Jun 19 2008
Wes Hickman (202) 224-5972 or Kevin Bishop (864) 250-1417
Senator Obama incorrectly stated habeas corpus, “is not designed to free prisoners.” Here is the full statement.
“They are not serious about this. Because if they wanted to have a serious conversation about it then they would know for example that the issue of Habeas Corpus is not designed to free prisoners, what it's designed to do is make sure that prisoners who are being held, have at least one shot to say, ‘I’m being held wrongly.” (ABC News, June 17, 2008)
“Contrary to Senator Obama’s statement, the Supreme Court’s bestowal of constitutional habeas rights on terror suspects has given them the green light to sue for their release. And yes, federal judges are now empowered to release terror suspects from American custody. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion makes this fact clear. Kennedy wrote,
“…the habeas court must have the power to order the conditional release of an individual unlawfully detained -- though release need not be the exclusive remedy and is not the appropriate one in every case in which the writ is granted.” (Boumediene v. Bush, page 50)
“Senator Obama supports the Supreme Court ruling, but it appears from his comments he does not fully grasp the ruling’s effects.
“Senator Obama should acknowledge federal district court judges do have the power to release terror suspects based upon their habeas petitions. And maybe he will acknowledge that on second thought, the Supreme Court’s granting federal judges this enormous power isn’t such a good idea.
“I look forward to his response on this important subject.
“I continue to find it mind-boggling that civilian judges -- in some of the most liberal district courts in the country – are now empowered to determine who is a military threat to the
Jun 17 2008
Opening Statement for Detainee & Interrogation Hearing
Wes Hickman (202) 224-5972 or Kevin Bishop (864) 250-1417
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you to the witnesses for testifying before us today.
Let me begin by saying, I have long made clear I believe the Administration’s lawyers used bizarre legal theories to justify harsh interrogation techniques.
I have also been troubled by the fact they implemented these procedures over the strenuous objections of military lawyers and many others with expertise in these issues.
The guidance they provided will go down in history as some of the most irresponsible and shortsighted legal analysis ever provided to our nation’s military and intelligence communities.
I do not believe the members of the Administration who played a major role in developing interrogation policies were motivated by anything other than a desire to protect our nation. Their service to our nation in that respect is to be appreciated.
However, if the Administration adhered to the letter and spirit of the law, our treaty obligations, and adequately consulted with Congress, we wouldn’t be here today.
It is important we all understand and agree that the high ground in the war against Islamic extremism is the moral high ground. We are not going to conquer our enemy on a battlefield. There will be no surrender with a white flag. It is a battle of ideas and values, and the issues we are going to discuss today represent a lost opportunity in this war.
I’d like to briefly outline where we were in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11th and where we are today in terms of the interrogation, detention, and trial of enemy combatants for war crimes.
Let’s face the cold, hard facts. On September 10, 2001,
After we invaded
I don’t offer our lack of preparation for this long war against radical Islamic extremism as an excuse, but rather as the context in which a series of extraordinarily poor decisions were made at the Pentagon, the Department of Justice, and the White House with respect to detainees.
To the great regret of many of us, the Administration pursued a “Go it Alone” strategy when it came to the treatment and detention of unlawful enemy combatants.
Under the rubric of the Commander in Chief’s inherent authority in a time of war and armed with the Authorization to Use Military Force, which Congress passed in the days after September 11th, the Administration implemented policies that were drafted, implemented, revised, rescinded and reissued in an endless loop.
Interrogation techniques which were supposed to be limited to
It is hard to fathom that our nation and the world would have to hear the
Mr. Haynes, who will come before this committee today, wrote in an official document that waterboarding “may be legally available” to the military, never mind the fact that it is clearly prohibited under the UCMJ.
The final report of the working group on interrogation convened by Mr. Haynes reiterated an OLC opinion that “in order to respect the President’s inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign…[the prohibition against torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority.”
I could go on and on about the legal analysis that any first year law student could poke holes in.
Regarding detention and prosecution of detainees, we follow a similar pattern. I fought for years with the Administration to ensure the policies implemented for determining who is an enemy combatant and who should be tried for violations of war crimes followed the law of war. Here again, the Administration tried to play cute with the law on evidence obtained by coercive means, and access to classified evidence just to name two areas.
Congress was late in exercising its authority in these matters. But the key point is that we eventually did.
The passage of the McCain Amendment ensured that this nation wouldn’t engage in interrogation techniques that constituted cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
The Bush Administration fought Senator McCain on this prohibition, but Congress passed it overwhelmingly. The McCain Amendment started putting us back on the road to upholding the best traditions of our nation and restoring our standing in the world.
In the same bill, the Detainee Treatment Act, the Army Field Manual became the standard for all Department of Defense interrogations.
With the passage of the Military Commissions Act we have ensure that all of our interrogators are fully compliant with the Convention Against Torture, and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
The Military Commissions Act put in place procedures that our nation can be proud of when it comes to prosecuting detainees for War Crimes.
