Tagged: Department of Defense

What To Expect at a Military Entrance Processing Stations

Posted by Debi Teter

militaryauthority.com_military-entrance-processing-stationsMilitary Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) are located throughout the country and they are the first introduction to the world of the military and military acronyms.

MEPS are where the military reviews and chooses its members. They are the military’s front line, so to speak. MEPS specialize in the art of selecting just the right recruits for the military through a series of carefully engineered tests.

Each MEPS is run by a Commander who oversees the facility and liaisons with the civilian personnel office (CPO). MEPS personnel fittingly includes military and civilians. These professionals will decide if recruits have the moral character, aptitude and physical qualifications to serve in the military.

Testing at MEPS starts with taking the CAT-ASVAB, which is an aptitude test that can be taken on a computer, or using the standard paper and pencil method. Each branch of the Department of Defense (DoD) accepts recruits based on their CAT-ASVAB test results.

At MEPS you will also undergo a physical that includes:

  • Drug and alcohol testing
  • Urine and blood tests
  • A complete physical exam and interview
  • Examination of muscle groups and dexterity
  • Hearing and vision tests
  • Height and weight
  • Any other tests deemed to be necessary
  • A pregnancy test for women

MEPS will also ask you to complete a medical history. After your initial assessment you will meet with service representatives from the different sections of the military you are interested in based upon your CAT-ASVAB test. They will discuss your tests, history and goals at length with you before you enlist. The DoD is going to invest a lot of time and money in training you and this is a life changing decision on your part as well. Overnight accommodations are available if you live far enough away to merit using them.

Come to MEPS prepared for the interview of your life. Be well rested and present your best self by being clean, well kept, on time and polite.

Mental Health and PTSD Among the Troops

Posted by Debi Teter
PTSD and mental health resource for soldiersTwo shootings at military installations in a week. More suicides by service members in a year than deaths in combat. These are the realities of today’s military. Theories are varied as to why suicides and murders by service members and veterans are on the rise. One point that everyone agrees on is that mental health issues have been stigmatized for so long that many people who need help are afraid to ask for it. The Defense Department and VA are concerned. When Leon Panetta was Secretary of Defense, he laid out a four-pillar strategic approach to prevent military suicides: leadership; improving health care quality and access; elevating the importance of mental fitness; and increasing research into suicide prevention. There is clearly still much work to be done, but there are resources available. The VA lists more than 20 organizations and services available to active duty personnel, veterans and families. The US Army offers a Psychological Health Care Fact Sheet. The American Psychiatric Nurses Association offers general mental health assistance in addition to services specific for PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury. USAA provides a book on suicide prevention that is free to download. PTSD and other mental health issues also take a toll on military spouses and can cause serious health issues. Active duty troops and veterans alike may be able to benefit from the recent emphasis on suicide prevention. If you are currently feeling despair or hopeless, or if you are concerned about someone else’s health, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800·273-TALK (8255). #FtHood #PTSD #mentalhealth #veteransresources

In Conflict with Parents of Autistic Children, Defense Department Blinks

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com military families autistic childrenThe Department of Defense has canceled a controversial plan to restrict access to applied behavior analysis approaches to treatment for military children with autism.

The DoD planned to begin requiring parents of autistic children to have them tested every six months in order to continue receiving treatments under TRICARE, and show military doctors that they were demonstrating “measurable progress” under the therapy. After two years of therapy, after age 16, the Department of Defense proposed granting access to therapy only after the child had been granted a waiver.

The DoD actually planned on requiring two separate assessments – the Vineland and ADOS-2. Meanwhile, military families had been encountering long waiting lists just to get an assessment. In some cases, waits were as long as six months. In the meantime, access to health care services for autism spectrum disorder could have been cut off.

The decision sparked a firestorm of protest among autism activists and military families alike, and attracted Congressional attention from Senators Kirsten Gillebrand (D – New York), Patty Murray (D – Washington) and Mark Warner (D – Virginia), who put pressure on the Administration to roll back the contemplated changes.

“Your new policy also requires a patient show progress to receive continued care. This is a significant shift in how TRICARE covers all other medical service,” wrote Senators Murray and Gillebrand in a joint letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. “Military children with developmental disabilities such as autism often experience periods of regression due to life events (such as deployment, relocation, change in school, change in medications, etc.). Coming back from those periods of regression often takes significant time and effort (months and sometimes years), and sometimes progress may simply be the absence of regression. During these challenging times of need, discharging an individual from care is inappropriate and will have long lasting results on patient outcomes.” 

