April 9, 2014 - Final
We are expecting a vote around 11, but I'm going to start the next panel, and we'll take a break when the vote starts. So the panel is welcome to come up.
OK. OK. Please join us.
And just take your seats. Good morning.
Please be seated.
On the second panel, we have the senior enlisted advisors of the military services -- Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael D. Stevens, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James A. Cody, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Michael P. Barrett.
I now invite you to present your opening statements.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
Chairwoman Gillibrand, Ranking Member Graham, distinguished members of this committee, thanks for the invitation to speak today. Representing the Army that I love is a very humbling experience, and I appreciate the support this committee has given over the past several years.
This past year has brought some significant changes to the Army, including sequestration, government shutdown furloughs, and an accelerated drawdown. As always, the Army team has risen to the challenge.
In this 13th year of our longest war, more than 35,000 soldiers, as you well know, are still in Afghanistan. And right now it's about 7 p.m. there, and there are several young Army non-commissioned officers and soldiers who are working with our Afghan partners to conduct combat operations. Their focus and righty so is helping the Afghans to get better so they can defend themselves into the future.
An additional 120,000 soldiers are forward-stationed or deployed in nearly 150 countries. And finally, lest we never forget, more than 5,000 men and women from the Army have given their lives on behalf of the nation since 9/11. This service and sacrifice cannot be forgotten. But even in the midst of these challenges, our mission has not changed, which is to prevent conflict, shape the environment and, when necessary, fight and win our nation's wars.
As General Odierno has recently stated, it is essential that our total Army -- Active, Guard and Reserve be ready to accomplish the range of military operations we are directed to perform. And we must also have a range of capabilities postured in the proper components in order to have a sustainable force mix both now and into the future.
This year I have traveled tens of thousands of miles to visit our soldiers serving in harm's way and dozens of other location across this nation and around the world where soldiers, families and our Department of the Army Civilians are assigned. And my wife is here with me today who is a travel partner with me and speaks with their families and has a great perspective, which she informs me of everywhere we go.
While there I break bread with our soldiers, engage in conversations and answer their questions. And I'd like to take this opportunity to share our soldiers' top five concerns over this past year. But before I begin, you should know that I have never received a question or comment from anyone on our Army team about being unwilling or unable to follow through on their oath of service. They remain committed to do what the nation asked of them. They recognize there are many threats on the horizon, and they want to be ready.
So the fifth most common concern is about the state of readiness of our Army. Our soldiers are concerned about the availability of the training and equipment that has allowed them to be successful and victorious over these past 13 years.
They are concerned about the decreasing end strength, which may embolden our potential enemies. But I tell them that the current drawdown is our only course of action to follow through on our commitment to them -- the Army and the American people -- to be ready when the nation calls.
The fourth top concern is uncertainty. During the furloughs of the last summer and the government shutdown in the fall, our civilians shared their fears about continued employment, and soldiers and families told me about the ripple effect it's had on them. That uncertainty and unpredictability has become a major distraction for our Army.
I would like to tell you thanks for passing the bipartisan budget act, which gives us some measure of predictability and the ability to rebuild readiness over the next two years. However, this is a short- term fix and sequestration, as you well know, looms in 2016 and beyond.
The third top concern is about indiscipline in our ranks, including sexual harassment and assault. During every town hall over the past two years, I have told soldiers about the cost of this threat to our Army, its victims and, ultimately, the American people whom we serve. Over the past eight months, however, the soldiers in the audience have been responding more positively with questions about their responsibility, suggestions on how the Army can do better, and several instances of soldier sharing their experience as a survivor to educate others.
I finish by telling them that there can be no by standards (ph) in this issues and that, as Army professionals, we have a duty to police our force and ensure every soldier no matter what rank of position is a person of character and commitment.
Their second top concerns include regulatory changes that have been ongoing within our Army for the past several years. These primarily focus around the Army, uniform and personal appearance. Soldiers know the Army is based on discipline and standards so they ask me how to continue to look and act like an Army professional.
Related to this, I have received questions about new policies on tattoos, the Army -- the uniform as they wear it, and how the Army will evaluate who can serve in a particular military career field.
And finally, the number one concern of our soldiers relates to the work of the Department of Defense in Congress on the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. Some of their concerns seemed to come and go. For instance, commissaries has only recently become a focus of concern, tuition assistance last year and TRICARE health coverage for family members.
But the one issue that is never waivered is retirement reform. I tell soldiers that no one, including our military leaders, our senators and representatives and the president has stated that our current retirement pay will change for those who currently serve, but it -- that it may, as a part of this commission, change in the future. I tell them that you and your colleagues have told us of your -- of your decisions and we'll honor their service and sacrifice.
As we work collectively on this issue, we must remain aware that proposed change does not only affect our ability to recruit future soldiers and their families, but also retain our highly competent and battle-tested soldiers who are integral to our continued defense superiority.
Today, we have the best Army in the world. We are the best equipped, trained, and led. Although we may get leaner, we will still be the best Army in the world in five years, in 10 years and as long as this nation needs an Army.
Let me close by saying that as a sergeant major of the Army, the best part of my job is visiting our soldiers, families and civilians around the world. Their professionalism, dedication and sacrifice they display every day is the reason our Army is the envy of every other in the world.
I leave our Army knowing that it is in great hands. Our future is assured because of the brave young men and women who still come forward today and will into the future saying, "Send me. I will defend the American people and our way of life."
