27 March 2012

U.S. VA releases Gulf War Task Force report

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has released the second in a series of annual reports from its Gulf War Veterans Illnesses Task Force, outlining how the department will address the concerns of Veterans deployed during the Gulf War of 1990-1991. The report is available here.

“This report, which considered input from nearly 500 Veterans who responded to the draft report, provides a roadmap for our continued enhancements in the care and services we provide to Gulf War Veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki in a press release yesterday.

The main VA Gulf War illnesses website was recently updated and can be found here. Veterans can subscribe there to receive future updates.

26 March 2012

This week in Congress (26 March 2012) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress and in Commissions:

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, From the Ground Up: Assessing Ongoing Delays in VA Major Construction, 334 Cannon House Office Building, 1030 hours.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, Re-evaluating the Transition from Service Member to Veteran: Honoring a Shared Commitment to Care for Those Who Defend our Freedom, 334 Cannon House Office Building, 1000 hours.

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs,
Nomination Hearing: Nomination of Margaret Bartley to be Judge of United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims and Coral Wong Pietsch to be Judge of United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, Russell Senate Building Room 418, 1000 hours.

U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, Subcommittee on Personnel, hearing to receive testimony on Active, Guard, Reserve, and civilian personnel programs in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2013 and the Future Years Defense Program, Russell Senate Office Building, Room 232A, 1400 hours.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

U.S. House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, Legislative Hearing on H.R. 4142, H.R. 4114, H.R. 2051, H.R. 2498, H.R. 2377, H.R. 2717, H.R. 4168, H.R. 4213, 340 Cannon House Office Building, 1000 hours.

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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

25 March 2012

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (26 March 2012)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Both Houses of Parliament are in recess. The House next sits on 2 May 2012 and the Senate on 8 May 2012. There are Committee hearings occurring during the recess but none this week involve the subject matter jurisdiction.

High Court of Australia
26 March 2012

The High Court is hearing one case today but it does not involve the subject matter of this blog. Here is the listing.

27 March 2012

The High Court is hearing four cases today but they do not involve the subject matter of this blog. Here is the listing.

28 March 2012

The High Court is hearing four cases today (three for judgment and one for hearing) but they do not involve the subject matter of this blog. Here is the listing.

Federal Court of Australia

No hearings this week in the Federal Court involving the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT sits this week on 26 and 27 April 2012.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

22 March 2012

ADF finalises inquiries into Afghanistan combat deaths

The Australian Defence Force has finalised a series of inquiries into the deaths of five Australian soldiers who were killed on operations in Afghanistan.

Army Sappers Jacob Moerland and Darren Smith, from Mentoring Task Force One, died on 7 June 2010 as a result of wounds they sustained when an improvised explosive device, or IED, detonated. Sapper Smith’s Explosive Detection Dog, Herbie was also killed in the incident.

Privates Tomas Dale and Grant Kirby, also from Mentoring Task Force One, were killed on 20 August 2010 by an improvised explosive device while they were conducting an overwatch task in the Baluchi Valley.

Corporal Richard Atkinson, serving with Mentoring Task Force Two, was killed by an improvised explosive device on 2 February 2011.

A separate senior Inquiry Officer was appointed to examine each of the three incidents. Inquiries into combat deaths are conducted primarily to determine what operational and tactical lessons can be learnt. They also provide information for the soldiers’ families.

As foreshadowed by the Minister for Defence in his update to Parliament on Afghanistan on 9 February, any decision to release publicly an Inquiry Officer Report rightly comes after weighing the wishes of the family members about publication and the public interest in the release of the report wider than family members and affected persons.

In the past, Inquiry Officer Reports have been released publicly as a matter of course. As the Minister stated on 9 February, the focus needs to be on the timely provision of the Report to the family of the deceased.

The Minister has asked Defence to ascertain the wishes of the family regarding the public release of Reports. The families of Sappers Jacob Moerland and Darren Smith, Privates Tomas Dale and Grant Kirby, and Corporal Richard Atkinson have been briefed on the outcomes of the respective Inquiry Officer Reports and their views on publication of the Reports have been presented to the Minister for Defence.

