Legislature(2015 - 2016)CAPITOL 120

01/28/2016 01:00 PM House MILITARY & VETERANS' AFFAIRS

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Audio Topic
01:07:10 PM Start
01:07:40 PM Overview(s): Rural Engagement Initiative Utilizing the Alaska State Defense Force
01:55:15 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
"Rural Engagement Initiative Utilizing the
Alaska State Defense Force" by Deputy
Commissioner, Bob Doehl
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
   HOUSE SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON MILITARY AND VETERANS' AFFAIRS                                                                  
                        January 28, 2016                                                                                        
                           1:07 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Representative Bob Herron, Chair                                                                                                
Representative Gabrielle LeDoux, Vice Chair                                                                                     
Representative Jim Colver                                                                                                       
Representative Shelley Hughes                                                                                                   
Representative Bob Lynn                                                                                                         
Representative Max Gruenberg                                                                                                    
Representative Chris Tuck                                                                                                       
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
All members present                                                                                                             
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
OVERVIEW(S):  RURAL ENGAGEMENT INITIATIVE UTILIZING THE ALASKA                                                                  
STATE DEFENSE FORCE                                                                                                             
     - HEARD                                                                                                                    
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
No previous action to record                                                                                                    
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
ROBERT DOEHL, Deputy Commissioner                                                                                               
Office of the Commissioner                                                                                                      
Department of Military & Veterans Affairs                                                                                       
Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska                                                                                         
POSITION STATEMENT:  Provided a PowerPoint presentation                                                                       
entitled, "Alaska State Defense Force Rural Initiative," and                                                                    
dated 1/28/16.                                                                                                                  
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
1:07:10 PM                                                                                                                    
VICE CHAIR  GABRIELLE LEDOUX called  the House  Special Committee                                                             
on Military and  Veterans' Affairs meeting to order  at 1:07 p.m.                                                               
Representatives LeDoux,  Hughes, Gruenberg,  Lynn, and  Tuck were                                                               
present at the call to  order.  Representatives Herron and Colver                                                               
arrived as the meeting was in progress.                                                                                         
^OVERVIEW(S):   Rural Engagement Initiative Utilizing  the Alaska                                                               
State Defense Force                                                                                                             
           OVERVIEW(S):  Rural Engagement Initiative                                                                        
            Utilizing the Alaska State Defense Force                                                                        
1:07:40 PM                                                                                                                    
VICE-CHAIR  LEDOUX  announced that  the  only  order of  business                                                               
would  be   an  overview  of  the   Rural  Engagement  Initiative                                                               
Utilizing the Alaska State Defense Force.                                                                                       
1:08:31 PM                                                                                                                    
ROBERT DOEHL,  Deputy Commissioner,  Office of  the Commissioner,                                                               
Department of Military & Veterans  Affairs, introduced the Alaska                                                               
State Defense  Force Rural Initiative,  which has  been developed                                                               
by the  administration to expand  the Alaska State  Defense Force                                                               
(ASDF) in order  to make the force more relevant  to the homeland                                                               
security  needs of  Alaska.    Mr. Doehl  described  ASDF as  the                                                               
second  least  well-known component  of  DMVA,  and said  it  was                                                               
created  by AS  26.05.100 and  is part  of the  state's organized                                                               
militia, along  with the Alaska  Army National Guard,  the Alaska                                                               
Air  National Guard,  and the  Alaska Naval  Militia.   Mr. Doehl                                                               
noted  that the  original language  of the  statute that  created                                                               
ASDF also allowed  for Scout units in  the Western, Northwestern,                                                               
and Arctic regions of Alaska,  and established legislative intent                                                               
for the  force [slide 2].   Further, AS 26.05.070 applies  if the                                                               
organization,  or a  part thereof,  is placed  into state  active                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  HUGHES asked  for  the purpose  of state  defense                                                               
forces established in Alaska and elsewhere.                                                                                     
1:10:40 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. DOEHL explained  that a state defense force  is authorized by                                                               
32 U.S. Code (U.S.C.) Section  109, which is a reservation clause                                                               
that allows states  to maintain a state militia  solely for state                                                               
purposes.   The  state defense  force  of Alaska,  and the  other                                                               
states that have  active forces, exist to  perform state missions                                                               
