The4th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Seniors, Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Thursday, September 1, 2005, at 10:30 AM, at Bluegrass Station (formerly the Lexington Army Depot) in Lexington, Kentucky. Senator Elizabeth Tori, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order and announced that a quorum was present.
Members:Senator Elizabeth Tori, Co-Chair; Representative Mike Weaver, Co-Chair; Senators Carroll Gibson, Denise Harper Angel, Vernie McGaha, Joey Pendleton, Katie Stine, Jack Westwood, and Ken Winters; Representatives Carolyn Belcher, James Carr, Bill Farmer, Mary Harper, Gerry Lynn, Fred Nesler, Tanya G. Pullin, Steve Riggs, Tom Riner, and Charles L. Siler.
Guests: No guests signed in.
LRC Staff: Scott Varland, Clay Barkley, Mustapha Jammeh, Clint Newman, and Marlene Rutherford.
Co-Chair Tori welcomed General Storm, General Arflack, and General Berthold to the committee.
Representative Siler moved to approve the minutes of the July 7 and July 14, 2005 meetings. Representative Farmer seconded and the motion carried.
The Committee acted upon two resolutions to adjourn the meeting in loving memory and honor of two fallen heroes, Lance Corporal Chase J. Comley and Specialist Ronnie D. Williams. Senator Pendleton moved adoption of the resolution relating to Lance Corporal Chase J. Comley. Representative Harper seconded and the motion carried. Senator Westwood moved the adoption of the resolution relating to Specialist Ronnie D. Williams. Senator Stine seconded and the motion carried.
Following the adoption of the resolutions, the secretary called the Roll. A quorum was present.
A presentation and discussion of Kentucky National Guard Issues was conducted by Major General Donald C. Storm, the Adjutant General. He said that the mission and focus at Bluegrass Station is to provide quality facilities and services and to develop a safe complex. The bottom line is to serve the military service member, to bring jobs to Kentucky, and to preserve the Commonwealth's interest and its capital expenditures. Bluegrass Station, managed and maintained by the Department of Military Affairs, leases to approximately 48 tenants, with the two major tenants being the Kentucky Logistics Operations Center and Special Operations Forces Support Activity. Bluegrass Station provides 1,750 full-time jobs and has an annual payroll of $60 million.
General Storm stated that economic expansion currently underway at Bluegrass Station includes the construction of a hangar from funds appropriated by the General Assembly, a contract award for the warehouse building, and a ten-year lease to Special Operations Forces Support Activity (SOFSA). This would create approximately 180 new jobs resulting in $12 million additional dollars in taxable wages, and a $200 million dollar economic impact over the federal contract period. Other projects under construction are sleeping quarters for the fire station located on the property, installation of fiber optics and security cameras, and renovation and new facilities in a couple of the buildings. General Storm emphasized the need to improve security for the facility.
General Storm indicated that the compound is very expensive to maintain because the facilities were constructed during World War II, the late 1940's, and the early 1950's. Needed funding for the infrastructure renovation of Bluegrass Station through 2010 is estimated at approximately $19 million. General Storm stated that there is an excellent economic opportunity for the facility.
General Storm recognized Colonel (retired) Jasper (Jack) Carpenter, Director of Kentucky Logistics Operation Center (LOC), which consists of the National Guard Material Management Center (rear storage area) and the DSCP (Defense Supply Center Philadelphia) Virtual Prime Vendor Guard/Reserve. The mission of LOC is to develop, manage, and operate logistical projects which provide a high rate of return versus cost to the sponsoring agency with improved customer service and readiness for the warfighter. General Storm stated that the day after Hurricane Katrina hit, the LOC shipped 1500 tyvek protective suits, 3,000 boot covers and gloves for the tyvek suits, 1,500 pairs of leather gloves, 1,750 surgical masks, 2,000 sets of BDUs (battle dress uniforms) 1,907 pairs of combat boots, 5,184 pairs of socks, and 1,000 cots from Bluegrass Station to Hurricane Katrina sites. The facility was able to respond quickly in getting the necessary supplies ready. He noted that the cost of supplies will be reimbursed by FEMA. The only thing Kentucky will have to do is cashflow items that were deployed.
General Storm said that the Guard Material Management Center supports 54 states and territories and 350,000 citizen soldiers. It employs 30 personnel with an annual payroll of over one million dollars. The Centralized Clothing Distribution Facility provides support to more than 675,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen and employs approximately 180 employees with an annual payroll of approximately $5.5 million. Total sales for distribution of military clothing since 1999 as a DSCP Virtual Prime Vendor is over $290 million. Since 1997 the number of jobs has grown from 60 to 210 and payroll from $1.6 million to $6.5 million.
