18 August

The President's Plan (*warning: long post*)
The recent proposal by the President for troop realignment has gotten me thinking, and since Sarcasmo has yet to revoke my Sidebar blogging privilages, I thought I'd share some aspects of it that are not being reported (much) in the press. My husband and I currently live overseas, and have for the past 5 years, on a military installation. As both a military family member and a civilian government employee, I disagree with much of what is being proposed by the administration.

First and foremost, the President's claim that he is bringing the troops home is a load of (insert expletive here). We are home. If we were forced to transition back to the states I would still be living hundreds or thousands of miles from family and friends, and my husband's duty requirements (as with most soldiers) would mean that he would spend MORE time away from home - not less. The "barebones" bases in Europe will still need to be manned, and the current plan calls for that manning to be supported in 6 month to one year rotations by troops from the states while their families remain behind. That actually creates and additional deployment rotation for an already overburdened force.

The administration is also touting the cost savings to the government for closing/drawing down the bases. This to is, misdirection, at the very least. There will actually be an increase in spending - at least over the next 10 years. In order for the 10's of thousands of troops, civilian employees and family members to return home, the communities they will be sent to will absorb a huge burden. Schools and medical facilties - both on base and off - will need to be built and expanded to accomadate the increase in students and patients they will absorb. Personnel will have to be hired to accomodate the increase. Infrastructure will be affected, as well as family services. There are also the thousands of retiree's that are overseas that will still continue to need support. if the bases are gone, that means the medical care, etc., will increase as they see local doctors and specialists for their needs.

I find it astonishing that the administration can claim as well that spouses of active duty personnel will be able to maintain careers this way. Unlike overseas installations, stateside miltary bases are most often located in areas far away from major cities. Job opportunities are already scarce in these areas,and career opportunities even more so. Adding thousands of additional people to the job pool will only create more job loss. Additionally, spouses of active duty personnel are discriminated against in the states in a way that they are not overseas when it comes to employment. The jobs created by the expansion of infrastructure will almost all be filled prior to families being restationed in these areas, so the job opportunities will not increase substantially for family members.

Its not that I disagree that changes are necessary. They are. We no longer require a presence in many of the places that we currently maintain bases. I however disagree with the notion that we don't need to be there at all. The ability to stage from an area closer to the "action" is vital. This plan however, is not about bringing troops home and making the families lives easier. Nor is it about a more efficient and mobile military. Its a poilitcal move during an election year so they can have a ten second bullet on the evening news "President to bring troops home". Sounds good, doesn't it?

The administration hopes that this will appeal to the undecided voters who think our troops need to be pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan. But those troops will remain where they are. And the current situtation means if we move divisions from Europe to the states, those troops will spend more time away from home training for deployments, preparing to deploy and additionally manning the "barebones" bases that will remain in Europe and Asia. "Home" for these troops and their families will still be military installations all over the United States. Having flown from Atlanta to Philadelphia for almost the same amount of money that it cost me to fly from Germany to Philadelphia, or Japan to Philadelphia, I can't see how this type of realignment will bring me closer to my stateside family and friends. Additionally, bases are structured and located around specific job skills. So while something like 'Army Cook' is needed everywhere, most military occupational specialties are not. Which means that there are a limited number of places you can go, and rarely are they near your hometown, or even home state.

Selfishly, I'll admit, the other major flaw in this plan for – my husband and I, and other families like ours – is that so far we have chosen this lifestyle for the opportunities it has presented us. The benefits of living and working overseas has always outweighed the drawbacks that are inherent in a military career. Take that away and many of the rank and file members of the armed forces are going to need alternative incentives to stay in - which in the end will cost the government more in reenlistment bonuses, etc. to maintain its troops.

I realize that for many families, the desire to be on stateside soil, to feel like they are somehow closer to their families, will make their life easier. I disagree. And so does my husband, who with the current state of affairs and with over 8 years of active duty service will be getting out of the military after this enlistment. From a personal standpoint, the Army is no longer what it once was, and it is taking away the few things that made it bearable for me to tolerate a lifestyle that allowed my husband to pursue a career that he always wanted. Its a difficult choice to make. He loves his work and the fact that he's making a difference - in the lives of young soldiers and in the communities he's been too. It's something he's always wanted out of a career. I too have been able to pursue the career that I wanted and make advances in it. We would not have had the life and success that we have now if we had been stationed in Ft. Hood Texas, Ft. Benning Georgia or any of the other 16 stateside places his job would have limited us to for the past 5 years.

I don't know if the democrats can come up with a better plan, but I know that they one the President is proposing is nothing more than political posturing that will not serve the millions of people effected by this plan - nor will it serve the taxpayers who will being paying for this for the next decade.

Just my two cents.

17 August

In the company of Kings
According to British researchers, John Kerry will win the 2004 presidential election based on his royal lineage.

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