beyond   the   ability   of   regular   state   governments   and                                                               
municipalities, and are  not subject to deployment  or control by                                                               
the federal  government.  For  example, ASDF would respond  to an                                                               
event  or disaster  that  is  beyond the  control  of the  normal                                                               
government  structure,  but  to   which  the  military  does  not                                                               
respond.  Unlike the Alaska  National Guard, ASDF is always under                                                               
state  control, is  100  percent state  funded,  and members  are                                                               
generally  not  paid for  training  -  although they  do  receive                                                               
compensation  for active  disaster response  and for  exercises -                                                               
and receive  minimal state equipment.   He  characterized members                                                               
of  ASDF as  unpaid,  tremendous patriots  who  are dedicated  to                                                               
Alaska and to  the nation, and who are willing  to take their own                                                               
time, and  to sacrifice, in  order to  be prepared when  they are                                                               
needed [slide 3].                                                                                                               
1:13:06 PM                                                                                                                    
[VICE-CHAIR LEDOUX passed the gavel to Chair Herron.]                                                                           
1:13:06 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  asked Mr. Doehl for  clarification on unpaid                                                               
MR. DOEHL responded that members  are not reimbursed for training                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX inquired  as to  whether ASDF  members are                                                               
subject to the Alaska Code of Military Justice.                                                                                 
MR.  DOEHL  referred  to pending  legislation  that  would  place                                                               
members under the Alaska Code  of Military Justice, but said they                                                               
are not at this time.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE   HUGHES  expressed   her  appreciation   for  the                                                               
dedication of  the members of  ASDF, and asked for  a description                                                               
of a typical defense force volunteer.                                                                                           
MR.  DOEHL was  hesitant to  describe  a typical  member as  they                                                               
represent  a broad  demographic  with the  common denominator  of                                                               
dedication.  As  a whole, members tend to be  individuals who are                                                               
more established  in their  careers and  who often  have previous                                                               
military  experience.    Members  range  from  airline  captains,                                                               
surgeons,  and business  leaders.   Many are  post-[the terrorist                                                               
attacks of  September 11,  2001] service  members, and  many have                                                               
service-connected injuries that make it  difficult to continue in                                                               
regular military service,  so joining ASDF provides  the means to                                                               
continue to serve.                                                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE  HUGHES asked  for the  percentage of  veterans in                                                               
the force.                                                                                                                      
MR. DOEHL estimated  75 percent veterans.  He  stressed that ASDF                                                               
also provides  an opportunity for  those who would like  to serve                                                               
but who do not have a former military affiliation.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE   HUGHES  restated   her   appreciation  for   the                                                               
volunteers' sense of duty.                                                                                                      
1:17:58 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR HERRON asked whether volunteers are recruited.                                                                            
MR.  DOEHL  responded that  ASDF  does  not have  recruiters  and                                                               
generally  creates awareness  by word  of  mouth, or  on its  web                                                               
1:18:57 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE   GRUENBERG  asked   for   clarification  on   the                                                               
relevance of the Alaska Code of Military Justice.                                                                               
MR. DOEHL further explained that  proposed HB 126, in its current                                                               
form, would  apply to ASDF;  however, under current  statute, the                                                               
Alaska  Code  of  Military  Justice is  not  applicable  to  ASDF                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG surmised  that currently nothing governs                                                               
an offense committed  by a member of  ASDF while he or  she is on                                                               
duty.  He asked whether the state criminal code would apply.                                                                    
MR. DOEHL answered that state  and federal criminal laws apply to                                                               
members of  the National  Guard and ASDF.   He  acknowledged some                                                               
minimal  administrative remedies  are  contained  in the  pending                                                               
legislation.   In further  response to  Representative Gruenberg,                                                               
he  confirmed that  under  present circumstances,  administrative                                                               
action is possible.                                                                                                             
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG asked  whether transportation  and room                                                               
and  board are  covered  for ASDF  volunteers attending  training                                                               
MR.  DOEHL said  training  expenses are  paid  by the  volunteer,                                                               
unless called  to a disaster  or certain exercises, which  may be                                                               
reimbursed.  In further response  to Representative Gruenberg, he                                                               
explained  ASDF   is  not   staffed  in   remote  areas   due  to                                                               
