By Adam Lammon, Programs Assistant

In the late spring, the United States and Israel signed an agreement to exchange cadets between the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis and the University of Haifa, broadening a military relationship which has endured for more than six decades.  As reported by The Jerusalem Post, the American cadets will spend several months in 2018 training alongside Israeli students in Israel’s demanding Naval Officers Course and participating in language and cultural immersion programs.  This cadet exchange program follows a long history of joint exercises and training opportunities such the multilateral “Blue Flag” exercise between the air forces of the United States, Poland, Italy, Greece, India, France, Germany, and Israel. This exercise occurred at the beginning of November 2017 and was the largest international aviation exercise that the Israeli Air Force has ever hosted.

Although these programs bolster the broader American-Israeli relationship – which Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis recently praised as the “cornerstone of a larger regional security architecture” – the alliance was not always as robust as it is today.  As Israeli professor Dr. Ephraim Kahana has detailed, the Cold War aligned American and Israeli interests and caused their cooperation to blossom from its tepid beginnings.  In the early-1950s, the Israeli Mossad had been trying to entice greater cooperation from its American counterpart, the CIA, by offering intelligence on the USSR that it was receiving from Soviet Jews emigrating to Israel.  Despite the fact that that this information was invaluable for American spies operating in Eastern Europe, it was insufficient to overcome the CIA’s instinctive unease towards establishing ties to a foreign intelligence agency.  However, this changed in 1956 after Mossad gave an exceedingly furtive document to the CIA – Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khruschev’s speech to the 20th Soviet Communist Party Congress – which revealed the horrors of Stalinist rule and gave the CIA an immense propaganda victory.  This overture laid the foundation for today’s intelligence relationship, which capitalizes on each partner’s comparative advantages in regional intelligence collection – Israeli’s human intelligence assets and the U.S.’ sophisticated signals collection capabilities.

The rise of American-Israeli intelligence cooperation then supported a concurrent growth in bilateral military ties.  In 2014, retired U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Blain D. Holt observed in American Foreign Policy Interests that U.S. military support for Jerusalem ballooned in the 1960s following President John F. Kennedy’s belief that a well-resourced Israel would support Middle Eastern stability.  Kennedy’s policy set the stage for Lyndon B. Johnson’s subsequent decision to develop an Israeli “Qualitative Military Edge” (QME) over its Soviet-backed Arab neighbors through the provision of offensive arms.

Continually endorsed with bipartisan support, this QME strategy has been frequently strengthened by American-Israeli political commitments.  For instance, as Holt recounts, after the Camp David Accords were endorsed in 1978, Washington and Jerusalem signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in 1981 which launched joint military exercises and collaborative defense research projects.  That MOU was succeeded by two more in 1983 and 1987, institutionalizing routine intelligence sharing, establishing two joint political-military working groups, and permitting Israel to purchase advanced weapons from the U.S. by codifying it as a non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally.

In addition to creating political ties, these memorandums (of which there are many more) are most renowned for the financial investment that they represent in Israeli security.  U.S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Israel, which now exceeds a total subsidy of $70 billion since 1949, is the most salient measure of American support and directly advances bilateral programs such as chemical and biological weapon defense, missile defense, and tunnel detecting and mapping technologies.  In 2016, President Barack Obama signed the U.S.’ most recent MOU with Israel, allocating $3.8 billion in annual FMF to Jerusalem for the next decade.  The biggest change in this MOU is how it affects Israel’s ability to spend American FMF on indigenous Israeli products—a program known as Off-Shore Procurement.  Previously, Israel could spend up to 26.3% of American FMF on products made in Israel, but since the Israeli defense industry has become self-sufficient and is now a competitor to U.S. companies, this policy will start being phased out in 2024.