General Storm explained that the mission of the Kentucky Department of Military Affairs is to: provide a trained and effective workforce ready to respond to domestic emergencies; safeguard citizens and property; provide effective and efficient infrastructure and services necessary to maintain organizational capabilities; and promote the betterment of citizens through economic development, diligent stewardship of resources and implementation of youth education programs. The total budget in FY 2005 for Army National Guard, Air National Guard and Department of Military Affairs is $226,232.416 of which $11,147,600 are state funds. Few states and territories are organized like Kentucky, where emergency management is organized under the Adjutant General. All the department heads have formed a joint force headquarters and agencies respond to National Guard headquarters at the first sign of trouble within the state. National Guard headquarters personnel communicate, plan and execute response together. General Storm indicated that the Guard Special Tactics Squadron, a rapid response team, was deployed with two C-130's to be used for rescue in the disaster area. This squadron is the only one in the U. S. armed forces organized within the reserve components. General Storm asked Colonel Steve Bullard with the National Air Guard Headquarters as well as the Director of Administrative Services in the Department of Military Affairs, to explain the Special Tactics Squadron. General Storm pointed out that the Department of Homeland Security is a planning and administrative agency. It is not able to respond because there are no resources for response activities. Response occurs in the emergency management arena, the National Guard, and the Department of Military Affairs.
General Storm said that Disaster and Emergency Management provides a comprehensive recovery effort when disasters occur. FEMA grants over the last three years to date as a result of presidential emergency declarations in Kentucky total just over $158 million.
General Storm stated that the Division of Air Transport manages the Capital City Airport, controls the scheduling and operational use of state aircraft and oversees the maintenance and care of 17 state-owned aircraft. He pointed out that most of the state fleet, ten aircraft, are old aircraft. He also stated that renovations are being made to the airport. A complete overhaul of the runway has been completed. Also, a runway extension has been opened for bids and grants received.
General Storm explained that Youth Challenge, a program conducted at Fort Knox, provides a disciplined environment for the state's "at risk" youth to have a positive, life-changing experience, and opportunities leading to employment. The program began in 1999 and the budget is funded with 60% federal funds and 40% state funds. As of June this year the program had 949 graduates and 576 GEDs were awarded. General Storm indicated that a majority of the students are from the Louisville and Lexington areas. The program is a 16-week residential program and students can leave at any time with parents. Currently there are 125 students in the class. The program has been very effective especially with high school dropouts.
General Storm stated that the priorities of the National Guard are to: maintain strength; prepare and sustain soldiers and units for the warfight; reorganize and rebuild readiness; develop leaders; and train the force and develop and train the full-time military force to be able to address the many demands placed upon it. General Storm indicated that the current personnel numbers have increased and are in excess of 7,600. There have been 7,235 mobilized and deployed Army and Air Guard servicemembers since 9/11. Currently there are 1,622 Kentucky National Guard servicemembers deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world and 882 ready for future mobilizations. He pointed out that current personnel deployed will need counseling help upon return as well as support for their families. He indicated that he had not had a problem with deployment and mobilization because of the Kentucky Guard's strength. He has been able to maintain approximately 3,000 serving in the state for protection. General Storm asked for the support of the Legislature in the Guard's efforts to support its soldiers and airmen, their families, facilities and infrastructure. General Storm invited the committee to have one of its meetings at the Wendell Ford Training Center in Greenville.
The floor was opened for questions. Senator Stine asked what Kentucky was doing in the relief effort for Hurricane Katrina, what the function of the Community Crisis Response Board is, and where students in the Youth Challenge program come from. She asked whether students could be court ordered to attend. General Storm indicated that the entire National Guard had been alerted to Hurricane Katrina, both Army and Air. The plan called for 1,265 troops to be ready to go South. The first wave of troops and trucks will be sent on Friday, September 2, to Mississippi and staged at Camp Shelby for work around that area. In addition, another group of soldiers will run distribution points with humvees with fuel, food, and supplies to sustain the group for seven days. The additional troops will go wherever ordered within the next 72 hours. In addition to the troops, two C-130s with 200,000 sandbags, the entire special tactics squadron and some additional special tactics soldiers are leaving today on a C-130.
General Storm stated that the Community Crisis Response Board is made up of volunteers from all around the state to respond and reach out and touch resources. They work with ministerial associations throughout the state. He asked that if any constituents are interested in volunteering for this type of work that they contact Emergency Management or the Department of Military Affairs.
He stated that the Youth Challenge students cannot be court ordered to attend and no felons are permitted in the program. Youth Challenge works with the Department of Education and counselors to identify high school dropouts and encourage them to join the program. The program takes misguided youth, teaches and trains them and gets them in the workforce. The department helps get them employed and monitors their progress.
Representative Riggs asked if General Storm would spearhead a plan to upgrade the Capital City Airport's infrastructure. General Storm indicated that he attended a public meeting recently and people are aware that he is spearheading a plan for the upgrade of the airport. There are six major projects at the airport. The complete overlay of the taxiway and runway has been completed, bids have been opened on a 1,000 foot extension of the runway, the terminal has been remodeled, 30 T-hangars will be built, new fencing will be built, and a new entrance will be built if more property can be obtained. Representative Riggs indicated that he felt there was a weakness in the program for natural disaster response since Kentucky is the second highest state in terms of the number of inland waterways. He asked what are the state's water borne assets. General Storm indicated that these assets are small but the Special Tactics Squadron is a water rescue and representatives of the Coast Guard, Navy. and Marine Corps Reserve who drill with personnel at Emergency Management so there is access to those assets. General Storm stated that from an equipment standpoint this could be a weakness. Therefore, civilian sources have to be utilized.