The Minister has weighed the wishes of the families and the public interest in the release of the Reports and agreed with the recommendation of the Chief of the Defence Force (CDF) not to release the three Inquiry Officer Reports.

All three Inquiry Officer Reports recommended that the appointment of Commissions of Inquiry into these combat deaths was not warranted. That recommendation has been accepted by the Minister for Defence and CDF.

CDF directed Defence’s Counter IED Task Force to undertake a separate collective review of the Inquiry materials to ensure that organisational, training and equipment issues, force preparation and tactics, techniques and procedures had not contributed to these combat deaths.

The Counter IED Task Force review found that there were no systemic issues specific to these incidents. The Counter IED Task Force continues to examine the ever-changing IED threat and provides specialist advice on further measures to enhance our force protection against these indiscriminate devices.

DFDAT issues decision in Li v Chief of Army

Today the Australian Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal issued a decision in Li v. Chief of Army [2012] ADFDAT 1. The Tribunal granted leave to appeal on two grounds but ultimately dismissed the appeal.

In February 2010, Major Ting Li, who was a legal officer in the Australian Defence Force was alleged to have created a disturbance at Campbell Park Offices in the ACT. The DMP referred charged for summary proceedings but Major Li requested trial by court-martial.

In April 2011, a Restricted Court-martial was convened in Canberra. Major Li pleaded not guilty to two charges (the second was charge was an alternate charge if the first charge failed) but was found guilty of the first charge. Because the second charge was proffered as an alternate charge, no finding was made on the second charge. The Court-martial sentenced the Major to be severely reprimanded and fined $5,000, suspended as to $3,000.

Major Li appealed the conviction on numerous grounds but all were rejected by the Tribunal.

12 March 2012

Force protection should be considered with SAS secret squadron

Today's Sydney Morning Herald reports here that a secret squadron of Australian SAS soldiers has been operating in Africa doing work that was typically performed by officers of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service ("ASIS").

Many experts and commentators have spoken about this revelation today on television, radio, print media and blogs. Some have argued that there are serious concerns within the military community due to the fact that the squadron is operating in countries which Australia is not involved in war.

ASIS officers are legally able to carry false identity documents and are permitted to deny who they work for. Members of the ADF are not permitted to carry false identification or deny which government they

The war on terrorism is global and not necessarily confined to a geographical area. With that said, I do have concerns that this squadron's members are not being afforded certain legal protections by the Australian Government. It would appear that these soldiers would not be the subject of a Status of Forces Agreement.

The Geneva Conventions is four treaties which provide standards of international law for the humanitarian treatment of victims of war. Whereas a Status of Forces Agreement, or SOFA, is an agreement between a host country and a foreign country stationing its military in that country. SOFA agreements give military personnel rights and privileges in support of a security arrangement.

Some of the articles of the Geneva Conventions, which give soldiers a certain layer of legal protection, would prevent soldiers from carrying false documents and bar them from not declaring the country they work for. For example, under the Third Geneva Convention, in Article 17, a captive is "bound" to only give his name, rank, date of birth, and serial number when questioned. Thus this requirement would not afford our soldiers certain legal protections that officers of ASIS routinely enjoy.

Having once long ago been in the intelligence and cryptology community (some 20 years ago during the Cold War and the First Gulf War), I certainly appreciate and believe that having a special operations squadron able to operate in areas such as the Horn of Africa is important to Australia's commitment in the global war on terrorism.

But if the Australian Government of the day wishes to deploy soldiers attached to this special operations squadron outside a war zone or in a country which has no SOFA agreement with Australia then the Government should at least ensure that the soldiers have adequate legal protections such as those given to officers of ASIS or think twice prior to the deployment of soldiers unless their was a real, direct and eminent threat to Australia's national security that warranted it.

This week in Congress (12 March 2012) . . .

The following legislative activities, which affect U.S. servicemembers and veterans or concern military justice issues, are occurring this week in the U.S. Congress and in Commissions:

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Ending Homelessness Among Veterans: VA's Progress on its 5 year plan, SR-418, 1000 hours.

U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Personnel, hearing on, Active, Guard, Reserve, and civilian personnel programs in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2013 and the Future Years Defense Program, 1400 hours, Room SR-232A, Russell Senate Office Building.
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For this week in military justice go to CAAFlog here.

