Aurora, CO -- U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (CO-06) today congratulated Jennie Schmaltz, a third grade teacher and an instructional coach for other teachers at Elkhart Elementary School in Aurora, CO, on winning the Milken Educator Award. Dubbed the “Oscars of Teaching” by Teacher Magazine, the Milken Educator Award recognizes outstanding teachers nationwide for their dedication to learning. The recognition comes with a $25,000 award and surprise reveal at a school assembly.
Coffman joined with Lowell Milken and Bonnie Somers of the Milken Family Foundation, Colleen O’Neill, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Education, Rico Munn, the District Superintendent, and hundreds of students, faculty, and staff, to attend a surprise Milken Educator Awards presentation at Elkhart Elementary recognizing third grade teacher Jennie Schmaltz and her dedication to education. Coffman offered congratulatory remarks.
“Teachers are critical to the success of our nation’s young people,” said Coffman. “I congratulate Jennie for winning this award that recognizes the contributions she has made to improving the education of our community’s children.”
According to the Milken Family Foundation, “The majority of the teachers she supports saw a classroom growth average in the 65th percentile or above in aimsweb assessments. This is despite multiple challenges, including parent deaths, learning disabilities, and a high number of English Language Learners.… During Schmaltz's tenure, Elkhart has moved from a low rating on the state's School Performance Framework to meeting or exceeding the top status level of statewide attainment.”
Washington, DC -- U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (CO-06) issued the following statement on the Pentagon’s decision to suspend bonus collection from California National Guard soldiers:
"I am so relieved that bureaucrats at the Pentagon finally came to their senses. It was wrong to go so far back to correct administrative errors that were clearly not the fault of the men and women who have served our country in time of war," said Coffman, an Iraq War veteran.
Washington, DC -- U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (CO-06), a Marine Corps Iraq War veteran and member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, today called upon the Department of Defense (DoD) and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) to determine if they have the legal authority to waive regulations forcing thousands of National Guard soldiers, primarily in California, to repay reenlistment bonuses issued during the height of U.S involvement in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. If neither the DoD nor the NGB has authority, Coffman is ready to introduce a legislative fix to allow these soldiers to keep their bonuses.
“Not only did soldiers accept these reenlistment bonuses in good faith, but these soldiers fulfilled their end of the bargain by serving our country in a time of war,” said Coffman. “I understand that in California many aspects of this program were mismanaged. Those who mismanaged the program unquestionably deserve punishment for their failures, but not the soldiers who, through no fault of their own, accepted these incentives. This is not how the government should treat the soldiers who risked their lives to fight for our country.”
Coffman’s remarks follow a report citing that National Guard soldiers are being forced to repay reenlistment bonuses to DoD.
The problem is particularly acute in California where the LA Times notes, “investigators have determined that a lack of oversight allowed for widespread fraud and mismanagement by California Guard officials under pressure to meet reenlistment targets.”
These bonuses of $15,000 or more were offered as an incentive to reenlist in the National Guard. Five years ago, an audit revealed that many of the bonuses, mainly issued between 2005-2008, were fraudulently awarded.
The House of Representatives passed a partial legislative fix in the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act by establishing a ten-year statute of limitations on bonus recollection payments, which Coffman supported. However, this amendment is awaiting Senate action and will not fully resolve the problem.
“I call on the DoD and the NGB to immediately review the law and see if they have the legal authority to waive repayment and to refund the monies already collected from these soldiers if they do,” continued Coffman. “If Congressional action is required, I will initiate legislation to provide the necessary waiver authority. These soldiers kept faith with us and now we need to keep faith with them.”
DENVER – Three of Colorado’s U.S. representatives want more oversight into investigations regarding two SpaceX failed launches that ended in the company’s rockets exploding.
Colorado Republican Reps. Mike Coffman, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton all signed off on the letter, penned by Coffman, that was sent to the heads of NASA, the Air Force and FAA on Sept. 29.
