But size and spending are far from the gravest controversies surrounding the American military these days. Two divisive current “reforms” are the repeal of President Clinton’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Act and the movement to put women into combat. The 2010 repeal of DADT allowed, for the first time in American history, homosexuals to serve openly in the American military. Although hailed almost universally in the press as a great success, the most recent Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Office report from the Pentagon revealed that 98 percent of the men who reported unwanted sexual contact in the context of serving in the military were assaulted or harassed by other men. (The report also showed a 200 percent increase in sexual assault cases involving civilians and a 129 percent increase in cases between military personnel.)
At the same time, the White House is leading the crusade to assign women to army and marine infantry battalions. This has been framed as an argument for equal rights, but as a policy matter it amounts to the revocation of women’s historic combat exemptions. And surprisingly some of the measure’s most vocal opponents are military women themselves. According to a recent Military Times survey, just 13 percent of active duty female soldiers expressed a desire to be assigned to a land combat position.
Dominating the headlines as well, is the Veteran’s Administration scandal, which revealed government officials lying about how long veterans were waiting to see doctors at VA hospitals. VA administrators received bonuses for reducing patient wait times, but instead of taking steps to ensure veterans could see doctors promptly, they turned in false reports and collected the bonuses fraudulently. About $10 million in bonuses were handed out over three years, while many veterans died waiting to see a physician.
Add to this the controversy over trading five high level Taliban leaders for Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl and the Benghazi terrorist attacks and it is hard to argue that we are setting our military up for success. Our troops cannot be ready to defend us if they are worried about being sexually harassed on the job or failing to receive promised medical care after they retire from service. Any one of these issues would be troubling on its own, but together they paint a frightening picture of the future of our defense capabilities. If America is to last into the next century, we need to take better care of the men and women who make our currently peaceful lives possible.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.