I deeply regret the recent Supreme Court ruling providing a Constitutional right of habeas corpus to non-citizen terror suspects. I think the American people are going to be deeply disturbed to learn that the mastermind of 9/11, Khalid Sheik Muhammad, has the same constitutional rights as they do.
As Chief Justice Roberts argued in his dissenting opinion:
“So who has won? Not the detainees. The Court’s analysis leaves them with only the prospect of further litigation to determine the content of their new habeas right, followed by further litigation to resolve their particular cases, followed by further litigation before the D. C. Circuit—where they could have started had they invoked the DTA procedure. Not Congress, whose attempt to determine—through democratic means—how best” to balance the security of the American people with the detainees’ liberty interests…has been unceremoniously brushed aside. Not the Great Writ, whose majesty is hardly enhanced by its extension to a jurisdictionally quirky outpost, with no tangible benefit to anyone. Not the rule of law, unless by that is meant the rule of lawyers, who will now arguably have a greater role than military and intelligence officials in shaping policy for alien enemy combatants. And certainly not the American people, who today lose a bit more control over the conduct of this Nation’s foreign policy to unelected, politically unaccountable judges.” (p. 27-28)
Unfortunately, the Administration didn’t want to give detainees an inch. Congress eventually gave them a few hundred yards and now the Supreme Court has given them a few miles.
As long as these investigations go on, I am confident we will continue to find mistakes and uncover more poor policy decisions.
But the overriding question is -- have we learned from our mistakes and are we all moving forward on a solid basis? The answer is yes.
The fact that the legal and policy decisions made from 2002-2005 were based on inadequate legal analysis used to justify harsh treatment of detainees is not news to me.
I don’t think it is news to anyone on this Committee or anyone who has followed or reviewed any of the 15 different Department of Defense investigations that have been launched in the last five years or the numerous hearings held in the House and Senate. This Committee alone has had 17 separate briefings and hearings on detainee abuses.
Senator Warner is to be commended to making the difficult decision to have this committee fully investigate the Abu Ghraib scandal so that the American people and the world would know that when this country makes mistakes, it doesn’t hide from them or cover them up.
So, respectfully, Mr. Chairman, we are not breaking new ground here. The abuses, the inconsistencies, and the pattern of poor judgment in these matters are well documented.
The fact is that we have come a long way in the past five years. Secretary Rumsfeld is gone. Wolfowitz, Cambone and Feith are all gone. John Yoo and Jim Haynes are gone.
I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today and hope that we continue to try to find a way to protect our nation that recognizes that even though we are at war, we must operate within the bounds of the laws and treaties that make our nation strong.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman
Jun 12 2008
Kevin Bishop (864) 250-1417
“I am deeply disappointed in what I think is a tremendously dangerous and irresponsible ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The Court’s decision is bad on many levels and I will continue to review the decision and determine its sweeping effect on our military. I will also explore the possibility, if necessary, of a constitutional amendment to blunt the effect of this decision when it comes to protecting our men and women in the military and our nation as a whole.
“The Court has conferred upon civilian judges the right to make military decisions. These judges have virtually no training in military matters yet civilian judges, in some of the most liberal district courts in the country, will have an opportunity to determine who is a threat to the
“Furthermore, the habeas trials will put great burdens on our military forces. Enemy combatants potentially may be able to sue American troops for money damages and federal judges will now be in charge of the day-to-day military prisons and the interrogation of prisoners. This will empower activist lawyers and interest groups to intervene in basic military matters for the first time in history.
“The Court ruling establishes a dangerous precedent for our country by conferring upon non-citizen enemy combatants the same rights as American citizens in a criminal proceeding. They ignore the fact these combatants are warriors, not common criminals. It is why I continue to believe the legal rights of enemy combatants should be governed by the law of war, not domestic criminal law.
“The Court’s ruling makes clear the legal rights given to Al Qaeda members today should exceed those provided to the Nazis during World War II. Our nation is at war. It’s truly unfortunate the Supreme Court did not recognize and appreciate that fact.
“I agree with Chief Justice John Roberts who noted the legal procedures available to detainees today are unprecedented and more than sufficient. I only wish one more member of the Court would have listened to his wise counsel. Instead, they took what I consider to be completely dangerous and irresponsible actions during a time of war.
“I agree with Senator John McCain and others that the country would be better off with the closure of
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Examples of Habeas Petitions Filed on Behalf of Detainees
Due to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, here are some of the habeas petitions that may be allowed to proceed in federal court.
