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Military News Briefs for the Week of Sept. 7, 2001

National Guard Bureau

WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2001 – (This is a summary of the top American Forces Press Service

news stories for the week ending Sept. 7, 2001.)



DoD "needs every nickel" to address and arrest the near decade-long decline in America's military, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Sept. 5.

Rumsfeld asked the senators to approve DoD's fiscal 2002 budget request so the department can reverse the effects of a decade of "overuse and underfunding" and to fund the transformation of the military to combat the threats of the 21st century. The 2002 request is the largest increase in defense spending since the mid-1980s. "This is an important first step to get the department out of a hole that the long period of underfunding has put us in," he said.

The request includes money for military quality of life programs, pay raises, housing improvements and TRICARE. In addition, the request bolsters readiness accounts.

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The Defense Intelligence Agency hopes to grow a Russian- engineered variant of anthrax to test the effectiveness of the vaccine given to U.S. troops. A 1997 medical journal reported that Russia might have developed a modified anthrax strain.

Concerned about its possible use as a biological weapon, DIA officials requested a sample from Russia, but to date have received none, Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke said in a Sept. 4 press briefing. DIA earlier this year started to look into the coordination and approvals needed to develop the strain and test the vaccine, she said.

Clarke stressed no scientific work has been done so far in developing this strain and that the proposed work, codenamed Project Jefferson, would be in compliance with the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention.

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The Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance plan will also cover troops' spouses and eligible children beginning Nov. 1. The plan allows for up to $100,000 coverage for military spouses and $10,000 coverage for each child.

If the service member has SGLI coverage of $100,000 or more, maximum coverage for the spouse will be automatic, and premiums will be deducted from each month's pay, Navy Capt. Chris Kopang explained. Premiums will be based on coverage and the spouse's age. Coverage for children up to age 18, or 23 if a fulltime student, is free and automatic, so long as the member is participating in SGLI.

Service members will be able to decline or reduce spousal coverage in $10,000 increments, but officials are still working out the details. "Opt out" procedures and updates will be posted to the SGLI Web site at www.insurance.va.gov/ sglivgli/sglifam.htm.

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In what may have been his last appearance before the Senate, the nation's top uniformed leader said that while the U.S. military is the best in the world, the country cannot become complacent.

Army Gen. Henry Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified Sept. 5 before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. He retires Sept. 30. He told the lawmakers he has learned three lessons in 38 years as a soldier. "The first is that, in this noble profession of arms, there simply is no substitute for being ready when the nation calls," he said.

His second lesson is that the military is about people, and the third is the military must be ready for the threats of tomorrow while countering the threats of today. Since 1995, DoD has experienced a 133 percent increase in the number of personnel committed to operations around the world, while the number of service members has dropped, he noted. "This high operational tempo on segments of our force has increased the strain on our people and has highlighted the imbalance that we have today between our strategy and our force structure," he said.

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