Thank you for what you do. I appreciate this opportunity. And I look forward to your questions.
Thank you, Sergeant Major.
Before we hear from Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens we're going to go vote. It should probably take me no more than 10 minutes to go there and come back, so we'll resume in 10 minutes. Thank you.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens?
Yes. Good morning, Chairwoman Gillibrand, Ranking Member Graham, and distinguished members of this subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to share with you my thoughts on the tone of our Navy's enlisted force.
The support that each of you provided to our men and women in uniform has had an incredible impact on their quality of life and quality of work, which in turn produces a healthy quality of service. Each of these elements are vital to our Navy's force and set the tone for effective warfighting and sustained operational readiness.
Today as we sit here, 108 of our 288 deployable ships are underway. More than 323,000 active Sailors and 61,000 Reserves are projecting United States Naval sea power and forward presence worldwide. Over the past 18 months, I have visited with thousands of these Sailors who continue to stand watch for the United States of America every day.
I have also observed firsthand the quality of life our Sailors and their families enjoy. I've also witnessed the many challenges they face.
Areas that concern me with respect to the tone of the force include, but are not limited to, alcohol abuse, sexual assault, suicide, domestic violence and potential impacts with regard to pay and benefits.
I understand the reasoning and the necessity in balancing our authorized military spending, and I agree it is vitally important that we balance quality of work with quality of life so that we can provide our Sailors and families with the best quality of service. After all, our slice in the pie is only so big. The Navy has been asked to slow growth, to look at those things which could be scaled back with regard to pay and benefits, and this we have done.
In testimony earlier this year before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, I mentioned one of the greatest weapon systems we can provide the United States Navy is unit morale. I made that comment with emphasis because I am concerned with the potential intensity in which slowing of growth may occur. Although I understand there may always be a little fat to trim.
As I look into the future, I believe we are dangerously close to turning into muscle and we simply cannot afford to cut in the bone. We cannot afford to cut into the weapon system I just mentioned.
I am also concerned that this year's budget may become the new standard. My Sailors asked me, will this become the new norm? We must provide the same level of care and commitment that we expect our Sailors to offer their country. Our military family and support program should not -- I'll repeat -- should not become a casualty of budgetary uncertainty.
The Chief of Naval Operations and I understand nothing comes second to combat readiness and we are committed to preserving our people and our fleet programs to the fullest extent possible.
Under the current fiscal constraints, budget uncertainty will likely continue to place emotional and economic strain on our Sailors and their families. As we navigate through these challenges, I have no doubt that you will do your very best to ensure our Sailors and their families have what is necessary to carry out our Navy's mission.
That current fiscal situation I will be perfectly clear with you is not a topic I intend to sell our sailors. I will, however, find a way to explain this to them because I am committed to getting them nothing less than the truth. Together, we will manage, work through and solve these difficult challenges.
On behalf of our Sailors and their families serving around the world, I sincerely thank you for your continued support, and I look forward to taking your questions.
Chief Master Sergeant of the Air...
Chairman Gillibrand, Ranking Member Graham -- although I know he had to step out -- and certainly distinguished members of the subcommittee, I thank you for this opportunity to speak with you today. It is my absolute honor to be here with my fellow service senior enlisted advisors as we represent the fine men and women who serve our great nation. I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to share with you the concerns of not just the enlisted force, but the 690,000 Total Force Airmen and their families serving in the active- duty, the Air National Guard, the Air Force Reserve and our civilian workforce.
America's Airmen continue to generate the greatest Air Force the world has ever known. They are innovative, dedicated, and passionate men and women who understand freedom doesn't come without a cost. It must be fought for, and won.
Throughout the last 20 plus years of sustained operations, they have continued to dominate in a multi-dimensional battlefield of air, space and cyberspace. They have never wavered from their commitment to serve our nation, and they have continuously demonstrated our core values of "Integrity First, Service Before Self and Excellence in All We Do."
Even as they confront one challenge after another, this past year our Air Force has faced challenges on multiple fronts. We have pushed through a period of sequestration, which forced us to stand down flying squadrons, furlough civilians, limit morale, welfare and recreation services, and reduce and, in some cases, eliminate important education and training opportunities. We have endured a government shutdown and significant uncertainty in turn with respect to mission capability, compensation, and the meaning of service in the world's greatest airports.
There is no question the past year has been extremely stressful on all members of our Air Force.
This year brings continued stress and continued uncertainty as we move toward a normal operational tempo and fiscal reality. We are currently taking action to reduce -- significantly reduce the size of the Air Force by more than 16,000 Airmen who have proudly dedicated their lives in service of our great nation. Our Airmen continue to move forward without answers to many questions on future compensation and benefits.
While these actions and conversations are absolutely necessary to ensure critical modernization and to restore force readiness, the combined impact brings continued uncertainty and stress on our Airmen.
Transparency and communication amongst our Airmen and families will be critical as we move forward. We cannot forget that our Air Force is powered by people -- Airmen who clearly give us the advantage.
Throughout the past year I traveled to multiple bases to visit tens of thousands of airmen and their families, and I can tell you candidly the challenges and continued uncertainty are now lost in the force. However, regardless of the uncertainty, (inaudible) to know the first concern of our Airmen is mission accomplishment. They are truly doing amazing work around the world every day.
