5 Things to Start Your Week

Philip Bilden Photo: INSEAD Knowledge
Philip Bilden Photo: INSEAD Knowledge

Here are five noteworthy news stories and events to start your week, from the editors at Military.com.

1. Navy Secretary Nominee Withdraws

Financier Philip Bilden has withdrawn his nomination for Navy secretary due to concerns his business attachments wouldn't meet government ethics requirements, the Pentagon announced Sunday night. The former Army Reserve officer recently retired as senior adviser of private equity investment management firm HarbourVest partners. He's the second service secretary nominee to withdraw from consideration due to financial interests since Trump took office. Billionaire businessman Vincent Viola, nominated for Army secretary, also withdrew his name. It's not yet clear who will replace Bilden and Viola as nominees.

2. Bases Cut More Services Amid Hiring Freeze

Officials at Marine Corps Camp Lejeune and Air Station New River in North Carolina announced closures and cutbacks resulting from the federal hiring freeze directed last month by President Donald Trump. Hourly child care at the child development centers was suspended effective Feb. 23. Other cutbacks starting between Feb. 27 and March 6 at the locations include several Marine Marts reducing hours, operating hours cuts to Starbucks at the Main Exchange Mall, the closure of New River Recreation Equipment, and the complete closure of the Central Marine mart and gas station, they said. At least two Army bases have taken similar steps to reduce child care services.

3. Air Warfare Symposium Kicks Off

The U.S. Air Force's top brass will head to Orlando this week for the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium. The event will take place Wednesday through Friday at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel. Watch for leaders to talk about their plans to add more airmen to the ranks and more equipment to the fleet as part of President Trump's first budget request, which as The New York Times reported Sunday is expected to call for a sharp increase in military spending. The agenda includes a number of leaders, but Heather Wilson, Trump's nominee for Air Force secretary who hasn't yet been confirmed in the position, is not anticipated to attend.

4. VA to Process Claims from Camp Lejeune Water

The Veterans Affairs Department expects to receive a surge of compensation claims totaling more than $2.2 billion from veterans exposed to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. After years of lawsuits and appeals, acts of Congress and amendments since the contaminated water at the Marine Corps base was confirmed in the 1980s, the VA will begin accepting claims March 14 for disabilities stemming from eight presumptive conditions. The Lejeune claims initially will be handled by a VA regional office in Louisville, Kentucky, and aren't expected to approach the volume of claims that were filed in the wake of the Agent Orange rulings.

5. Army Seeks to Expand Civilian Credentialing for Soldiers

The U.S. Army is working to provide more soldiers with civilian credentials so they can find jobs after they leave service in their fields, from truck driving to information technology, an official said. Acting Army Secretary Robert Speer is poised to issue a directive to expand the service's "Soldier for Life" transition program and improve coordination between the active and reserve components on the process, according to Maj. Gen. Hugh Van Roosen, the service's deputy chief of staff for manpower and personnel plans, programs and policies. The directive is expected by late March and additional guidance by early summer.

-- Hope Hodge Seck, Amy Bushatz and Richard Sisk contributed to this report.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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