And just to drive the military bonkers, the Senators signed their letter in blue ink. 

It is unclear how many children the measure would directly affect: The Department of Defense estimates that there are approximately 8,500 children of active duty servicemembers with a form of autism; Autism Speaks, Inc., a prominent support group, says that there are 23,000 military children with autism.

On July 19th, the Defense Department blinked, however, and announced that there would be no changes to current access to care for active duty military members under either TRICARE Basic or the Extended Health Care Option (ECHO) program.

ECHO is a program under TRICARE that extends access to additional benefits for certain beneficiaries who are enrolled in the DoD’s Exceptional Family Member Program. Beneficiaries must be enrolled in DEERS to qualify.

In addition, the Department of Defense has announced a congressionally mandated 1-year pilot program to extend services to the children of retirees and survivors of deceased servicemembers. The pilot program begins July 25th, 2013, and is called the Enhanced Access to Autism Services Demonstration.


Current eligibility

The platform that the DoD and TRICARE have established to provide services to children with autism-spectrum disorders is called the Enhanced Access to Autism Services Autism Services Demonstration. It covers any beneficiary registered under ECHO and who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Services include access to an expanded network of Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts and non-certified tutors. The demonstration is not available outside the United States.

To enroll, you must submit your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP) to your TRICARE regional contractor.

Children who are being homeschooled where the state does not require an IFSP or IEP should provide a letter from your child’s primary care doctor or a specialized professional in the field of autisms spectrum disorder. The letter should verify that the child’s autism-related disability results in impairment severe enough that it requires special education and other support services.

The services aren’t completely free of charge: Servicemembers must pay a portion of the monthly expenses, called a “cost share.” However, services provided for autism spectrum disorder count towards the annual coverage limits under ECHO.


Monthly Cost Share

If you use ECHO benefits during any calendar month, you must pick up a portion of the cost. The amount you must pay depends on the TRICARE sponsor’s rank. The higher the rank, the more you must pay. The breakdown is as follows:


Sponsor Pay Grade

Monthly Cost Share

E-1 to E-5




E-7, O-1


E-8, O-2


E-9, W-1, W-2, O-3


W-3, W-4, O-4


W-5, O-5














Costs are not shared between family members.

The total cost share for all ECHO benefits combined (not including ECHO Home Care) is $36,000 per year. As you can see, it is pretty rare for a family to reach the full cap!

Does a Common Anti-Malarial Drug Cause Psychosis and Paranoia?

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com does Mefloquine cause psychosisFollowing the case of former Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, who pled guilty to murdering 16 Afghan civilians – many of them women and children – to avoid the death penalty – reports have been circulating of a possible negative side effect of the anti-malarial drug Mefloquine, or Lariam. This drug is widely given to U.S. servicemembers deploying abroad as a prophylactic measure against malaria, and has also been demonstrated to be effective as a treatment for an active malarial infection as well.

However, some studies predating even the Iraq War have found that there does appear to be a link between the drug and severe episodes of paranoid psychosis, including this Israeli study from 1999. Further anecdotal evidence of Mefloquine-related psychosis is here, here, and here. CBS News took a closer look at the possible connection between violent psychotic episodes and Mefloquine in this 2009 article. And the United Kingdom news outlet, The Guardian, published this story in 2002.

Roche, the company that manufactures the drug, has acknowledged that the drug could cause serious psychological side effects on one individual in 10,000: A negligible percentage for any individual, but perhaps high enough for a large institution such as the U.S. Army requiring tens of thousands of troops to take the drug at a time. However, one study, published in the British Medical Journal in 1996, indicated that the negative side effects could affect as many as 1 in 150.

It is very difficult from a limited sample size with few meaningful opportunities for a controlled study with placebos to demonstrate a meaningful increase in problems among those taking the drug compared to those without it. Nevertheless, there are newer drugs available that seem to have fewer side effects that could be used in place of Mefloquin.

Indeed, the Army has severely rolled back its use among deployed troops, and issued guidance saying those with traumatic brain injuries (TBI) should not be taking the drug at all. Military doctors and commanders had been forcing troops to take the drug even where it was contraindicated.  

