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Military News Briefs for the Week of March 9, 2001

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2001 – (This is a summary of the American Forces Press Service news stories for the week ending March 9, 2001.)

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SERVICE MEMBERS GET MORE LIFE INSURANCE COVERAGE

Eligible troops will automatically be insured for a maximum $250,000 in coverage through the military's life insurance program starting April 1. The new coverage marks a $50,000 increase over the previous maximum provided by Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance.

The premium for maximum coverage will be $20 monthly. Participants can decrease or maintain their current level of insurance coverage after April 1 by applying through unit finance or personnel officials. Members who don't want increased insurance have a 30-day grace period to decline it -- otherwise, they have to pay at least two months of increased coverage.

Some 98 percent of all service members are covered by SGLI and 80 percent have maximum coverage. The monthly premium is 80 cents for each $10,000 of coverage. Service members can also convert their SGLI policies to the Veterans' Group Life Insurance program after they leave the service.

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CAREERISTS MUST WEIGH RETIREMENT SYSTEM CHOICE

Some retirement-minded troops reaching 15 years of active service this summer will need to decide whether to accept a $30,000 cash bonus now in exchange for a reduced retirement plan after at least five more years in uniform.

The career status bonus decision will affect those troops reaching 15 years of active service on or after Aug. 1. Members eligible for the bonus will receive notice at about 14.5 years of service.

Bonus-takers who retire with 20 years of active service would receive 40 percent of the average of their last three years' basic pay -- the starting rate is 50 percent for members who don't take the bonus. Retired pay in both tracks increases until it reaches 75 percent at 30 years of service. Bonus-takers would also get reduced retired pay cost of living allowances and are obligated to serve at least 20 years.

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FORMER FIRST LADY CHRISTENS CARRIER USS RONALD REAGAN

It only took one swing for former first lady Nancy Reagan to break the traditional bottle of champagne across the bow of the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, named for her husband.

President George W. Bush assisted in the christening March 4 of the USS Ronald Reagan in Newport News, Va.

"I wish he were here," Reagan said of her husband afterward, "but in a way I think he is." Former President Reagan is suffering from Alzheimer's disease and rarely appears in public.

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WOLFOWITZ DISCUSSES DOD GOALS DURING TESTIMONY

Pay and quality of life issues are paramount to building a strong military, but DoD also must examine missions to ensure service members are performing the right tasks with the least strain, said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.

Before Wolfowitz was sworn in as deputy March 2, he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. His testimony gives an idea of his thinking as he takes office. He addressed personnel issues, defending against asymmetric threats, the transformation of the military and defense strategy.

"Good pay and fair allowances by themselves won't keep the best people in the service," Wolfowitz said in testimony. "Working with the Congress and with our allies, we must also re-examine the balance among force levels, commitments and deployments."

He said DoD must ensure the country is focusing on the most important defense tasks and not placing "unreasonable" burdens on American service members.

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U.S. TROOPS TRADE SHOTS WITH GUNMEN IN KOSOVO

U.S. troops traded fire with gunmen March 7 near Mijak, Kosovo and wounded two, DoD officials said. No American soldiers were hurt in the exchange.

A group of U.S. soldiers responded with small-arms fire to threatening maneuvers by four armed men, DoD officials said. Three men were captured and one escaped.

About 150 U.S. soldiers on peacekeeping duty in Kosovo are patrolling the Serbian province's border with the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for Albanian guerrilla forces seeking to destabilize the region, DoD officials said.

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