The letter was also signed by seven other Congressmen. It expresses concern over the Air Force’s initial certification of the Falcon 9 rockets, saying the review “appears to have fallen short of ensuring reliable assured U.S. access to space for our most important payloads.”
The letter also said NASA and the FAA’s granting of investigatory oversight of the explosions to SpaceX “raises serious concerns” after the second rocket exploded Sept. 1.
The letter calls for NASA and the Air Force to take over the investigation “to ensure that proper investigative engineering rigor is applied and that the outcomes are sufficient to prevent NASA and military launch mishaps in the future.”
The letter then goes on to ask specific questions to all three agencies over how further oversight would and could be handled.
SpaceX has flown nine missions to the International Space Station and is under several government contracts to resupply ISS. The contracting of rockets came after cuts over the past 20 years to NASA’s budget.Read More
A bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives has proposed legislation targeted at the government of Ethiopia, after Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch documented hundreds of cases of alleged human rights abuses. House Resolution 861, titled “Supporting respect for human rights and encouraging inclusive governance in Ethiopia,” was introduced by Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Al Green (D-TX), Mike Coffman (R-CO), and Eliot Engel (D-NY).
“It is an abomination when any country tortures its own citizens,” said Rep. Smith, at a September 13th press conference on Capitol Hill. The human rights abuses, waged primarily against the Oromo and Amhara populations, have come to light despite Ethiopian authorities efforts preventing independent screeners from conducting transparent investigations.
The Resolution condemns the killing of peaceful protesters, the arrest and detention of students, journalists, and political leaders, and the stifling of political dissent under the guise of “counterterrorism.”
Ethiopia is a strategic ally of the United States. The country headquarters the 54 nation African Union, and, critical to U.S. interests, assists in counterterrorism efforts against al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda aligned jihadi terrorist group based in Somalia. Ethiopia is also host to a staggering 750,000 refugees from the war torn region.
In a press statement Rep. Ellison said, “While Ethiopia is an important ally for the United States, continuing to let the Ethiopian government oppress its own people will only further destabilize the region. We must do all we can to ensure that the human rights of all Ethiopians are respected.” Rep. Smith added, “A valuable contributor to global peacekeeping missions, growing unrest in Ethiopia in reaction to human rights violations by the government threaten to destabilize a nation counted on to continue its role on the international scene”.
Resolutions, like the one proposed, tend to be more of an opinion that often do little in themselves because they lack the political leverage to prompt much action. They often fail to hold allied nations to a standard of conduct, as countries and international organizations are hesitant to regulate how other nations behave within their own borders.
The bill expressly calls on the government of Ethiopia to end the use of excessive force by security forces; hold security forces accountable after a full, credible, transparent investigation; release dissidents, activists, and journalists who have been imprisoned for exercising constitutional rights; respect freedom of assembly and freedom of the press; engage with citizens on development; allow theUnited Nations to conduct independent examinations; repeal certain proclamations limiting inclusive growth; and investigate shootings and a fire on September 3, that killed 23 people at a prison housing high-profile politicians.
Noteworthy, is that the bill also seeks to apply financial and other pressure towards the government, by calling for the Secretary of State to “conduct a review of security assistance to Ethiopia” and “improve transparency” with respect to such assistance, and to “improve oversight and accountability of United States assistance to Ethiopia”.
Despite the good intention of the bill, critics highlight that it doesn’t go far enough. Henok Gabisa, a visiting Academic Fellow and faculty member at Washington and Lee University School of Law, stated in a personal interview:
“H.RES.861 is generally a good gesture from the United States Congress. It is very specific in a sense that it points out the consistent and constant patterns of corrosion of civil and economic liberties in the country. It also seems to give scrupulous attention to the marginalized groups who remain on the receiving end of the pain. That is really great. Nonetheless, owing to the mammoth financial aid transported to Ethiopian government by the U.S. under their bilateral security partnership, H. RES. 861 failed to deploy the political leverage of the [United States Government], and as a result it is nowhere nearer to fulfilling the goal it promises. In fact, Resolutions by merit are just declaratory statements or positions of a government. They may not be considered law in a positivist school of law. Yet again, H.RES.861 has no teeth to bite those who fail to comply the soft obligations it enumerated under the last sections 3-6.”