11 March 2012

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (12 March 2012)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Both Houses of Parliament are sitting this week.

The following Committee hearings are occurring which concern the subject matter of this blog:

Friday, 15 March 2012

House and Senate Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Review of the Defence Annual Report 2010-2011, 0800 - 1700 hours, Committee Room 2S1. A list of Submissions with links can be found here, and Reports here.

House and Senate Joint Committee on the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, hearing on Integrity of overseas Commonwealth law enforcement operations, 1330 - 1600 hours, Main Committee Room. The Terms of Reference can be found here and a list of Submission with links can be found here.

High Court of Australia

The High Court is not sitting this week - it next sits on 27 March 2012 in Canberra.

Federal Court of Australia

No hearings this week in the Federal Court involving the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT sits this week on 15 and 16 March 2012.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

07 March 2012

MINDEF releases reviews in the Australian Defence Force culture

Today Minister for Defence Stephen Smith, Secretary of the Department of Defence Mr Duncan Lewis and Chief of the Defence Force ("CDF") General David Hurley released the Reviews into Defence Culture and the Defence response to the Reviews: “Pathway to Change: Evolving Defence Culture”.

In April 2011, the Minister for Defence announced a range of Reviews into aspects of the culture both within the Australian Defence Force Academy ("ADFA") and the Australian Defence Force ("ADF") to address ongoing areas of concern in relation to promoting appropriate conduct.

These Reviews were initiated by the then CDF and the then Secretary.

In summary, the Reviews found that while progress has been made, there are still areas of weakness and more work is required to be done to ensure Defence culture is commensurate with the nation’s modern day expectations.

In total, the reviews made 109 recommendations. Of these, 85 have been accepted fully by Defence. The remaining 24 have been accepted in-principle.

Immediate and specific initiatives include:
  • The preparation of an evidence-based alcohol management strategy for implementation within Defence;
  • Defence to ensure that the pricing of alcohol available at Defence establishments is consistent with the alcohol management strategy;
  • Developing an approach to collecting and responding to alcohol related data to enhance its value in terms of managing individuals and strategic planning; this will include alcohol screening of individuals at recruitment and across important career transition points, particularly post-deployment, and a whole of ADF Alcohol Incident Reporting System;
  • Commanders to assess situations in which alcohol is proposed to be used informally or formally and where specific approval would then be required for the use and access to alcohol within ADF work location; and
  • Defence to form alliances and partnerships with other organisations and individual experts on alcohol outside Defence to provide their input into alcohol policy and program development and implementation.
The review of personal conduct of ADF personnel

Each member of the ADF, from the most junior cadet to the most senior officer, is a representative of Defence and our nation. The Defence leadership and the Australian community have a right to expect the highest standard of behaviour and professionalism.

Major General Craig Orme led this review with a focus on assessing the effectiveness and current policies governing ADF conduct, and identifying areas of strength and weakness.

The ADF Personal Conduct Review recommends a culture that is just and inclusive.

The Australian Defence Force will more explicitly state values and behaviours on enlistment, and reinforce them through education and practice.

The Navy, Army and Air Force will continue to improve avenues of communication for members to report concerns about personal conduct through the formal chain of command and through confidential methods of reporting.

The review of the use of social media in Defence

The impact of social media – online technologies enabling people to communicate and share information and resources via the internet – has created new challenges for the ADF and the Defence organisation.

Mr Rob Hudson, from the external consulting company George Patterson Y & R, led a team to examine the impact of the use of social media in Defence, with the aim of developing measures to ensure that the use of new technologies is consistent with ADF and Defence values.

Immediate and specific initiatives include:
  • All policies relating to the use of social media, the internet or cyber activities to be reviewed, including guidelines being reviewed to ensure they are consistent with the overall social media policy and engagement principles;
  • Defence should consider reviewing social media training and the way it is prioritised and delivered in order to ensure consistency, including relevant resources, guidelines and support mechanisms; and
  • Resources will be provided to support the understanding and management of social media in Defence.
The review of Defence Australian Public Service women’s leadership pathways

The review into Defence as an employer of women was led by the former Deputy Public Service Commissioner, Ms Carmel McGregor, who examined the effectiveness of current strategies and proposed recommendations across a range of issues regarding employment pathways for Defence APS women.

