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Rebuilding America with excess money from the DOD

Editors Note: This is a part of the larger post on Hedrick Smith’s lecture to the NH AFL-CIO about his new book ‘Who Stole The American Dream’.  You can read the entire post here

Rebuilding America with excess money from the DOD.

Hedrick Smith talked about how we need to rebuild our infrastructure and get Americans back to work, how we need to focus on what is happening here, and stop spending all of our tax dollars fighting in other countries.  “Why are we building bridges in Kandahar, and not in Kansas?” Hedrick asked.  He explained that too much of our federal budget is going to the Pentagon; Defense spending is higher now than it was in the Cold War – even though, during the Cold War everyone was afraid of an all-out nuclear war.

In his book (Who Stole The American Dream), Hedrick details how much money we have spent on the current ‘wars’ that we are involved in: an estimated $3.5 to $4.5 trillion dollars have been spent, even though taxes have not been increased to pay for it.  Even now, as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, the “extra” money Congress spent on those war efforts is still in the federal budget.  That means Defense is enjoying grossly inflated appropriations – even though there are no actual ‘wars’ to fight.

Hedrick suggested that if we need to find the money to rebuild our roads and bridges, we should start by looking at the Pentagon budget.  He also proposed the idea of mandatory military service, if not for everyone then for everyone in Congress.  “We would go into a lot less wars if we had mandatory (military) service,” he said.  Hedrick also questioned Congress’ ability to make decisions about war if the representatives have never served themselves.

Workers At Portsmouth Naval Shipyard And All Civilian DOD Employees Get Furloughs Reduced

Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Submarine enroute to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Today some good news came from Washington.  Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that civilian DOD employees would only be forced to endure six days of furlough.  The furloughs have been shaved down from the originally proposed 22 to 11, and now down to six.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today issued the following statement:

“AFGE has argued from the start that the Department of Defense furloughs were always the worst possible way for the department to absorb sequestration’s cuts. The secretary’s announcement suggests that he has finally realized that furloughs are costly in terms of dollars, readiness, and morale.

“The administration is finally listening to our AFGE activists, who have been flooding the White House and congressional offices with stories of personal hardship and the ways in which furloughs have undermined military readiness.

“The terrible economic harm and injustice that has already been done to the 650,000 DoD civilians who should have never been furloughed has yet to be addressed. I am calling on Secretary Hagel to take immediate action to reimburse the furloughed employees for the six days of income they have lost.

“The hardworking men and women who support our military were exploited by Pentagon officials to send a political message to Congress about sequestration. Now that these same officials have admitted that the furlough was unnecessary, the only fair thing to do is to make full financial restitution to the employees who were harmed.”

This is great news for the hard-working men and women at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has been fighting against the Sequester from the beginning.  She has gone to bat for the workers in her district, specifically those at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter released this statement:

“Today’s announcement is welcome news for thousands of hardworking families, but it is not an excuse for Congressional inaction.

“Sequestration’s irrational and reckless cuts hurt our economy and limit job growth. Congress must replace sequestration with a responsible budget that reduces the deficit and increases middle class security. Only this will set our country on a path towards strong economic growth. Sequestration is not the answer.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster had this to say after the announcement:

“This decision to cut furloughs nearly in half will help thousands of families around New Hampshire and across the country, but it’s only the first step,” Kuster said. “This is a good example of people working together for the good of the country. Now, Republicans and Democrats need to come together and finish the job by finding a balanced, bipartisan solution to the automatic spending cuts that continue to harm our families and undermine our economy.”

Since taking office, Kuster has repeatedly called on Congress to replace these mindless, across-the-board cuts with a balanced plan to reduce the deficit, grow the economy, and help create jobs. Earlier this year, Kuster wrote an op-ed highlighting the damaging impacts the cuts would have on families and businesses in New Hampshire. She has spoken out against the cuts during recent visits to the Nashua Airport Tower and the Windham Senior Center, among others, and she has cosponsored common sense, bipartisan legislation like the Government Waste Reduction Act that would cut wasteful spending and help reduce the deficit while protecting seniors and middle class families.


The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia
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Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter Fights Against Shipyard Furloughs

Congresswoman asks Pentagon for answers on exemptions

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, at a briefing on the impacts of Department of Defense furloughs, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter addressed the concerns of the 1,300 workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard who have been furloughed and will lose 11 days of work this fiscal year due to federal budget cuts under sequestration. Shea-Porter asked Under Secretary of Defense, Comptroller, Robert Hale why the Department of Defense is still furloughing workers at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard after Secretary Hagel explicitly directed that these workers be exempt.

On May 14, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel stated in a memorandum that “employees in Navy shipyards will be exempted from furlough because it would be particularly difficult to make up delays in maintenance work on nuclear vessels and these vessels are critical to mission success.” After Hagel’s decision, most workers at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard were granted exemptions, but 1,300 others were still furloughed.

In response to Shea-Porter’s question, Mr. Hale stated that he did not know exactly why some Shipyard workers were furloughed, and promised to get back to her with an answer.

Shea-Porter said that she is hopeful that all workers at the Shipyard will be given exemptions.