transportation expense; however,  the governor's initiative would                                                               
allow for members to participate in a local setting.                                                                            
1:23:47 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE GRUENBERG  observed that currently,  ASDF operates                                                               
as an urban organization.                                                                                                       
MR.  DOEHL concurred,  and said  ASDF has  a presence  in Juneau,                                                               
Soldotna, Valdez, Bethel, and Fairbanks.                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE HUGHES  offered her  understanding that  the state                                                               
currently receives about $62 million  from the federal government                                                               
for the Alaska  National Guard, and ASDF receives  state funds in                                                               
the amount  of $30,000.   She  asked whether  the Alaska  Code of                                                               
Military Justice [if amended by  pending legislation] would apply                                                               
to those training at their own time and expense.                                                                                
MR. DOEHL  informed the committee  that DMVA's  interpretation of                                                               
the  pending legislation  is  that the  Alaska  Code of  Military                                                               
Justice would  apply to members  during training, because  of the                                                               
voluntary acceptance of personal jurisdiction provision.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX added  that  the Alaska  Code of  Military                                                               
Justice would apply  to members of the Alaska  National Guard and                                                               
ASDF [24  hours per  day, 7  days per week,  365 days  per year],                                                               
whether they are training or not.                                                                                               
1:26:21 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN  asked whether  there are age  limits imposed                                                               
on the 86 members.                                                                                                              
MR. DOEHL said  there are no age limits, although  he opined ASDF                                                               
does  not have  the statutory  authority to  accept someone  less                                                               
than  18 years  of age.   In  further response  to Representative                                                               
Lynn, he  said there  are some women  serving; also,  the present                                                               
uniforms denote Alaska, but are undergoing a transition.                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked how often,  and how many days, a member                                                               
typically serves in training or other kinds of duty.                                                                            
MR. DOEHL answered  that a typical member of ASDF  serves 24 days                                                               
per  year  in training;  in  addition,  there are  exercises  and                                                               
"actual call  outs," which  are determined  by need  and funding.                                                               
In  further   response  to  Representative  Lynn,   he  explained                                                               
training consists  of skills such  as first  aid, reconnaissance,                                                               
and special services.                                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked what equipment is provided.                                                                           
MR.  DOEHL  answered  that  a  basic  uniform  kit  is  provided;                                                               
collective  equipment  has mostly  been  donated.   He  suggested                                                               
other  collective  gear  necessary  under  the  governor's  rural                                                               
initiative  would consist  of  communications  gear, optics,  and                                                               
mass  disaster   first  aid  kits.     In  further   response  to                                                               
Representative Lynn, he said ASDF  does not have the authority to                                                               
request   space-available  flights,   although  members   of  the                                                               
National Guard  can request space-available flights  when in duty                                                               
status, and after retirement.                                                                                                   
1:32:27 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX inquired as to  whether a volunteer on duty                                                               
is eligible for workman's compensation.                                                                                         
MR.  DOEHL said  a  volunteer on  state active  duty  and who  is                                                               
participating in  an exercise,  or responding  to a  disaster, is                                                               
treated as  a state employee at  this time.  In  further response                                                               
to  Representative   LeDoux,  he  recalled  an   instance  of  an                                                               
individual  who   was  not  covered  by   workers'  compensation,                                                               
therefore,  a  tort  liability attached,  and  the  incident  was                                                               
resolved.  He acknowledged that this is a significant issue.                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  surmised  the  injured  person  may  have                                                               
actually been better off under the tort system.                                                                                 
MR.  DOEHL advised  that  tort ligation  provides  for a  broader                                                               
range of recovery, and the  workers' compensation system provides                                                               
for more certainty of recovery at a lower level.                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX  asked  whether  ASDF has  a  presence  in                                                               
MR. DOEHL replied that most  Anchorage members participate at the                                                               
Alaska Army  National Guard Alcantra  Armory Complex  in Wasilla;                                                               
however,  a few  participate at  Joint Base  Elmendorf-Richardson                                                               
(JBER).   In further response  to Representative LeDoux,  he said                                                               
volunteers must demonstrate physical  fitness for the duties they                                                               
