Order Gives Employees Social Security Withholding Tax Deferral, Not Forgiveness

President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order on August 8 that allows employers to defer withholding Social Security taxes.

However, it’s a payroll “deferral,” not payroll “forgiveness” — meaning it’s a temporary change, and service members and Defense Department civilians have to pay that money in 2021.

Internal Revenue Service officials said the Presidential Memorandum defers the employee portion of Social Security taxes. The Social Security tax is set for employees by law at 6.2 percent.

For service members, that would be 6.2 percent of basic pay. An E-5 with eight years of service has a monthly basic pay rate of $3,306.30. The monthly Social Security tax equals $204.99. Through the end of the year, this adds up to $819.96.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the deferred Social Security taxes will be collected through April 30, 2021. So, that E-5 with eight years of service who received a total of $819.96 from the tax deferral now has to pay it back early in 2021.

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DOD Officials Describe Modernization Priorities That Will Benefit Warfighters

Defense Department officials spoke about the DOD’s modernization strategy, including the development and procurement of high priority systems — such as artificial intelligence, directed energy, small satellites, hypersonics, a 5G network and unmanned aerial systems — which could potentially offer game-changing results on the battlefield.

Dr. Mark J. Lewis, the acting deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, and Michael Brown, the director of the Defense Innovation Unit, spoke today at the Defense News Conference.

Lewis noted that Congress has been very supportive with the direction of the DOD’s research and engineering work.

One of the important reasons for this support on the Hill, Lewis said, is that the DOD has demonstrated that it has adopted an approach to “accepting risk intelligently.” That means supporting research and engineering efforts that either result in success or in some measure of success, such that even if an experiment fails, some learning about the physics and process results in enlightenment for the successful creation of a future capability.

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A Conversation With West Point’s Associate Dean for Strategy and Initiatives

By Joshua Kim

Chris Mayer is an Associate Dean for Strategy and Initiatives, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the United States Military Academy at West Point, and a colonel in the US Army. I first ran across Chris on his active Twitter feed @ChrisMayer_WP. Chris generously offered to answer my questions about academic life within the military, his thoughts on COVID-19 and the academy, and the future of higher education. Please note that the views expressed in this article are Chris Mayer’s and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Military Academy, the Department of the Army, or the Department of Defense.

Q1: I’d like to start by trying to understand the world of the US service academies. These include West Point (where you are) and the four other academies for the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the Merchant Marine. Can you provide insights into where the service academies fit into the broader postsecondary ecosystem, and maybe some points of distinction and differentiation?

Service academies have the mission of developing and graduating leaders of character to serve as officers in their respective services. The United States Military Academy’s (West Point) graduates are commissioned as Army officers, United States Naval Academy graduates as Naval officers, United States Air Force Academy graduates as Air Force officers, United States Coast Guard graduates as Coast Guard officers, and United States Merchant Marine Academy graduates become licensed Merchant Marine officers or commissioned officers in the Armed Forces. Students at service academies do not pay tuition or room or board, but they do have a service obligation once they graduate (West Point graduates have a five-year active duty service obligation).

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Arlington National Cemetery Reopens to Public, But Most-Visited Sites Still Off-Limits

Arlington National Cemetery will reopen to the general public Wednesday after a six-month shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But its most visited sites, such as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, will remain off-limits, the cemetery said in a release Tuesday.

Beginning Wednesday, the hallowed cemetery in Virginia, across the Potomac from Washington, D.C., will be open to the public from 8 a.m. to noon for visits to gravesites only. Face coverings and social distancing will still be required at all times, the cemetery said.

However, “several places of interest will remain closed to assure health protection conditions,” it added. “These sites include the John F. Kennedy gravesite, the Memorial Amphitheater and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”

Exhibits in the Welcome Center will also remain closed.

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Service Members, Civilians Bound By DOD Rules During Election Campaigns

It’s election season again, when federal, state and local political campaigns kick into high gear. Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper’s latest ethics video lays out the importance of political activity rules that Defense Department civilian employees and service members must follow.

In the 2020 DOD Public Affairs Guidance for Political Campaigns and Elections memorandum of Feb. 11, DOD spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman summarized the rules that apply to all DOD personnel regarding involvement in political events.

“The Department of Defense has a longstanding and well-defined policy regarding political campaigns and elections to avoid the perception of DOD sponsorship, approval or endorsement of any political candidate, campaign or cause,” Hoffman wrote.

“The department encourages and actively supports its personnel in their civic obligation to vote, but makes clear members of the armed forces on active duty should not engage in partisan political activities,” his memo read.

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New landmine detection method to reduce false alarm rates

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Landmines pose a serious threat in conflict areas, yet modern detection systems struggle to discriminate between explosives and clutter. A project funded by the Army developed a new method for landmine identification that will greatly reduce false alarm rates.

Fewer false alarms will significantly reduce the cost of humanitarian landmine clearance operations and provide greater road mobility by avoiding unnecessary route detours. With this new technology, landmines can be detected without digging.

Vadum, Inc., North Carolina State University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, collaborated to develop what’s known as the Vibration-ENhanced Underground Sensing system, or VENUS.

