only. Signals are sent as letters and/or numbers, which have meanings by themselves sometimes or in certain combinations. A single table in ATP 1 is called "governing groups," that is, the entire signal that follows the governing group is to be performed according to the "governor." The letter "B" indicates this table, and the second letter (A through Z) gives more specific information. For example, "BA" might mean "You have permission to . . . (do whatever the rest of the flashing light, flag hoist or radio transmission says) "BZ" happens to be the last item in the governing groups table. It means "well done".

Sequestration

Posted: September 2, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Veterans’ health care funding may be exempt from automatic, across-the-board budget cuts that are due to begin in January, but military health care is not — and a new think-tank report says Congress would have to reprogram $3 billion from other Defense Department budget accounts to fully pay for military health care should the cuts occur. DoD personnel programs are exempt from the 10 percent cuts under sequestration, including basic pay, allowances for housing and subsistence, retirement pay, and bonuses. And the Budget Control Act of 2011, which set up the mechanism for cutting federal programs if a deficit spending agreement isn’t reached, also exempted veterans’ benefits. In April, the White House announced veterans medical care expenses also are exempt. But health care for military personnel and families, including Tricare, fall under DoD’s operations and maintenance programs and consequently could suffer as a result of the cuts, known as sequestration.
Total personnel costs in the Pentagon’s proposed fiscal 2013 budget are $168 billion, including funding for the defense health program. In that budget, Defense Department planners included several initiatives aimed at reducing personnel costs, including increased fees for military retirees receiving health care. But Congress has not supported the Tricare fee proposals or the Pentagon’s other personnel-related budget reduction measures in the fiscal 2013 legislative budget process. And that could affect readiness, said the new report from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. DoD “will have little choice but to reduce the number of personnel by more than is already planned or take deeper cuts in modernization or readiness,” wrote CSBA analyst Todd Harrison. “Over time this will limit the range of military options available and if left unchecked would eventually result in military too small or unprepared for even the most basic missions.” DoD Comptroller Robert Hale said Aug. 2 the department has “looked at impact assessments on Tricare … and they would be seriously hurt.” But he insisted the Pentagon is not making plans for sequestration.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta held a closed-door meeting July 23 to detail four possible scenarios facing the department regarding sequestration. The meeting was one of a series of high-level gatherings on sequestration by DoD officials and industry leaders. According to a source who attended, the scenarios the Pentagon is considering include:
 Congress does not act and sequestration happens.
 During the lame-duck session of Congress, a plan is constructed to thwart sequestration.
 Congress comes up with a $1.2 trillion plan to avert sequestration between now and the November election.
 Congress inserts language into a continuing resolution to stave off sequestration for a year or two, but the government still implements cuts, sometimes referred to as a “mini-sequester.”
[Source: The Leaf Chronicle Patricia Kime article 28 Aug 2012 ++]

THE BERLIN SPY TUNNEL

Posted: September 2, 2012 in Uncategorized
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OPERATION GOLD (U.S.)

OPERATION STOPWATCH (U.K.)

OPERATION REGAL (Joint)