"Al Odah -- Motion for Dictionary Internet Security Forms" -- Kuwaiti detainees seek court orders that they be provided dictionaries in contravention of Guantanamo Bay's (GTMO) force protection policy and that their counsel be given high-speed internet access at their lodging on the base and be allowed to use classified Department of Defense telecommunications facilities, all on the theory that otherwise their "right to counsel" is unduly burdened
"Paracha -- Motion for Preliminary Injunction re Conditions" -- Motion by high level al Qaeda detainee complaining about base security procedures, speed of mail delivery, and medical treatment; seeking an order that he be transferred to the "least onerous conditions" at GTMO and asking the court to order that GTMO allow him to keep any books and reading materials sent to him and to "report to the Court" on "his opportunities for exercise, communication, recreation, worship, etc.
"Motion for Preliminary Injunction re Medical Records" -- Motion by detainee accusing military's health professionals of "gross and intentional medical malpractice" in alleged violation of the 4th, 5th, 8th, and 14th Amendments, 42 USC 1981, and unspecified international agreements.
"Abdah -- Emergency Motion re DVDs" -- "emergency" motion seeking court order requiring GTMO to set aside its normal security policies and show detainees DVDs that are purported to be family videos.
"Alladeen -- Motion for Temporary Restraining Order re Transfer" -- Egyptian detainee who Combatant Status Review Tribunal adjudicated as no longer an enemy combatant, and who was therefore due to be released by the United States, files motion to block his repatriation to Egypt.
"Petitioners' Supplemental Opposition" -- Filing by detainee requesting that, as a condition of a stay of litigation pending related appeals, the Court involve itself in his medical situation and set the stage for them to second-guess the provision of medical care and other conditions of confinement
"Al Odah Supplement to Preliminary Injunction Motion" -- Motion by Kuwaiti detainees unsatisfied with the Koran they are provided as standard issue by GTMO, seeking court order that they be allowed to keep various other supplementary religious materials, such as a "tafsir" or 4-volume Koran with commentary, in their cells.
May 20 2008
Wes Hickman (202) 224-5972 or Kevin Bishop (864) 250-1417
“All of us who serve in the Senate respect Senator Kennedy and were shocked to hear his diagnosis. We all hope for a speedy recovery. Senator Kennedy is a tough guy and my money is on Ted when it comes to recovering. He’s a worthy adversary and at times, someone you can do business with. He’s a man of his word. I’m very much hoping for a speedy recovery and praying for him and his family.”
May 08 2008
Wes Hickman (202) 224-5972 or Kevin Bishop (864) 250-1417
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Richard Burr (R-NC) today commented on the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis of S. 22, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007.
In response to a request from Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), the ranking Minority Member of the Senate Budget Committee, the CBO provided information about the cost of S. 22, including its impact on the retention of military personnel. CBO estimates that enactment of S. 22 could lead to a decrease of 16% in reenlistment rates and increase the Department of Defense costs to maintain current levels of retention.
“I believe we can and must do more to improve education benefits for our veterans and servicemembers,” said Senator McCain. “Congress must enact legislation that will increase education benefits, aid in recruitment and, importantly, encourage continued service in the military.”
“As our armed forces fight a war on two fronts, we must do everything we can to maintain and encourage reenlistment” said McCain. “Unfortunately, S. 22 could greatly harm retention rates in our All Volunteer Force. I am hopeful that all of us who want to improve the GI Bill education benefits can join forces and that is why I stand ready to work with Senator Webb and others to pass meaningful legislation that works in the best interests of all servicemembers and veterans, including those that remain on duty."
“Our nation faces many challenges when it comes to maintaining our all volunteer force. There is no doubt our servicemembers have earned enhanced education benefits; however, these benefits should be balanced to reflect the service of our citizen soldiers and career forces,” said Senator Graham.
“It's in our own national interest to retain the best, brightest, and most experienced in our armed forces. The Graham-Burr-McCain bill enhances education benefits for all veterans and provides revolutionary incentives for servicemembers who wish to stay in the military. Under our transferability provision, these members can transfer their benefits to their spouse and children. This option recognizes the sacrifices made by both the military family as well as the service member, and this provision has been well-received by service members and their families,” said Graham.
“Significant improvements in education benefits for our military personnel are long overdue,” said Senator Burr. “Education benefits should aid recruitment and retention efforts and help servicemembers pursue successful careers after they leave the military. The Graham-Burr-McCain bill is a simple and fair plan that would allow more personnel to transfer their unused benefits to spouses and children, encouraging career service and helping military families reach their educational goals.”
May 06 2008
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
As far as I can tell, I am the only thing between you and your degree… In 1492, Columbus… No, we’ll keep it short.
What a great story from the class president… You know what happened to those monkeys? [Reference to story in senior class president’s speech about monkeys.] Three of them went to Congress… to carry on the tradition of doing things without a purpose. And being an Air Force guy, the other guys went with the Navy.
How many people do we have from out of state?
Whoohoo. Henry [Congressman Henry E. Brown, U.S. Representative], we showed up in the wrong place. We are up for re-election this year.
Welcome. Enjoy your time. Spend money.
There is a lot of tradition in this place. I tell you, this has been an emotional morning already. I took Senator Strum Thurmond’s place in the Senate. Have anyone ever heard of him? Yes. A round for Strom.