In 2013 alone, United States Airmen flew over 27,000 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (inaudible). We're moving 1,500 enemy combatants from the fight. They flew more than 27,000 (inaudible), launched eight national securities-based missions, dropped 11 million pounds of combat-enabling sustainment to coalition forces on the ground in Afghanistan, and air-lifted 5,133 wounded soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines and injured civilians around the globe.
Additionally, they maintained a continued presence of nearly 23,000 Airmen in the CENTCOM region and supported the (inaudible) commanders in all corners of the globe with more than 217,000 Airmen. Tragically, the commitment to preserve freedom comes at a cost. In 2013, we lost 176 young men and women who proudly answered the call to serve.
Today, we have more than 3,000 wounded warrior Airmen enrolled in our recovery care program, 240 of those Airmen are still serving on active-duty.
Our Airmen have faced and overcome challenges at every turn and continue to serve honorably and proudly in defense of our nation. They count on your leadership to ensure they can continue to win the fight for America.
Our Air Force families are also a critical component of our success. My wife Athena who joins me today, she has visited with thousands of these families over the last year. And I would tell you she has witnessed firsthand their passion and commitment to support their member who serves.
The commitment to our nation is not lost on any of them, but we can't forget it is who generates us every day. They serve alongside each and every one of us. They experience (inaudible) while loved ones deploy to warzones in foreign countries. Their faith and support is critical to our Airmen-enabled force to focus and maintain a dedicated mission accomplishment.
Our Airmen and families are our most important resource. We must remain committed to fostering a culture of dignity and respect and to ensuring an environment where all Airmen have the opportunity to excel.
In order for Airmen to continue to serve as leaders and warriors for America, we must also remain focused on recruiting, retaining and training, and developing, and supporting a world-class all-volunteer force.
I thank you for your continued support, and I look forward to your questions.
Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Michael P. Barrett?
Madam Chair Gillibrand, Senator Kaine, good afternoon. This is my fourth opportunity to address Congress and discuss important quality of life issues, personnel issues and our commitment to our Marines and their families. It is my privilege to appear before you today.
The last 12 years have been most challenging. We are profoundly grateful for your fidelity and support.
As you are well-aware, the global environment is not getting any nicer. Clever enemies are searching for windows of vulnerability and to exploit our liberties and our security. And with the fiscal constraints we are enduring, we must -- more than ever -- stay committed to our recruiting and our retention -- making Marines; our warfighter readiness being most ready when our nation is least ready care for our wounded, ill and injured in our Family Care programs preserving strong families; transition readiness, returning quality citizens after their selfless service; combating social ills, prevention, accountability, treatment and resiliency; and maintaining our facility sustainment, restoration and modernization for our billions of dollars worth of infrastructure.
Today, I report more than 37,000 Marines are forward-deployed, forward-engaged, shaping, training and deterring aggression around the globe, supporting all six geographical combatant commanders. We are providing our nation the capability to contain crisis, fill the gap or hold the line. We may be done with Afghanistan this year, but those that we have been fighting are not done with us.
And our corps -- the Marine Corps is the nation's crisis response force and fulfilling this role is our top priority. We've met and continue to meet our obligations in current conflicts, emerging crises and steady state operations.
To that point and most recently, your Marines' efforts have saved lives, provided much needed relief and evacuated over 19,000 victims ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan. Our Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response successfully executed a non-combatant evacuation operation in South Sudan and provided reinforcements to other U.S. embassies.
We have participated in hundreds of theater security cooperation activities with the Armed Forces of more than 50 partner nations. The 13th, 22nd, and 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit are afloat and they stand ready as rapid-response force capability providing stability in their area of responsibility. And we continue to stand alongside of the Afghan National Security forces engaged in combat, conducting counterinsurgency and security force assistance advisory missions.
Marines can face America's adversaries on the frontline or respond to any emerging crisis because of the care and support we provide our families on the home front. With the progress that we've made in our warfighting capabilities and Marine and family readiness programs over this past decade plus, and as we drawdown to move to a post OEF environment, the corps remains committed to building the most ready force our nation can afford -- balanced across our pillars -- our pillars of readiness -- high quality people, unit readiness, the capability and capacity to meet the combat and command requirements, the infrastructure sustainment and equipment modernization.
We are proud of our reputation for frugality and remain a best value for our country's defense.
In these times of budget austerity, you can hold high expectations for your corps to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.
The Marine Corps will continue to meet the needs of the combatant commanders as a strategically, mobile force optimized for forward presence and be the crisis response force of choice for our leadership.
We may have less, but it doesn't mean we'll be doing less, more will we do it any less than best.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today.
Thanks to each of you.
The department has proposed a number of compensation and benefit related proposals, although we haven't seen the full details. They're basically one percent pay rates for most military personnel rather than the 1.8 percent that would take effect under current law, one- year pay freeze for generals and flag officers, slight reduction of growth of housing allowances over time such as servicemembers who pay five percent of their housing cost out-of-pocket face reduction by $1 billion of the annual direct subsidy provided by military commissaries down from the current subsidy of $1.4 billion, increase in TRICARE enrollment fees and pharmacy copays in consolidation of the TRICARE health programs.
