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Dear Secretary Sebelius:
We write to you regarding the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry's (ATSDR) ongoing work regarding the historic water contamination at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina and its designation as a National Priority List site. We remain significantly concerned about many aspects of ATSDR's ongoing work on this very serious matter.
We have significant concerns regarding ATSDR's critical relationship with the Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel (CAP.) This panel has proven invaluable in assisting with research for past ATSDR studies and is a vital link to the affected community. In the past few months, we have heard growing concerns about the level of communication from ATSDR to the CAP. While we understand that the most recent leadership change at ATSDR contributed somewhat to a delay in scheduling the quarterly CAP meeting at ATSDR, we remain concerned that ATSDR has not been consulting openly and in a spirit of collaboration with current CAP members and has in some instances displayed a lack of urgency in regard to filling vacancies on the CAP.
Furthermore, since the departure ofthe last permanent Director of ATSDR, there has been what we see as a growing lack of trust and cooperation between ATSDR and the CAP. This is concerning to us because the CAP is the formal forum designed for the affected community to express its concerns and ATSDR has previously stated that the agency needs to have a trusting and constructive relationship with the CAP. For reasons we cannot yet discern, the desire for open communication seems to have waned within ATSDR in recent months. For example, in Dr. Frieden's September 16, 2013 letter to us, he stated that "ATSDR plans to revise the 1997 Public Health Assessment (PHA) based on available data and input from the Camp Lejeune Community Assistance Panel." We are dismayed that the CAP has not yet been consulted on there-issuance of the PHA for Camp Lejeune or included in the discussions underway at ATSDR regarding the PHA.
It is our sincere expectation that repairing relationships with the CAP will be a top priority for Dr. Tanja Popovic and that Dr. Frieden will ensure the community continues to have a voice in future ATSDR activities related to Camp Lejeune.
Another significant area of concern pertains to what we see as a compelling case for ATSDR to conduct a cancer incidence study of the population at Camp Lejeune. Last month, we met with Dr. Tanja Popovic, Acting Director of ATSDR, regarding the recent studies her agency released and a cancer incidence study. Such a study would be critically important to help Lejeune veterans and the American people get the best possible scientific understanding of the contamination that occurred at the base. While we were very pleased that Dr. Popovic committed to responding to us within four weeks regarding the way forward on a cancer incidence study of the population at Camp Lejeune, we were also dismayed that Dr. Popovic took the position that ATSDR does not have the authority or expertise to conduct a cancer incidence study. Conducting public health studies ofthis nature on National Priority List sites was precisely the reason the agency was created.
The water contamination at Camp Lejeune is likely the largest environmental contamination in the history of this nation. It is the responsibility of our government to provide a full and complete account of what happened. Therefore, we are concerned that Dr. Popovic suggested a non-governmental organization would be better suited to assess the feasibility of a cancer incidence study and possibly conduct the study itself. Given the nature and history of this contamination and the disturbing findings of recent studies released by ATSDR, both Congress and the public reasonably expect the government to conduct this type of study and for your department to leverage its resources toward that end. Furthermore, we respectfully request answers to the following questions outlined below.
2) Does ATSDR have access to sufficient gov't personnel and resources to fulfill the agency's statutory obligation to conduct epidemiological studies that are warranted given that serious exposures occurred and the agency's own studies indicated that health effects have been observed? If not, please provide a detailed response of the resources the agency needs or provide us with resources resident in other agencies within your department.
3) Has ATSDR previously worked with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) on public health studies, including a cancer incidence study? If so, please provide a list of specific studies on which the two agencies have collaborated, as well as a description of the inter-agency process used in these ....for full letter click here
The letter was signed by:
Senator Kay Hagan, Richard Burr Congressman Dingell
Today the president released his Fiscal Year 2015 budget request for the Department of Defense. This defense budget contains the recommendations I announced last week and is responsible, balanced and realistic. It matches our strategy to our resources.
This budget also supports - and is informed by - our updated defense strategy outlined in the recently completed 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), which is also being released today. This QDR defines the historic transition unfolding throughout our defense enterprise. As we move off the longest continuous war footing in our nation's history, this QDR explains how we will adapt, reshape, and rebalance our military for the challenges and opportunities of the future.
President Barack Obama today sent Congress a proposed defense budget of $495.6 billion in discretionary budget authority to fund base defense programs in fiscal year 2015.
The request is $0.4 billion less than the enacted FY 2014 appropriation and is consistent with the current budget caps. The Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative -- a government-wide initiative -- requests an additional $26 billion in FY 2015 to address significant readiness and modernization challenges. In the years from FY 2016 to FY 2019, the Department of Defense (DoD) is asking for funding that exceeds the current budget caps by a total of approximately $115 billion in order to meet defense requirements.
I attended a briefing yesterday with Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. The purpose of this briefing was to not only gain support from the Marine Corps Reserve Association but from all of the Veterans Service Organizations on proposed legislation he is going to introduce. That legislation is the “
S.1950, the Comprehensive Veterans Health and Benefits and Military Retirement Pay Restoration Act of 2014.”
