It is understood, and accepted by some, though completely abhorrent, that Politicians lie, and that they tell people what they want to hear. In recent years, I've noted and pointed out an increasing trend of politicians contradicting themselves in the same speech. I've also pointed out that positions such as the Secretary of Defense, are political appointees of a politician, and not just neutral "Defense Department officials," as often implied by MSM articles.
The Joint Chief of Staff, General Dempsey, is currently using his podium to call for the maintenance of an apolitical military, while also using it to endorse calls to cut the Military. His predecessor demonstrated a similar propensity to step out of the realm of objective reporting of the facts under his control, to endorsement of Administration policies. It is unsursprising to me to see the Secretary of Defense parrot the Administration, to endorse his policies, but when Our Generals step into the realm of partisan politics, and into the deceit of politics, Our Nation, has lost a key component in maintaining a politically independent military.
Many will point out that Officers, and particularly Generals, have always needed to be political, but there is a difference between being "political," and being partisan. Officers have been political in the sense that they campaigned with other officers, networked, and said the things they needed to say, to other officers, and to politicians, to get the next position, and to get the next promotion. But officers were very careful to avoid open discussion of partisan political positions. It was their responsibility to implement the policies and regulations of the politicians, not to endorse the policies or campaign for the proposed policies, or against those policies. It was their responsibility to report the facts, not to cross over into unsupported opinion.
One of the changes to the Army, proposed by the Administration, is to cut two or three Brigades stationed in Europe, while replacing them with one rotational Brigade. This is not a favor to the Troops, nor does it cost less money. By rotating a Brigade into Germany every 6 months, the Administration is increasing personnel transportation costs by 600-800%, and adding strains to the military family. A Soldier stationed in Europe is authorized to bring his family with him. A Soldier rotating through for 6 months is missing another 8 months (trainup time and preparation time) of birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays with their families. It de-stabilizes the family. It adds to the fatigue of the Troops. It does not, in anyway, increase readiness. That Brigade rotation is unavailable for a deployment to Afghanistan. In fact, both that Brigade and its replacement are unavailable for combat zones. Given that the Administration is cutting the number of Soldiers equivalent to 22 Brigades, not just the 3 Brigades currently in Europe, this does not even come close to increasing the capability of the Army.
Why would one argue for a decreased presence in Europe? Because Europe has been fairly stable in the post World War II era, and the primary threat to Europe was removed at the end of the Cold War. But, does that mean there is no value to having Troops stationed in Europe? NO. A Brigade in Germany or Italy is far closer to Baghdad or Kabul, than is a Brigade at Fort Bragg.
The strategic value of these forward based Troops was proven in the Libyan Civil War, when a US Base in Italy became the primary launching base for the US/NATO air war against the Qaddaffi Government. The Troops deploying to Afghanistan have in large part flown through Ramstein Air Base or Rhein-Main Air Base in Germany to Bagram or Kandahar Air Fields in Afghanistan, over the last 10 years. Troops wounded in Afghanistan have been treated at Landstuhl Hospital in Germany. Unlike alternatives in the Middle East, Troops can relax their guard a little while in Europe. While a terrorist threat still exists in Germany, it is significantly less than it is in Djibouti or Qatar or Saudi Arabia.
A Soldier permanently stationed in Germany can come home to his wife, learn the German culture, and visit the historical sites, when he is off-duty. A Soldier rotated in for 6 months does not have the opportunity to jump into his Personally Owned Vehicle and drive to the restaurant downtown, and is separated from his wife and kids. Moving 4000 Troops across town, much less across the Ocean means logistical nightmares, and a lot of time lost that could be used training.
In effect, the Administration is saying we watched the Military push its endurance to the limits over the last 10 years, and while we will retreat from the war, we will make every attempt to maintain the stress and fatigue of the Troops in the non-war future. We will increase the demands on Troops, Families while decreasing the benefits of those sacrifices, decreasing pay, through inflation.
In a worst case scenario, Troops can live in tents, but they cannot fight wars without training, without fellow Warriors, and without weapons.