would  be  performing,  and there  are  non-commissioned  officer                                                               
development courses,  officer candidate school,  and professional                                                               
development courses available to volunteers.                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG   expressed  his  concern   about  "the                                                               
ability  to  sue  in  National   Guard  situations."    In  2003,                                                               
legislation was  enacted which dealt with  workers' compensation,                                                               
and he inquired as to the effect of the rural initiative.                                                                       
MR. DOEHL said the rural  initiative does not address the changes                                                               
in tort  and workers'  compensation law that  were made  in 2003.                                                               
In 2003,  legislation clarified the  applicability of  a workers'                                                               
compensation remedy related to guard  service, and clarified that                                                               
workers' compensation  is not  a remedy if  a person  was serving                                                               
under Title 32 U.S.C. at the  time of an injury.  The legislation                                                               
was in response to circumstances following a plane crash.                                                                       
1:38:45 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE  GRUENBERG  stressed  that  he  is  interested  in                                                               
pursuing  the  aforementioned  area,   although  "...  we  -  for                                                               
political  purposes  - dropped  it  last  week, but  my  interest                                                               
remains."  He requested a briefing on the subject.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN asked whether  ASDF volunteers have access to                                                               
firearms and firearms training for personal self-defense.                                                                       
MR. DOEHL  informed the  committee that  ASDF was  disarmed under                                                               
the  Parnell  Administration;  prior to  2010,  members  provided                                                               
their  own  weapons  for  training.     In  further  response  to                                                               
Representative Lynn,  Mr. Doehl said the  administration's action                                                               
was in response to an  outside investigation that was critical of                                                               
firearms policies  and standards.   He confirmed that  after [the                                                               
terrorist attacks  of September  11, 2001], ASDF  volunteers were                                                               
assigned to secure key infrastructure points.                                                                                   
MR. DOEHL directed  attention to slide 4  entitled, "Mission Task                                                               
List,"  and  said  DMVA  envisions  ASDF  Scout  Battalions  will                                                               
perform missions  that are vital  to homeland security,  and that                                                               
will also make  them more capable to support Alaska  in the event                                                               
of a mass disaster.  He  described the following missions:  route                                                               
and  zone  reconnaissance;   disaster  response  support;  damage                                                               
assessment; movement and  replenishment; medical station support;                                                               
community   disaster    pre-mitigation   support;    and   Arctic                                                               
operations,  survival, and  movement  training.   The value  ASDF                                                               
adds to Alaska is obvious:   80 percent of Alaska's reserve force                                                               
structure is  located in Southcentral,  a situation  which limits                                                               
disaster response by  region; in fact, the  earthquake of 3/27/64                                                               
is an  example of  the problem  created when  disaster responders                                                               
are all located in one  region, and outside assistance is needed.                                                               
Slide 5 entitled,  "Value Added to Alaska,"  listed the following                                                               
values:      distributed   disaster  response   force;   enhanced                                                               
resilience for  disasters; domain  awareness, in order  to assess                                                               
remote regions such as the  Arctic region; additional distributed                                                               
search and  rescue resources; increased incident  command systems                                                               
capability;  resilient communications  capability; transportation                                                               
expertise  in  austere  environments; enhanced  disaster  evacuee                                                               
shelter   support;    and   increased    evacuee   transportation                                                               
1:44:51 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.   DOEHL  displayed   slide   6,   "Task  Organization   ASDF,                                                               
(Provisional  Scout   BN),"  and   pointed  out  that   the  ASDF                                                               
organization  would be  comparable to  the Alaska  National Guard                                                               
Scout  Battalions  which  were   previously  stationed  in  rural                                                               
Alaska, including battalion staff  and an initial headquarters in                                                               
Bethel, with a  Company dispersed nearby.   Expansion from Bethel                                                               
into  other  rural  areas  would begin  with  Bravo  and  Charlie                                                               
Companies,  which would  be small  entities  placed in  villages.                                                               
Slide 7  entitled, "Alaska State  Defense Force  Proposed Initial                                                               
Stationing,"  was  a graph  that  depicted  the stationing  of  a                                                               
distributed force, which  could come together in a  time of need,                                                               
or  dispersed "as  eyes and  ears, and  to enhance  overall state                                                               
resiliency."   In  response to  Chair Herron,  he explained  that                                                               
using  the   readiness  center  in  Bethel   to  house  battalion                                                               
headquarters would  minimize cost,  because ASDF can  utilize the                                                               
National Guard facility,  which is a very capable venue  and is a                                                               