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Navajo Nation calls for investigation into Fort Hood deaths

DALLAS — The Navajo Nation has joined calls for an accounting of the deaths at Fort Hood after one of its members became the latest soldier from the U.S. Army post to die this year.

Pvt. Corlton L. Chee, a 25-year-old soldier from Pinehill, New Mexico, died Wednesday after he collapsed following a physical fitness training exercise five days earlier, according to officials at the central Texas post. He was the 28th soldier from Fort Hood to die this year, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

The Navajo Nation Council praised Chee in a statement Friday and urged the Army to thoroughly investigate his and the other soldiers’ deaths.

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West Point General Pledges to Take Action on Allegations of Racism by Former Cadets

The superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point said this week that he has started to take action about allegations of racism at the historic institution.

Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams told an audience at a discussion on race hosted by the Association of the United States Army Wednesday that he takes it very seriously that former West Point graduates described personal experiences with racism. A number of West Point alums came to the school June 25 with a 40-page proposal to create an “Anti-Racist West Point.”

“I directed my inspector general to do a formal investigation; he has a report out to me, and we are going through the process of it,” Williams said. “It’s an investigation, so I have to be careful about commenting on it, but we took that and are taking it on and looking at it in a very deliberate way.”

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Reilly McGinnis Selected First Captain

By West Point Public Affairs – August 4, 2020

RELEASE NO: 11-20

WEST POINT, N.Y. – Cadet Reilly McGinnis of Macungie, Pa., has been selected First Captain of the U.S. Military Academy’s Corps of Cadets for the 2020-2021 academic year, achieving the highest position in the cadet chain of command. She will assume her duties on Aug. 10.

Most recently, McGinnis, an Operations Research major, led 1,300 cadets as the Regimental Commander of Cadet Leader Development.

As First Captain, she is responsible for the overall performance of the approximately 4,400-member Corps of Cadets. Her duties also include implementing a class agenda and acting as a liaison between the Corps and the administration.

“I first heard about West Point in my sophomore year of high school when I started getting recruited by the Army Women’s Soccer team. After visiting the Academy, interacting with cadets and faculty, and speaking with my grandfather, who served in the Korean War, I knew West Point was where I belonged. The greatest lesson I have learned at West Point is that a person’s success is not solely based on self-achievement, but rather what that person can do to help and influence those around her.”

McGinnis’s cadetship includes various activities and accomplishments, such as being a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and the Phi Mu Epsilon National Honorary Mathematics Society. She was also a member of the Army Women’s Soccer Team from 2017-2019 and currently serves as a Young Life leader for O’Neill High School.

See the entire list of Class of 2021 Leadership Positions at:
https://www.westpoint.edu/news/press-releases/usma-announces-class-2021-cadet-leadership-positions

Cadet-Only Crowd Awaits Army for Season Opener

The return of college football to West Point on Saturday is a reminder of what’s been normal over a century, and what is peculiar to 2020.

Fans will not be permitted at Michie Stadium for the season opener against Middle Tennessee State and the Sept. 12 game against Louisiana-Monroe, except for nearly 4,000 cadets, due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions. It should make for a strange sight for the teams involved, plus a national television audience on CBS Sports Network (1:30 p.m.).

“It will be an incredible experience, whether there are fans or not,” said senior co-captain Amadeo West. “We are fortunate to be playing. And the cadets … they bring enthusiasm and excitement to the game. … It’s not a negative thing that there are no fans. We’re just happy.”

“We’re really excited, the whole team,” said senior defensive lineman Nick Stokes. “We’ve been looking forward to this since we got back.”

There were moments at the start of summer when talk of canceling the college football season was prevalent, and concern set in about whether there would even be a season.

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DOD Sites Selected for Phase III COVID-19 Vaccine Trials: Five Medical Treatment Facilities in National Capital Region, San Antonio, and San Diego to Participate

As part of the Operation Warp Speed (OWS) goal to deliver safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics by January 2021, five DoD locations have been identified to participate in the Phase III trial evaluating the vaccine candidate AZD1222 under development by AstraZeneca.

“The Department of Defense continues to play a key role in the development of a potential COVID-19 vaccine,” said Honorable Tom McCaffery, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. “Now that vaccines have passed the first phases of testing for safety, dosing and response, we are ready to move into the next phase where volunteers are needed to join large clinical studies. We are excited to have several sites identified to support the next steps in the vaccine development process.”   

The DoD sites selected are:

  • Naval Medical Center San Diego (Site Code: NMSD)
  • Joint Base San Antonio Brooke Army Medical Center (Site Code: BAMC)
  • Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center (San Antonio) (Site Code: WHASC)
  • Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (Bethesda, MD) (Site Code: WRMC) and
  • Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (Fort Belvoir, VA) (Site Code FBCH)

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DOD Provides On-Line Mental Health Resources Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

In its continued efforts to provide resources to service members and their families, the Department of Defense issued an info sheet highlighting a few of the many resources available to help those who may be coping with an experience of sexual assault.

As service members continue to experience daily challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DOD wants everyone to know that assistance for sexual assault remains available for all service members and their dependents.

More information can be found here.