General Dempsey, Secretary Panetta, and the Administration are requesting and endorsing spending more money on sports in the Military, on new sports facilities, on new buildings on US bases, while cutting the money to replace worn out weapon systems. At the same time, they are saying we must make difficult decisions and prioritize the money we are spending on the Military. If we are going to prioritize the budget, we should be spending money on the things with which Our Troops can win wars, not on new facilities to play basketball, or replace energy generation systems that are still operational, AND more cost efficient than the replacement.
They claim that we must "bear truth faith" with Our Troops and Veterans, while first implementing and now increasing the costs of retiring from the Military. It began with a small fee on health insurance for Military Retirees. It began with Senator Webb endorsing a minimum allowed by law pay increase, because, "in today's economy, we can recruit enough without paying them more." The law requires that Congress give pay increases to the Military based on inflation of the civilian sector. The Administration wants to end that. It has called for two more years of inflation only pay raises, and then to cut military pay by preventing inflation based pay increases.
And that "fee" to Military Retirees for the Health Coverage they earned by sacrificing their bodies to Body Armor and Ruck Marches?
The Administration has complained that too many Retirees are using the Health Insurance system they paid for with their bodies, rather than using alternative plans that they could pay for, financially, through future employers. It has proposed various means to create an incentive to force those Retirees to stop using the benefits they already earned, and instead start paying for health insurance. It seems to have settled on adding tens of billions to government revenues, i.e. taxes, by charging retirees for something that they now require every American to purchase under ObamaCare.
It is nothing more than a tax on Military Retirees. It was introduced in the "Buffett Tax" proposal last year, where the revenue gained from Veterans exceeded that gained by "taxing the rich." It has been claimed that this is necessary because the personnel costs, including health care costs, have increased so significantly in recent years.
There is certainly a part of those increases that occurred due to the fact that we've been at war for 10 years. There are more service-connected injuries in war than in training. It's difficult to deny that the wounds of war are a direct result of Military Service, but a lot easier to deny the knee injury to a former football player is a result of jumping out of plane 50 times, or rucking up the mountains of Afghanistan with an extra 75-135 lbs on their shoulders. But the biggest increase to health care costs of the Military, is a direct result of Obamacare, which required the military to pay health insurance on 26 year old offspring of the Troops. Previously, the Military ONLY paid for Military dependents. That meant they had to be dependents, as per IRS regulations, i.e. until they were 18, or 21 if a full time, unmarried, College Student. Tri-care was all too willing to charge the Department of Defense for more insurance. It increased the length of time they charged for dependent health insurance by 28 1/2%.
Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld demonstrated great callousness towards the Reserve Components when he said that he was still working past the age of 65, so why should they get a retirement check after a mere 20 years of service, rather than waiting until they were 65. The policy of the Obama Administration is to charge those Troops for their retirement. Not possible? A Soldier in the Guard or Reserves that retires at 20 years doesn't get a retirement check until they are 62. It is prorated, when they finally get it. The only benefit they get in the interim is Health Coverage, which for many is merely a safety net. The Administration wants to charge them for that Health Insurance, up to more than $2000 a year, for a substandard health care system muddled in red tape. A Reserve Component Retiree is likely to pay more to the government in retirement, than he is paid back for 20 years of service in retirement.
In other words, the Obama Administration will tax Military Retirees, for the privilege of having put their bodies on the line for 20 years or more, for up to another 24 years, before they ever get a small retirement check, that may not even cover the tax they're paying for the rest of their lives.
General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta claim this is "bearing truth faith" with the Military and Veterans. General Dempsey is on the record saying that the $2000+ he'll pay back to the government for retirement health insurance is affordable, and responsible; that it won't hurt his wallet. And it won't. He'll make more money in retirement, the next month, than he makes on Active Duty. Why would he complain about paying back $2,000 or $3,000 when he's making $60,000/year more than when he was while in uniform?
That's very different than the Staff Sergeant or Sergeant who retires after 20 years in the National Guard or Reserves, who will get NO paycheck the following month, and a bill for health insurance for having served. General Dempsey has noted that the Troops have to be able to trust their leaders to do the right thing, to look out for the interests of their Troops, before looking out for their own interests. Yet, General Dempsey is attempting to convince Americans to endorse a plan that would charge that Sergeant thousands of dollars a year, while he gets a pay raise in retirement!?!?