Ms McGregor has subsequently been appointed to the position of Deputy Secretary People Strategies and Policy in Defence.

Immediate and specific initiatives include:
  • The Secretary to issue an explicit statement to senior leaders and staff to reinforce the importance of gender diversity to build a sustainable workforce;
  • The establishment of a rotation program for senior women at Senior Executive Service Band 2/3 with the broader APS;
  • Ensure female membership in senior decision-making bodies;
  • Implement a development program for Executive Level women that includes job rotation, as well as over-representing women in existing development programs;
  • Embed a focus on identifying and developing women for leadership roles, including a facilitated shadowing and coaching component, in the new talent management system;
  • Establish a central maternity leave pool for central management of the full-time equivalent liability associated with maternity leave.
The review of the management of incidents and complaints

The Inspector General ADF, Mr Geoff Earley, conducted a review of the management of incidents and complaints in Defence, with specific reference to the treatment of victims, transparency of processes and the jurisdictional interface between military and civil law.

Immediate and specific initiatives in response to the review include:
  • Funding to be provided as a matter of priority to contract out the task of reducing the current grievance backlog of cases to suitably qualified legal firms;
  • Training and information to be provided to ADF member in relation to the management of incidents and complaints will be simplified and improved;
  • Defence’s administrative policies to be amended to provide for administrative suspension from duty, including the circumstances in which a Commander may suspend an ADF member and the conditions which may be imposed on the suspended member; and
  • An improved process to manage grievances in Defence will also be developed.
The Recommendations of this review will be further considered in the context of other reforms to aspects of the military justice system and Part Three of the HMAS Success Commission of Inquiry Report. I tabled a redacted version of Part Three in the Parliament on 9 February.

Implementation of the recommendations of the reviews has commenced. Regular progress reports on implementation will be provided to the Minister for Defence.

The Report of the Review of allegations of sexual and other abuse in Defence can be found here.

04 March 2012

This week in Parliament, Courts and Tribunals (5 March 2012)

The following legislative activities, which affect Australian servicemembers, veterans or concern military justice issues, relate to freedom of information or national security, are occurring this week in the Parliament of Australia:

Both Houses of Parliament are sitting this week.

The following Committee hearings are occurring which concern the subject matter of this blog:

Monday, 5 March 2012

House and Senate Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, Inquiry into Australia's Human Rights Dialogues with China and Vietnam, Customs House, 399 Queen Street, Brisbane, QLD 0945 hours. A list of Submissions with links can be found here, Terms of Reference here, and Reports here.

House and Senate Joint Public Works Committee, hearing on Proposed Development and Construction of Housing for Defence at Ermington, Sydney, Canterbury Room, Mercure Sydney Paramatta, 1100 hours. A list of the Submissions with links can be founder here, the Terms of Reference here, and the Reports here.


High Court of Australia

The High Court is hearing Special Leave applications in Sydney and Melbourne this week on Friday, 9 March 2012, but none involve the subject matter of this blog. To view this weeks Special Leave applications in Sydney go here and Melbourne go here.

Federal Court of Australia

No hearings this week in the Federal Court involving the subject matter of this blog.

Defence Force Discipline Appeal Tribunal

The DFDAT next sits on 16 and 17 March 2012.

Veterans' Review Board


For a full list of this week's cases in Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney go here.

02 March 2012

New veterans' primary care clinic to be built in Tampa

A new primary care clinic for patients of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Tampa has moved closer to reality.

On 15 February, VA officials awarded a contract to Duke Realty of Indianapolis to build a 106,000-square-foot facility at Hidden River Corporate Park. Once the facility is built, VA will rent space from the contractor.

“This new facility will ensure that Tampa’s Veterans continue to have world-class medical care that they’ve earned through their service to our Nation,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki.

The project, scheduled for completion in 2014, calls for a two-story building with primary care services now provided by the James A. Haley VA Medical Center. The contract includes 826 parking spaces and will create 320 construction jobs.

The clinic, which is located four miles from the Haley medical center, will provide primary care services for over 87,000 veterans in Pasco, Polk, Hernando and Hillsborough counties.