US House Committee Expresses Support for MARS Program
The US House Armed Services Committee has expressed its continued support for the Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) program. The backing was included in a report accompanying HR 4435, the FY15 National Defense Authorization bill. Language drafted by the Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities was subsequently approved by the full committee. The House Armed Services Committee also reiterated a series of recommendations it made 2 years ago to strengthen the program. Sponsored by the US Department of Defense, MARS is an organization of Amateur Radio volunteers who provide “contingency communications support” to the Defense Department and to US Government operations.
“In addition to providing an important backup to conventional communications that is potentially vulnerable to disruption or degradation, MARS can play a vital role in helping to ensure continuity of government and continuity of operations in the event of a natural or man-made disaster,” the committee said. The House panel also expressed concern that the Defense Department was not taking full advantage of the capabilities that MARS provides, and it directed military officials “to integrate MARS more fully into their operational planning and activities.” It also called for folding MARS into the Department of Defense emergency communication plan.
The committee noted that recommendations made in its FY13 National Defense Authorization Act report had not been put into effect. The committee directed the Secretary of Defense to ensure standardization of operating policies and procedures among the three MARS branches — Army, Air Force, and Navy-Marine Corps — through the appointment of an individual manager. The committee also directed the Secretary to brief the committee on the status of the Defense Department document, now under revision, that provides policy guidance and outlines departmental responsibilities for MARS.
“There is growing recognition of the valuable role MARS plays in serving those who serve us,” said David J. Stapchuk, Chief of Air Force MARS. “We are proud to contribute to our nation’s security through the valuable support our volunteer members provide.” — Thanks to Dave Trachtenberg, N4WWL/AFA3TR, National Planning Coordinator, Northeast Division MARS Director, USAF MARS