December 21, 2014

Nebraska veterans encouraged to enroll in registry

sample-dl_2[1]First, Nebraska veterans had the chance to get a special driver’s license. Next, they can get a special license plate.

Gov. Dave Heineman says more than 12,000 veterans have enrolled in the Nebraska Veterans’ Registry, created last year by the Unicameral to place the word “veteran” on their driver’s licenses.

In 2016, Military Honor License Plates will be made available.

“There are approximately 140,000 veterans. That number represents a lot of years of sacrifice to our country,” Heineman tells reporters during a conference calls. “Adding a veterans’ designation to the driver’s licenses or Military Honor Plate provides a public symbol of gratitude for their service.”

Nearly 2,700 veterans have received the veteran designation on their driver’s licenses, including the governor himself.

“This designation is one way of saying thank you to the veterans all across Nebraska who have served in the armed forces,” says Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles Director Rhonda Lamb. “The designation has been applied to the documents of veterans in 85 of the 93 counties in Nebraska. The Department of Motor Vehicles is proud to have been a part of this process.”

Nebraska chose to house the Registry within Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs. That move allows the veteran information not only to be used by the DMV, but also for veteran outreach or to apply for veteran benefits.

“So, we might be able to do outreach as we’ve never done before as well as saying thank you by the designation on the driver’s license ID as well as the honor plates coming up,” says Nebraska Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director John Hilgert

To enroll, veterans can contact the Nebraska Department of Veteran Affairs online, in person, or via email.

The website is www.veterans.nebraska.gov . The phone number is 402-471-2458. The email address is ndva@nebraka.gov.

Offutt AFB closing one of three gates

Photo courtesy of Offutt Air Force Base

Photo courtesy of Offutt Air Force Base

Officials at Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, Nebraska are closing one of three entry gates into the base.

55th Wing Deputy of Public Affairs 1st Lt. Carly Costello says, The gate does not meet certain installation requirements and its closure will help the 55th Security Forces Squadron mitigate operational requirement issues, such as upcoming deployments and physical security concerns.”

The Bellevue Gate is currently open limited times during the weekday. The closure will be reevaluated in the future but for now it will close on December 30th for the foreseeable future.   The STRATCOM and Kenney Gates will remain open 24/7.

The Bellevue Gate connects to Old Towne Bellevue and business owners are concerned the closing will hurt their operations.

Sen. Fischer: it doesn’t matter who the Secretary of Defense is (AUDIO)

Sen. Deb Fischer addresses a legislative summit

Sen. Deb Fischer addresses a legislative summit

Sen. Deb Fischer says the exit of former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense didn’t really surprise her, and adds whoever succeeds him doesn’t really matter.

Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says there had been indications Hagel, the former United States Senator from Nebraska, would step down as Defense Secretary after only about two years on the job.

“I wasn’t too surprised by the Secretary’s resignation,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call. “We are hearing all sorts of different reports here.”

Fischer praises Hagel’s service to the country and the state.

Fischer and Hagel have a bit of a history. Hagel came out in support of Democrat Bob Kerrey during his United States Senate race against Fischer in 2012. Sen. Mike Johanns at the time speculated that Hagel made the endorsement to secure a cabinet position in the Obama Administration. Hagel denied that motivated his decision to back Kerrey.

When Obama nominated Hagel, Johanns voted to confirm him while Fischer voted against Hagel’s confirmation. Fischer stated her vote had nothing to do with the Hagel endorsement of Kerrey.

Hagel has stated he will continue to work as Secretary of Defense until his successor is in place.

Reports from Washington indicate President Barack Obama will nominate former Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter to replace Hagel. Carter, who was in charge of buying weapons systems during his days at the Defense Department, must be confirmed by the Senate.

Fischer says she believes it will make little difference.

“I don’t think it matters who the Secretary of Defense is,” Fischer says. “We’ve known for quite a while that the president has an inner circle of advisors within the White House that he depends upon, that he listens to.”

Fischer affirms other reports from Washington that the president seems to give more weight to advice from that inner circle than to members of his cabinet.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Fortenberry regrets Hagel decision to resign as Defense Secretary

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry regrets that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has resigned.

Fortenberry says Hagel, a former United States Senator from Nebraska, was forthright when dealing with Congress.