Experts give the bill a 32% chance of getting past the Foreign Affairs Committee and a 29% chance of being agreed to completely. Comparatively, from 2013-2015, 46% of simple resolutions made it past committee.
In a country of over 86 million, Oromos and Amharas constitute the two largest ethnic groups, combining for over 61% of the population. Yet, they are the most politically marginalized andeconomically disenfranchised. In 2015 Ethiopia’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, won every seat in parliament despite little ethnic diversity. The EPRDF has remained in power since the overthrow of Ethiopia’s military government in 1991Read More
Ten Republican Congress members led by Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have sent a letter to the heads of the Air Force, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration questioning whether SpaceX should be allowed to lead its own investigation into a Sept. 1 launch pad explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket and a communications satellite.
The letter, dated Thursday, also cited SpaceX’s prior explosion in June 2015 while carrying cargo for NASA to the International Space Station. The Hawthorne space company led its own investigation for that launch failure.
Under federal law, SpaceX is allowed to conduct its own investigation. SpaceX, whose full name is Space Exploration Technologies Corp., and other companies lobbied successfully to extend the law last year. The FAA oversees such investigations.
A recent report from NASA’s office of inspector general on SpaceX’s 2015 launch failure similarly asked whether SpaceX’s lead role in its own investigation “raises questions about inherent conflicts of interest,” though it said the investigation was “transparent” and noted that outside observers such as the FAA and Air Force had access to the data and analysis.
The Congress members said the investigation responses raised “serious concerns about the authority provided to commercial providers and the protection of national space assets.”
“Although subject to FAA oversight, it can be asserted the investigation lacked the openness taxpayers would expect before a return-to-flight,” the letter says. “We feel strongly that the current investigation should be led by NASA and the Air Force to ensure that proper investigative engineering rigor is applied and that the outcomes are sufficient to prevent NASA and military launch mishaps in the future.”
In 2015, SpaceX was certified by the Air Force to carry national security satellites, breaking up a longtime and lucrative monopoly held by a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. called United Launch Alliance. In April, SpaceX won a $82.7-million contract to launch a government GPS satellite, which is set to blast off in 2018.
Coffman’s congressional district includes United Launch Alliance’s headquarters. Many of the congressmen represent states where ULA has operations.
SpaceX declined to comment on the letter. NASA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
The FAA said it “has not had a chance to review” the letter but would respond “in a timely manner."
The letter also includes a list of questions for each agency including whether the Air Force will reconsider certification of the Falcon 9 rocket for national security launches; whether NASA will reevaluate the use of the Falcon 9 rocket for its commercial resupply and upcoming commercial crew missions; and whether the FAA would reconsider issuing licenses to SpaceX after its September launch pad explosion.
The Air Force had not received the letter, but if it does, it will respond directly to the congressman, said Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman.
SpaceX’s investigation into its September explosion is being aided by NASA and the Air Force. Last week, SpaceX said it found evidence that a “large breach” took place in the helium system of the rocket’s second-stage liquid oxygen tank.Read More
What an odd battle the Department of Veterans Affairs continues to wage over releasing information meant to explain the massive cost overruns at its Aurora hospital still under construction.
The latest development is that, despite being handed a subpoena from Congress, VA officials are still withholding information that could prove useful in getting to the bottom of how the Aurora facility blew past its expected price by more than a billion dollars. This week, VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson turned in transcripts of 18 interviews, when 71 exhibits were due.