With so many domestic programs in need of funds, some Americans are probably wondering why the U.S. should continue to support Israel.  Yet last year Yair Lapid appropriately argued in Foreign Policy that Israel delivers priceless services for the U.S. by acting as a forward operating base, intelligence partner, research hub, and technological testing ground.  Without Israel, the U.S. would lose its radar facility in Dimona and the ability to store military materiel throughout the country.  Without Israel, the U.S. would also need to station more troops in the region for missions in places like Syria.  Likewise, Israel supports American jobs by spending much of its awarded FMF on American defense contractors and then later tests their products in operations against groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.  For example, Vice Admiral James Syring, Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, previously testified that the American military has benefited from Israel’s deployment of the “David’s Sling” interceptor, a joint American-Israeli project.  Further, due to its location, Israel has cultivated expertise in countering violent extremism (CVE), which supports American efforts across the Middle East and Northern Africa.

The modern American-Israeli partnership is the result of decades of joint operations, collaboration, and conviction.  Since the U.S. became the first country to offer de facto recognition to Israel on May 14, 1948, the two countries have built upon a common commitment to democracy, rule of law, religious freedom, and pluralism.  Their bond, now nearly seventy years old, has constructed a strategic relationship which not only serves both nations’ interests, but is coveted by nations around the world.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By Falk Kantor, Post 100

An Air Force chaplain has posted an article that contains several controversial remarks concerning service members and their obligations regarding their religion and the Constitution. Capt. Sonny Hernandez, an Air Force Reserve chaplain for the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, writing in on September 12, 2017, stated that “Counterfeit Christians in the armed forces will appeal to the Constitution, and not Christ, and they have no local church home – which means they have no accountability for their souls.” Further Chaplain Hernandez asserted that “Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions – because the language in the Constitution permits – are grossly in error, and deceived.”

Further, Hernandez noted that “Christian service members must share the Gospel with unbelievers so they can be saved, and not support unbelievers to worship their false gods that will lead them to hell.” He further alleged that “It is impossible to submit to both the Bible and the Constitution as an ultimate authority…” because logic would prohibit this. Hernandez indicated that Christians in the military “serve Satan” if they support other service members rights to practice their own faiths.

On September 15, 2017, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an organization dedicated to ensuring that all members of the US armed forces fully receive the Constitutional guarantees of religious freedom, filed a complaint against Capt Hernandez with the Department of Defense Deputy Inspector General for Administrative Investigations and recommended referral of this matter to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI). The MRRF, whose founder and president is Michael L. “Mikey” Weinstein, stated on October 16, 2017, that Chaplain Hernandez has accrued a significant history of publicly subverting military regulations, his oath as a commissioned officer, and the Constitution. MRRF stated that in spite of numerous official complaints lodged against him over the course of nearly two and a half years by MRRF, the Air Force has yet to discipline him in any way.

On September 22, Stars & Stripes reported that after initially denying an investigation, the Air Force said that its IG’s office is reviewing complaints against Reserve chaplain Sonny Hernandez. An Air Force spokesman (Col Patrick Ryder) said that he could confirm that the AF is reviewing IG complaints made against Chaplain Hernandez that were referred to the Air Force IG’s office.

The Stars & Stripes had earlier reported (September 20, 2017) that an Air Force Reserve spokesman (Lt Col Chad Gibson) said Hernandez is expressing his own views, not those of the Air Force, and his freedom to express his own faith is an essential protection of the military, and that the Air Force is not conducting an investigation.

Volume 71. Number 4. Winter 2017

By Herb Rosenbleeth

At a recent meeting in the Omar Bradley Conference Room in the VA Central Office, I got to hear Secretary David Shulkin present his five most important priorities for reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs:

The Secretary’s first priority is to increase choice for our veterans. “We think that is an important way for reforming the VA,” said Shulkin. Veterans are going to be allowed to have much greater choice in their decision making when seeking medical care. Shulkin reported that the VA is working with Congress to redesign the Choice program so that veterans will have much greater choice in interacting with their providers and in making decisions about where it is best for them to get their care, either in the VA or in the community, or a combination of both.

The second priority presented by Dr. Shulkin is to modernize the VA. The system has experienced years, if not decades, of neglect. The VA must keep up with today’s technology and business practices. For example, the electronic medical record, which is thirty-five years old and extremely expensive to just maintain, needs to be updated.

The VA is getting rid of some 1,100 vacant, under-utilized buildings, some dating back to the Civil War, and even the Revolutionary War, which are extremely expensive for the VA to maintain. Updating of business practices, particularly accountability to hire and fire is crucial. (As I am writing this column, the VA has fired the Director of the VAMC in Washington, DC.)

