In the Military
Akaka named chairman of committee on Veterans' Affairs
Sen. Daniel Akaka, who was re-elected this month, was named chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs this week. He also becomes the senior member on the Armed Services, Banking, Energy and Natural Resources, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Indian Affairs committees.
"We have serious challenges ahead of us, including how to ensure a seamless transition from military to civilian life," Akaka said. "As chair, I will ensure our youngest generation of veterans gets the care and services they deserve. I have a special concern for those in the National Guard and Reserves who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan."
The Committee on Veterans' Affairs oversees the $70.8 billion budget for veterans' benefits and services, including a $30 billion health-care budget, Akaka's office said in a news release. The Department of Veterans' Affairs has 157 hospitals, 869 ambulatory care and community-based outpatient clinics, 207 Vet Centers and 134 nursing homes.
In Hawaii, the VA has spent more than $311 million to serve more than 107,000 veterans in the state. Hawaii has eight state veterans' cemeteries that have received federal funding, and is also home to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, commonly known as Punchbowl. VA also operates the Pacific Islands Health Care System, which includes the Spark M. Matsunaga Ambulatory Care Center at Tripler Army Medical Center; and outpatient clinics on Maui, Kauai, in Hilo and in Kona, as well as satellite operations on Molokai.
After learning of his six committee assignments, Akaka said in a written statement: "My seniority on these committees puts me in a prime position to help my home state in a wide range of areas from defense and environment to business and homeland security."
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is co-sponsoring legislation that he says will overturn a Republican attempt "to silence the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction."
Previous investigations have led to convictions of unscrupulous contractors on bribery and conspiracy charges; the exposure of substandard construction work by large U.S. corporations like Halliburton, Bechtel and Parsons; and the military's failure to account for hundreds of thousands of weapons intended for Iraqi security forces, Abercombie said in a news release.
Abercrombie said language to close down the Inspector General's Office was not in either the House or Senate version of the legislation, but was slipped into the 850-page Defense Authorization bill at the request of the House committee chairman behind the closed doors of the joint conference committee.
He said the Iraq inspector general, created at the insistence of Democrats in 2004, has employed 55 auditors and investigators to oversee billions of dollars in contracts awarded to U.S. companies to provide services in Iraq. The Inspector General's Office has completed about 300 reports and investigations. The Senate version of the 2007 Defense bill increased funding for the office.
"In the Military" was compiled from wire reports and other sources by reporter Gregg K. Kakesako
, who covers military affairs for the Star-Bulletin. He can be reached by phone at 294-4075 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org