Further, while Gibson reported that the rest of the materials would be released — gradually — he also requested that the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs shield the information from public view. He did so by repeating his argument from the summer — when trying to keep all of the records secret even from Congress — that releasing the details of the investigation could hamper future fact-finding efforts.
We had hoped the subpoena request already put this question to rest, but here we are. Like a hospital with an opening date that keeps moving into the future, and a price tag that continues to grow, Gibson’s foot-dragging is starting to become as expected as it is outrageous.
As Rep. Mike Coffman, who represents the district in which the hospital will someday open, said in a statement this week: “The VA’s attempt to slow walk the (report’s) release is completely illegal and is deeply offensive to both our taxpayers, who are footing the bill, and our veterans, who do not have access to a hospital that was supposed to be completed four years ago.”
At issue are the field notes investigators compiled to craft their report to Congress to explain how it came to be that the Aurora facility went off the rails. Remember that so far Veterans’ Affairs committee members have only seen a trim summary of the findings. Investigations by The Denver Post and the VA’s inspector general have documented many reasons the facility failed to hold in costs, but presumably investigators with access to those involved in the project would be able to discover more detail that would help prevent future overruns.
As the committee rightly notes, such information would be helpful to veterans whose care the VA seeks to provide and taxpayers footing the bill.
We’ve argued that, while it is only responsible to seek to protect innocent employees’ private information, there are rather routine ways to redact those details while preserving information that might lead to better understanding of what went wrong. And the House committee members seeking the interviews and exhibits have promised to keep such personal information from public view.
Yes, the back-and-forth is getting tedious. But the goal is laudable.
And beyond preventing future boondoggles, there is still the question whether those responsible will pay for their misdeeds. While two of the actors identified by the IG as responsible for decisions that led to the overruns retired during the investigations, the VA has maintained that no other punishments are warranted.
Given widespread doubt about that assertion, it would be to the VA’s benefit to prove the point.Read More
A group of 10 Republican members of Congress wrote Thursday that they are increasingly concerned about SpaceX’s ability to safely fly NASA astronauts and national security satellites after the company recently suffered its second rocket explosion in just over a year.
In a letter to the Air Force, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration, the group said SpaceX should not be leading the investigation into its most recent failure, and that authority should be turned over to the federal government “to ensure that proper investigative engineering rigor is applied.”
Last year, an unmanned Falcon 9 rocket exploded a couple minutes after it launched a resupply mission to the International Space Station, destroying $118 million worth of cargo. Then, earlier this month, another Falcon 9 rocket blew up as it was being fueled ahead of an engine test. A $195 million commercial satellite sitting on top of the rocket was lost in the fireball.
“These failures could have spelled disaster, even loss of life, had critical national security payloads or NASA crew been aboard those rockets,” wrote the members, many of whom represent states where SpaceX’s chief competitor, the United Launch Alliance, has a strong presence.
SpaceX declined to comment. After the Sept. 1 explosion, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Twitter that the Dragon capsule would have been able to abort in time, ferrying the astronauts on board to safety.
The company has said it is narrowing down the cause of the explosion, pinpointing a breach in a second-stage helium system. Earlier this week, Musk said the investigation was “vexing and difficult.” He stressed that finding out what went wrong is the company’s “absolute top priority” but said what actually caused the explosion was still unknown.
“We’ve eliminated all of the obvious possibilities for what occurred there,” he said. “So what remains are the less probable answers.” He didn’t say what those might be.
In the wake of the explosion, NASA has said it stands by SpaceX and the Air Force has said it shouldn’t affect the company’s certification.
SpaceX, which relies heavily on the federal government for revenue, holds lucrative contracts with NASA to fly cargo and eventually astronauts to the space station. It also holds a certification from the Air Force that allows it to compete for contracts to launch national security satellites against the United Launch Alliance, the Colorado-based joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing.
