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July 17, 2013

News Briefs July 17, 2013

U.S. military deaths in Afghanistan at 2,112

As of July 16, 2013, at least 2,112 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to an Associated Press count.

At least 1,751 military service members have died in Afghanistan as a result of hostile action, according to the military’s numbers.

Outside of Afghanistan, the department reports at least 127 more members of the U.S. military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Of those, 11 were the result of hostile action. AP

Bill to revamp military justice gains support

An effort to overhaul the military justice system to stem the tide of sexual assault has gained a crucial conservative backer in the Senate.

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky announced his support July 16 for legislation sponsored by Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York that would remove commanders from the process of deciding whether serious crimes, including sexual misconduct cases, go to trial.

That judgment would rest instead with seasoned trial lawyers who have prosecutorial experience and hold the rank of colonel or above.

Paul joined Gillibrand at a Capitol Hill news conference along with other Republicans and Democrats who back the measure. The effort now has the support of 33 senators.

The Senate could decide the issue later this month if lawmakers consider a sweeping defense bill. AP

U.K. investigators examine transmitter in 787 fire

U.K. investigators say they are examining whether an emergency transmitter might have played a role in last week’s fire on a Boeing 787 at London’s Heathrow Airport.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch said July 16 that, while it is premature to speculate on the incident’s cause, the ìemergency locator transmitter is one of several components being looked at in detail as part of the investigation.

U.K. authorities confirmed that U.S.-based Honeywell – maker of the 787′s emergency transmitter – has joined the probe into the fire on a parked Ethiopian Airlines’ Dreamliner.

The fire brought back memories of the two smoldering lithium-ion batteries that led officials to temporarily ground 787s worldwide in January. Flights resumed after the battery systems were redesigned. AP

Top military brass to be cut 20 percent

The Pentagon chief says his staff and that of his top brass will be trimmed by 20 percent in coming years.

The comments July 16 by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel came on the second day of a tour of four military bases to talk about budget cuts that have forced furloughs of Defense Department civilian employees and a shortage in services for troops.

Hagel said personnel in his office, the Joint Chiefs chairman’s and the headquarters of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines would be cut starting in 2015 and continue through 2019. He wouldn’t discuss the estimated savings and didn’t give details.

Military spending was slashed by $37 billion this year, forcing job furloughs that began last week for an estimated 650,000 Defense department civilian employees. AP

Oklahoma base offers buyouts to 750 civilian workers

Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma has begun offering buyouts in an effort to trim 750 civilian workers from its payroll of some 9,000 blue-collar employees.

The proposed buyouts, the fourth at the base since 2011, are the first extended to hourly workers, such as mechanics. The first three rounds resulted in about 210 early departures by civilian employees.

James Schmidt, union representative for workers at the base’s maintenance facility, said he thought the goal of 750 would be met. Planned furlough days and the prospect of more in the next fiscal year will be an impetus to those who were already open to the idea of leaving the base, he said.

Not being able to participate in earlier buyout offers had been a sore point for the blue-collar workers, Schmidt told The Oklahoman.

I think a lot of the folks who are 55, this is kind of what they’ve been waiting for,î he said. ìI think you’ll see a lot of them go.

The regular retirement, early retirement and voluntary separation programs carry financial incentives – some workers can get up to $25,000 in cash to leave early.

The civilian workers targeted for the early retirement and voluntary separation programs began receiving notices this month to gauge interest. The effective dates for those who accept the offers are expected to be in October or November.

The survey of workers began just before they were scheduled to take the first of 11 furlough days that will cost them 20 percent of their pay through September.

Even before automatic federal budget cuts went into effect in March, the Defense Department was required to cut nearly $500 billion over a 10-year period.

Tinker officials said that the buyouts being offered now were not related to the March budget cuts or the ones that came before. AP




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