Senator Hollings was my senior senator. He was for 36 years a junior senator of South Carolina. He was the senior senator for two years. That does not sound quite right, but I wanted to acknowledge his service to our country. A Citadel graduate. My first two years in the senate, he was indispensable to me, showing me the ropes. I spent most of my time interpreting for Senator Hollings. People would come up and say, “What did he say?” And these are Democrats. There is something about Karl Rove and the tax cuts that he doesn’t quite like, but I really enjoyed my time in the senate with Senator Hollings. He is a great graduate of the school and I have followed two legends.
Senator Thurmond served in the Senate until he was 100, the longest serving member of the Senate in our nation’s history. He was elected in 1954. I was born in ’55—the job did not come open a lot, so thanks for letting me have it. He was a member of the military. He served in World War II. To our friends in the class of ’44, Strom was there with you. What you don’t know is that Strom was a sitting judge. Judge Chandler [Retired State Supreme Court Justice A. Lee Chandler and a member of the class of 1944], Strom was a Circuit Court Judge in South Carolina when the war started. He was in his 40s. He had to get a waiver to go serve. He called President Roosevelt to call in a favor, I guess. But they allowed him to go. He landed in D-day, June 6, 1944, in a glider. He fought throughout the European Theater and headed to Japan before they surrendered. Pretty impressive. Right? It gets better.
Fifty years later on the 50th anniversary of the D-day landing, they are getting up a group from Congress go to represent America at the D-day landing. Well, who did they ask to lead the delegation? Senator Thurmond. He was the oldest … he was actually there. So, they write him a letter requesting that he lead the American delegation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the D-day landing. He writes back, “Honored you asked. Can’t go. Got a kid graduating from high school.”
It’s a tough act to follow.
Now when I stop talking here in the minute, you are going to get your degree—the class of 2008—and you are going be able to say when asked, “Where did you go to school?” Well, I am a Citadel graduate.” Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? People will be impressed. People all over this country and all over this world will know what that phrase means. I am a Citadel graduate. It means to the rest of us that you have a value-based education. Duty, honor, country, military discipline, roll around superior academics. People will be impressed.
A couple of challenges to you: As you go out into the world and deal with some of the monkeys that have made it, don’t let the world change the values that The Citadel has instilled in you. Instead, change the world by applying those values. The world is in desperate need of value-based leadership. To those of you who go in business, follow Mr. Cathy’s [honorary degree recipient] motto. I will drive across town to eat at Chick-fil-A. I am trying to get some free coupons—maybe I will keep talking. But, he has made it as a businessman, and he has given a lot more back than he has made, and I am just honored to be up here with all of the honorees. But if you go into business, pursue the common good, not just the bottom line. Our business community needs ethical leadership now more than ever. So, if you start a business, make sure that business not only serves your family but that it serves a greater purpose. If you have a family, instill into your children a sense of purpose, self-confidence. Instill in them the values that you have learned here. If you will do that, you will never have to worry about your kids. To those who go in public service, serve a cause greater than yourself. That is exactly what The Citadel stands for.
At this time of the year when we have commencement speeches, the speaker is supposed to pass on some wisdom. This is the good news. This will be the very short part of my speech. I don’t have a lot. When you make 800 on the SAT, the only job you can really go into is politics. As you can tell, math is not required in my business, to the young men from Taiwan [the First Honor Graduate]. But one thing I have learned, as you travel through life, walk with God—it will make it an easier journey. That is the one thing I have learned. A lot of people out there will want to knock you down, but God will always lift you up and let you do things you didn’t think you could do by yourself.
Another thing I have learned is don’t forget the ones that love you the most. As you pursue economic, political, and military success, as you get focused on this material world that awaits you, don’t forget the ones that love you the most. When I was a junior in college, my mom died. Fifteen months later, my dad died. You never know what is coming your way. You have lost five people in your class. It can be a tough old world out there, and the sky is the limit for you.
You got opportunity that is unlimited but no matter where you go and no matter how much money you make, on your deathbed, you are not going to be thinking about what is in your bank account. You are going to be thinking about those that mean the most to you—your family and your friends. So, the only wisdom I can give you, is no matter where you go, remember those that love you the most.
Now, this degree is something special, but it is just a piece of paper on the wall if it doesn’t help people. Your degree, ladies and gentlemen, needs to be put into action and if it serves a purpose greater than yourself and someone other than you can benefit from it, then it truly is something of value.
To the class of ’44, it doesn’t seem quite fair that after all these years, your reward is you get to hear me speak. Sorry about that. Very few classes have a speaker that was born 11 years after you were supposed to graduate.
To the gentlemen of the class of ’44, you won a war against tyranny, you defeated the Nazis, the imperial Japan. You were called to duty as young men to go fight the world that seemed to have been going crazy at the time. You made us all safe. Without you, there would be no me. There would be no us. You came back home. You built a strong country, raised great families. To the class of ’44, well done.