Secretary Hagel testified a few weeks ago that the savings from these proposals will be reallocated to address readiness and modernization shortfalls. As I said in my opening statement, these proposals will be difficult for many of the -- of us on this committee to support. I'm particularly concerned that we are not waiting for the Military Compensation Retirement Modernization Commission, which is tasked with taking a comprehensive look at these benefits.
And this is for each of you to answer as you see fit. What will the impact of the changes be on our servicemembers especially our lower enlisted troops and families? What are you currently hearing from the enlisted ranks? What are the biggest concerns about these cuts? How important is the commissary benefit? In particular, to our most junior servicemembers, is there another way to deal with the commissaries? And will the enactment of these proposals harm recruiting and retention?
Yes, Ma'am. So you want to spend some time with commissaries. To be quite honest, the commissaries have not been in the narrative until just recently comparatively speaking to, for instance, retirement reform.
So there is a bit of conversation, I'll tell you like I said in my oral statement is -- it is not the most important issue from soldiers. We do hear more family members. A lot of it was in our case anyways the -- a publication called the Army Times which written an article that said, you know, closing commissaries. That's never been the intention. I'm sure that the Chief of Staff of the Army has already spoken to that fact for the Army.
But there is obviously going to be an impact for everyone including our junior servicemembers if we do roll back the cost savings from on average 30 percent to say 20 percent. It is going to have an impact. And cumulatively, each one of these things will have an impact on our soldiers and families. I mean, I think that's fairly obvious.
Our concern is there are things within the current DeCA's legislative issues and also policy issues that I believe we can find some efficiencies, which may offset some of the reduction in cost savings. You know, for instance, the ability to use or sell generic items are a challenge. We can't do that in the commissary.
So if I'm a young soldier and I choose to go to the commissary and the only thing I can buy is Green Giant or Hunt's brands, but I can go to Wal-Mart and get great value and that's 30 cents less for a can of corn than it is on the commissary. There is a perception in some places where the value is not as high as we say in the Army or in the commissary. So each of us sits on the -- on the DeCA BOD. There is a strategy in place to do a holistic review and to make some legislative proposals, which will free up their ability to actually create a business model.
I think many of us may not understand that the commissary is not in competition with anyone, OK. And so you got to recognize how -- how do you draw the folks that you serve into the commissary.
I think one of those is to offer like items at -- which may be generic, which generate the similar cost savings. So I think we've got some work to do both legislatively and policy-wise. I understand because for the Army, this is truly about readiness.
You know, we pay about $400 million into the commissary to sustain the benefit, and that's $400 million we can imply to some other readiness need because, frankly, for the Army the most important thing is to have ready soldiers to do what we need to do and not send someone in harm's way untrained. And you've got to find that balance, and we're in that position. We got to look at everything to find the savings we need.
Senator, I think it's important that we first understand that the decisions to slow growth is not something if we were given a choice that we want to do. Given the slice -- given the fact that the slice of the pie is always so big, this is what we must do in order to maintain readiness. So we're making some tough decisions and tough recommendations with regards to slowing of growth.
How will that impact our people? I think it's fair to say that when it's said -- if it's all said and done or when it's all said and done that they're buying power won't be as good tomorrow as it is today, so it will have some impact on their quality of life.
We also recognize that there will have to be some slowing of growth and quality of life so we can hopefully recapitalize those monies into what we call quality of work areas because our Sailors want to have a good quality of work. They want the people, the parts, the training, the things that they need day-to-day to do their job in order for the Navy to be able to provide that to them, there's going to have to be some offset somewhere. And so we recognize that that's difficult, but we owe it to them. And to make sure that they have a good quality of life, a good quality of work and, in turn, they and their families will have, we hope, a positive and good quality of service.
How will it affect -- I've been asked many times how will you think it will affect retention and enlistment. And what I say is I don't know because every generation of sailor has their own reason for serving. Much of it is the same, but there are -- you know, generation to generation, there are some differences.
Will it have a negative impact on -- on recruiting and retention? It might, but I couldn't say that because I don't know.
Will it have a positive impact? Probably not. It may stay the same. It may get a little bit worse, but it certainly isn't going to increase retention or increase enlistment and so we're going to have to shoulder that with our recruiting commands and with command leadership to encourage our people to come in and to stay.
I agree with what the Sergeant Major or Sergeant Major Chandler said with the commissaries. His comments are something that we've all talked about. And I can speak for myself when I say that I agree exactly with what he said on commissaries.
And I won't belabor exactly both marks that -- remarks that sergeant major of the Army and the MCPON have said, but, Ma'am, to go -- to go right to the very heart of -- of your question. First of all, Marines don't run around and asking them and -- what's on their mind is compensation benefits that are retirement, modernization. That's not on their minds.
As I walk around and talk to the -- the thousands of audiences, they want to know into whose neck that we put a boot next. They want to know about what new equipment are we getting -- are we continue to modernize, are we not going to -- you know, just because the budget sucks, does that mean we're not going to get anymore gear? Are we going to stay ahead of our competitors?
And the other thing they always ask about is they want to know about training. We're a force that has a bias for action, and we're a happy lot when we're deployed. Idle hands are not good in the Marine Corps. Keep us -- keep us out there forward-deployed just like our moniker tells us. That's where we need to be. So that's what's -- that's what's on their mind actually.
And I'll tell you promotion and retention and money does eventually come up, but it's not in the top three, it's normally four, five, six or seven. And to get to the point about what Sergeant Major and the MCPON already said, if we do not get a hold of slowing the growth, if we do not pay a little bit more attention to the health care that we so generously have received wonderful package, in my 33 years I have never seen this level of quality of life ever. We have never had it so good.