SECDEF: Cutbacks Could Force Promotion Freeze In FY 2014

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com SECDEF cutbacksAs deep cuts in defense spending continue to take hold, the Secretary of Defense has notified Congress that the DoD will be forced to take some draconian measures come fiscal year 2014.

With an ongoing war in Afghanistan, the Secretary of Defense must find an additional $52 billion in cuts to make, hopefully without harming the war effort. As part of that plan, the Secretary of Defense told Congress, through a letter, that the combination of cutbacks could include some items that are deeply painful for military servicemembers and their families. For example, the Secretary said cuts could include:

  • A freeze on all promotions
  • A freeze on permanent-change-of-station moves
  • A continued freeze on civilian hiring
  • Halting all discretionary bonuses, such as reenlistment bonuses
  • Stop taking in recruits
  • 20 percent reductions in procurement, construction and R&D

Secretary Hagel sent the letter to Senators Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and James Inhofe (R – Oklahoma). The Senators had asked the Secretary to lay out the effects that planned budget rollbacks and sequestration measures would have on military personnel and readiness.

Hagel also said the DoD would be forced to make deep cuts to weapons programs and put off needed facilities and infrastructure maintenance. However, the law does not allow the DoD to shut down unneeded posts.

Hagel also called for caps on military pay increases, and increases in TRICARE fees for retirees.

The Secretary also said that if sequestration remains in effect as it currently stands, there would possibly be a round of involuntary discharges. 

All told, unless Congress takes action, the Department of Defense must find over half a trillion dollars in savings vis. Previously planned baseline spending over the next 10 years – while at the same time successfully prosecuting the Afghanistan war and satisfying its normal peacetime missions such as guarding key shipping lanes and deterring aggression from rival nations such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

However, the funds specifically allocated to support the Afghanistan warfighing mission have thus far been protected from sequester.

Secretary Hagel would also like to eliminate unneeded bases, ships and weapons. However, this is always an uphill battle for the Department of Defense, because every unneeded program is all too often some Congressperson’s pet project. 

Ready, Fire, Aim!!! Secretary of Defense Has No Idea What Expanding Benefits to Same-Sex Partners Will Cost DoD

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com sam sex partner military benefitsJust a few months ago, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and his predecessor Leon Panetta were pounding the table for TRICARE fee increases and pension reforms, arguing that over time, personnel costs would overwhelm the DoD.

Now the Secretary of Defense, having supported the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, has pledged to make the full range of lucrative benefits available to same-sex spouses of service members that are available to heterosexual married couples. These benefits range from the widely understood Tricare health insurance benefit to qualification for military housing, a significantly higher housing allowance (BAH Type II), free PCS moves and family separation pay.

So what’s this going to cost? 

Well, the Secretary of Defense doesn’t know. Having advocated the policy change, the Administration had no idea what the fiscal effect on the Department of Defense was going to be. 

The concern over the significant cost burden of paying benefits to the families of servicemembers is not new. In the early 1990s, then Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Carl Mundy, proposed saving money by prohibiting married individuals from joining the Marine Corps. This policy would have echoed the military practice of prior generations: In the 1950s, anyone below sergeant in the Army required the company commander’s permission before getting married.

As it stands now, the DoD estimates that there are about 17,000 military members with same-sex partners in marriages recognized by at least one state. That’s about a division equivalent.

You’d think that with the repeal of DOMA on the horizon for years, that the DoD or the Administration would at least come up with a ballpark budget-impact estimate. After all, local commands in the Reserve component have to come up with a cost-estimate worksheet just to hire a few people for a week to help prepare for an inspection.

The DoD, however, will apparently be blindsided by the cost of their own favored policy. 

However, any cost estimate would have to include the difficult-to-predict impact that human responses to incentives will create. For example, how many gay troops over and above the 17,000 estimated will now get married in order to collect military benefits? Are there others who have not been identified? If the 17,000 estimate is low, then costs will be higher than projected. If they bothered to project them in the first place.

Will we see healthy partners of HIV-positive individuals join the military to give their partners access to Tricare benefits, and what will that cost? Will we see retired servicemembers come out and enroll their partners? Will we see same sex roommates engaging in sham marriages to get a higher BAH payout? How will we police that? Or will we?


