Inside Opinion

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Tag: military


Women’s combat reality outpaces military policy

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

A lawsuit filed last week in federal district court by four military women highlights
the disconnect between the roles the Pentagon allows them to fill and the ones they actually fill when deployed in combat zones.

The four women all performed combat roles in Iraq or Afghanistan. Two received Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in combat. But because they’re technically prohibited from serving in combat, they likely will not have the same opportunities for advancement in their military careers as the men they served with.

Women are so integrated into a variety of roles in the military and the nature of war has changed so much in recent years that they often find themselves in the kind of “direct” combat situations they’re not supposed to be in according to Pentagon rules.
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Benefits go begging when vets aren’t informed

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Ignorance isn’t bliss if you’re a military veteran unaware of the benefits and services available to you.

Unfortunately, that’s the case for millions of America’s veterans. A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2010 Veterans Affairs survey data found that more than half of veterans have little or no idea what benefits they’re entitled to – including access to VA health facilities, payment for disabilities incurred during military service, home loans and money for education.

Even among the best-informed cohort – younger veterans who served since 9/11 – 40 percent say they have little or no understanding of their benefits. More than 60 percent are unaware of their life insurance benefits.
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Can Romney count on ‘the military vote’?

It’s long been a political given that military voters skew Republican. Georgetown University professor Rosa Brooks, writing in Foreign Policy, says that may have been the case in the 1980s and ’90s; now military voters more closely track how the general population votes. And on some issues, service members are even slightly more liberal than civilians.

Here’s the article.

The Myth of the Republican Military Voter

By Rosa Brooks
(c) 2012, Foreign Policy

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are said to be tussling over the fabled “military vote,” and during this extraordinarily tedious election season, both have highlighted their fondness for all things military. Despite the efforts of both candidates to drum up military support, however, most commentators assume that the military “naturally” supports Republicans over Democrats. But will “the military vote” really favor Romney next week?

Romney hopes it will, and right-wing conspiracy theorists are convinced it will — that’s why they keep huffing and puffing about alleged Obama campaign attempts to suppress military votes, through methods as devious as neglecting to inform service members of their voting rights and supposedly burning military ballots.

But the Obama campaign has no reason to hope that service members don’t vote, and Romney shouldn’t count his chickens before they hatch. The military is far from a “natural” Republican voting bloc. Although the military appears to have skewed Republican in the 1980s and ’90s , for most of the last century the politics of military personnel appear to have more or less mirrored the politics of the civilian population.

There’s ample reason to believe that this is the case again today.
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Military should update its strategy against substance abuse

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

The military might employ some of the world’s most up-to-date weapon systems, but it’s stuck in the past when it comes to preventing and treating substance abuse.

That’s the conclusion of a new Institute of Medicine report released this week. It says that abuse of alcohol and prescription drugs among service members and their families is a “public health crisis” and contributes to the record rate of suicide within the ranks. But the services are often dealing with that crisis in outmoded ways.

For instance, materials the U.S. Navy uses for counselor training haven’t been updated since 1984. The military is reluctant to use medication that can curb cravings and to employ other modern strategies for combating substance abuse. And its drug-testing – created in the years after the Vietnam War – focuses on drugs that aren’t the main problems today.
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Too many for-profit colleges fail to deliver for students

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

A new Senate education committee report on the nation’s for-profit colleges paints a disturbing picture of billions in taxpayer dollars being spent on student aid, with precious little to show for it.

Tuition at these colleges tends to be pricey, with associate degrees costing at least four times as much as comparable community college programs. Yet many of the credits students earn are not transferable to other institutions and often don’t qualify them for the professional licensing they need – despite what the TV commercials claim.

More than a quarter of federal student aid now goes to for-profit schools – and that doesn’t even include military GI Bill benefits. These schools are aggressively pitching their sales messages to veterans – sometimes even as they are recuperating from war injuries. Only after the vets have spent their benefits do they discover that they have little to show for it.
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Helping lawmakers get re-elected isn’t Army’s mission

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Many members of Congress stumping for re-election back in their districts decry government spending and those awful earmarks. Except (wink, wink) our earmarks, that is.

That’s as good an explanation as any for why the House more than tripled funding for a 70-ton tank the Army doesn’t need or want – and added hundreds of millions more for other items the Pentagon didn’t request, including an anti-drug program that duplicates one performed by the Drug Enforcement Administration.

It’s all about jobs that lawmakers can brag about preserving in their districts. If it means the Army gets more tanks that have little use in the kinds of war it’s been fighting in the 21st century, so be it.

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Military can catalog World War I bombs but not medals?

This editorial, which will appear in Monday’s print edition, is an expanded version of an earlier blog posting.

For the last six years, Lt. Col. Jenns Robertson has been compiling a database listing every bomb the Air Force has dropped since World War I.

Sounds like a monumental mission, right? For World War II alone, he had to scan an estimated 10,000 pages of bombing reports.

Yet the Pentagon has long said that it would be too hard for it to compile another database – one listing medals given to service members. Such an online database would allow the media and individuals to verify claims many people falsely make regarding decorations they supposedly received.
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Pentagon inches into a Stolen Valor database

On the website I learned that the Air Force is compiling a database listing every bomb its planes have dropped since World War I. Sounds like a monumental mission, right?

Yet the Pentagon has long said that it would be too hard for it to compile a database listing medals given to service members – something that could be checked to verify claims all too many people falsely make.

I always thought that argument a little specious. So I was glad to learn that the Pentagon is backtracking and is, indeed, setting up a medal database. It’s taking

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