And I say the point because if we don't get a hold of slowing the growth, we will become an entitlement-based, a health care provider- based corps and not a warfighting organization. If we don't stop -- step back and take a look at one percent pay, that makes sense because our quality of life is good.
Hey, you know what, out-of-pocket, you know what? I truly believe it will raise discipline. It will raise because you'll have better spending habits. You won't be so wasteful.
I do believe in the one TRICARE model because there will be savings and there will be -- it will be less administratively -- admin burden on those who have to perform all those things. And, you know, should there be some type of subsidiary -- subsidy reduction to the commissary? Well, you already heard the sergeant major of the Army talk about it. I'm sure there's a better model out there.
But in the grand scheme of things, if we don't get a hold of this, it's going to impact. Our warfighting capability is going to impact our investment for the next challenge. Like I said, we might be done in Afghanistan -- with the people we're fighting, but they're not done with us and we need to be more prepared for what's around the corner.
Ma'am, I think first I would kind of -- kind of set the stage for my comments because I certainly agree with all my fellow service senior enlisted advisors, and believe me, we all do talk about this collectively as we think about the impact.
But I want to be real clear that our Airmen are not overpaid. So this discussion we're having about compensation in the military is not because we feel they are overpaid. They have earned everything that they receive today -- all service men and women and their family have. They have sacrificed for it, they serve for it.
But I fully support our budget because at the end of the day, I would tell you if you want a feedback from our Airmen and their families, what they want, they don't want to have a conversation (inaudible) compensation, they just want you to give us more money so we don't have to. I mean, that is the clear text if you want to hear what they'd say.
And, you know, when Athena meets with their families, they're a little bit more vocal about this than the great men and women that actually put the uniform on only because they understand their commitment to serve. And everything that you had articulated, they're going to go fight their nation's war. They will do it regardless. That's what makes them so special.
But make no mistake about it, this has impact. We have to do it. We have to slow the growth. It has to be constrained in somehow.
I'll throw some demographics so you can put in perspective. For our Air Force, about 70 percent of them had served 13 or less years. That's important to know because this is their whole life -- 70 percent of our force. And when you think about it, about 50 percent of our entire force is married or married with children or is single with a child. That's important too when you talk about compensation and how you think about these things.
And we -- just to throw a demographic (inaudible), so you know E- 6 averaged -- makes about $54,000 a year, that includes their BAH, which is a basic allowance for substance (ph), their housing and their basic pay. And then you can take that all the way down to an E-1, which is about, you know, $23,000 a year. That's important to kind of put in the spectrum of their lifestyle.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman. And thank you for your testimony. Thank God for our enlisted. They -- it's what we -- what we've asked you to do for the last 13 years. You've done it with a great spirit. But it's unlike anything really that we've had a president for in the country and that means there is consequences to it, some of which we know, some of which we don't, but we -- we have to be good stewards in meeting the consequences.
I wanted to ask you a question. I think Senator King asked a question of the first panel when I was gone about credentialing of folks in active service for their skills as they obtain them. This is something I'm really interested in.
I worry about the unemployment rate of the Iraq and Afghan Arab veteran, particularly the enlisted -- officers with college degrees have a little bit easier time. Some enlisted have degrees. But generally, the enlisted unemployment rate is the one that's a little bit higher.
I continue to believe that part of the way we get at that, there are some reasons forth that are in the health care side so we have to honor our responsibilities there. But I'm -- I'm continuing to believe that part of the way we get at the unemployment rate is to get people credentialed for the skills they attain when they attain them with a credential to civilian hiring officer understands and recognizing that that civilian hiring officer, there's only one percent chance that individual would have been in the military. I think we appreciate military service, but often may not understand what it is that somebody brings to the table in terms of technical skill or leadership skill.
And so programs like the Soldier for Life program in the Army and others, and I know different branches are tackling in different ways that are trying to make sure that people get these civilian credentials is -- are important.
And I just would like to hear you talk about efforts within your branches on this or more broadly, the unemployment issues that are faced by enlisted that are parting into a tough job market. Special aides (ph) were drawn down and, of course, more will be departing, and we want to make sure that they get traction right away in a civilian workforce. So offer thoughts on that challenge please.
Senator, for the Navy, we have what's called Credentialing -- Credentialing Opportunities Online. It's where you can go and sign up and begin to take advantage of these credentials that the civilian world offers and provides the Navy so you would take your skill set that you have. In my example, it would be as an aviation structural mechanic. There are certain certifications that you need to do work on aircraft in the civilian world, and you could go to this credentialing online opportunity, and you could begin the signup process and start to get your hours that you need and the signatures that you need, and eventually get this credential. And it transfers over into the civilian world. And we had that in place for a while.
We also recently implemented a process where a sailor with the permission of their commanding officer prior to separation, if they know they're going to get out, can go to a vocational or trade school and start working on the certificates that they may need to work in that civilian sector job that would be equivalent to what they're doing in the Navy.
So that, in conjunction with our Transition Assistance Program as well as -- as the Chief of Naval Operation, and I have talked about with our tuition assistance, when we look at how we can best use that, we want to encourage our Sailors to take college classes that equate to what their job is in the Navy so that not only it makes them better at their job in the Navy, but also makes them more competitive should they decide to get out of the Navy at some point.
