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1. Pentagon faces complex battle over new sequestration deadline. The last-minute scramble by Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff averted the doomsday scenario of sequestration cuts kicking in this week, but Pentagon officials are fully aware that the war is not over.
2. Policy ace Michele Flournoy could be first female Pentagon chief. It’s a long way from playing volleyball at Beverly Hills High School to being the most powerful woman in Washington, but Michele Flournoy could cap such a remarkable journey if President Barack Obama selects her as defense secretary.
3. Obama signed defense bill, denounced the Guantanamo prison it pays for. President Barack Obama this week signed a $633 billion defense bill that continues to block his ability to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and then in a separate signing statement called the prison a waste of national security resources.
4. First U.S. troops land in Turkey for Patriot defense mission. The first U.S. troops have arrived at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, in support of a NATO plan to deploy six Patriot batteries to defend Turkish airspace from potential missile strikes from neighboring Syria, U.S. European Command announced Friday.
5. Vietnam veteran: ‘It’s lived with me to this day’. It has been more than four decades since Earl Mansberry was nearly blown up during a fierce firefight in Vietnam, but for the Fayette County, Pa., man, it might as well have been yesterday.
6. Lewis-McChord soldiers proud of shared family mission. It’s uncommon for blood relatives to serve under the flag of the same artillery brigade, but finding multiple generations at the local base is not. Joint Base Lewis-McChord has many service members with family ties across the military.
7. 10 become U.S. citizens during Parris Island naturalization ceremony. Before family and friends, the nine trainees and one sergeant from 10 different countries raised their right hands to become the first group of Marines at Parris Island to become U.S. citizens.
8. Proposed Bill Would Expand Telehealth Services, Bolster Federal Payouts. Healthcare IT News “A new bill introduced Sunday in the US House of Representatives that, if passed, would expand telehealth services in Medicare and Medicaid programs has garnered the support of The American Telemedicine Association.” The Telehealth Promotion Act of 2012 (H.R. 6719) “would establish a federal reimbursement policy, wherein ‘no [medical] benefit covered shall be excluded solely because it is furnished via a telecommunications system.’ If passed, the bill would increase access to telemedicine within Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, TRICARE, federal employee health plans and the Department of Veterans Affairs.”
9. Lawmakers, Lobbyists List New Year Goals. Politico Asked US Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) for his New Year’s resolutions. The chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee “said one of his top priorities…’is trying to come up with a way to stem the ever-increasing backlog of disability claims'” at Veterans Affairs. Agency officials, said Miller, “will tout the fact that they resolve about a million claims a year…but when you add the fact that the backlog grows every year, the problems are not solved.” Politico also spoke to Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who “said lawmakers need to do more to help veterans.” Tarantino stated, “After a decade of war, the VA remains unprepared to meet the needs of today’s veterans. The disability claims backlog is unacceptably long, GI Bill checks are often late and veterans wait too long” for mental healthcare. Tarantino also expressed concern about high unemployment among veterans.
10. State Investigating Closing Of R.I.-Based Business Schools. Waterbury (CT) Republican-American On Wednesday, Connecticut “officials…urged students affected by the sudden closing of the Butler Business School in Bridgeport and The Sawyer Schools in Hamden and Hartford to register their contact information with state Office of Higher Education. The Rhode Island-based for-profit schools, which offer training for allied health, business and legal careers, closed earlier this week, providing the state with just a few days’ notice and leaving about 1,200 students unable to complete their coursework and earn diplomas.” State higher education officials are “in contact with officials from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, US Department of Education and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.”