The Military Report – By Rick Rogers
Hello, everybody and welcome to The Military Report, where I rundown stories on the military, defense and veterans fronts.
Let’s for a moment consider stories other than the almost daily military sex scandals that are rocking the military. Dear Lord, make the bad men stop!
Senior defense officials recently voiced an obvious truth by saying the United States would likely be fighting al-Qaida for the next decade or two.
…or probably until it either become a legitimate political player – yes, it is could happen faster than you think – or its money dries up.
But the heart of the Associated Press story is the military’s plea for Congress not to meddle with 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, the law that authorized not only the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan but also the more recent killer drone campaign.
Here’s the top of the Associated Press story.
The United States remains in armed conflict with al-Qaida and its affiliates, a fight likely to last a decade or two, senior Pentagon officials told Congress on Thursday in arguing against changes to the 2001 military force law used in the war on terror.
Acting General Counsel Robert Taylor and Michael Sheehan, an assistant secretary of defense for special operations, said the authorization for the use of military force is an effective law and expressed concerns that any congressional revisions would restrict combatant commanders. The law “suits us very well,” Sheehan told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Republicans, Democrats and civil libertarians expressed serious concerns that the law – enacted just days after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks – amounts to a blank check for the president.
I certainly do imagine that Taylor and Sheehan are honky-dory with status quo. Of course it’s a blank check. Just the kind that presidents, generals and defense contractors love and those who fear government over-step hate.
* During the height of fighting in Iraq, anyone with a history of a pulse got into the military. Moral and criminal waivers were granted left, right and center in a recruiting atmosphere that can best be described as lax.
In fact, a no-kidding autistic kid from Orange County — legally forbidden from entering into any and all contracts — was recruited and graduated by the Marines. But that’s a sad story for another time.
Of course enlisting so many marginal performers would come back to haunt. Just a glance at the military crime statistics for the last decade tells you that.
(I suspect an unspoken purpose behind the troop drawdown is to purge those who never should’ve gotten into the military in the first place.)
Well, those bad old days are over for the moment. A CNN story looks at how the military has tightened up recruiting standards.
Maybe most eye-catching are the figures showing how small the military-aged pool of viable recruits is becoming.
The Pentagon estimates that only one in four of today’s youth are fit for military service. More than 20% of high-school students fail to graduate. Obesity and other medical conditions disqualify about 35% of candidates. Prior drug and alcohol involvement disqualify another 19%, and criminal records disqualify 5%.
It wasn’t always this way. Just six years ago, during the Iraq war surge, the military had lower standards. Only about 86% of new recruits had high-school diplomas, and just 67% of recruits scored in the top 50th percentile on the Armed Forces Qualification Test. Waivers excusing health issues and prior misconduct — even felonies — were not uncommon.
* I spent nearly six years stationed in Korea and Japan. Let’s just say that memories in the Far East are long and feelings remain strikingly bitter. Now, long-dormant animosities are smoldering again as China, Korea, Japan, Russia and others lay claim to disputed territory.
Just how chippy things are getting is crystallized in the recent dust-up between the United States and South Korea, one of its staunchest Asian allies, over what to call a body of water. Here is part of a Stars and Stripes story.
South Korea Ministry of National Defense has formally complained to U.S. Forces Korea about a reference in a 7th Fleet press release to the “Sea of Japan.”
South Koreans call the body of water east of the Korean peninsula as the “East Sea,” and they bristle at references to the Sea of Japan, which they believe is an outdated designation left over from a dark period in their history when their homeland was a Japanese colony.
Thanks for reading. You can get my take on more military and veterans news at: Defensetracker. Like me on Facebook.
Rick Rogers is a defense reporter based in San Diego.