During the Clinton Cuts of the 90's, the Military converted Support positions from Soldiers to DoD Civilians, without savings. It diminished the Military capacity to fight wars, but it preserved as many Warriors as Clinton would allow Congress to authorize. In the Obama Cuts, the Military is cutting Warriors, and creating Soldier positions to manage more Contractors and "Cyber Warriors." It is standing up a Brigade of "Cyber Warriors" to combat the internet threat, and that sounds important, but is the Army really the best place to man the "ethical hackers," counter-hackers, and internet watchdogs?
NO! First off, the Military is too rigid when it comes to policy, computer programming, training, and doctrine to respond to the ever changing realm of internet threats. Secondly, "cyber warfare" can be conducted from anywhere in the world, from a basement in North Carolina, to an internet cafe in Islamabad. There is no need to train a "cyber warrior" in combat, or to send them to a combat zone. Thirdly, civilian agencies such as the NSA or FBI make a far more appropriate and flexible environment to conduct this type of operation. The best hackers, which make the best counter-hackers, are not 30 year olds, but 18 year olds. And being away from the developments in the internet for two weeks, much less the two months recruits are in Basic Training, is sufficient to make one ignorant of the current situation.
General Pace and General Petraeus demonstrated the correct methods and means of reporting the facts while avoiding partisan opinion. General Petraeus testified to Congress and reported to the Nation, the facts;the good, the bad, and the potential repercussions of the battlefields, without regard to what the politicians wanted him to say. He demonstrated great restraint, grace, and patience when attacked by the partisan hacks of Moveon,org with the "General Betrayus" ads.
General Pace explained the reasons for the DADT policy which was the regulation imposed on the Military by Congress and President Clinton. For not being politically correct, for not opposing the policy a partisan Senate wanted to change, he was hung out to dry by an Administration that determined he could not be confirmed by the Senate, despite the fact that he was performing his job, above the standard. He was replaced with Admiral Mullen, who campaigned against the policy Congress had implemented on the Military, in line with the partisan positions of the Senate that confirmed him and the POTUS that had recommended him for a second term.
Why is the Administration rolling out Generals to endorse their policies that hurt the Military? Because, they need to distance themselves from the policies, and they need to make it appear that the Military itself supports that which is detrimental to their ability to do their job.
Perhaps, one of the things that chaps me most is that General Dempsey is stepping onto the partisan soapbox, while at the same time chiding the Troops to remain apolitical. Or perhaps, it is that he is endorsing partisan politics that is betraying the "sacred trust" of Our Troops, while chiding leaders and Troops to maintain trust in him. There are Military Regulations that maintain clarity as to what is and is not allowed in the political arena. Troops and Retirees are NOT allowed to say or do anything that would imply the Military supports partisan politics.
Troops can be disciplined under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for wearing a uniform to a political rally. Officers are further restricted from political activities. Troops have a RIGHT to vote. They have a right to Free Speech. They are allowed to support specific politicians and even political parties, so long as they don't cross the line into that which can imply the Military supports those positions, or attempts to use their leadership position to force their Troops to vote for those positions.
General Dempsey has joined with the Secretary of Defense in betraying "that sacred trust" of Our Troops they continuously spout off about, in parroting the POTUS. Forcing Military Retirees to pay for the benefits they have earned is WRONG. Prioritizing diminishing DoD dollars for stateside, expensive, and unproven "green energy" while cutting weapons and Troops is WRONG. Increasing the burden of service on ever fewer Troops and taxing the benefits they earn for doing so is WRONG.
Betraying Our Troops, and betraying Our National Defense, is betraying the American people, but this betrayal cannot be implemented, without the tacit approval of the American Electorate, even if that approval is only granted the politicians through the apathy of the people in not caring enough about Our Troops & Our Veterans to speak out for them, or perhaps an apathy so deep that they won't even examine how deep their politicians are undermining own safety and security.