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11-06-03, 06:00 AM

The Betrayals Continue

By Paul Connors

Over the last 26 months, I have taken some very strong stands against Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld for what I believe is his indifference to the needs of the average American in uniform. In addition, I have come to conclude that his effort to impose “transformation” of the U.S. military will be a failure that should rightly be placed at his own doorstep.

There are a variety of reasons why Rumsfeld’s place in history will turn out to be less than he had hoped. First, one thing, his plans for massive military operations have proven short-sighted and unfinished. Witness our failure to apprehend Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Witness also the Army’s desperate need to rely on call-ups of additional National Guard enhanced readiness brigades from Arkansas, North Carolina and Washington state to serve in the unit rotations in Iraq next year. Rumsfeld ordered these actions are being taken because the U.S. Army is just too small to do everything he is asking it to do.

In the process of activating and re-activating the same Guard and reserve units over and over again, DoD continues to defy Congress and others who recommend increasing the Army’s end strength. This refusal comes from Rumsfeld’s E-Ring office despite the new willingness of members of the House and Senate to fund 20,000 additional active duty soldiers.

But Rumsfeld’s betrayal of trust for this nation’s soldiers doesn’t end with the refusal to bring real relief to a force stretched far too thin.

Just last week, Air Force Times and Army Times published an article revealing DoD’s plans to close 18 DoD Dependents’ Schools in the continental United States while also making plans to close up to 56 commissaries at various locations at home and overseas.

To be sure, some of the commissaries are redundant and there are others in nearby locations that will enable military customers to still retain the commissary benefit of lower pricing. But there are also commissaries and BXMarts that are at risk because the Defense Department is now run by business executives who have decided that what matters most is the bottom line.

The article noted that certain initial studies have shown that some stores are not justifying their own existence through sales volume. So in the best traditions of the profession of bean counters, the decision has been made to close these vital military stores which help active-duty members, retirees and members of the reserve components. These actions, by an already uncaring administration that once promised the troops that “help is on the way,” will have the net effect of forcing military members to shop in the civilian economy, with its inevitably higher price structures.

The same end faces the children and parents who utilized DoD dependent schools at 18 locations within the continental United States. These school facilities, all of which surpass their civilian counterparts outside the gates, face closure or involuntary re-assignment to the local school districts near the bases.

Parents of students and local base commanders are furious at the continuing cuts being made by the administration. They have vowed to mobilize and fight these cost-cutting proposals, which they believe will be counter-productive.

While officials can deceive themselves that commissaries and DOD Dependents’ Schools are merely quality-of-life issues, they are the very same benefits that military people take into account when they have to choose between remaining in uniform or trying their hand at a civilian career.

In many cases, it is little things like these benefits that keep GI Joe or Jane in uniform continuing to serve their nation. To insist that they serve and do so with the added financial burden of higher civilian costs and lower quality schools should be repugnant to those of us who sleep at night under the security umbrella provided by our military.

Paul Connors is a Senior Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at paulconnors@hotmail.com.

© 2003 Paul Connors.