Definitions Matter

A big part of the budget impact of the expansion of military benefits will have to do with how the DoD (and to a lesser extent, the Veterans Administration) defines what will and what will not count as a marriage for the purposes of DEERs enrollment. For example, will the DoD grant benefits to those servicemembers in domestic partnerships that aren’t formally marriages? If it does, will it grant the same benefits to heterosexuals in domestic partnerships? Will the state laws governing same-sex marriages have any bearing on the status of marriages within that state? How will the DoD treat servicemembers wishing to marry in states that do not recognize same-sex marriages? Will same-sex partners still have to show marriage certificates as heterosexual couples do in order to qualify?


The Broader Picture

To be fair, there are some early indications that the repeal of DOMA will cause a net increase in federal revenue, because of the marriage tax penalty that will be imposed upon married same-sex couples, and because married couples with combined incomes would be less likely to qualify for public assistance programs than two unmarried individuals with separate incomes. The Congressional Budget Office concluded in 2004 that same-sex marriage would have the effect of actually decreasing the federal deficit, because of these effects. However, this would not benefit the Department of Defense directly. To pay for these benefits, the DoD has a few options:

  1. Slash benefits across the board for all families to pay for the at least 17,000 new partners and counting.
  2. Increase TRICARE fees.
  3. Cut operational, maintenance, physical plant and spare parts budgets
  4. Cut a couple more brigade combat teams, ships, or aircraft programs or some combination of the three.

These cost saving measures are already well underway – prompted by the twin engines of a natural post-war cyclical drawdown and the additional requirements of sequestration. The DoD is already complaining that the sequestration requirements will force them to cut bone. The additional benefits paid will force further cuts in an already austere fiscal environment for the U.S. military.


DoD Launches New Online Resource for Victims of Rape, Sexual Assault or Harassment

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Online Resource for Victims of RapeThe Department of Defense announced the creation of Safe HelpRoom – a new peer-to-peer support resource for servicemembers and transitioning servicemembers who believe they have been raped, sexually assaulted or harassed. 

(Note: If you have just been assaulted or raped, read this first for tips on how to preserve evidence and preserve your options and law enforcement’s options if you want to pursue criminal charges against your attacker.)

SafeHelpRoom is an add-on feature to Safe Helpline – an online resource fielded last year via a contract with the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network, or RAINN. It provides a way for victims to communicate with one another and to connect with support services counseling and advice through an anonymous Internet chat portal. According to RAINN, their network does not record the IP addresses of those who log into their system – though if servicemembers do so from their work computers, it is possible for their supervisors to determine their online activity from the DoD’s own logs.

RAINN workers will also conduct two online Safe HelpRoom sessions for two hours, twice per week. The schedule is posted at the website, www.SafeHelpline.org. These workers will have information on available help and resources near military bases and other possible supports for victims. It is not necessary to have filed a restricted or unrestricted report via SHARP or to have already gone to the chain of command with your report before signing on to Safe Helpline.

Alternatively, servicemembers, including those who have recently retired or ETS’d, can call 877-995-5247, 24 hours a day, seven days per week.  The phone number is the same for use inside the U.S. or via the Defense Switched Network (DSN).

“Safe HelpRoom was designed with unique safeguards to ensure a safe and welcoming place for survivors to connect,” said Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, director of the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Office. “Safe HelpRoom is the first of its kind to require participants to commit to a series of ‘ground rules’ of acceptable behavior before entering a session. Additionally, each participant comment is reviewed to ensure it complies with the ground rules prior to posting for the group to see. Safe HelpRoom provides a secure and private environment for positive and supportive discussions.”

The Department of Defense estimates that up to 26,000 servicemembers experienced sexual assault in 2012, which is up from about 19,000 in 2011.  The numbers are based on an anonymous survey, however. However, only 3,374 people actually reported the assault.

Among those who reported that they experienced an assault but did not report it, about 47 percent reported that they did not do so because they feared retaliation or reprisal. Moreover, 43 percent of those surveyed said they had heard about the negative experiences of others who reported being attacked.

The officer in charge of the U.S. Air Force’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, was arrested last month for allegedly groping a woman – suggesting that the recent U.S. Air Force crackdown on images of WWII nose art and copies of Men’s Fitness magazine in the work areas may have been off target.

Naturally, the other services will be following suit.