The Berlin Tunnel operation was not a unique type of operation that was only run in Berlin. Prior to the Berlin Tunnel, the British ran a number of successful tunnel cable-tap operations in Vienna, which at the time of these operations, was still an occupied city, divided into four sectors just like Berlin. The British cable taps began in 1948, and ran until the occupation of Austria ended, restoring state sovereignty to the country in 1955. The Soviets had a tap near Potsdam on a cable that served the American Garrison in Berlin. What has made the Berlin Tunnel famous, while the cable-tap tunnels of Vienna and Potsdam have faded into obscurity is the paradox of intelligence operations which results in fame being a measure of failure and obscurity being a measure of success. The Berlin Tunnel’s true claim to fame, therefore, is that it gained front-page notoriety when the Soviets “discovered” it.
The ´Spy Tunnel´ exhibition in Allied Museum. The Official CIA history of the tunnel (prepared in August 1967 and declassified in February 2007) theorizes that the amount of publicity given to the Berlin Tunnel was the result of chance rather than of a conscious decision on the part of the Soviet leadership. During the planning phase of the tunnel, a consensus assessment had been reached which postulated that in the event of the discovery of the tunnel, the Soviet reaction would be to “suppress knowledge” of its existence, so as to save face, rather than have to admit that the West had the capability to mount such an operation. The CIA history of the project suggests that this expectation was defeated because the Soviet Commandant of the Berlin Garrison (who would normally have handled an event of this nature) was away from post at the time, and his deputy found himself in the position of having to make a decision about the tunnel “without benefit of advice from Moscow.”
AlliiertenMuseum/ Chodan
In his academic history of the Berlin Tunnel (Spies Beneath Berlin), David Stafford of the University of Edinburgh points out that, even though the tunnel was a joint American-British project, the British did not share in the limelight of publicity with the Americans when the tunnel was discovered. This was due, he says, to the fact that Soviet First Secretary Khrushchev was on an official state visit to the U.K.. The visit’s culmination, a visit to Windsor Castle and a reception by the Queen, was scheduled for the day following the discovery of the Berlin Tunnel. British participation in the project was officially hushed up by both the British and the Soviets so as not to spoil the success of the state visit. To this day British Intelligence Services are usually tight-lipped when it comes to discussions of the Berlin Tunnel, or any post-1945 intelligence operation for that matter, while the Americans have declassified the in-house history of the project and authorized one of its participants to include a chapter about it in a book on the Intelligence war in Berlin written in cooperation with one of the KGB veterans of that period (Battleground Berlin). The intelligence fame/obscurity paradox aside, the Berlin Tunnel operation was, in the words of Allen Dulles (then DCI), “one of the most valuable and daring projects ever undertaken” by the CIA. The Berlin Tunnel, unlike the Vienna tunnels, was a major engineering feat. It stretched 1476 feet/454 meters through sandy ground to reach a cable only 27 inches/68.5 cm beneath the surface, on the edge of a major highway. One of the most difficult engineering problems that had to be overcome in the course of the project was to dig up to the cable from the main tunnel shaft without dropping some truck passing over the highway above into the tunnel. This task was handled by the British, who had their experience of Vienna to fall back on.
The total cost of the tunnel project was over six and a half million1950s dollars, which in 2007 dollars would be over 51 and a quarter million. By way of comparison, the development and delivery of the first six U-2 aircraft, a project contemporary with the Berlin Tunnel, cost 22 million total, or 3.6 million each. That means that the tunnel cost roughly as much as two U-2s. According to Murphey, Kondrashev and Bailey in Battleground Berlin, the tale of the tunnel began in early 1951, when Frank Rowlett told Bill Harvey how frustrated he was by the loss of intelligence due to the Soviet shift from radio to landline. The assessment process that preceded target selection continued throughout 1952, the year that saw Harvey reassigned to Berlin. Test recordings of the kind of traffic available from the cables were made in the spring and summer of 1953. By August of 1953, plans for the tunnel were being readied for presentation to the DCI, Allen Dulles. Dulles approved the terms of reference for cooperation with the British on the Berlin Tunnel in December 1953. The “go” was given to start the construction of the warehouse that would serve as the cover for the tunnel, and construction was completed in August. The American engineering team that actually dug the tunnel arrived to take control of the compound on 28 August. Digging began on 2 September, but, on 8 September, the miners struck water and which necessitated that pumps be brought in. The tunnel reached its distant end on 28 February 1955, and the tap chamber took another month to complete. The complex process of tapping into the three target cables without alerting the Soviets to what was going on was a slow one. It lasted from 11 May through 2 August 1955. Collection of intelligence from the taps, however, began as soon as the first circuits were brought on-line.
During the night of 21-22 April 1956, the Soviets “discovered” the tunnel, and collection ceased. That did not close the project, however. The take from the Berlin Tunnel during the time that it was operational (11 months and 11 days) was so great that processing of the backlog of material continued through the end of September 1958. The loss of this valuable source was, of course, a blow to US/UK intelligence efforts against the Soviets at the time, but this loss was somewhat compensated for by the prestige that the CIA won in the press following the tunnel’s discovery. The article on the tunnel in the issue of Time magazine (07 May 1956) that followed the tunnel’s discovery said “It’s the best publicity the U.S. has had in Berlin for a long time.” An urban legend that persistently continues to associate itself with the Berlin Tunnel is that the idea for the tunnel came from Reinhard Gehlen (the German Abwehr-Ost general who surrendered to the Americans and later became the head of the West German BND). Murphy, Kondrashev and Bailey flatly reject this assertion in Battleground Berlin. David Stafford argues credibly against the validity of this legend in his academic history of the Berlin Tunnel. He notes that there is no evidence to support this theory, and “those most closely in the know in the CIA have strenuously denied it,” essentially repeating Murphy, Kondrashev and Bailey. Stafford’s most telling argument against Gehlen’s involvement is that no mention of the Berlin Tunnel is to be found in Gehlen’s memoirs (The Service: The Memoirs of General Reinhard Gehlen, New York: World Publishing, 1972). “Never a modest man,” says Stafford, Gehlen “would surely have bid for some of the credit had he been any way involved. In fact, he does not even refer to it.” In the section “Recapitulation of Intelligence Derived” from the Berlin Tunnel, the CIA History of the project says that the “REGAL operation provided the United States and the British with a unique source of current intelligence on the Soviet Orbit of a kind and quality which had not been available since 1948. Responsible officials considered PBJOINTLY, during its productive phase, to be the prime source of early warning concerning Soviet intentions in Europe, if not world-wide.” The section goes on to list general types of political, ground-forces, air-force and naval intelligence that the tunnel provided, many of them with glowing comments from consumers. The debate about the value of the information derived from the Berlin Tunnel has been raging since 1961, when it was discovered that PBJOINTLY was compromised to the Soviets by the British mole George Blake who attended the meeting on the Berlin Tunnel between the British and Americans in London in December 1953. Many widely read books and articles on the tunnel contended that the KGB had used the tunnel to feed the Americans and the British disinformation. Stafford, however, convincingly dispels all suspicions that the Berlin Tunnel was turned into a disinformation counter-intelligence operation by the KGB. Drawing on the information that came to light during the “Teufelsberg” Conference on Cold-War intelligence operations that brought intelligence professionals from both the CIA and the KGB together in Berlin in 1999, Stafford concludes that “far from using the tunnel for misinformation and deception, the KGB’s First Chief Directorate had taken a deliberate decision to conceal its existence from the Red Army and GRU, the main users of the cables being tapped. The reason for this extraordinary decision was to protect “Diomid”, their rare and brilliant source George Blake.” Stafford ends his discussion of the legitimacy of the material collected from the Berlin Tunnel with a quote from Blake, who was still living in Moscow at the time of the “Teufelsberg” Conference. “I’m sure 99.9% of the information obtained by the SIS and CIA from the tunnel was genuine.”
[Source: http://www.coldwar.org/articles/50s/berlin_tunnel.asp Aug 2012 ++]