So we got some good programs in place, and I am happy with them, and I believe we'll continue to work on them.
In addition, we -- we also have -- we have a transition readiness seminar and we have touch points along the way. As a matter of fact, every young Marine, rank of lance corporals require to do this Marine Corps Institute book, it's a Marine online course, and it's called Leading Marines. And attached to that course is a course called Your Readiness and it was developed by our personnel professional development personnel that work at our Marine Corps University. And that course teaches you how to start preparing yourself to leave the service if that's what it is you decide to do.
And then we have touch points along the way in the lifecycle of -- of a Marine. And as we get closer towards whether or not we're going to decide to stay in the uniform or get out of the uniform, you -- within a 12-month period, you'll go to a transition readiness seminar where you will have corps training. And the corps training is conducted by those from the Department of Labor, from the Small Business Administration and from the V.A.
As a matter of fact, the Troop to Talent Act or Troop Talent Act credentialing is part of the corps training that is given to every single Marine before they leave. That way they can present and address what credentials they are that are equivalent to what's going on in the outside world. Also, part of that course is they have the Career Technical Training Track, which assists Marines with the certifications.
Along with that, you have pathway training. You're going to decide whether you're going to go get a job when you get out of the service, you want to go to college, you want to get a vo-tech or entrepreneurialship. Well, you got an opportunity now to go down that particular path you want to go down and they will prepare you.
And you have personal and professional developing counselors that you can meet with before, during or after all this training to ensure that you're completely set-up for being prepared or when you decide to take off the uniform.
Senator, you know, I think all of our approaches are very similar so we have different programs within the Army, and the Navy, and the Marine Corps.
Speaking from the Army, we put a lot of focus on -- on the same COO program, Credentialing Opportunities Online. A -- a success story for us is what we have going on at the Joint Base Lewis-McChord in the state of Washington where we partnered with trade unions. And with the commitment of the soldier actually before they leave the service that the union will have a job for them when they leave the service.
We've done a lot of work in pipefitting, in plumbing, in HVAC. We are expanding that at other installations, really trying to leverage both the community college and vocational and technical schools along with like the -- the unions in case to try and help young men and women who may not have made the decision to go back to college that they can find a skill with the -- with the guarantee of employment upon graduation. So I -- in the Army's case, I think that's a part of the credential.
Thank you very much.
I would only add. We also do the credentialing online, but what we do a little unique in the Air Force, too, is we have what's called the Community College of the Air Force, and we have every career field that's lined up to be able to get -- earn a two-year degree -- technical degree associated with that career field, and they can do that within their first enlistment. So that means they do walk out with a tangible that we have already kind of done the work to show that.
And we also have a partner program where they can take that with just over 50 universities that's an associate at the bachelor program where they take full credit, give them and they walk in as a junior into that college and they can continue to pursue their undergraduate degree. So again it kind of helps we have the credentialing programs we're also working to make sure they have that ability to walk out with at least a two-year degree and then potentially a four-year degree.
OK. Thank you.
Thank you, Madam Chairwoman.
Senator -- Senator King?
Thank you. Each of you heard the Chair lists the changes -- the personnel changes as you well know what they are -- the one percent commissaries. Do each of you support that proposal?
The Marine Corps does, Sir.
Yes, Sir. The Navy does.
The Army does, Sir.
The Air Force does, Sir.
Thank you. I think it's important. And Sergeant Major, you -- your answer to Senator Kaine's question is one of the best answers I've ever heard to any questions since I've been here. You were crisp and really -- I thought captured the essence of the -- of the -- of the dilemma.
Nobody here wants to vote to cut pay or do anything else. The problem is we're in a zero some world. And the testimony we had from the department two weeks ago was that this is a $2.1 billion a year proposition, $30 billion over five years, and that money will come right out of readiness if we don't make these changes. Is that -- is that your understanding? Go ahead.
It absolutely will. Not only that, we're going to also have to start taking risk in infrastructure sustainment, facilities sustainment, restoration and modernization, furniture, fixture, equipment, personnel support equipment. We don't want to go back to where we were in the 1990's in Y2K when we had to find $2.8 billion because we are living in poor facilities. We don't want to go back to those days.
Yes, Sir. You know, at the end of the day, you know, I don't like this and I -- and it's a challenge, but it's what's necessary, you know. We've got to make sure as an Army that at the end of the day, the one thing we've got to make sure that our soldiers are trained and ready to answer what the nation is going to ask us to do is going to trump the rest of the things we got to do. We got the same challenges as the Marine Corps. We've got these beautiful facilities that BRAC 2005 gave us. They're now going to be transitioning into the sustainment phase of their lifecycle.
We make tremendous investments in modernization. We've got to cut a lot of those programs or push them to the right so that we can build a sustained readiness in the Army.
In a day lost of readiness of training is usually going to take you two days to gain it back. And so we have had a readiness deficit in the Army. Obviously, the bipartisan budget agreement has given us some very limited. Two years is not a lot of time to rebuild some level of readiness, but in '16 again with sequestration, we go right back in the tank. And the only way to provide a ready force is find those -- make those difficult decisions that have to be made in order to get our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines trained.
I hope if we have to make those decisions you'll stand behind this.
