Forum: Military morale, pay need a boost

A recent Pentagon report revealed surprising deficiencies in our nation’s combat readiness and military capabilities. In conjunction with this report, Gen. Colin Powell acknowledged and said, Readiness has declined. Investment has declined. Maintenance has declined. And training has declined.

Undeniably, America’s military forces are not getting the assistance they deserve. Our current commander-in-chief has neglected to provide this vital support for the men and women who bravely protect our nation. For example, morale is low, equipment is worn out, spare-parts are in short supply and the armed forces are having trouble recruiting and retaining personnel.

Republicans believe that the foundation for the peace we enjoy today and want to extend for future generations depends on a strong, capable modern military. Governor Bush has taken the initiative and proposed several objectives to ensure a strong national defense for the twenty-first century.

One of the most important issues presently plaguing our military is morale. Vague missions and endless deployments lower the morale of military personnel. Low pay also adversely affects morale and hurts the retention rate within the different military branches. To help battle this problem, Governor Bush has proposed an increase of $1 billion a year to the recently enacted military pay raise in order to encourage the best and brightest to enlist and re-enlist. Governor Bush also plans to maintain longstanding U.S. commitments but order an immediate review of overseas deployments with the aim of replacing uncertain missions with well-defined objectives.

The commander-in-chief must also focus on defending the American homeland. Rogue nations must not be allowed to develop missiles capable of striking the United States. One of Gov. George W. Bush’s goals is to deploy a national and theater anti-missile defense system. He also plans to strengthen the intelligence community’s ability to detect terrorist threats and ensure that every terrorist group or nation who sponsors such attacks will be dealt with harshly by the United States.

Another key to an effective military is proper preparation and armament. Soldiers must have the weapons necessary to defend themselves on the battlefield. Our military must stay generations ahead of any potential opponent. In order to ensure the supremacy of the United States’ armed forces, Bush vows to increase defense research and development spending by at least $20 billion. With regard to existing systems, he intends to make improvements and replace them with a new generation of military weaponry.

The Clinton-Gore administration claims it is responsible for the recent increase in defense spending, including the largest military pay raise in a generation. The truth is that the increase in defense spending was due more to the Republican-led Congress responding to readiness complaints by the military.

It is essential that America’s armed forces be prepared and capable of protecting our freedom and the freedom of our allies. The decrease in military capabilities and readiness under the current administration is unacceptable. Recruiting levels have decreased dramatically, officers are leaving for the private sector and equipment shortages demonstrate the decline experienced under the Clinton-Gore administration.

After eight years of deterioration, it is time we restore honor and readiness to our armed forces. It is vital that our military have the capabilities to not only protect our freedom but the freedom of millions around the world. We need a commander-in-chief that will respect the military and ensure that the United States and its allies are protected by a strong, prepared and modern military. Bush is this leader.

-The writer is chairman of the College Republicans.

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