The members of Congress, led by U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) questioned whether the Air Force should reconsider SpaceX’s certification. And they asked NASA whether it still plans to allow SpaceX to use the Falcon 9 for its cargo and crew missions.
Since there was no loss of life or injury and no outside property was extensively damaged, federal regulations call for the launch providers to conduct the investigations with oversight from the FAA. NASA and the Air Force are also helping with the investigation.
NASA declined to comment on the matter. The Air Force said it would respond to the members of Congress directly. The FAA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.Read More
Washington, DC -- U.S. Representative Mike Coffman (CO-06) today issued the following statement on his “yes” vote on the Continuing Resolution, which included language to cover In vitro fertilization (IVF) for veterans with service-connected reproductive injuries:
“Our nation's veterans who cannot otherwise conceive due to service-connected injuries, without question, deserve the chance to start a family,” Coffman said.
“Earlier this year, I was moved by Army Cpl. Tyler Wilson's dream to start a family with his loving wife, Crystal. Wounded in combat while serving in Afghanistan, Army Cpl. Wilson, who now lives in Denver, is unable to conceive a child because of injuries he sustained in combat. I have continually championed Congressional efforts to help wounded warriors, like Army Cpl. Wilson, who cannot have children because of his wounds suffered in combat, have a family through VA services.”
“This bill is a monumental step in providing reproductive care to the veterans who have made incredible sacrifices for our country. We owe our veterans not only our thanks, we owe them the care they have earned.”
WASHINGTON — Responding to a subpoena request from Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs this week turned over some — but not all — of its investigative findings into a Colorado hospital that blew its construction budget by more than $1 billion.
The documents, which include the transcripts of 18 interviews previously off-limits to lawmakers, could provide new clues about why the unfinished medical complex in Aurora saw its price jump from $604 million to about $1.7 billion.
But congressional aides said the 18 transcripts represent only a fraction of the 71 exhibits that were due to Congress on Thursday. An accompanying letter from a top VA official included the promise that the agency would provide the rest on a “rolling basis.” But it’s unclear how much of the investigation ultimately will become public.
“We request that the Committee keep these documents in a secure location, limit use to those purposes consistent with the Committee’s oversight purpose, and ensure no further disclosure of them,” wrote VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson in a two-page letter to U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., who chairs the U.S. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
“Further, it is our expectation that this type of sensitive information will not be released or disclosed without prior consultation with the Department,” added Gibson, who indicated he was concerned that publicizing the transcripts could make it harder for future VA investigators to get agency officials to talk.
The incomplete response from the VA represents the latest chapter in a fight between the agency and Congress over the Aurora project. And it drew condemnation from U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora.
“Over $1 billion in taxpayer money has been wasted on a single construction project,” Coffman said in a statement. “The VA’s attempt to slow walk the (report’s) release is completely illegal and is deeply offensive to both our taxpayers, who are footing the bill, and our veterans, who do not have access to a hospital that was supposed to be completed years ago.”
After the VA announced in March 2015 that the price of the hospital had jumped to about $1.7 billion, lawmakers demanded answers on what went wrong.
In response, the VA launched its own investigation, and in March of this year, the agency said it was done with the inquiry and — to the chagrin of many lawmakers — indicated that no one new at the agency needed to be punished for an effort once dubbed the biggest construction failure in VA history.
Two agency officials retired amid investigations into the project.
Although the agency says it has showed members of Congress its report, the VA previously has refused to make public the findings or release much of its investigative material to lawmakers, a stance that led to the subpoena request this month.
Separate investigations by The Denver Post and the VA Office of Inspector General identified several reasons for the massive price hike: notably, poor oversight, an overly expensive design and rampant mismanagement.