Meanwhile, another report, focusing specifically on the service academies, indicated that there were a total of 80 sexual assaults reported through the chain of command or through SHARP auspices during the 2011-2012 academic year; 38 of them were “restricted reports,” that were, at the victims request, not referred to commanders to consider UCMJ action. 42 percent were ‘unrestricted,’ meaning that commanders were informed of the details, and if they believed the evidence warranted prosecution, could be referred for UCMJ action against the alleged perpetrator or perpetrators. Four of those restricted reports were later converted to unrestricted at the victim’s request.

Incidentally, the number of reported cases of sexual assaults has risen dramatically at the service academies, rising from a low of 25 during the 2008-2009 academic year to 41, 65 and 80 in the following years.


Reports of the Death of Religious Liberty in the Military Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

religious freedom in the US militaryAround the first of May, news reports, led by Breitbart, breathlessly reported that the Obama Administration confirms that Christians and could face UCMJ action for talking with their buddies about Christ.

The headline was inflammatory and off-base. Yes, I have been immensely critical of the military and homeland defense bureaucracies for their bizarre focus  on Christians and veterans – a focus that seems even more off base when you realize that every man-hour spent on monitoring these groups was a man-hour that could not be invested monitoring Tamerlan Tsarnaev, even after the Russian and possibly Saudi intelligence services independently figured out and notified us that he was bad news.

But in reality, the Obama Administration confirmation only reaffirms that longstanding policies on the inappropriate use of government facilities, computers and one’s own rank and/or job title to advance personal religious views are still in force – under the very same First Amendment.

If there was any doubt, the DoD clarified that position on May 2nd. “Service members can share their faith (evangelize), but must not force unwanted, intrusive attempts to convert others of any faith or no faith to one’s beliefs (proselytization),” said LTCDR Nathan Christensen, acting as a spokesperson for the Department of Defense.


Looked at more broadly, military prohibitions against certain forms of proselytizing are required under the Establishment Clause, which prevents the government from establishing an official state religion. Anyone who wears the uniform is an agent of the U.S. government, and any religious pronouncements made in uniform or while acting in an official capacity of any kind is a potential violation.

There are existing rules that prohibit just that – and they are very similar to the rules that prevent using your position as a supervisor to pressure someone into a business or sexual relationship they would otherwise not have considered.

There is no prohibition against the private exercise of religion, nor expression of religious views in the capacity of a private citizen. Talk you your buddies about Jesus all you want (or until they tell you to shut up!). But if it’s wrong for you to push your Amway business on them, or hit them up for a loan, or pressure them to go to bed with you because it creates a conflict of interest, it’s probably wrong for you to lean on them about Jesus as well.

Furthermore, if you’ve got your rank on while you’re doing it, our you rely on your rank to put troops in a position where they have to listen to your preaching, you are probably running afoul of the Establishment Clause to the Constitution, and almost definitely running afoul of rules against such abuse of authority that long predate the Obama Administration.

The military wrestles with the legal aspects of proselytizing within the ranks on a regular basis – and there is, indeed, a long-established legal foundation of statutes and precedents upon which to build a policy. For example, the first chapter in this issue of the Air Force Law Review from 2007 is devoted to balancing the individual right to freedom of expression with the restrictions of the Establishment Clause, and also with the longstanding tradition of prayer and other solemnities at formal unit functions.

Collision Course

The religious liberties of chaplains are on a collision course with official policy, however. As more and more same sex couples become part of the military family, chaplains from Catholic, conservative or orthodox Jewish, Muslim or mainline Protestant traditions will increasingly have to come to terms with how to minister to these groups and serve their spiritual and sacramental needs while still remaining true to the tenets of their faith.

In the civilian world, it’s not a big problem: Same sex couples who wanted to be part of a community of worship but whose marriages are not recognized by the major religious traditions were free to join the reformed, Episcopalian or Unitarian-Universalist congregations down the road. They may not have the same options out at Camp Swampy, Mississippi. And Chaplains will still need to deal with and minister to servicemembers trying to navigate the pain of grief, loss, infidelity or other marital issues in same-sex households, whether they regard the same sex relationship as an abomination or not.

The military will have to balance the doctrinal freedom of Chaplains with their responsibility to see that the chaplain is an equal-opportunity minister. 

