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Jewish World Review August 11, 2000 / 10 Menachem-Av, 5760

Cal Thomas

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The military: Ready or not? --
IN HIS SPEECH accepting the GOP nomination for president, Gov. George W. Bush charged that "two entire divisions of the Army'' are not ready for duty.

The Pentagon quickly returned fire. Spokesman Ken Bacon, who acquired some notoriety when he leaked Linda Tripp's personnel file in an attempt to smear her during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, denied Bush's assertion. President Clinton's top military advisor, Gen. Henry Shelton, said that while all Army divisions are set for combat, there are "some readiness shortfalls'' that will not be quickly repaired. "Once readiness starts down, you don't just turn it around overnight,'' he said.

Gen. Shelton acknowledged that the two divisions to which Bush referred reported last fall they were not ready for war. But how can they be ready so rapidly when, according to Gen. Shelton, "you don't just turn it around overnight''?

Bush responded, "I am amazed that they would put out a statement right after our convention. I'm curious why it took them this long to say they were combat ready after a report last November said they weren't.''

More attention has been paid to sensitivity training and diversity in the armed forces during the Clinton-Gore years than on the ability to fight and win wars. Since 1994, when the Clinton administration sexually integrated basic training, a large majority of male and female military trainers have reported an increase in disciplinary problems among recruits. Physical conditioning has suffered because of a gender-normed scoring system that allows women to be perceived as performing as well as men. The Army has concentrated on the morale of women but not of men, and it has redefined "proficiency'' and the "soldierization'' process by de-emphasizing physically demanding components. The Marine Corps has refused to adjust its standards and still trains men and women separately, enjoying great success as a result.

Our military secrets aren't as safe as they used to be. A congressional committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Cox (R-Calif.), issued a bipartisan report last year that found classified American secrets had been compromised. The report said the People's Republic of China (PRC) had stolen classified information on every thermonuclear warhead in the U.S. ballistic missile arsenal, including the W-88, our most modern warhead. The PRC's next generation of thermonuclear weapons, currently under development, will exploit elements of stolen U.S. design information, according to the report. The Cox committee concluded: "With the stolen U.S. technology, the PRC has leaped, in a handful of years, from 1950s-era strategic nuclear capabilities to the more modern thermonuclear weapons designs.''

Good people are leaving the armed services because they can no longer stand serving under this administration. Last year, Lt. Patrick J. Burns retired from the Navy after President Clinton removed his name from a promotion list at the behest of then-Secretary of the Navy John Dalton. Burns' forced retirement followed his appearance on "60 Minutes,'' during which he raised questions about serious problems in the Navy. At his retirement ceremony in Virginia Beach, Burns said, "We are presently over 1,100 pilots short of what we need to fully man our air wings. Our aircraft carriers routinely deploy with anywhere from 500 to 1,500 sailors less than their minimum manning and occupational capability requirements.''

Burns added, "It annoys me that we currently serve under an administration completely divorced from our warrior culture, which misunderstands and utterly disdains our profession. Yes, it astounds me that our best people are leaving the service in droves, disgusted by uniformed leaders who are unwilling to stand up for their subordinates or their beliefs. I understand why our junior officers and enlisted people believe that their leaders live in an ethical vacuum where integrity and personal accountability have been supplanted by careerism and self-interest.''

New enemies and new technologies threaten the United States in the post-Cold War era. The test of our readiness is not "peacekeeping'' efforts in Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere. Last year the National Intelligence Council reported: "We project that during the next 15 years the United States most likely will face ICBM threats from Russia, China and North Korea, probably from Iran, and possibly from Iraq.''

Bush has raised the right question about our readiness. The Clinton-Gore administration and Pentagon careerists don't want to provide an honest answer. The defense of the nation is a fundamental concern, and it ought to be a central issue in the presidential campaign.

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