transportation hub.                                                                                                             
CHAIR HERRON suggested that the  committee should observe an ASDF                                                               
or National Guard mission.                                                                                                      
MR. DOEHL  agreed.  In  response to Representative  Gruenberg, he                                                               
explained  that  HHC  stands for  Headquarters  and  Headquarters                                                               
Company; Headquarters is the entity  that oversees functions, and                                                               
Headquarters Company houses the staff and support elements.                                                                     
MR.  DOEHL concluded,  noting that  Alaska has  a long  and proud                                                               
tradition of a  dispersed group of volunteers  serving the entire                                                               
state,  thereby  meeting  the  needs  of  homeland  security  and                                                               
disaster response  and preparation.   He advised that  DMVA seeks                                                               
to increase Alaska National Guard  participation in rural Alaska;                                                               
however, there is "a gap that we  need to fill now," and the ASDF                                                               
rural initiative proposed  by the administration is  a vehicle to                                                               
meet that gap.                                                                                                                  
CHAIR  HERRON  told  a  personal  story  related  to  the  Alaska                                                               
Territorial Guard.   He  then inquired as  to whether  the Alaska                                                               
State Defense Force Rural Initiative  request was included in the                                                               
budget  before  the  House   Finance  Committee  Subcommittee  on                                                               
Military and Veterans' Affairs.                                                                                                 
MR. DOEHL  answered yes, the  initiative request consists  of two                                                               
parts:  $1.3 million  is  a  change record  request  to fund  the                                                               
operations  of  establishing  "the   new"  ASDF;  the  logistics,                                                               
equipment, and  supply procurement  is a separate  capital budget                                                               
item of  $1 million.   In  further response  to Chair  Herron, he                                                               
said, "... whatever amount is  allocated for this personal change                                                               
record, we  will build out  as much  as we can  with it.   It's a                                                               
matter of scale and what we can afford ...."                                                                                    
1:51:42 PM                                                                                                                    
REPRESENTATIVE TUCK  asked whether  ASDF was deployed  during the                                                               
snow emergency in Cordova.                                                                                                      
MR.  DOEHL  said  Alaska  National Guard  in  state  active  duty                                                               
members responded in Cordova; he  pointed out that pay ranges for                                                               
ASDF members, to do the same  job in state active duty, are lower                                                               
than those of military pay rates.                                                                                               
REPRESENTATIVE  TUCK inquired  as to  how decisions  are made  on                                                               
whether ASDF is deployed versus the Alaska National Guard.                                                                      
MR. DOEHL  explained that under  AS 26.05.070, when  the governor                                                               
seeks to mobilize  a portion of the organized  militia, the first                                                               
step is a  recommendation from the Division  of Homeland Security                                                               
and Emergency  Management, DMVA,  as to  the specific  mission or                                                               
need, such as firefighting.                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  LEDOUX   returned  attention  to  slide   6,  and                                                               
expressed  her  understanding that  the  four  state active  duty                                                               
positions illustrated therein are not presently funded.                                                                         
MR. DOEHL said correct.  He explained:                                                                                          
     If [the  Alaska State  Defense Force  Rural Initiative]                                                                    
     is  funded,  this would  be  the  backbone using  state                                                                    
     active  duty funding,  not  creating  PCNs or  creating                                                                    
     positions  of   tenure,  but  rather,  as   funding  is                                                                    
     available to implement this, to  make sure that we have                                                                    
     good accountability  and internal controls for  the use                                                                    
     of funds, for the  use [and] distribution of equipment,                                                                    
     and  making sure  the design  and  participation -  the                                                                    
     exercises - [are] appropriate to the mission.                                                                              
REPRESENTATIVE LEDOUX surmised DMVA is not asking for money in                                                                  
the budget to fund these positions now.                                                                                         
MR. DOEHL clarified that DMVA included the positions in the                                                                     
proposal in order to facilitate mission development in Western                                                                  
CHAIR HERRON expressed his support for the initiative, although                                                                 
its passage may be hampered by fiscal reality.                                                                                  
1:55:15 PM                                                                                                                    
There being no further business before the committee, the House                                                                 
Special Committee on Military and Veterans' Affairs meeting was                                                                 
adjourned at 1:55 p.m.                                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects
House MVA 1.28.16 - ASDF Rural Initiative Briefing FINAL.pdf HMLV 1/28/2016 1:00:00 PM