“All Shipyard workers deserve to be paid in full and my goal is to work with the Department of Defense to ensure that every Shipyard worker is treated equally and exempted equally,” Shea-Porter said. “The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is a team. It should not be split up because the whole team is essential to their mission.”

As of March 1, 2013, when sequestration went into effect, the Department of Defense’s budget for the 2013 fiscal year (ending September 30, 2013) was reduced by $37 billion, including $20 billion in Operations and Maintenance (O&M) accounts that fund the civilian workforce. Because of this cut, the Department of Defense furloughed 680,000 of its civilian employees. These furloughs began on July 8, 2013.

Remember Those We Have Lost, Honor Those Who Return

Memorial Day has never been a big holiday in my family.  What I mean by that is that, my family was blessed with soldiers who all came home from war.  My grandfather who was in France during WWII never actually talked about his experiences during the war.

He did tell me one story.  My grandfather was an officer in the Army.  One of his duties as an officer was to ride on the mail truck and deliver letters from home.  When he stopped at one base, he introduced himself to the other officer.  While they were unloading the truck, the other officer asked if my grandfather had any relation to a Jack Murray.  My grandfather responded yes, he is my brother.  This may seem very strange that a person would randomly ask about another man named Murray in the middle of WWII.  However if you ever saw a picture of these two brothers (and I wish I had one) as young men you would think they were twins.  Add that with their thick south Boston accent it was not hard to connect the dots.

Of all the things that happened during WWII the only story my grandfather ever told me was how he randomly ran into his brother in the middle of France durning WWII.

My grandfather did receive a certificate of appreciation from the French government.  50 years after WWII, the French government sent these certificates to all of the US servicemen for all they did for France. I did see the certificate, but could not understand it because it was written in french.

I just recently became aware that my father was also in the military.  My father passed away only a few years after I was born so I have no stories from him.  He was in the US Army and served twice.  He was discharged in 1968 as an E-2.

Both my father and my grandfather are gone now.  They served their country and came home to live out their lives.  Today we remember those who served their country and did not come home.  The act of war is sometimes necessary and always has huge consequences.  Every man and women who served deserves our utmost respect.

That is why we celebrate Memorial Day.  A day to reflect on those who we lost protecting our freedoms.  I also want to make today about the hundreds of thousands of Veterans who are coming home from war and not getting the help they need.

Statistics on the VA backlog (IRAQ & Afghanistan Veterans of America)

Statistics on the VA backlog (IRAQ & Afghanistan Veterans of America)

The Veterans Administration (VA) has some serious problems right now.  The VA and the Department of Defense (DOD) seem to be unable to connect.  This disconnect has created a backlog of over 800,000 veterans who are waiting for disability payments.  Many of them waiting over six months for their initial approval.

The disconnect come from the fact that the DOD uses one computer system to handle medical records of active duty servicemen.  The VA uses a completely different system, and the two cannot talk to each other.

“This isn’t just about the VA,” said Tom Tarantino chief policy advisor for IRAQ and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “It’s about making sure that the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs have the same medical records. People who make the veterans and people who care for the veterans should be looking at the exact same file.”

I applaud Congressional Reps like Annie Kuster who are standing up for these Veterans.  She is pushing legislation to end the backlog.  We need more of this.  We need the American people to stand up and demand that we treat our Veterans like the heroes they are.  They should get the same level of respect and honor that we give to those who died serving our country.

So today remember those we have lost and honor those who have returned.

AFGE president blasts Defense secretary for rejecting call to end furloughs

Requiring all services, agencies to furlough workers will undermine readiness, increase costs 

WASHINGTON – American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. is expressing his disappointment at Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for rejecting a bipartisan call from lawmakers to end the arbitrary furlough of civilian employees.

In an April 30 letter to Secretary Hagel, President Cox said he was “surprised and disappointed” that Hagel continues to insist that nearly all DoD civilian employees be furloughed across the board, even though some components are able to absorb the budget cuts required under sequestration without furloughing employees.

“Such an arbitrary approach neither promotes national security nor fairness,” Cox wrote.

On April 24, 126 House members from both parties sent a letter to Hagel, urging him to review the Pentagon’s plans to furlough nearly every civilian employee for 14 days, systematically fire temporary and term employees, and freeze new employee hiring.

In the letter, the lawmakers highlighted the injustice of applying civilian furloughs equally across all of the services and Defense agencies, since some components say they can avoid furloughs by making offsetting cuts in other areas or generate their own revenue.

But Hagel’s written response indicated that there is no plan to alter the Pentagon’s one-size-fits-all approach. “In reallocating resources throughout the Department to the highest national security priorities, we will strive for consistency and fairness across the Department,” Hagel wrote on April 26.

In his letter, Cox noted that furloughs will increase costs, reduce productivity, and undermine readiness.

“Components and agencies should clearly not be forced to take the same number of furlough days. If components or agencies have come up with offsetting sequestration cuts or generate their own revenues, they should not be required to impose furloughs. That’s not a radical proposition. Rather, that’s competent leadership,” Cox wrote.

A copy of the letter is available at http://bit.ly/14QbLxU.