And to those who did not make it, that is why we are here today. We are here today to honor them. To the class of 2008, let me talk about your war. How many are going on that duty? God bless you. Sixty-four years later, we are talking about a world at war, a global struggle against the fanatical enemy who believes that there is only one way to worship God and that there is only a limited role for a woman. Sound familiar? What did Adolf Hitler believe? What did Tojo believe? There is something about mankind that seems to be eternal, good and bad. Well, your enemy has the same desires as the enemy of 64 years ago. They like to take over the world and make us all follow them. Well, you know what? We’re not. We’re not going to follow them. You are going to do what the class of ’44 did, you are going to stand up to them and you are going to beat them.
This is a different war. In many ways, it is harder for you than it was with these guys. I know that that is an odd thing to say. Because when they went off to war, the country was united. The world was united. Everybody was in the fight. Well, in your global struggle, we don’t have a united view of things, and that’s okay. This is a democracy. The enemy you are fighting doesn’t have a country to conquer. It doesn’t have a Navy to sink or an Air Force to shoot down. They do not wear uniforms but they are just as vicious and brutal as anybody we fought in World War II, and we’ve got to win. You know why we’ve got to win? Because if we lose, America is in trouble. If we lose to these hate filled religious fanatics and let them acquire nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons, we will never know peace. Just as the class of ’44 had to beat Adolf Hitler for the good of the world, you have to beat the fanatics of our time for the good of the world in America.
And I can tell you, ladies and gentlemen, after 11 visits to Iraq and numerous visits to Afghanistan, we are in good hands. Your contemporaries, people your age are in the fight now and some of you are soon to follow. Make me proud to be an American. You are all a volunteers. Most of us have not suffered much at all in this war but a few of us wearing the uniform have suffered greatly. I have never been more enthusiastic about being an American as I am now because I have met the best of among those. Those in uniform of your generation, of your age and I find them to be the best among us.
So in closing, I am honored to be here to speak to two classes separated by 64 years, different taste in music and movies probably, connected by timeless values of duty, honor, country. Graduates, soon to be graduates of a school with a history of confronting evil and protecting America. To the class of ’44, you are known as the greatest generation. You earned that title.
To the class of 2008, you are a class of destiny because you are inheriting a world at war, for evil roams the globe and much is at stake. How will it end? It will end in your victory because the way evil has been contained since the beginning of time is for good men and women to meet the challenges of their time. That is the way this war will end. It will be the good men and women of the class of 2008 and your comrade in arms throughout the country that would choose to go to far away places with strange sounding names to confront and defeat the evil that faces us all. It is your destiny to protect America from forces that wish her harm. Just as the class of 1944, you are bound in a tradition and united by challenge. I am honored to speak to you today and I know full well that as with the class of 1944, some of you might not come back.
May 01 2008
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today said he was very pleased Savannah River Site is in line to receive increased funding under the 2008 Defense Authorization bill.
Graham is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The bill passed committee unanimously and will now be sent to the full Senate.
“With this budget the federal government can live up to the commitments it has made to the state of South Carolina when it comes to cleanup and new missions,” said Graham. “I’m very pleased with the work of the committee and appreciate the support of my colleagues in recognizing and rewarding the hard work done at the Site. I will work with appropriators to fund the important work being done at the Site.”
Among the major Site highlights of the legislation:
- Overall the Site has been authorized to receive funding of $1.28 billion, $74 million above the President’s budget request.
- Soil and ground water remediation, nuclear facility demolition and deconstruction, and nuclear material stabilization authorized for $573 million, $74 million above the President’s request.
- Tank cleanup is fully funded at the President’s request of $706 million including $128 million for Salt Waste Processing Facility (SWPF).
- The MOX program at the Site is authorized to receive $487 million equal to the President’s request.
- Oversight of the MOX program has been returned to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is recognition of its role as a critical nuclear nonproliferation program and its strategic importance to the national security of the United States. Last year, oversight of MOX was transferred to DOE’s office of Nuclear Energy which has oversight of commercial nuclear power.
- The Russian fissile material program will receive an additional $10 million to continue the joint gas reactor technology demonstration program. The gas reactor is a more efficient burner of excess plutonium than conventional reactors. The committee also noted that the Russian Government and the U.S. jointly fund this effort and that Russia’s support for this program will exceed the U.S. contribution.
“MOX is and always has been a national security issue,” said Graham. “Keeping MOX under the national security umbrella will help in our efforts to obtain future funding and begin operation of the MOX facility. Turning weapons grade plutonium into nuclear fuel is the ultimate example of turning swords into plowshares. This budget plan makes clear that my colleagues and I who serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee remain strongly committed to the MOX program.”
May 01 2008
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John McCain (R-AZ) officially introduced S. 2938, the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment Through Education Act on the Senate floor this week.