As far as 2016, I think it's really important to realize that -- that what we have is a breathing space, not a solution. And that it's incumbent upon us to be thinking about 2016 and how we mitigate the impacts of the sequester now rather than waiting until it's about a year and a half from now. So I look forward to -- to working with you.
Let me change the subject for a minute. There's a lot of -- we hear the term "keeping faith" with our troops and keeping faith with the -- with the people that are joining up. What does a young recruit understand about what they're signing up for? And do they think about retirement? Do they understand -- are they told -- is there anything in writing about, you know, here is what the -- the benefits are.
Myself, I feel that once somebody is in the service, they've earned -- they've earned what they're entitled to and that any changes we should make should be prospective for people that -- that haven't signed up yet. And if we've made some of those changes in the early 90's, we've been bearing the benefits of them now instead of trying to make them midstream.
But talk to me about what -- what a -- what a recruit thinks about when they're -- when they're signing a paper?
I can only speak from my own experience when I was 19 years old and joined the Army, and I wasn't thinking about compensation. I was actually thinking about going to Germany and be in a -- be in a tanker for a couple of years, and then leaving the Army and coming back to Massachusetts where I was -- where I grew up.
My condolences on that.
Well, Sir, you know...
The -- we provide information to soldiers, OK. They get a lot of information. They'll get pamphlets, they'll get brochures. Their recruiter will talk to them about the benefits of service.
Now, if you've taken the fact that an average 19-year-old male, you know, they're really not thinking, I think, in long-term view on what do I need to do in order to be able to get out of here and go do something else.
We have some limited education on finances while they're in basic training, and we've got opportunities for soldiers to learn about investments and so on and while they're at -- at their first duty allocation. So there is a level of -- of education about what you've earned. So I mean, that's the best I have for you right now.
Is -- is there a problem? I want to get your other thoughts. Is -- is there a problem of recruiters making representations that aren't on the -- in the documents? Is that -- is that an issue?
Sir, we -- we tell our recruiters whatever you do and you go out there on the street with all those wonderful skills you've just been taught. Don't think like a recruiter because the second you start thinking like a recruiter you're going to -- you're going to try to qualify them, and that's a wrong way to go about it. What you want to do you just want to go out there and talk about it.
And I made some notes -- well, Sergeant Major of the Army was talking, you know, 0.4 percent of the nation wears the cloth -- wears the cloth of one of these services right here. And this has been told to me time and time again when I've met with young Marines. They don't want an easy life. They want to be tougher people. It's about pride of belonging and it's being part of something bigger than itself.
And I hear that more than I hear anything else when I talk to a young person who, for the first time, was handed the Eagle, Globe and Anchor in their dirty little hand. And they -- they grab that thing and they hold it tight, and you see the tears just running down their face, they've just transformed, they've just became part of that 0.4 percent of the nation that's going to put it on the line. That's what they talk about the young people.
I would say that there is many different reasons why young men and women enlist. But primarily, that reason is called a service. They think about, to some degree, the benefits, they pay, those sorts of things, but it's really about service more than anything else.
But I was in San Antonio, Texas at the Hospital Corps School not too long ago, and I thought I would ask a group of young men and women that were sitting in the room that question. And I was really surprised by the response. I said to them, "How many of you, when you enlisted, thought that maybe you would make the Navy your career?" And two-thirds of their hands went up.
And I look back to the time I came in and I'll say it, 1983, if I had been asked that same question and you are to rose your hand, you would have probably been laughed at because most of us who came in then were just thinking four years and we're out. So there is a little bit of a different thought process. I can just speak for this generation because I never asked that question to the two generations before me, but it really is about a call to service more than anything else. But we shouldn't misunderstand the fact that they do appreciate the benefits that they do earn.
Thank you very much, gentlemen. You honor us by your presence here today. I appreciate it.
Thank you, Madam Chair. And I add my thanks to all of you for testifying and for your service.
It's good to know that the men and women who enlist are the -- who want to serve our country do so out of patriotism and a sense -- a deep sense of wanting to make a difference in what they do. And I realize -- we all realize it's just a small percentage of our population who answers that call. We -- I'd like to think that we all do our part to make a difference, but the men and women who do serve need to be treated fairly, so I know that that's what you are all about.
I have a question for Master Chief Stevens. I understand that the Navy already evaluate its servicemembers on whether they foster an environment or atmosphere of acceptance, and then the inclusion for your equal employment opportunity policy. I like your opinion on adding the criteria to evaluate an individual's ability and, therefore, to maintaining a command climate, which will not tolerate or condole hazing, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and ensures all members of the unit are treated with dignity and respect.
Senator, thank you for the question. The section of our evaluation performance that you mentioned where we talk about command climate and command culture really does fold in what you just mentioned. We expect our leaders at every level to foster the very environment that you talk about, and they are graded on that and the expectations are that they do create that culture within the organization.
We believe that, one, everybody deserves an opportunity or actually that we should set the conditions where everybody has the opportunity to be successful and that everybody is treated with dignity and respect.
But we also recognize that we have work to do, and we -- and we are and have been and will continue to work on this very hard. But it is a part of our performance evaluation. You can't be a commander out there and not foster a climate where people are treated with dignity and respect, and expect that command to be successful. And the success of that command is a large part of what they're evaluated on.
So the Navy already does that, and its evaluations for promotions and -- and other decisions with respect to the individual, so do the other services also use the command climate surveys or questionnaires for those purposes? Would anyone else like to respond?
