Homeland Security

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  Vets Say They Feel Misled About Gi BenefitsApril 29, 2008 21:55 Cheated. Baited and switched. That's how veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan say they feel about military recruiters who sold them on how the GI Bill would benefit them.

Soldiers, Marines and airmen, speaking at a Capitol Hill rally Tuesday, said they are not given enough funds from the bill to cover college expenses as they were promised.

Todd Bowers served two tours in Iraq.

"I came home proud, very proud of my service, with a Purple Heart on my chest and a Navy commendation medal with a 'V' for Valor," he told a crowd of veterans.

"But I didn't come back to the education I was expecting. I came back to three different types of student loans, two of which had gone to collections."

Najwa McQueen said she joined the Louisiana National Guard in 2004 on what she thought was a promise to help pay for her college education.

"They kind of sell you a dream," she said after the rally. "You think you're going to get all of this stuff, and in reality, you don't get that. I just kind of believed what my recruiter told me, which is not the truth."

McQueen left behind her husband and 18-month-old daughter in October 2004 and served 10 months in Iraq. After her service, she enrolled in college and found that her total benefits from the GI Bill would be $400 a month for four months, totaling $1,600. Her classes alone, she said, cost $1,000 each.
  Dad'S Video Of Run-Down Barracks Sparks Military ResponseApril 28, 2008 20:14 The U.S. military is promising action to address conditions in a barracks at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, after a soldier's father posted images on YouTube showing a building that he said "should be condemned."

"This is embarrassing. It's disgusting. It makes me mad as hell," Ed Frawley said of the building where his son, Sgt. Jeff Frawley, had to live upon his return this month from a 15-month deployment to Afghanistan.

Frawley said Monday that Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Dick Cody called him to say he shares Frawley's anger and that "there's no excuse." Cody said he would not want his own sons or any troops to return to such conditions, Frawley said.

Frawley's 10-minute video shows still photos from throughout the building, which appears to be falling apart and filled with mold and rust.

Paint -- which Frawley said is lead-based -- is chipping. Ceiling tiles are missing. A broken drain pipe allows sewer gas into the building, while another one has tissues stuffed into it in an apparent effort to stop the gas from coming in.

Photos from the communal bathroom show some of the most disgusting images. In one, a soldier stands in a sink to avoid what Frawley describes as 3 inches of sewage water that filled the floor when toilets overflowed.
  US Scraps $20 Million Prototype Of Virtual FenceApril 23, 2008 11:45 The government is scrapping a $20 million prototype of its highly touted "virtual fence" on the Arizona-Mexico border because the system is failing to adequately alert border patrol agents to illegal crossings, officials said.

The move comes just two months after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced his approval of the fence built by The Boeing Co. The fence consists of nine electronic surveillance towers along a 28-mile section of border southwest of Tucson.

Boeing is to replace the so-called Project 28 prototype with a series of towers equipped with communications systems, new cameras and new radar capability, officials said.

Less than a week after Chertoff accepted Project 28 on Feb. 22, the Government Accountability Office told Congress it "did not fully meet user needs and the project's design will not be used as the basis for future" developments.

A glaring shortcoming of the project was the time lag between the electronic detection of movement along the border and the transmission of a camera image to agents patrolling the area, the GAO reported.

Although the fence continues to operate, it hasn't come close to meeting the Border Patrol's goals, said Kelly Good, deputy director of the Secure Border Initiative program office in Washington.

"Probably not to the level that Border Patrol agents on the ground thought that they were going to get. So it didn't meet their expectations."

The Border Patrol had little input in designing the prototype but will have more say in the final version, officials said.

Agents began using the virtual fence last December, and the towers have resulted in more than 3,000 apprehensions since, said Greg Giddens, executive director of the SBI program office in Washington.

But that's just a fraction of the several hundred illegal immigrants believed to cross the border daily near southwest of Tucson.
  Army, Marines Give Waivers To More FelonsApril 21, 2008 15:16 The Army and Marine Corps are allowing convicted felons to serve in increasing numbers, newly released Department of Defense statistics show.

Recruits were allowed to enlist after having been convicted of crimes including assault, burglary, drug possession and making terrorist threats.

The statistics were released by Rep. Henry Waxman, a California Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

He has given the Pentagon a month to hand over up-to-date details on the number of waivers granted, reports on how the recruits have performed and information about how the waivers are related to meeting recruitment goals.

Pentagon statistics show the Army granted 511 felony waivers in 2007, just over twice the 249 it granted the year before. The Army aims to recruit more than 80,000 new soldiers a year.

The Marines -- which recruits fewer new service members each year than the Army -- also reported a rise in waivers for felonies, with 350 granted in 2007, compared with 208 in 2006.

"There was a rapid rise in 2007 in the number of waivers the Army and Marine Corps granted to recruits convicted of serious felonies," Waxman said in a letter Monday to David Chu, the under-secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.