The original co-sponsors include Senators Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), John Cornyn (R-TX), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Mel Martinez (R-FL), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Barrasso (R-WY), Pete Domenici (R-NM), Elizabeth Dole (R-NC), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Johnny Isakson (R-GA), and Jim Inhofe (R-OK).
The Graham-Burr-McCain bill enhances the existing Montgomery G.I. Bill by significantly improving education benefits for both service members who choose to leave the military as well as those who decide to make military service their career. The legislation will help more military personnel attend college debt-free, and allow them to transfer their education benefits to their spouse or children. It also bolsters recruitment and retention efforts, encouraging service members to continue their military careers.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs James Peake have questioned the effectiveness and implementation of an alternative plan sponsored by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) while expressing support for the key components of the Graham-Burr-McCain bill.
What They’re Saying about S. 2938
The Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment Through Education Act
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina)
“It is time we give back to those who have served and continue to serve our nation so valiantly. I’m proud to be part of this effort to recognize and reward the sacrifices service members and their families are making on behalf of a grateful nation. Our legislation increases the monthly benefit for active duty and reserve personnel and greatly expands the education benefits available to service members. For the first time we ensure that all service members will be permitted to transfer their education benefits to their spouses and children -- a much needed and long overdue improvement.”
Graham is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee and Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee
U.S. Senator Richard Burr (R-North Carolina)
“The Montgomery G.I. Bill has been one of the best recruiting tools our military has to offer, but an increase in this benefit is long overdue. This legislation will help more military personnel graduate from college debt-free and also let them transfer their benefits to their children and spouses. These improvements will help active duty, veterans, Guard, and Reserves reach their educational goals and help our military recruit and retain the best America has to offer.”
Burr is the Ranking Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona)
“We have an obligation to provide unwavering support to our nation’s veterans and service members. Men and women who have served their country deserve the best education benefits we are able to give them, and they deserve to receive them as quickly as possible. And that is what our legislation is designed to accomplish. I am pleased to join in sponsoring this legislation which significantly enhances the Montgomery GI bill and promotes recruitment and retention which is critical to an All Volunteer Military. Their exemplary service to our nation, and the sacrifice of their families, deserves no less.”
McCain is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee
U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas)
“American servicemen and women deserve our greatest respect and support for their selfless dedication and sacrifice. Improvements in the G.I. Bill, particularly immediate increases in education benefits and significant increases in benefits for members of the National Guard and Reserves, are critical and long overdue.”
Hutchison is the Ranking Member of the Military Construction Appropriations Subcommittee and Member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-North Carolina)
“For many decades, the G.I. Bill has demonstrated America’s commitment and gratitude to those who serve, including veterans like my husband Bob. Strengthening the G.I Bill will ensure that our military can continue to recruit and retain outstanding men and women to our armed forces and provide the education benefits they richly deserve.”
Dole is the Ranking Member of the Armed Service Subcommittee on Emerging Treats and Capabilities
U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia)
“Our nation has an obligation to our servicemen and women and their families who make the sacrifice every day for freedom and democracy. I'm pleased to support legislation that will greatly expand educational benefits available to service members. We need to modernize the G.I. bill so it reflects the today's cost of education and effectively addresses other quality of life issues.”
Chambliss is a member of the Armed Services Committee
U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman (ID- Connecticut)
“This legislation is an important step towards rewarding our service members who continue to serve so bravely during this difficult period. Our war fighters are not alone in their hardships however, and this new bill recognizes the sacrifices of our military families. The measure allows education benefits to be transferred to them incrementally, further rewarding continued service. This addition will not only improve the standard of living for many service members, but will also increase the health of the All-Volunteer Force. I am also pleased to see the increase in benefits to National Guard and Reserve forces that have not been activated. These warriors continue to train and stand ready for any emergency that would face our homeland, and also deserve increased benefits. I hope the Senate will combine the best ideas from the several proposals into a bipartisan legislative consensus to provide these critical benefits to our bravest citizens and their families.”
Lieberman is the Chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas)
“We need to reward both service members who leave the military and those who decide to make the military a career. Our troops have answered the call of duty and they deserve no less.”
Cornyn is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Airland
U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-Florida)
“Ensuring that our veterans and active military have access to a good education is a top priority. While increasing the monthly education benefits, this bill goes further in allowing for the transfer of benefits to family members. That step enhances recruitment and retention. I’m also concerned for the families of service men and women. Their sacrifice should also be recognized through additional educational opportunities.”
Martinez is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower
U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyoming)
“It is our duty as Americans to ensure our brave men and women receive the best possible education benefits. This bill goes a long way to updating the G.I. bill, and providing service members and veterans the flexibility they need to continue their education.”