VA’s third priority for reform is to improve the timeliness of its services. The VA is making progress on this and they now publish wait times on the internet for everyone to see. VA is trying to improve the timeliness of its benefit claims and appeals. Over 90,000 disability claims are over one hundred and twenty-five days old, which is too long. The time involved in the appeals process is being greatly reduced.

Secretary Shulkin’s fourth VA reform priority is focusing VA’s resources.  Many of the VA’s services cannot be replicated in the private sector. VA delivers world class services in polytrauma, spinal cord injury and rehabilitation, prosthetics, and orthotics, traumatic brain injury, PTS treatments and other behavioral health programs.

The VA’s top clinical priority and Shulkin’s fifth reform priority is the prevention of suicide. “This is our most serious concern,” stated Shulkin. He added that twenty suicides a day are twenty too many. The VA will be expanding its suicide prevention crisis line service, working more closely with communities and looking at social media to identify veterans that may be asking for help.

Secretary Shulkin certainly has things in focus. He has the vision, the managerial experience, and the professional medical skills to make him a truly great Secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

By Lance Wang, Editor

I must be honest.   I spent over 20 years in the Army, almost all in Infantry units.   I enjoyed the camaraderie of all-male units until I arrived at Brigade level.   Periodically, I would leave the world of polite society and head out to the field among other men – to go do “manly” things as President Theodore Roosevelt would have said.

Over the years, I have often found myself on one side of an issue because I found the arguments in favor of the other side vacuous, specious or unsupportable.   I have never been in favor of lowering standards to accommodate women in previously all-male skill fields such as the combat arms, but to make such an argument, I must be willing to concede that if women can meet the male standards, they should be allowed to do the job.

“Tzedek tzedek tirdof” – “Justice, justice you shall pursue” admonishes Deuteronomy 16:20.    It’s not about what is “fair,” but rather what is “just” that we are commanded to pursue.   Anybody who has worn the uniform is more aware than anyone that life is not fair.   Indeed, it was a mantra that I taught many of my own soldiers.   “Get over it.   Life isn’t fair and neither is the Army.”   Discussions on the issue (which is a policy issue) must be based upon sound reasoning where justice can be applied – blinded to anything other than fact-based logic.

So with that said, should women be subject to Selective Service registration and by extension, the draft?   We already have a gender-integrated military since the advent of the all-volunteer force.  About 15% of the today’s active duty military is women, and 18% of the reserve components.   Even without women in the combat arms, the majority of combat support and combat service support career fields are open to women, so it would stand to reason that in a full or partial mobilization that involves the draft, women would be necessary to expand the army to the necessary wartime strength.

In the end, the purpose of an army is to provide for war.   Instead of focusing on one’s gender, the focus should be upon ensuring that each soldier, sailor, airman, coast guardsman or marine meets the standards for their position.   To arbitrarily deny those women who meet established standards from serving to their maximum abilities is not just.

It is interesting to note that the same rubric I use to examine the issue of the mobility of women within our military allows me to visit the issue in Israel regarding the place of women at worship at the Western Wall.   Recently Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from ultra-Orthodox elements within Israel, shelved plans to allow denominations of Judaism which support equality for women in prayer and ritual, to allow mixed prayer at our holiest of sites.

Again we find ourselves in a position where arguments are made by dogmatic, fundamentalist views – ones which do not take into account the constant reinterpretation of our holiest of texts based upon our intellectual and moral growth as a people.  Rather, we now have several continuums of Judaism which coexist, yet do not always agree with each other’s interpretations of Torah.  If Israel purports to be a modern democracy as opposed to a theocracy, it must find a way to balance the needs of multiple denominations within Judaism.   There must be areas of common interest (including our survival as one people) that allow us to unite as opposed to divide.