VA Appeals

Posted: August 31, 2012 in Uncategorized
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To assist veterans with appeals pending the Board of Veterans' Appeals (Board or BVA) provides a customer service home page at http://www.bva.va.gov/OMBUDSMAN_CustomerService.asp . The Status help desk is under the Chairman of the Board of Veterans Appeals and the Director of Administration. The help desk has been set up to answer your questions, give a status on your case, or direct you to the best possible referral source to answer your questions. They will monitor the issues you raise and provide that information to the Chairman and Director. This is not a chat room, so they are unable to communicate with you as you type. They do however, acknowledge, and respond to every E-mail sent. The E-mails are answered in the order in which they are received. For an Email status report on your claim before the Board o state your name, file number and request, and click on the ‘Ask a Question’ tab near the bottom of the webpage. If you claim is not before the Board, note the contact numbers or email for your appropriate Regional Office. All Facebook, Twitter, and Internet addresses will not be answered, nor will political statements, and they will be deleted. They may request verifying information to protect the privacy of our Veterans. The Board also can be reached 1-800-923-8387 M-F 09-1630 EST of by FAX: 1 -202-34-1889 or mail: Board of Veterans’ Appeals, 810 Vermont Avenue, North West, Washington, DC 20420 . For issues other than determining appeal status the following guidance is offered:
 Once BVA issues a decision (including a remand – i.e., sent back to be redone properly), it no longer has the authority to act on the appeal. Contact the Appeals Management Center (AMC) mailto:amcdirmailbox@va.gov, your local Regional Office (VARO) http://www.bva.va.gov/docs/Ombudsman_CustomerService/States.doc or your representative (if you have one to advocate on your behalf). If your residence is in a foreign country, contact the VBA Foreign Service Program http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/foreign/index.htm.
 If you are seeking legal assistance with a claim, contact your local Regional Office at http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/ro/rocontacts.htm for a list of Veterans Service Organizations in your area.
 If you owe the VA money, contact the Debt Management Center http://www.va.gov/FINANCE/dmc.asp.
 If you wish to report fraud, waste or abuse in any VA program, contact the VA Office of Inspector General http://www.va.gov/oig.
 If you have an original education claim, contact the VA Educational Benefits Program http://www.gibill.va.gov.
 If you have an original home loan guarantee claim, contact the VA Home Loan Program http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans.
 If you have an original VA life insurance claim, contact the VA Life Insurance Program http://www.insurance.va.gov/miscellaneous/index.htm.
 If you have an original claim as a surviving spouse or dependent, contact the VA Veterans Services Outreach or your local Regional Office http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/dependents/index.htm.
 If you have an original request for burial and memorial benefits, contact the VA National Cemetery Administration http://www.cem.va.gov.
 If you are seeking copies of your military records, contact the National Personnel Records Center http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/standard-form-180.html.
 If you are seeking a medal upgrade, contact the appropriate military department Public Affairs Office.
 If you are seeking information about an upgrade or review of your discharge, complete the application form at Military Discharge Upgrade http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/eforms/dd0293.pdf.
 If you are seeking a correction of your military records, complete the application form at Correction of Military Records http://www.dtic.mil/whs/directives/infomgt/forms/forminfo/forminfopage2137.html.
 If you would like to have a hearing before a Veterans Law Judge, consider requesting a video hearing http://www.bva.va.gov/docs/VBA-VideoHearing-WebFlyer.pdf.
[Source: http://www.bva.va.gov/OMBUDSMAN_CustomerService.asp Jun 2012 ++]