To say yes, Ma'am. We have a similar approach to the Navy, whether it's at the individual level through an evaluation report or through a unit level activity called a Command Climate Survey that not only does -- they'll come in or get those results, but not as an Army, we -- we've made that requirement for the senior commander above the unit that's gotten the Command Climate Survey to, in fact, be outbriefed on those results also. And they set-up an action plan from there.
So do these surveys or these evaluations, are they part of that -- the commanders' files -- personnel files?
Well, from an Army perspective, the individual evaluation whether that's an E-5 sergeant all the way up to, you know, the sergeant major of the Army like myself, those evaluations are a part of their official record, OK. And that applies to our officer population through their Officer Evaluation Report.
The Command Climate Survey, obviously, that's got to be maintained on file for a certain -- specific period of time, but it's really from my perspective the relationship between the senior commander and that commander who had gone through the survey to determine what's the plan of action to either improve or strengthen where the unit has reported there were -- may have been some weaknesses or limitations within the chain of command.
In -- in the Marine Corps, Ma'am, yes -- first of all, the commanding officer is singularly responsible for everything that happens and fails to happen inside that unit. He and his or her sergeant major are responsible for command climate.
In the Marine Corps, you have the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, and every single one of the DEOMI command climates will be seen by the next level chain above that commanding officer. And the commandant of the Marine Corps also has a Command Climate Survey that's also done that the next commander will see exactly how well or how poor that you're doing inside the command.
The Air Force, Ma'am, is part -- so the actual evaluation part of it is part of the initial feedback and follow-on feedback in the report, so they're monitored. And the survey itself is used up and down. Everybody has visibility to that, so anybody that reports goes back to that report. And if you fell into that report, meaning your activities influenced it, it will then be documented in your official record.
And your surveys do cover the command climate with regard to areas such as sexual harassment, hazing, the factors or the areas that I mentioned.
It's a series of standard questions that all of us -- all of the services have to -- have in every survey, and then the commander has the choice of other questions that they can insert for their specific need.
But we all have a group of questions that are standardized that must be answered across the force, and they look at equal opportunity, sexual assault, command climate, those types of issues.
And do those surveys undergo changes over time?
Yes, Ma'am, they do.
Are they updated?
They are. They're updated, you know, based on, in some cases, changes in the law of things that we need to consider. They are also updated based on the needs of the services of things that we're seeing that we need to continue.
Madam Chair, I'd like to request that all our services give -- send to our committee the latest standard survey in any modifications that are made to the survey.
Thank you. If you could just distribute that to each of the offices, that would be wonderful.
Thank you. I want to have a little bit of time left, but I want to focus on the educational opportunities for our soldiers. The 9/11 G.I. bill has been an outstanding program. And then you have taken advantage of -- of this program. And my question is do you -- do any of you provide an assessment of how the program is performing? Do you track student success, school performance where the 9/11 G.I. benefits are -- are used?
Senator, if I could answer that question because I would like to use a personal example.
My son, Shane Stevens (ph), enlisted in the Navy and he did four years as a cryptological technician. During that four years, he used the T.A., the tuition assistance program and he received his bachelor's degree. And he decided to separate from the Navy and he went to the University of -- of Florida or actually, it's Florida State. He'd probably kill me if I said University of Florida, but Florida State University, where he used the 9/11 G.I. bill and received his master's degree while he was there, and then subsequently went on to -- to get hired by a very good company doing kind of the same work that he did in the Navy.
So when I watched him go through that entire process with the -- with the education benefits that -- not just the Navy, but the military provides our young men and women, I saw it work firsthand and it worked very well for him.
There have been some concerns about -- particular about for-profit colleges and universities that target veterans for high loan amounts and all of that, so I hope that there is a way that we can better track the experiences of our veterans.
My -- is my time out? I'm not sure.
Your time is expired.
I can keep going.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you all for your testimony. This has been invaluable in the deliberations we have to undergo in order to write the next National Defense Authorization bill.
I'm very grateful for your service and for your leadership, and being a voice for the men and women who serve under each of you. Thank you very much.
CQ Transcriptions, April 9, 2014
List of Panel Members and WitnessesPANEL MEMBERS:
SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, D-N.Y. CHAIRMAN
SEN. KAY HAGAN, D-N.C.
SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, D-CONN.
SEN. MAZIE K. HIRONO, D-HAWAII
SEN. TIM KAINE, D-VA.
SEN. CARL LEVIN, D-MICH. EX OFFICIO
SEN. ANGUS KING, I-MAINE
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C. RANKING MEMBER
SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS, R-GA.
SEN. KELLY AYOTTE, R-N.H.
SEN. ROY BLUNT, R-MO.
SEN. MIKE LEE, R-UTAH
SEN. JAMES M. INHOFE, R-OKLA. EX OFFICIO
SGT. MAJ. OF THE ARMY, RAYMOND F. CHANDLER III, U.S. ARMY
MASTER CHIEF PETTY OFFICER OF THE NAVY, MICHAEL D. STEVENS U.S. NAVY
CHIEF MASTER SGT. OF THE AIR FORCE JAMES A. CODY, U.S. AIR FORCE
SGT. MAJ. OF THE MARINE CORPS, MICHAEL P. BARRETT, U.S. MARINE CORPS
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