Barrasso is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee
U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
“Having relied on the Montgomery GI Bill myself, I know firsthand how important these benefits are to veterans. Congress can and should do more to ensure veterans and military members in active duty, reserve, and guard units receive the maximum benefits possible. This bill is a significant step forward because it addresses the increasing cost of higher education, while recognizing the recruiting and retention needs of America’s all-volunteer military force.”
Stevens is the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense
U.S. Senator Pete Domenici (R-New Mexico)
“There is greater recognition that the GI Bill must be updated to meet the modern education needs of our veterans and current service members. There is momentum growing in Congress to finally get this done. The Graham-Burr-McCain bill is a good plan based on feedback from our current and former troops that implements needed reforms and also helps with recruitment and retention.”
Domenici is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense
U.S. Senator Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi)
“In 1984, Congressman Sonny Montgomery recognized the need that existed among America’s veterans for a more robust GI bill to assist in paying for higher education. His efforts enabled the GI Bill to continue until today, and I am pleased to be a part of the current effort to ensure that even more veterans are able to receive adequate education benefits.”
Cochran is the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee
U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee)
“The first GI bill was one of the most successful pieces of legislation Congress has ever passed. Millions of our Greatest Generation’s veterans received an education that improved their lives and helped strengthen our country. The bill I’m supporting gives us an opportunity to build on that success. After meeting with military and guard officials in Tennessee to get their input, I’m even more convinced that this legislation to update the GI bill is fair to our state’s veterans and will support military retention. Importantly, this bill will ensure that Tennesseans receive the same education benefits as veterans in other states.”
Alexander is the Republican Conference Chairman
What They’re Saying About S. 22, the Webb G.I. Bill
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
“Our first objective is to strengthen the All-Volunteer force. Accordingly, it is essential to permit transferability of unused education benefits from service members to family. This is the highest priority set by the Service Chiefs and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reflecting the strong interest from the field and fleet. Transferability supports military families, thereby enhancing retention. Second, any enhancement of the education benefit, whether used in service or after retirement, must serve to enhance recruiting and not undercut retention.”
“…In conclusion, for all of these reasons, the Department does not support S. 22. This legislation does not meet, and, in some respects, is in direct variance to the Department’s above-stated objectives and supporting criteria.”
Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs James Peake
“He (Secretary Gates) indicated that negative retention effects may begin when the value of the monthly education benefit exceeds about $1500. For that reason, and because of other concerns stated in the lette
Apr 23 2008
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today made this statement on General David Petraeus being nominated to serve as the next commander of U.S. Central Command and Lieutenant General Ray Odierno being tapped as the next commander of the Multi-National Forces Iraq.
“I’m extremely pleased President Bush has decided to place General Petraeus and General Odierno in these important positions. They are excellent choices.
“General Petraeus and General Odierno deserve great credit for the success of the surge of troops in Iraq.
“What General Petraeus has done in the last year and a half in Iraq will go down in history as one of the most successful counter-insurgency operations in history. Working together, General Petraeus and General Odierno have been a dynamic duo spearheading our efforts in Iraq.
“As the new commander of CENTCOM, General Petraeus will oversee the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq. I’m confident he will take the vast experience he has accumulated in Iraq and apply it to the situation in Afghanistan. Winning the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are central to our efforts to win the war on Islamic extremism.
“General Odierno is experienced in the situation in Iraq and our troops greatly admire his leadership. In addition, our Iraqi allies know and respect his work in bringing about a more secure and stable country.
“The jobs General Petraeus and General Odierno will hold are critical to winning the War on Terror. I have tremendous confidence in them. They are two of our best commanders.”
Apr 22 2008
Wes Hickman (202-224-5972) or Kevin Bishop (864-250-1417)
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Richard Burr (R-NC), and John McCain (R-AZ) today unveiled the Enhancement of Recruitment, Retention, and Readjustment through Education Act.
The Graham-Burr-McCain bill enhances the existing Montgomery G.I. Bill by improving education benefits for servicemembers, veterans, and members of the Guard and Reserve. The legislation will help more military personnel attend college debt-free, and allow them to transfer their education benefits to their spouse or children. It also bolsters recruitment and retention efforts, encouraging servicemembers to continue their military careers.
“It is time we give back to those who have served and continue to serve our nation so valiantly,” said Graham. “I’m proud to be part of this effort to recognize and reward the sacrifices service members and their families are making on behalf of a grateful nation. Our legislation increases the monthly benefit for active duty and reserve personnel and greatly expands the education benefits available to service members. For the first time we ensure that all servicemembers will be permitted to transfer their education benefits to their spouses and children, a much needed and long overdue improvement.”
“An increase in Montgomery G.I. benefits is long overdue,” Burr said. “This legislation goes a long way in providing servicemembers with the ability to attend college debt-free and improves one of the best recruiting and retention tools the armed forces have. I am pleased our bill will also allow more family members to take advantage of the education benefits that their loved ones in the military did not use. This measure is a simple and fair way to help active duty, veterans, Guard, and Reserves attain their educational goals and to encourage military careers.”