As for the role of women in today’s society, I defer to 19th Century orator Ernestine Rose, “I suppose you all grant that woman is a human being.   If she has a right to life, she has a right to earn a support for that life.   If a human being, she has a right to have her powers and faculties as a human being developed.   If developed, she has a right to exercise them.”    I’m not sure that I could justify using prejudices of the past as precedent to say that things should be other than so.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

By Carl Singer

The Great

First a quick history lesson – the original G.I. Bill was enacted in 1944.  JWV proudly can claim to have a strong supporter and advocate for the G.I. Bill.  We along with other veterans groups made it happen!

Some say that World War II brought America out of the Depression, but I say that the G.I. Bill enabled and sparked the remarkable growth of the post-World War II American economy.  Young soldiers that came home from the war got their education thanks to the G.I. Bill, and they applied their learning, can-do spirit and military discipline to building a better America.  VA loans also enabled these GI’s to buy homes and reach for the American Dream.

“The World War II G.I. Bill, it’s one of the most cherished programs in American History, it paid the full cost of an education at any four-year college or university,” said Aaron Glantz of PBS.

For the G.I. – the G.I. Bill provided opportunity and an open door to a brighter future.

For colleges and universities – the G.I. Bill filled classrooms with enthusiastic students and revenue to build, to expand and do research.

For America – the G.I. Bill was the catalyst for fantastic growth, international leadership, the space age – you name it.  All thanks to the G.I. Bill.

The Bad

Over the years G.I. Bill benefits withered – with a less understanding Congress and less pressure from voters, benefits were reduced.  In 2008, this was finally addressed in support of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill.

However, there are still many issues to be addressed.  For-profit schools have gotten into the act – preying on veterans because they see the opportunity of providing services where the recipient doesn’t pay.

Kate O’Gorman of IAVA said, “many veterans are being aggressively and deceptively recruited by some bad actors in the for-profit school sector.”

For the G.I. – Less benefits with an uncertain future.

For colleges and universities – Huge payouts with very little accountability on how the money is being used.

For America – Veterans that are demoralized and might need constant government assistance.

The Ugly

Lastly, some schools, like ITT Tech, have abruptly closed leaving veterans high and dry – having used their benefits, but leaving them without their diploma.  These service members are not getting their money’s worth – many do not get their degrees and many do not learn the skills they need to succeed in the market place.  It’s not only the dollars wasted, but about the lives being impacted!

For the G.I. – No benefits with a poor outlook of the future.

For colleges and universities – Receiving veterans’ money without having to do anything for the veteran.

For America – Veterans that might be unable to provide for themselves.

The Answer

There are several bills before Congress that address some of these problems that JWV is currently promoting with the Military Coalition.  They might not be voted on or passed this year, but we will continue to fight for these inclusions.

As National Commander, I introduced a resolution at our National Convention this past August in San Antonio, which included 5 major tenets:

  1. Provide effective initial counseling to transitioning service members so that they may select appropriate education and training venues, leading towards productive careers.
  2. Provide additional as needed counseling at the request of service members who are receiving GI Bill stipends.
  3. Monitor for profit training and education venues to assure that they are providing appropriate services to GI Bill recipients.
  4. Decertify those training and education venues which fail to meet established criteria.
  5. In the event that a training or education facility closes prior to a service member’s completing their contracted program, provide appropriate added GI Bill benefits so that the service member is made whole.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

By Bart Sherwood

In response to the proposed House Resolution 2327 – “Puppies Assisting Wounded Service Members (PAWS) Act of 2017”, the Department of Veterans Affairs will be authorized to spend $10 million to again study the benefits of approximately 400 Service Dogs (Valued at $25,000. each) given to Veterans surviving with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The grants will be awarded to non-profit Service Dog Training organizations, recognized as members of Assistance Dogs International (ADI), a foreign entity operating in the United States. This organization, and its American affiliates, have been recipients of similar grants since 2012, when studies on the therapeutic effectiveness of Service Dogs for PTSD started, including the recently awarded 2017 Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences’ Wounded Warrior Service Dog Program of $5-million for 20 grants for 200 Service Dogs in 2017.