The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) is the first VA, and only one to date, to offer an innovative, artificial heart valve. Recently approved for commercial use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Sapien heart valve made by Edwards Lifesciences is implanted through a catheter as an alternative to open heart surgery for patients with inoperable aortic valve stenosis disease. World War II Veteran Guy Pardue, 87, of Bastrop, La. received this transcatheter aortic valve on 30 MAY 2012. A member of the first Marine platoon to get the M1 rifle, Pardue, who served in the Pacific, landed at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii just days after the surprise attack by the Japanese against the United States naval base. He vividly remembers the nightmarish scene, with bodies of sailors still being pulled from the horribly damaged ships. "In addition to his advanced age, Mr. Pardue suffers from congestive heart failure, carotid and coronary artery disease, pulmonary hypertension, and atrial flutter," said Biykem Bozkurt, M.D., Ph.D., MEDVAMC Cardiology chief and professor of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM). "We were able to offer him this life-saving device and he was ready to go home within a week."

“Before this operation, I couldn’t take a shower without giving out. I could not breathe; just pitiful,” said Pardue. “My doctor at the Monroe VA Clinic shipped me to the Overton Brooks VA Medical Center in Shreveport. After some tests, they said I was in worse shape than they thought and needed to go to Houston in a hurry … Today, I feel renewed. These doctors and nurses gave me my life back – they are the best there is,” said Pardue, who is now looking forward to cooking his famous vegetable soup with okra, growing tomatoes using a secret technique, and maybe, doing some bass fishing.
Aortic valve stenosis is an age-related disease caused by calcium deposits in the valve that cause it to narrow and stiffen. As it becomes harder to pump the blood out to the rest of the body, the heart weakens. Patients experience fainting, chest pain, heart failure, irregular heart rhythms, and cardiac arrest. Without treatment, symptomatic patients usually die within two years. It affects approximately 300,000 Americans. Many older or sicker patients suffering from aortic valve stenosis are considered poor candidates for conventional surgery, which requires cutting open the chest and temporarily stopping the heart. "With the aging population, the potential impact of this procedure is enormous. People can literally gain a new lease on life overnight.", said Faisal Bakaeen, M.D., chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the MEDVAMC and associate professor of Surgery at BCM. The valve, made of bovine tissue and stainless steel, is about the width of a pencil when it is deployed through a catheter in the femoral artery in the groin. Once it arrives at the correct spot, the valve is released, replacing the diseased one. Patients generally stay in the hospital for an average of three days, compared to seven days with open heart surgery. Surgeons and cardiologists are part of a whole team unified for this one disease process. There is very little tissue trauma and in experienced hands, it can take approximately 60 minutes " said Bozkurt.
Besides Bozkurt and Bakaeen, the MEDVAMC Heart Valve Team is a multidisciplinary team that also includes Cardiothoracic Surgeon Loraine Cornwell, M.D.; Cardiologists Biswajit Kar, M.D., David Paniagua, M.D., Hani Jneid, M.D., Alvin Blaustein, M.D., and Glenn Levin, M.D.; Vascular Surgeons Panagiotis Kougias, M.D. and Carlos Bechara, M.D.; Anesthesiologist Prasad Atluri, M.D.; radiologists; Nursing Coordinator Maryrose Ruma; and other nursing and auxiliary staff. All are specially trained to take care of this unique and complex patient population. “It was immediately apparent that this VA medical center had the teamwork to make this program work and to be successful,” said Blase A. Carabello, M.D., the Medical Care Line executive and vice chair of the Department of Medicine at BCM. “Everyone from nurses and rehabilitation specialists to imaging technicians and housekeepers focuses on the health and well-being of the patient.” Samir S. Awad, M.D., Operative Care Line executive at the MEDVAMC and associate professor of Surgery at BCM said, “This new technology could add years to the lives of our patients. We are proud the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center has some of the best doctors and nurses in the country and offers the latest, minimally invasive alternatives for our Veterans.” [Source: Houston VAMC Press Release 29 Jun 2012 ++