“We have an obligation to provide unwavering support to our nation’s veterans, and that is precisely what this legislation does,” said McCain. “Men and women who serve their country in uniform deserve the best education benefits we are able to give them. That is why I am pleased to join with Senators Graham and Burr to announce legislation that significantly enhances the Montgomery GI bill and promotes recruitment and retention which is critical to an All Volunteer Military.”
The legislation provides:
- An immediate increase in education benefits for active duty personnel to $1500 a month, and to improve retention, those benefits increase to $2000 a month after 12 or more years of service.
- Significantly increased benefit for members of the National Guard and Reserves.
- Transferability, the ability of service members to transfer their education benefits to dependents. After 6 years, half of the benefit may be transferred and after 12 years 100% may be transferred to a spouse or dependent children.
- Student loan repayment. Allows servicemembers to use up to $6,000 per year of Montgomery G.I. Bill education benefits to repay Federal student loans.
- Creation of a matching program to help more veterans graduate debt-free. Up to an additional $3,000 per year could be paid by the Department of Veterans Affairs in return for the school retiring some or all of the servicemember’s debt.
- Access to Montgomery G.I. Bill benefits for service academy graduates and Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps officers who continue serving.
- Builds on existing educational benefits program to ensure rapid implementation with minimal additional administrative costs.
“We do not need to reinvent the wheel,” said Graham. “Our legislation improves benefits and modernizes the Montgomery G.I. Bill education program without creating new levels of red tape and bureaucracy.”
“The Montgomery G.I. Bill education program is an extremely effective tool that creates a more educated workforce and helps our armed forces recruit the best our country has to offer,” Burr said. “This legislation ensures the MGIB program will continue to help veterans, our military, and our country.”
“We should encourage servicemembers to remain in the military, and they should be rewarded with additional benefits if they do,” said McCain. “And, we need to ensure that families are not forgotten, which is why our legislation would allow servicemembers to transfer their benefits to their spouses or children if they so choose.”
- The findings underscore the importance of education benefits, particularly the Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB), in achieving not only successful readjustment to civilian life, but also recruiting and retention within the All Volunteer Force for servicemembers and their families.
Immediately increase education benefits
- Effective October 2008, increase from $1,100 to $1,500 per month the education benefits provided by the Montgomery GI Bill. This amount would cover the average cost of a 4-year public college, including room, board, tuition, and fees.
- Gradually increase benefits to $2,000 per month by 2011 for members who serve on active duty for 12 years or more.
- Provide $500 per year for books and supplies.
- Effective October 2008, increase from $880 to $1,200 per month the education benefits for Guard and Reserve members called to active duty since September 11, 2001.
- For those members of the Guard and Reserves who serve in the Selected Reserve for 12 years or more and who continue serving in the Selected Reserve, gradually increase benefits to $1,600 per month by 2011.
- Effective October 2008, double from $317 to $634 the education benefits for other members of the Guard and Reserves.
Allow more servicemembers to transfer education benefits to dependents
- Provide broad authority to regular components and Guard and Reserves to allow members to transfer their education benefits to their spouses or children.
- After serving for at least 6 years, a member could transfer up to half (18 months) of their education benefits to a spouse, children, or both.
- After serving for 12 years or more, a member could transfer all of their education benefits (36 months) to a spouse, children, or both. This could provide up to $72,000 towards a dependent’s education.
Allow more servicemembers to access VA education benefits
- Allow service academy graduates and Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps participants, who currently have no GI Bill benefit, to access benefits, including transferability, under the MGIB. They would be required to complete their initial period of obligated service and then continue to serve for 5 additional years on active duty to become eligible.
- Allow certain career servicemembers who enlisted between 1977 – 1985 and who were offered only the inferior Post-Vietnam Era Educational Assistance Program (VEAP), who were on active duty after 9/11/01 and who retired since then or are currently serving, the opportunity to access Montgomery GI Bill education benefits by contributing $2,700. This would be for bachelor’s degree only and be non-transferable.
Allow use of education benefits to repay school loans
- Allow active-duty servicemembers to use up to $6,000 per year of MGIB benefits to repay federal student loans.
Create matching program (College Patriots Grant Program) to help more veterans graduate debt-free
- If a college agrees to provide supplemental financial assistance to help veterans attend debt-free, VA would contribute up to $3,000 per year (in addition to other VA education benefits) to help meet a veteran’s unmet education costs. The combined assistance from VA and the school (which could far exceed VA’s contribution) could allow veterans to attend any institution debt-free.
Sense of the Congress and Report
- Express the sense of the Congress that those who join the All Volunteer Force aspiring to obtain a bachelor’s degree and are willing to serve a career in the military should be afforded the means and assistance to obtain a bachelor’s degree during the course of their military career.
- Require the Department of Defense to submit a report to Congress on how to accomplish the goal of guiding servicemembers who are motivated to achieve military careers and a bachelor’s degree.