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Context of 'February 22, 2009: Army Emergency Relief Organization Hoarding Funds Intended to Help Distressed Army Families'

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Egon Hawrylak.Egon Hawrylak. [Source: US Air Force]The US Army holds a major training exercise at Fort Lesley J. McNair, a base near the Pentagon, along with numerous law enforcement and emergency response agencies, and the exercise will improve coordination between these agencies when they work together in response to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11. [National Guard Bureau, 4/1/2002 pdf file; EENET, 6/5/2002 pdf file] Fort McNair, which is two miles east of the Pentagon, is the location of the headquarters of the US Army Military District of Washington (MDW). Numerous staff elements of the command stage their operations from the base. [Global Security (.org), 1/12/2002; US Army Military District of Washington, 10/22/2004] Colonel Egon Hawrylak, the deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and security for the MDW, will later recall that on this day, “[W]e had conducted a huge tabletop exercise” at Fort McNair “with all the state, federal, and local law enforcement and emergency disaster relief agencies.” The exercise is held “in preparation for” the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which are scheduled to take place in Washington, DC, on September 29 and September 30. Agencies that participate in the exercise include the Arlington County Fire Department (ACFD) and the FBI. Hawrylak will say that during the exercise, members of the different agencies “talked about things, so we knew each other; we knew how to coordinate and get things done together.” Hawrylak will not say what scenarios are prepared for during the exercise. He will say, however, that the exercise contributes to “the great working relationship” that the Army has with the ACFD, the FBI, and other agencies when they have to work together to respond to the attack on the Pentagon on September 11. [Reuters, 9/17/2001; National Guard Bureau, 4/1/2002 pdf file; EENET, 6/5/2002 pdf file] On September 5, security at Fort McNair was increased as part of a nationwide crackdown ordered by Army leaders who are concerned about terrorism (see August 15, 2001 and September 5, 2001). [MDW News Service, 8/3/2001; Washington Post, 8/15/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Egon F. Hawrylak, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Arlington County Fire Department

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Army-issue chemical and biological protective gear.Army-issue chemical and biological protective gear. [Source: Approved Gas Masks (.com)]Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld responds to a request from House member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to certify to Congress that US troops going to Iraq “have the minimum required levels of chem/bio protective equipment” as established by the Pentagon, even as Army units are selling the same equipment on eBay (see Early March 2003). Rumsfeld says that he cannot make such a certification. [Carter, 2004, pp. 58-61] The General Accounting Office has reported that up to 250,000 chem/bio suits are defective. Furthermore, the GAO reported that the Army has been aware of the problem since 1996. When asked by House member Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) about the deficiency in late 2002, Defense Department Inspector General Joseph Schmitz replied, “There is no such thing as perfect safety in warfare.” [United Press International, 10/1/2002]

Entity Tags: General Accounting Office, Jan Schakowsky, Joseph Schmitz, US Department of the Army, Dennis Kucinich, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion

Army Emergency Relief logo.Army Emergency Relief logo. [Source: US Army]The Associated Press reveals the results of its investigation into the nonprofit organization Army Emergency Relief (AER). The investigation shows that between 2003 and 2007, the organization kept $117 million in so-called “reserve” funds, and only distributed $64 million in assistance. Another $164 million was apparently used to cover operating costs. Most of the money collected by AER comes from donations by soldiers and their families. AER is an ostensibly independent organization that is actually controlled through the Army; it helps soldiers get through financial hardships by giving interest-free loans and donations. The AP finds that the organization “allows superiors to squeeze soldiers for contributions; forces struggling soldiers to repay loans—sometimes delaying transfers and promotions; and too often violates its own rules by rewarding donors, such as giving free passes from physical training.” Yet most of its money is being hoarded, much of it garnering interest in stocks and bonds, while Army soldiers and families are being denied help. Sema Olson, an outreach director for the US Welcome Home Foundation, says, “I have so many people who are losing their homes, they’re behind on their mortgage payments, they’re losing their jobs because of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] or the medication they’re taking—and the Army Emergency Relief can’t help them.” The smaller Navy and Air Force charities donated a far larger percentage of their monies to soldiers and their families during the four-year period investigated by the AP. AER officials defend their practice of hoading donations, pointing to the current economic crisis and insisting they need to keep large reserves to be ready for future problems. The American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) says AER holds enough reserves to last about 12 years at its current level of aid; most charity watchdog organizations view a 1-3 year reserve as prudent, and classify larger reserves as hoarding. AIP president Daniel Borochoff says that AER collects money “very efficiently. What the shame is, is they’re not doing more with it.… It’s as if the group is more concerned about its own stability and longevity than the people it purports to serve.” Retired Colonel Dennis Spiegel, AER’s deputy director for administration, says he sees no need for AER to increase its giving. “I don’t necessarily think the need is any different than it was four or five years ago,” he says. In fact, Speigel says, the economic downturn has prompted AER to cut back on its scholarship aid program by a third. “We’re not happy about it,” he says. [Associated Press, 2/22/2009; KFOX-TV, 2/22/2009]

Entity Tags: Sema Olson, American Institute of Philanthropy, Army Emergency Relief, Dennis Spiegel, US Department of the Air Force, US Department of the Army, US Department of the Navy, Daniel Borochoff

Timeline Tags: US Military

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