“He’ll tell you what he thinks,” Fortenberry tells Kevin Thomas, host of Driver Time Lincoln on Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KLIN. “The White House, the way it’s currently structured, they run things from inside there. They don’t appear to rely heavily on their secretaries, their cabinet members, for input and advice. So, if there was significant tension building, I think that’s the reason.”

Fortenberry says he doesn’t understand why Hagel apparently was forced to resign or the timing behind the resignation.

Fortenberry says that while the Obama Administration has had a strained relationship with Congress, Hagel stood out as a bright spot.

Fortenberry recalls when he requested Hagel meet with a bipartisan group from Congress and the Secretary agreed immediately.

“Again, it was a bipartisan group, robust conversation for an hour over breakfast, very much welcomed,” according to Fortenberry. “The White House has a very significant communications problem, almost non-existent with Congress. And, so, to me that was a marked sign of him trying to do things a bit differently.”

Fortenberry says it does appear Hagel resigned under pressure from people within the White House.

“I regret the decision, because I think he was laying down some clear markers that we have got to rethink 21st Century military structure and strategy to meet the ongoing needs of our national security and he was saying some hard things that need to be said.”

Former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel resigns as Sec. of Defense (AUDIO)

Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel announces his resignation as President Barack Obama looks on/Photo Courtesy of the Defense Department

Sec. of Defense Chuck Hagel announces his resignation as President Barack Obama looks on/Photo Courtesy of the Defense Department

Former Nebraska United States Senator Chuck Hagel has resigned as Secretary of Defense.

President Barack Obama, in a White House announcement, thanked Hagel for his service.

“When I nominated you for this position, you said that you would always give me your honest advice and informed counsel. You have. When it has matter most, behind closed doors in the Oval Office, you’ve always given it to me straight. And for that I will always be grateful,” Obama stated.

Hagel made his announcement after the president spoke.

“I have today submitted my resignation as Secretary of Defense,” Hagel stated. “It has been the greatest privilege of my life, the greatest privilege of my life to lead and most important to serve, to serve with the men and women of the Defense Department and support their families.”

Reports out of Washington indicate Hagel resigned under pressure after a series of meetings with President Obama and White House officials. Hagel, a Republican serving in a Democratic administration, had been Secretary of Defense for less than two years.

Hagel, flanked by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, gave no indication of disagreement with the administration.

Hagel listed a number of accomplishments during his nearly two years as secretary.

“We have prepared ourselves, as the president has noted, our allies and Afghan national security forces for successful transition in Afghanistan,” according to Hagel. “We’ve bolstered enduring alliances and strengthened emerging partnerships while successfully responding to crises around the world. And we’ve launched important reforms that the president noted, reforms that will prepare this institution for challenges facing us for decades to come.”

Hagel said he was proud of his accomplishments as Secretary of Defense.

“I believe we have set not only this department, the Department of Defense, but the nation on a stronger course toward security, stability, and prosperity,” Hagel stated. “If I didn’t believe that I would not have done this job.”

Hagel said he would stay on as Secretary of Defense until President Obama appointed and the United States Senate confirmed his successor.

Sen. Deb Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee, released the following statement regarding Hagel’s resignation.

“Secretary Hagel has dedicated much of his life to public service in a number a capacities: in uniform in Vietnam, as senator from my home state of Nebraska, and as the Secretary of Defense. I thank him for his service.

“Our world is only growing increasingly dangerous. As Russia maneuvers to gain regional strength, Iran flouts international nuclear obligations, and extremist groups like ISIL continue their violent campaign of terror, it’s clear that we need decisive, strong leadership at the Pentagon. As I’ve said so many times before, we must adopt a strong strategy to combat threats to our national security and the secretary of defense is responsible for leading in this important endeavor. I look forward to a complete and thorough vetting of the President’s nominee for the next Secretary of Defense.”

Sen. Mike Johanns issued the following statement:

“I want to thank Chuck Hagel for his service over the last two years as Secretary of Defense. From his distinguished military service, to his time representing the people of Nebraska in the United States Senate, and now as Defense Secretary, Chuck’s exemplary career showcases his commitment to serving our country. As a long-time friend and fellow Nebraskan, I wish him the best.”

AUDIO:  President Barack Obama announces resignation of former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense. [10 min.]