On occasion I feel the need to share several of the past week's news. This is one of them.
This Week's Not Commented on Story 1 - Duh!
CHAIRMAN OF JOINT CHIEFS SAYS LENGTHY, REPETITIVE DEPLOYMENTS PUT FORCES AT RISK -- Admiral Mullen says leaders have to be cognizant of the pace of operations and pressures placed on troops and their families. The military has to reduce stress on the Army and Marine Corps or risk crossing "an invisible red line" that will place too much strain on the force, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said during a recent interview. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff spoke to reporters traveling with him after visits to Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune. The Army post and Marine base have shipped thousands of servicemembers to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mullen said the mission must come first, but added that leaders have to be cognizant of the pace of operations and pressures placed on troops and their families. Leaders are working to balance mission demands against the stressors of lengthy and repetitive deployments. "One of the reasons I made this trip to Fort Bragg and Camp Lejeune is to get a feel for that, and remembering that our No. 1 priority is accomplishing the mission," the chairman said. On the Army side, the chairman said he is convinced that the service has to get deployments down from 15 months to 12 "as fast as possible." The service also must increase "dwell time" -- the time soldiers spend at home following deployments, Mullen said. Currently, soldiers deploy for 15 months and have a dwell time of 12 months. The service must get that to 12 months deployed and 12 months home and ultimately to 12 months deployed, 24 months at home, he said. "We've been (deploying soldiers at an increased rate) since 2003, ... and repetitive deployments are really taking a strain," he said. "Right now we're doing okay," he continued. "The force has been remarkably resilient; they are accomplishing the mission and executing at a very high level." But at some point, the pressures and stressors will be too much and servicemembers may elect to separate rather than stay in: that's the red line, he said. "We don't want to cross it, and we don't know exactly where it is," he said.
This Week's Not Commented on Story 2 - May They Rot In ...
NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL OPENS INQUIRY INTO CONTROVERSIAL VETERANS' CHARITY -- Has begun a formal inquiry into the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation run by "nonprofit entrepreneur" Roger Chapin. The New York State Attorney General's office has begun a formal inquiry into the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation, the Ossining, N.Y.-based veterans charity run by "nonprofit entrepreneur" Roger Chapin that has been a focus of unflattering Congressional hearings and media coverage. A subpoena entitled "In the matter of the investigation" of the coalition was sent to Ray Clifford, a former executive director, who revealed its existence and provided a copy. "I'm relieved the Attorney General is finally looking into this," he said. In February, the coalition sued Clifford and his brother John, both fired last year by Chapin, the charity's president. The complaint accuses them of taking documents and making "false and disparaging statements" to third parties, but doesn't detail even one such remark. Besides unspecified money damages, the coalition seeks a court order barring the brothers from revealing information about it. The attorney general's investigation is being run by its Charities Bureau in Albany. The head, Assistant Attorney General Nathan Courtney, who signed the subpoena, declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo. The coalition and another nonprofit Chapin runs, Help Hospitalized Veterans of Winchester, Calif., have been under fire for their fundraising, spending and disclosures. At a Congressional hearing in January, Chapin, who since the 1960s has been pushing causes from his San Diego base, agreed that only 25% of the money his two nonprofits spent actually went to injured veterans. Financial statement and federal tax return for Help Hospitalized Veterans, which Chapin started in 1971, says that he received 13% more in total compensation despite an 18% drop in listed contributions. For the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2007, Chapin got $482,990, compared with $426,434 the year before. Contributions were $57.7 million, down from $70.5 million in the earlier period. HHV is best known for providing arts-and-crafts kits to veterans needing rehabilitation. But the new financials say only 12 cents of each dollar spent was for kits, with another 6 cents for associated overhead and counselors. In contrast, 62 cents of each dollar went toward HHV's direct-mail effort.
This Week's Not Commented on Story 3 - Ya Think
EDITORIAL CALLS FORMER VA SECRETARY PRINCIPI'S DEALINGS "A SERIOUS CONFLICT" -- "The VA-QTC case is so blatant that enough is enough. Taxpayers are tired of filling the pockets of bureaucrats." Anthony Principi apparently had a good thing going. He held a high spot in the U.S. government as secretary of Veterans Affairs, while running a company that potentially benefits an agency like the VA. If you think something else is rotten in Washington, D.C., you should see an audit that was recently released. The audit illustrated where Principi engineered contracts between the VA and his company, QTC Management Inc. The company, based in Diamond Bar, is the largest private provider of government-outsourced occupational health, injury and disability examination services in the nation, and hooking up with the VA was definitely good for business. Principi was president of QTC when he was appointed by President Bush in 2001 - a perfect marriage for gross conflict of interest. QTC, according to the audit, overcharged the VA $6 million in a contract to conduct physical evaluations on veterans applying for disability benefits. In fact, according to the audit, the VA wanted to amend the contract and charge higher rates than authorized, and there's a good chance the VA is still paying too much under the contract. QTC was paid $267 million by the VA from May 1, 2003 through April 30, 2007. Here's a real kicker. The agency wants to extend the contract because of good performance reviews. The VA is not serious, is it? This is only one example. The Los Angeles Times reported in 2006 that Principi benefited from a series of contract awards and revisions to contracts by the VA. A congressional-mandated review of QTC showed costs of the contract were higher than expected with less than anticipated savings in return. But, did the VA follow up the review? Of course not. State and federal governments wonder why people don't trust bureaucracy; here's one, big golden example. Allowing the rubber-stamping of millions of dollars through a contract between a government agency and a company - and the agency's official is also president of that company - is mind-boggling. James B. Peake, a retired Army general who now heads the VA, also worked for QTC as an executive immediately prior to being named secretary last year. At his confirmation hearings, Peake said he would recues himself from any matters involving QTC.
This Week's Not Commented on Story 4 - May They Also Rot In ...
FUNDRAISER CONVICTED OF RACKETEERING, CLAIMED MONEY WENT TO VETERANS AND OTHERS -- The complaint accused the defendants of using deceptive phone solicitations, in some cases making pleas for money to pay for services that didn't exist and targeting vulnerable or elderly people. The man who prosecutors say was the ringleader of a scam to raise millions of dollars through deceptive telephone solicitations for questionable charitable causes pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of racketeering. Duane J. Kolve, 41, of Chippewa Falls, had been accused of 13 counts of racketeering but 12 counts were dismissed in a plea bargain that avoided a trial scheduled for this summer, prosecutors said. Eight people were originally charged in the scam two years ago, according to court records. Eau Claire County District Attorney Richard White said charges against four were dismissed and three others pleaded to reduced charges for their cooperation in the prosecution of Kolve. According to the criminal complaint, the defendants either owned or worked as managers of fundraising businesses set up in western Wisconsin since 2002 that collected more than $10 million from about 450,000 out-of-state contributions. Prosecutors alleged that little of that money was used for a charitable purpose. Prosecutors said Thursday the scam skimmed off nearly all of the donations, leaving between 35 cents and $2.92 for every $100 donated for a charitable purpose (from 0.35% to 2.92% only, went to a charitable purpose).
--- Regards, Walt Schmidt