I will tell you up front this is a pretty sweeping piece of legislation, the likes of which we have not seen in decades. Here are a few of the highlights:
These are not all that the bill addresses. When you read the attachment, one of the pieces of legislation I did not talk about in the above is the
HONOR THE SERVICE OF RESERVE RETIREES. Now before any of you get excited, let me tell you what this means. There are a significant number of GUARDSMAN & RESERVESthat have served this country for a number of years, 3 – 5 – 10 – 20+ that were never mobilized. Thus, they never received a DD‐214 & as such are not considered “VETERANS.” This would correct that.
The cost of this legislation would be between $27 – 54 BILLION! The Senator is awaiting the costs from the CBO. Sen Sanders knows he can deliver all the members on the Democratic side, he informed us that he would need 6 ‐10 Republicans to support this legislation to ensure its passing. Now – I must inform you, this legislation is not final & as all of us are aware, there will be compromises made to the final legislation coming out of the Senate. The single biggest question we had for the Senator was “where are these funds going to come from?” The Senator is going to propose funding of this bill by reprograming the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds, for FY2014 this is $79.4 billion. Currently these funds are being used to:
Before you answer my question, I want you to think about this. During a press conference on May 20, 2013, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said of the $79.4 billion, DoD was asking Congress to allow Pentagon officials to reprogram $9.6 billion in fiscal 2013 funding, “to offset the effects of sequestration.” The $9.6 billion request looks to fix large shortfalls in overseas contingency operations funding and larger than expected fuel bills. I am providing this information to make a point, if you look at the list above notice item #3, “repair & replacement of equipment….” Some of the services have planned on using their portion of the funds to make up for shortfalls due to sequestration. Supporting this bill could take away funds targeted to be used for operations & maintenance costs.
The other piece of this puzzle is we both know that our Republican friends believe in a strong defense, how are they going to feel about taking funds away from those forces still engaged or those forces preparing to engage, those out there on the pointy tip? Sen Sanders did not address how the Republicans would feel, other than to state “we need 6 ‐10 to support this bill to get it passed. I hope you are now beginning to grasp the dilemma here. Do we endorse this legislation, which will no doubt enhance support to veterans that have returned from the fight or do we not support and allow DoD to use the funds to prepare the services, including the Marine Corps to recock for the next fight. I must let you know that Sen Sanders stated, “this is really not reallocating OCO funds. Remember these funds were provided to DoD to support service members engaged in Afghanistan. As those service members are withdrawn, fewer funds are required to support them in country, so we can use these funds to support service members returning here.”
So what do you think? The Association must either provide a letter of endorsement or decline. I know how I feel, but this is bigger than me, I represent YOU so I need to know what you think & what we should do. To assist you in learning more about this proposed legislation I have attached the complete briefing letter.
To read the briefings of all the pieces of legislation you will need to click here, I do need to know how you feel pretty quick. At the beginning of the discussion, the Senator anticipated 3 ‐4 months before the legislation came up for a vote. Within 20 mins of his departure, his chief Executive Aide informed us the legislation could come up for a vote within a couple of weeks.
Pass this on to your fellow Marines, get their opinion(s). PLEASE let me know what you think.
A BCD panel was convened on Maj Brezler last week in New Orleans and they have recommended to discharge the Major from the Marine Corps with an "honorable discharge." Yet this still may not be the end of the story. There are now politicians involved and they are saying this outcome is not good enough. The Major was deployed to Afghanistan, and got into trouble for using unsecured email to send his former commanding officer classified information alerting him to a corrupt Afghan cop, Sarwar Jan, who had
gained access to a Marine base. Less than a month later, a teenage boy kept on the base by Jan grabbed a gun and killed three Marines and seriously wounded a fourth.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Rep. Pete King (R-NY) and FDNY
Commissioner Sal Cassano have urged the Marine Corps to clear the
record of the Major. Brezler was deployed to Now Zad, Afghanistan, in
2009 as a reservist with the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines. He was in the
U.S. in 2012 when he got an email from his former commanding officer,
Capt. Andy Terrell, telling him Sarwar Jan, a corrupt Afghan cop with
Taliban ties, had gained access to a Marine base in Afghanistan. From his personal Yahoo email account, Maj Brezler sent Capt Terrell a classified briefing document about Sarwar Jan, hoping it would help run him off the premises. Nearly three weeks after Brezler sent the warning, a 15-year-old boy kept on the base by Jan grabbed an AK-47 and murdered three Marines and seriously wounded a fourth. Brezler soon reported his indiscretion to his superiors, and military investigators opened a probe with his cooperation.
Equipment upkeep, training and command visits at risk
NEW ORLEANS undefined Deep budget cuts and belt-tightening became a reality in 2013, but all those changes will be felt most fully in 2014, said the commander of Marine Forces Reserve. Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, who also commands Marine Forces North, told Marine Corps Times in an exclusive interview that the effects of long-term sequestration budget cuts would be felt at full severity in 2014, and the impact on the reserves would be intensified.
Fewer reservists may travel to large-scale training exercises, such as Bold Alligator off the Carolina coast; equipment might be sidelined because the reserves are unable to maintain it; and reserve unit commanders could be forced to cut out visits to their units, all on account of fiscal austerity. Mills said officials are already examining ways to restructure training and reexamine equipment use so they can make the best of reserve time and resources. For the full article click
By Cpl. Marcin Platek | U. S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve | April 10, 2013
Marine Corps Reserve Association
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