Representative Belcher asked if the committee could have a list of the type of aircraft, how many, and the age and hours of the aircraft as well as information on state watercraft for review. General Storm indicated he would be happy to provide that information. She also asked what environmental issues have come to light and have been dealt with in conjunction with the Army at Bluegrass Station. Joe Wilkins, the former director of Bluegrass Station, recently relocated to the Boone Center. He indicated that they worked with the Army Corps of Engineers, EPA, and the Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection and identified a few minor problems at the Station. All the issues have been resolved and mitigated. The state is expecting a transfer of the property. She also asked about the road expansion around the facility and felt that this would need to be addressed in the future. She asked if there were any statistics on the percentages of the students going through the Youth Challenge program that do go on to some branch of armed services. General Storm indicated that he did not have that data with him but would be happy to provide it at a later date. He noted that a number of students join the Navy.
Representative Nesler was very interested in the Youth Challenge program and indicated he would ask staff to work with the Department of Military Affairs to find out more information for him. He also asked how the General gets into high schools for recruiting purposes. General Storm indicated that he attempts to get in during school hours, preferably during assemblies. There are two ways from a recruiting standpoint that the department gets in. One way is career development by sending mentors to young people into the schools. The other way is the counter drug message and JROTC. For the most, part he does not have any problem getting in, but there are some schools who do not allow them to come in to talk with the students.
Co-Chair Weaver advised that the law in Kentucky is that if any high school allows any other agency to come in and recruit, then they must do the same for the National Guard. He also asked a question regarding TRICARE. Any soldier in the Army on active duty has TRICARE and he or she and their dependents are taken care of. He asked a question about the 1,622 National Guard soldiers that were activated for active duty and their families who are provided with TRICARE insurance. Upon returning home and leaving the Army system, do they leave TRICARE behind and are they without healthcare for themselves and their families for a period of time before they get their civilian job back and healthcare again? General Storm indicated that they go on TRICARE when they are alerted and prior to mobilization. When they return there is a 12-18 month follow-up period unless they have been injured and remain in the TRICARE system.
Shawn McKiernan, Fiscal Manager for the Veterans Program Trust Fund also made a presentation. He apologized that General Beavers, the Commissioner of the Department of Veterans' Affairs, was unable to attend but asked that thanks to Senator Tori's suggestion they have been working with personnel at Humana on a job fair taking place in Louisville as well as the Radcliff area. He said that the Veterans Trust Fund is established by statute and oversight is provided by a board appointed by the Governor. It provides support for veterans programming not otherwise supported by appropriation. A large portion of the funds are for the homeless veterans transition facility on the Leestown Campus. In the past year a large portion of the monies came from donations, a lot of which is for a new cemetery in the Radcliff/Fort Knox area. The most steady income is derived from the license plate program. He also indicated that county clerks have been generous in listening to what the Trust Fund provides for veterans and they are willing to raise money through donations. The board has the final say as to how the money is spent. There is the possibility for a fiduciary program for veterans that do not have a family and are deemed incapable of making final decisions for themselves. A goal of General Beavers is to start a small loan program. The Mobile Outreach Office allows KDVA to reach veterans that they may not otherwise have been able to reach. This past year $9,000 was given to the Eastern Kentucky Veterans Center to help establish a picnic and shelter area. They were also able to bring the 82nd Airborne Chorus to the Thompson Hood Veterans Center which was a big morale booster for the residents. A $1,500 donation was made to the eternal flame at Fort Campbell. The burial honors program helps compensate veterans service organizations. A Golden Eagle statue has been purchased with funds raised by the community for the new cemetery in Radcliff. Mr. McKiernan also indicated that they were currently working on the ability for individuals to make donations online and earmark this money for certain projects.
Co-Chair Weaver commented that the county court clerks association decided that they would take on the project of the Veterans Program Trust Fund as their own to raise monies.
Representative Farmer indicated that he recently renewed a license plate and noticed on the card that there was a checkoff box on the card for the Children's Trust Fund but nothing for the Veterans Trust Fund. If the county clerks are going to support this program, this needs to be added to the card. Senator Tori indicated that he may want to discuss this with General Beavers.
Representative Nesler suggested that individuals may have ideas as to how the monies from the Trust Fund could be spent. It was stated that those ideas should be submitted to the board for consideration.
Senator McGaha inquired about the assistance given to the burial honor squads and what specific assistance is given. Mr. McKiernan indicated that a formula is used to determine the amount of money given to a post, depending on the number of individuals sent to do the honors.
There was no old business.
There was no new business to discuss.
The meeting adjourned at about 12:30 p.m.