Opponents of Freedom of Expression 

While existing practice is balanced and workable and has served us admirably for generations, there are those who still want to tear the whole thing out by the roots. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation, headed by Michael L. ‘Mikey’ Weinstein, an atheist and an attorney (he styles himself a “civil rights activist). 

Weinstein has been making the rounds of talk shows and publications, preaching against religious expression any which way he can, and using language to describe Christians that is itself most reminiscent of Himmler’s anti-Semitic demonization in Der Steurmer.

Case in point:

Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces…”

Queasy with the bright and promising lights of the cultural realities of the present day, those evil, fundamentalist Christian creatures and their spiritual heirs have taken refuge behind flimsy, well-worn, gauze-like euphemistic facades such as “family values” and “religious liberty.” These bandits coagulate their stenchful substances in organizations such as the American Family Association (AFA), the ultra-fundamentalist Family Research Council (FRC), and the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty (CARL). The basis of their ruinous unity is the bane of human existence and progress: horrific hatred and blinding bigotry.

Weinstein then goes on to accuse these groups of “rhetorically charged propaganda” and the “crudest sort of name-calling.”

We also reported on Weinstein here, after Weinstein appeared on a Huffington Post broadcast warning of a “fascistic tsunami” of jack-booted Jesus freaks hoping to weaponize their faith to… well, I’ll let Mikey explain it:

We deal with a fascistic tsunami of fundamentalist Christian exceptionalism and supremacy… It’s our way or the highway… It’s nuclear war. It’s using our weapons of mass destruction as an accelerant, a lubricant to bring a fundamentalist Christian version of a weaponized Jesus back here. They are promised, I kid you not, literally promised a 200 mile river, four and a half feet deep, filled with nothing but the human blood, their version of Jesus’s slaughter at the Battle of Armageddon, and they thirst for that…

Dominion Christianity. We’re fighting the Christian version of the Taliban. Not Christianity…Most of our members and supporters are Protestant and Roman Catholic. We’re dealing with a virulent version of this that wants bring about the end of the earth and use nuclear weapons because that’s what their version of the Bible says must be done. 

Weinstein is, quite obviously, a delusional, bigoted, obsessed whack-job every bit as unbalanced as anyone in the Westboro Baptist Church. 

So what does the current Department of Defense do? Well, obviously, the DoD thought it was appropriate to give this guy the ears of several generals so he can “advise them” on military policy regarding religious expression. Bizarrely, former Ambassador Joe Wilson – of Yellowcake in Nigeria fame, was in on that meeting, too.

According to reporting from the Washington Post, Weinstein was invited to meet with several general officers to discuss further regulation of religious expression. The meeting took place several days after Weinstein’s inane column appeared on Huffington Post.

So while nothing has changed in terms of policy at this point, it’s still alarming that unbalanced nutcases like Weinstein and the long-discredited Ambassador Joe Wilson (the Senate intelligence committee found that all of Wilson’s claims about his Niger trip were false) are still getting the red carpet treatment under the new Secretary of Defense. 

As Muslim Extremists Finalized Boston Terror Plot, Pentagon Battled Christian Threat

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Chuck HagelEven as two Chechen Muslim extremist imports were finalizing their murderous plot to plant explosives at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, the Department of Defense was maintaining a relentless focus on the Christian threat. 

Just three days before the April 15th attack on the Boston Marathon, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was appearing before Congress and answering questions – notably from Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) – about actions the Department of Defense had taken to repress the religious observance and expression of Christians within the military.

“They’ve been on the attack for the last four plus years at the Pentagon,” Forbes told conservative radio talk show host Laura Ingraham in a recent broadcast.

“They have issued statements from the Pentagon where our commanders cannot even disclose approved acceptable programs if they’re under the Chaplain’s office,” Forbes continued. “When we asked Secretary Hagel if he was going to protect their religious freedoms, and if he was going to protect the section of the National Defense Authorization bill that we put in last year to do that, he could not respond, and he didn’t know anything about it!” 

Forbes was referring to Section 533 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which reads, in pertinent part: “No member of the Armed Forces may — require a chaplain to perform any rite, ritual, or ceremony that is contrary to the conscience, moral principles, or religious beliefs of the chaplain; or discriminate or take any adverse personnel action against a chaplain.”