The VA now expects to finish the project in January 2018 and plans to have it fully functioning later that year.Read More
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Mike Coffman began his distinguished career of serving our nation at a very young age. At age seventeen, after finishing his junior year at Aurora Central High School in 1972, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. Through the Army, Coffman was able to earn a high school diploma. In 1974, he left active duty to attend the University of Colorado under the G.I. Bill where he continued his military career by serving in the U.S. Army Reserve. Coffman took a leave of absence from the U.S. Army Reserve and the University of Colorado to attend D.G. Vaishnav College in Chennai, India in 1976 and the University of Veracruz in Xalapa, Mexico in 1977. Coffman graduated from the University of Colorado in 1979 and immediately transferred from the U.S. Army Reserve to the U.S. Marine Corps where he served as an infantry officer.
In 1983, Coffman came back home to Colorado and started a small business, an Aurora-based property management company, that would grow to over 20 employees. He remained the senior share holder of the firm for the next seventeen years until selling his interest in 2000. While in business, he continued serving in the military by joining the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.
In his role as a Colorado small business owner, Coffman saw the need to bring more common sense pro-growth economic policies to state government so he ran and was elected to the State House of Representatives in 1988 and re-elected in 1990. Shortly after his 1990 re-election, Coffman took an unpaid leave of absence from the state legislature and volunteered to return to active duty for the first Gulf War where he served as the executive officer for a light armored infantry company. The battalion that Coffman served in was ordered to attack and defend positions inside of Kuwait, for three consecutive days prior to the main ground attack, as part of a deception and reconnaissance-by-fire operation. Coffman retired from the military in 1994 after having served for seven years between the U.S. Army and the Army Reserve and thirteen years between the U.S. Marine Corps and the Marine Corps Reserve.
In 1994, Coffman was elected to the State Senate where he served as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. While in the State Senate, he completed the Senior Executive Program for State and Local Government at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 1998, Coffman was elected to the office of State Treasurer and re-elected in 2002. In 2005, the U.S. Marine Corps was under strength in meeting their requirements for the Iraq War and begun to extend Marines beyond their active duty enlistments, recall Marines recently released from active duty, and selectively reach out to retired Marines and request their return to active duty. Coffman resigned his position as the State Treasurer and volunteered to return to the U.S. Marine Corps for an assignment in Iraq. In Iraq, Coffman was a civil affairs officer where he worked in support of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) in 2005 and in 2006 he was reassigned to help establish interim local governments in the Western Euphrates River Valley.
In 2006, Coffman came home after completing a full tour of duty in Iraq and was appointed by Governor Bill Owens to serve out the remainder of his term as the State Treasurer. In that same year, he ran and was elected to the Office of Secretary of State and served in that capacity until he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008.
Coffman is the only veteran in the Colorado delegation and the only Member of Congress to have served in both the first Gulf War and in the Iraq War. Congressman Coffman represents the 6th Congressional District of Colorado and serves on the Armed Services Committee, the Veteran’s Affairs Committee where he is the Chairman for the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, and on the House Committee on Small Business.
Coffman and his wife Cynthia were married in 2005 just before he deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps. Cynthia Coffman was the Chief Legal Counsel to Governor Bill Owens before becoming the Chief Deputy Attorney General for the State of Colorado under Attorney General John Suthers. Coffman attends Faith Presbyterian Church in Aurora with his eighty year-old mother, Dorothy Coffman.
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It's always great joining La Coalicion Ministerial de Colorado at their monthly meeting. https://t.co/eZDEFF4iLm
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It's always great joining La Coalicion Ministerial de Colorado at their monthly meeting.
CONGRATUATIONS to Jennie Schmaltz, a 3rd grade teacher at Elkhart Elementary, an IB World School, on winning the Milken Educator Award from the
#ICYMI → Great news for the thousands of CA National Guard soldiers who were being forced to repay bonuses.
I joined South Metro Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Mike Dell’Orfano and EMS Chief Rick Lewis to learn more about their Advance Resource Medic (ARM)
Not only did soldiers accept these reenlistment bonuses in good faith, but these soldiers fulfilled their end of the bargain by serving our country