NH Labor News 8/28/12: Private Prison: The Public’s Problem, LGC Battle Continues, NH DES Says Economy Slightly Worse, and more..

Private Prisons: The Public’s Problem – A Talk by Caroline Isaacs – Nashua, NH Patch: “The three companies that run for-profit prisons in Arizona have all submitted bids to take over New Hampshire’s prison system. Caroline Isaacs, who directs the AFSC’s Arizona Program in Tucson, has thoroughly investigated their performance and found it lacking.  Her report, published in Feburary, revealed widespread and persistent problems in the areas of safety, accountability, and cost.

She will share her findings during a three-day speaking tour in New Hampshire, whicih will come to Nashua’s Unitarian Universalist Church on Wednesday, September 5, from 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.


Secretary of state in Dover about LGC ruling: ‘This is not a simple matter’ – Fosters: “DOVER — A public forum Monday night held to help area residents better understand the ruling against the Local Government Center left many questions unanswered and people still wondering when and how they will get their money back.

The LGC, a nonprofit organization that manages health insurance pools for public workers and retirees in New Hampshire, was found to have improperly collect and retain surplus funds for health and property liability funds it maintained for state and local employees and retirees. ”


Sec. of State Holds Public Forum On LGC Ruling | New Hampshire Public Radio: ““The public was very concerned about their money, where it’s parked right now, what’s going to happen to it.  I think those all  legitimate concerns.”

Lang, himself at one time was a board member of the LGC and researched the center’s finances.  His research resulted in a court order to refund $52 million dollars to public employees, retirees and municipal members who bought health and other insurance coverage from the non-profit.  LGC has already said it will appeal the ruling.”


Once again the media is blaming the teachers in the MHT School district for budget problem….

Manchester Begins The School Year After $8 Million Budget Shortfall and Teacher Union Impasse | New Hampshire Public Radio: “Manchester School District Superintendent Thomas Brennan says the teacher layoffs and program cuts came because Manchester schools faced the worst budget shortfall in recent memory.

“This year we’re talking about an 8 million dollar gap. And there’s no way that we’re going to make up 8 million dollars. In the past it might have been 1 or 2 million. It sounds a lot in some cases, it doesn’t sound a lot in others. So we always made it work. We’re not going to make it work this year.””


Goffstown selectmen deny firefighters’ retroactive raise | New Hampshire NEWS07: “electmen have denied a grievance filed by the Professional Firefighters of Goffstown that sought pay increases for three firefighters in 2011. At its regular meeting Monday night, Vice Chairman Scott Gross moved to “respectfully decline” the request of the firefighters.

Attorneys for both the town and the firefighters’ union presented their cases to the Board of Selectmen at its meeting on Aug. 20, with the union claiming that three firefighters were due a step increase pay raise in 2011, from $16 an hour to $17.28, an 8-percent increase.”


“ROCHESTER — The latest statistics released by New Hampshire Employment Security shows that the state’s economy is in slightly worse shape than a year ago. It is estimated that there were 629,000 private sector and government jobs in the Granite State in July, which is 2,100 fewer than 12 months ago, with the private sector accounting for all of this decline.

This assessment ties in with the state’s unadjusted unemployment rate for July. According to NHES, the July 2012 unemployment rate for New Hampshire was 5.7 percent, an increase of 0.3 percentage points from the June rate, which remained at 5.4 percent after revision. The July 2011 unadjusted rate was 5.5 percent.

The national unadjusted rate for July 2012 was 8.6 percent, an increase of 0.2 percentage points from the June rate and a decrease of 0.7 percentage points from the July 2011 rate.”


Lang’s battle with LGC results in state order for $52M refund | SeacoastOnline.com: “A firefighter’s nine-year effort to open the Local Government Center’s books to the public has directly resulted in an order that $52 million be refunded to public employees, retirees and municipal members who bought the LGC’s health and/or property liability insurance.

While the LGC announced Thursday it will appeal, much credit for the $52 million order can go to David Lang, a retired Hampton firefighter and president of the New Hampshire Professional Fire Fighters Association. Related agreements that the SchoolCare risk-management pool will refund municipal members $8.5 million and the Primex pool will refund between $16 million and $21 million can also be linked to Lang’s tenacity.

Secretary of State Bill Gardner said Friday that without Lang’s series of Right To Know requests for LGC information, “none of this would be happening right now.””


Sequestration budget cuts bad for New Hampshire | SeacoastOnline.com: As staff writer Aaron Sanborn reported (Ayotte: cuts reach ‘too far,’ Aug. 23, Portsmouth Herald), federal budget sequestration has dangerously real consequences for New Hampshire.

But only half of sequestration’s impact is on defense.

Non-defense cuts will also hit hard, costing more than 2,700 New Hampshire jobs. Why? Because sequestration makes deep cuts to investments that matter for New Hampshire kids and families.

More than 17,000 New Hampshire families would lose health services through the federal Maternal & Child Health Block Grant, and 1,400 would lose quality nutrition through WIC. More than 3,600 New Hampshire children would lose educational help, including nearly 2,300 with disabilities.

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