According to the statistics drawn from this proposal, there will be 36,500 Veteran suicides over the 5-year period, in which the study will produce 400 Service Dogs for less than 1.1% of the affected population. This does not appear to be a good Rate of Return on investment. However, it is fair and true to say, whatever money spent to save the lives of Veterans surviving with PTSD, in attempting to prevent and reduce suicides is worth the expenditure of time and money. BUT it is also time to study the effectiveness of such organizations and establish criteria for which such grants should be awarded.

Research and studies need to reflect PATIENT REPORTED OUTCOMES (PRO), which address how the effectiveness of such therapy has made a difference. The users of the benefits need to be recognized and annotated, as this presents a clearer view of the results to the beneficiary of the Service Dog.

Other criteria for awarding grants, should be based on the organization, and not the affiliation of the member, which is a discriminatory practice and needs to be based on ‘bid-type’ policy, like other Governmental contracts.

Each organization awarded a portion of the grant should be required to document past performances, and meet or exceed the following criteria:

(1) Minimum of 50 Service Dogs, or Teams trained, annually for the last 2 years,

(2) Minimum 15% of Service Dog recipients, or Teams, have been minority Hispanic and African-American) Veterans, and

(3) Minimum 25% of Service Dog recipients, or Teams, are Female Veterans.

In order to make a significant difference, WE must in fact “CHANGE THE CULTURE” from within, whether it be the recommendation of Service Dogs or scheduling appointments.

Volume 71. Number 3. Fall 2017

On March 22, 2017, National Commander Colonel Carl Singer testified before a joint session of the Senate and House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. NC Singer presented the legislative priorities of JWV, thereby officially informing Congress of our position on a number of crucial veterans issues.  The co-chairs of the committee were Senator John Boozman (R-AZ) and Congressman Phil Roe, M.D., (R-TN), each of whom have many years of service with the Veterans’ Affairs committees.

NC Singer’s introduction spoke of JWV’s 120 year history, of our strong VAVS program, hosting educational programs, and supporting patriotic organizations like Boy Scouts of America. He emphasized that the VA must be kept intact, expanding to private care only when VA care is unavailable. He stressed that extending the Choice Act deadline cannot mean privatization. NC Singer said, “JWV believes that the best healthcare is at the VA.”

JWV is a strong advocate of equal treatment for female veterans, and NC Singer further emphasized the need for VA improvements in the treatment process for Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

Another issue of great importance to JWV is the plight of our homeless veterans. NC Singer acknowledged that while the VA has made great strides in reducing the number of homeless veterans, even one homeless veteran is one too many.

JWV supports passage of the Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act of 2017 (HR 1472/S594) to expand care-giver eligibility to include full-time pre 9/11 veteran caregivers. These caregivers save the VA in healthcare costs and they give the veteran desired personalized treatment.

NC Singer stated that JWV strongly supports continued research and treatment for service-related toxin exposure. When veterans have been exposed to toxins while on active duty, they and their families must receive proper care and treatment, no matter when the toxin effects appear. Toxin related illnesses may appear at any time, even decades later. Delayed harmful effects of toxins may be seen from Agent Orange (JWV supports the Agent Orange Extension Act of 2015), from contaminated water (JWV supports the Honoring Americas Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2015), and from exposure experienced by our Vietnam War Navy Veterans. JWV also supports the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 (HR 299 and S422).

Prevention of veteran suicide is one of the most important issues for JWV. The VA reports that on average, 20 veterans a day die by suicide. This is unacceptable. JWV and NC Singer strongly urges Congress to pass the Sgt. Brandon Ketchum Never Again Act (HR 874). The provisions of this act would help ensure same-day treatment for veterans calling in to the VA crisis line.

The topics mentioned above are just a few of JWV’s Legislative Priorities, which are our goals and topics of concern for Congress. The priorities initially start as Resolutions, which are submitted on a yearly basis. They are first determined at a Post level, and then are refined and voted upon by the Department. Any Resolution that passes at the Department level is forwarded to National for further discussion and debate at JWV’s annual convention. Those that are voted on and passed by the general body become the policies of our organization and are the basis for the Legislative Priorities.

Stay tuned for more information about how to submit Resolutions and participate in our 2017 Convention Resolutions process, even if you are unable to join us in San Antonio.  All JWV members are encouraged to participate in this important process!

Volume 71. Number 2. Summer 2017