March 4, 2015

Sens. Fischer and Sasse have questions about request for military force (AUDIO)

Sen. Deb Fischer/Photo courtesy of Fischer's office

Sen. Deb Fischer/Photo courtesy of Fischer’s office

Both of Nebraska’s United States Senators say Congress needs to thoroughly consider a request by President Obama to use military force against the Islamic State.

Sen. Deb Fisher will sit in on the hearings over the president’s request as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Fischer says three areas need to be clarified before Congress grants the president his request.

“This is serious,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call. “This is multi-layered and it needs to be addressed in a way that not just Congress, but the American people understand what’s involved.”

Fischer says the Obama Administration must disclose what it plans to do about Syria once the conflict with the Islamic State ends, specifically what will become of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Second, she wants the administration to outline what it considers to be Iraq’s future; does it remain a united country or break up into three separate states? Finally, Fischer says the administration needs to provide a strategy for dealing with the growing belligerence of Iran.

The president has issued a formal request that would permit ongoing airstrikes against the Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS or ISIL. It would authorize American military training for local ground forces in both Iraq and Syria. U.S. Special Operations personnel could be used for rescue missions as well as unspecified assistance for local forces.

The request rules out United States ground forces. It would expire after three years.

Sen. Ben Sasse says the request seems to contain more restrictions than strategy.

“The problem I have is that this request starts by saying all the things we won’t do and it doesn’t outline a coherent strategy to actually win,” Sasse tells Nebraska Radio Network.

The president’s request would also repeal the 2002 authorization President George W. Bush received to begin the war with Iraq. It would leave in place the 2001 authorization given to fight al-Qaea in wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Sen. Fischer will vote for Ash Carter as Defense Secretary (AUDIO)

Sen. Deb Fischer questions Sec. of Defense-designate Ash Carter/Photo courtesy Sen. Fischer's office

Sen. Deb Fischer questions Sec. of Defense-designate Ash Carter/Photo courtesy Sen. Fischer’s office

Sen. Deb Fischer plans to vote for Defense Secretary-designate Ash Carter and expects him to have more success than outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Carter has been chosen by President Barak Obama as the person to succeed Hagel, who reportedly had clashes with the president’s inner circle in the White House.

Carter, who is 60, is a veteran of both Washington and the Pentagon. He is a physicist who has held a number of posts in the Pentagon, dating as far back as the administration of President Jimmy Carter.

Carter made a number of statements during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee which could put him at odds with the president, including being open to review troop levels in Afghanistan and cautious about releasing prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Fischer, a member of the Armed Services Committee, says Carter has more experience at the Pentagon than Hagel, a former United States Senator from Nebraska.

“Secretary Hagel probably didn’t have as solid a base on those issues and had some problems then as Secretary of Defense,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call, a reference to reports Hagel had frequent run-ins with the White House.

Fischer adds reports surfaced in Washington that Hagel didn’t speak up during meetings of the president’s cabinet.

Fischer says Carter gave the committee assurances that he would have no qualms with being straight-forward with the president. Fischer believes Carter will be able to penetrate President Obama’s tight inner circle.

“He won’t be shy about giving his advice on what he believes are the best policies for our military and for the defense of this country,” according to Fischer.

Fischer says Carter is seen in Washington as a professional with wide experience who has a deep understanding of the Pentagon that would serve him well as Secretary of Defense.

AUDIO:  Brent Martin reports [:45]

Former Nebraska Sen. Hagel says good-bye to Pentagon

Chuck Hagel speaks during farewell ceremony at Pentagon/Photo courtesy of Defense Department

Chuck Hagel speaks during farewell ceremony at Pentagon/Photo courtesy of Defense Department

Former Nebraska United States Sen. Chuck Hagel has bid farewell to the Pentagon, sent out as Secretary of Defense with fanfare and best wishes from President Barack Obama.

Obama declared Hagel a “great friend” and declared him a patriot during a special ceremony at the Pentagon.

“In an era of politics that too often descends into spectacle, you’ve always served with decency and dignity. And in a town of outsized egos, you’ve never lost your Midwestern humility,” Obama told Hagel during the ceremony.

Hagel, a Republican, served two terms in the United States Senate.

Obama chose him as Secretary of Defense in 2013.

Department of Defense photo

Department of Defense photo

Reports circulated in Washington that Hagel clashed with members of the president’s National Security Council and chafed under what he perceived as the micromanaged of the White House of Defense.

“You’ve always been frank and honest and said what you thought. I have so profoundly benefited from that candor,” Obama stated.

Obama mentioned the first time he met Hagel, 10 years ago when Obama joined Hagel on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I’m grateful to Chuck on a very personal level,” Obama said. “I was new and green, you were a veteran legislator. I was the student, and you shared some lessons of your service.”

Proposals hope to make Nebraska veteran-friendly

Sen. Sue Crawford speaks to reporters during a Capitol news conference

Sen. Sue Crawford speaks to reporters during a Capitol news conference with fellow senators in the background

A number of measures are being proposed this legislative session, aimed at retaining and attracting military veterans to Nebraska.

Sen. Sue Crawford of Bellevue says many of those measures take direct aim at those now serving at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha.

“Retain those veterans who work at Offutt, who are stationed at Offutt, encourage them when they retire to stay here, but also to actually go out to other states and recruit veterans here,” Crawford tells Nebraska Radio Network.

The proposals, sponsored by a variety of state lawmakers, take on a variety of issues. Still, many deal with veteran pocket book issues, such as exempting military pensions from the state income tax, creating voluntary hiring preferences for veterans, and providing a wage subsidy for unemployed veterans. Another even seeks to increase the health care choices for veterans.

While the measures would benefit veterans living throughout the state, they are intended to entice those stationed at Offutt to consider staying here after they retire.

Crawford says military families often are first introduced to Nebraska when stationed at Offutt.

“So, I here sometimes military families talk about they came to Offutt kicking and screaming,” Crawford says with a laugh. “But then they come to Offutt and they experience our schools and I’ve had military families tell me, sometimes, this is the first state where they’ve had their children in public schools. So, they come and they see the quality of life here.”

Crawford says it’s important to retain those stationed at Offutt as well as attract military veterans from other states.

In 2014, the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Nebraska Department of Labor, Nebraska’s community colleges and several employers to create “The Good Life for Veterans” initiative to recruit those leaving the military to move to Nebraska to start a second career.

Since its creation, “The Good Life for Veterans” has had a presence at three career fairs at Fort Sill, Oklahoma; Fort Riley, Kansas; and Fort Carson, Colorado, reaching over 1,000 veterans and military members, according to the Chamber.

Nebraska Air Guard deployed to Middle East

Nebraska National Guard Joint Force headquarters in Lincoln

Nebraska National Guard Joint Force headquarters in Lincoln

The war in Afghanistan might have officially been declared over, but Nebraska Air National Guard personnel are still being deployed to the Middle East.

Fifty members of the 155th Air Refueling Wing have been deployed to the region.

The Guard personnel are members of the 155th Air Refueling Wing. It will be a six-month deployment.

The airmen and women come from the 155th Security Forces Squadron, the 155th Force Support Squadron and 155th Civil Engineer Squadron. They are based in Lincoln.

The 155th Operations Group will also deploy, but for a shorter, one-month mission.