The president signed the Act into law, but issued a signing statement voicing opposition to that particular provision:

Section 533 is an unnecessary and ill-advised provision, as the military already appropriately protects the freedom of conscience of chaplains and service members. The Secretary of Defense will ensure that the implementing regulations do not permit or condone discriminatory actions that compromise good order and discipline or otherwise violate military codes of conduct. My Administration remains fully committed to continuing the successful implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and to protecting the rights of gay and lesbian service members; Section 533 will not alter that.

Section 533 is a political flashpoint in the law, because many chaplains and social conservatives are concerned that the military may force chaplains to sanctify or officiate over same sex marriages, provide same-sex marriage counseling, or conduct other religious services in violation of the tenets of their faith. Clearly, the Administration was concerned about the threat to good order from his military chaplains, and the issue got visibility at the very top level of government.

Meanwhile, Section 533 also drew the opposition of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“The language is too broad,” said Laura Murphy, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, who cautioned that it could lead to claims of a right to discriminate.

“We strongly support accommodating beliefs, so long as doing so does not result in discrimination or harm to others,” Murphy said. “The hastily drafted provision, though, has the potential to give rise to dangerous claims of a right to discriminate against not just lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members, but also women, religious minorities, and in the provision of health care.”

The attacks in Boston also came within a few weeks after some military observers were ringing the alarm bells about religious extremism within the ranks – again, focused on those pesky Christians, as we reported here. We also reported – as did a number of other media outlets – on a training PowerPoint slide that categorized evangelicals, certain Mormons, Catholic and Jewish groups as hate groups in the same category with Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and the Ku Klux Klan.

The Army also cracked down on its Catholic chaplains earlier this year, when Archbishop Timothy Broglio, the head of military services in the U.S. for the Catholic Church, sent a letter to parish priests and chaplains, objecting to certain contraceptive provisions in the Affordable Care Act, or the so-called “Obamacare” law. “We can not, and we will not comply with this unjust law,” the letter read. The Archbishop directed his priests to read the letter to their congregations at mass on January 28th. The Department of the Army issued a gag order. The Army would not agree to allow the chaplains to read the letter until that line was excised, considering it too close to a call to civil disobedience. 

The strange Pentagon preoccupation with the Christian threat in the face of the Boston attacks continues even now, more than a week since the Boston attacks, with the strange censorship of the Southern Baptists Convention website. Servicemembers trying to access the SBC website from military installations found their access blocked by Team CONUS, the Virginia-based IT department responsible for network security and policing up offensive material. The Pentagon blocked access for servicemembers. Anyone attempting to access the site from a military installation received the message “The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RCERT-CONUS) due to hostile content.”

It is not clear precisely what “hostile content” the Pentagon is referring to.

Chaplains and Baptists within the military raised objections. The Pentagon is now claiming that the censorship of the Southern Baptist Convention website was “accidental.” However, as of this writing, access has not yet been restored and the military could not explain how this “accident” could have happened. Attempts to contact Team CONUS via phone and email seeking comment were unsuccessful as of this writing.

Meanwhile, rest easy, America. We’re confident that the next mass bombing attack on American civilians is far more likely to come from radical Islamist rather than Christians.

Pentagon to Military Order of the Purple Heart: Drop Dead

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Distinguished Warfare MedalThe Distinguished Warfare Medal, the controversial medal designed for drone pilots, cyber warriors and other rear-echelon troops who accomplish notable achievements will retain its place in the order of precedence, according to a Pentagon release.

The Secretary of Defense announced that the new medal would be ranked higher than the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart – a move that sparked outrage from a number of troops and from the Military Order of the Purple Heart – a prominent advocacy association representing servicemembers who have received the award. The MOPH released a statement last week stating that they were adamantly opposed to the decision, which they found was “insulting and degrading” to their members – all of whom have shed blood in combat for the country as members of the Armed Forces of the United States. 

The decision also met with a groundswell of opposition from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, as well as criticism from within the ranks, judging by the reactions of servicemembers to the story on military news Websites reporting on the new medal.

To be eligible to receive the award, a service member has to have direct, hands-on employment, such as an unmanned aerial vehicle operator dropping a bomb or a cyber specialist detecting and fending off a computer network attack, according to the Pentagon. The award is for specific actions affecting combat operations, and may not be used as an end-of-tour award.