Vet Transportation

Posted: August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Veterans and their families will have better access to local bus, vanpool and other transportation options with $29 million in grants, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced today. During a conference call with reporters, LaHood said the grants will fund 64 projects in 33 states to help veterans, wounded warriors and their families find affordable rides to jobs, and job training, education, and health facilities. "Ensuring that our veterans and military families have access to quality, convenient transportation is just one way we can thank them for their service," LaHood said. "With these transportation grants, we will help connect veterans and military families with the jobs and training opportunities they deserve, as well as the medical care and other services they need, all located close to home." The Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative (VTCLI), funded and managed by the Federal Transit Administration, supports efforts by local governments and transit agencies to implement technologies — ranging from smartphone applications to real-time transit bus locator information — that make it easier for veterans and others to access and schedule rides on available buses, vans, taxis and other transportation systems.
The unemployment rate for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is more than 12 percent, more than four percentage points above the national average. "America's war heroes deserve a chance to support their families, participate in their communities, receive job training and get to work," said FTA Administrator Peter M. Rogoff, who was in Lee County, Fla., for the announcement. "It's vitally important that we remove barriers to success by making transportation available wherever our veterans choose to live, work and receive care." For example, Lee County, Fla., is receiving $1.4 million to fund information kiosks at locations that include a new Veterans Affairs Department outpatient clinic in Cape Coral, where veterans can readily obtain real-time information on rides and schedules, day or night. Also, a $450,000 grant for the Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority in Dayton, Ohio, will make it easier for returning and retired veterans and those who have disabilities to arrange for rides by phone, smartphone or on the Web, officials said. Dayton is home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and 80,000 veterans, officials noted.
Rogoff said the transit administration received 81 eligible proposals requesting $41 million for this second round of the VTCLI grants, reflecting strong demand for the program. In fiscal 2011, FTA awarded $34.6 million for 55 veterans' transportation projects around the country. LaHood said the Federal Interagency Coordinating Council on Access and Mobility, which he chairs, is a partnership of federal departments working to better coordinate federal programs on behalf of people with disabilities, older adults and individuals with lower incomes. The council developed the Veterans Transportation and Community Living Initiative, he added. For more information on VTCLI refer to http://fta.dot.gov/grants/13094_13528.html. [Source: DOT News Release 2 Jul 2012 ++]

SBA Vet Issues

Posted: August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized
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The Veterans Affairs Department proposes to change the frequency of reverifying veteran-owned firms that want to do business with VA — from once a year to every two years. The interim final rule took effect 27 JUN. The VA is the only federal agency that verifies businesses are owned and operated by a veteran before they can bid on contracts set aside for veterans. Once service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) and veteran-owned small businesses (VOSBs) are verified, they enter the Vet-Biz database but must be reverified every year. Other agencies rely on self-certification for SDBOC/VOSB status for set-aside contracts. "The purpose of this change is to reduce the administrative burden on SDVOSB/VOSBs regarding participation in VA acquisitions set asides for these types of firms," according to the interim final rule published in Wednesday's Federal Register. The rule also said the change is appropriate because the agency does a "robust examination" of the business owner's personal and company information to verify the company is in fact owned and controlled by a veteran. One veteran-owned business advocate said the agency had a backlog of verifications due to the current requirement to re-check veteran business owners' status every year. "The major problem is they waste, waste, waste time on reverification, reverification, reverification," Bob Hesser of VET-Force Task Force had told Federal News Radio in an interview earlier this year about VA's verification program. In an email 26 JUN, Hesser said the proposal was highly endorsed. "Many wanted three years but this is a good compromise," he said. [Source: Federal News Radio Jolie Lee article 28 Jun 2012 ++]