Last Friday the DoD issued the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office’ (SAPRO) annual report on sexual assaults and harassment in the military. The report showed that sexual assaults reported by military personnel numbered 6,131 in 2014, an increase of 11 percent over the previous year.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., isn’t satisfied saying the report fails to account for attacks on military spouses and civilian women at bases nationwide.“The more we learn, the worse the problem gets,” Gillibrand said in releasing an analysis by her office of limited data provided by the military on 107 cases at the Army’s Fort Hood in Texas, Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton in California and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Gillibrand’s review of the cases showed “a high prevalence of sexual assault against civilian women near bases and civilian spouses of service members — two survivor groups not counted in DoD prevalence surveys.” Gillibrand charged that military spouses and civilian women who live or work near military bases “remain in the shadows” because neither group is counted in the SAPRO reports. Gillibrand said that her office asked for all files pertaining to the investigation and adjudication of sexual assault cases from 2009 through 2013 at the four bases in February 2014 – Hood, Pendleton, Norfolk and Wright-Patterson. Instead, DoD only provided the 107 case files from 2013 at the four bases.
“These 107 files are a snapshot of the thousands of estimated cases that occur annually — the latest projection for 2014 alone is 20,000 cases of sexual assault and unwanted sexual contact,” Gillibrand said in a statement.
“What we’ve found are alarming rates of assault among two survivor groups not routinely counted in DoD surveys, survivors declining to move forward with their cases and very low conviction rates,” she said.The Pentagon released a statement in response saying: “The department does not have standing authority to survey non-DoD civilian populations. However, federal surveys have found that the prevalence of sexual assault for non-DoD civilian women is statistically the same for military women and female spouses of military members.” In response to Gillibrand’s charges on underreporting, Laura Seal, a DoD spokesperson, said that the trends in the DoD report showed that in FY2014 there were “indications of increased confidence in our military justice system. Reporting is up: We estimate that one in 10 military victims reported in FY2012, and one in four military victims reported in FY2014.”
Even 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.
President Obama’s nominee for Secretary of Defense, Senator Charles Hagel (R-Neb.) appears to have won the endorsement of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, according to reporting by CBS News. The Iranian nod is considered by many to be critical in shoring up support within the White House for what is expected to be a hotly contested nomination.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry appears to be backing President Barack Obama’s pick of former Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., as secretary of defense.
Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in an interview Tuesday that he hopes the Hagel nomination will improve relations between the United States and Tehran.
“We hope there will be practical changes in American foreign policy and that Washington becomes respectful of the rights of nations,” Mehmanparast said, according to Reuters.
Hagel, a longtime Republican, has distinguished himself as perhaps the only Senate Republican whose nomination is not acceptable to Senate Republicans.
As a Senator, Hagel has come out against the formal designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, despite its known involvement in a series of lethal terrorist attacks against Israeli noncombatants. Hagel also opposed even the discussion of a military strike against Iran in order to halt their nuclear weapons program. He has also spoken critically of the political influence of the “Jewish lobby.”
His comments have earned him significant opposition even among some Democrats, and longtime Clinton ally and legal advisor Lanny Davis has called his remarks “offensive to the Jewish community.”
As to why so many American Jews are highly offended by Hagel’s use of the expression “Jewish lobby,” if he doesn’t understand its historical association with virulent anti-Semitism and the scurrilous libel of “dual loyalty” used by anti-Semites against Jews, then I would ask him the following question:
Have you ever used the expression the “Catholic lobby” when describing pro-life lobbyists? If you did, would you understand why Catholics would be offended by that expression — because many Catholics are pro-choice and would be offended for you to invoke an expression describing their religion rather than their views on the abortion issue? Do you recall how offended John F. Kennedy was at the notion that he would have dual loyalty as president — to America and to the pope — a charge JFK vigorously denied and considered to be emblematic of anti-Catholic bigotry?
Additionally, Hagel has supported efforts to have Iran join the U.S. at the table for Afghanistan peace talks.
Opposition from GLBT Americans
Senator Hagel has also alienated some Democrats for comments he made in 1998, opposing the Clinton appointment of James Hormel to Luxembourg because of Hormel’s homosexuality. Said Hagel of ambassador’s generally: “They are representing America. They are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly, aggressively gay…”
Hagel’s opposition has earned him criticism from openly and aggressively gay individuals across the country. Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank has come out strongly opposing Hagel’s nomination on those grounds, as have the Log Cabin Republicans, a GOP-aligned group advocating for the rights of gays and lesbians. UPDATE: Frank Reverses!
Hagel’s Record on the Iraq War
Senator Hagel warned against invading Iraq, calling any operation that sought to impose democracy on the Iraqi people as a “roll of the dice.” Consequently, he voted in favor of going to war.
In 2006, with the Army and Marine Corps locked in a brutal counterinsurgency, Hagel called publicly for a phased withdrawal, calling the Bush/Petraeus “surge” that, paired with the Sunni Awakening, destroyed Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia as a significant combat force, “the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam.”
If his nomination is approved, Hagel, who served as an infantry squad leader and was twice wounded in Vietnam, will be the first enlisted warrior to serve as Secretary of Defense, according to the White House.
Hagel will join Obama’s Secretary of State nominee Senator John Kerry – perhaps the one Vietnam War veteran most universally despised among actual Vietnam War veterans –as President Obama’s first two cabinet nominations of his second term.
All eyes now are on Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat from Iowa, to see whether Hagel will win the all-important phony veteran constituency.
Tell us what you think of Senator Hagel’s nomination. Should he be confirmed? Who else would you like to see nominated instead?
Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) is a fiscal conservative known for his advocacy against needless federal spending and government waste. Recently, however, Senator Coburn turned his sights on the military commissary benefit.
The commissary system receives direct federal subsidies and enables military families to save up to 30 percent on groceries, according to the Military Family Association, which vociferously opposes cutting the program.
Senator Coburn’s office issued a report on Department of Defense spending with the tongue-in-cheek title The Department of Everything. In the report, Coburn chastises the Administration for using defense funds to do everything from brew beer to study dinosaurs. Most of these programs he mentions are obvious and profligate wastes. But he also criticizes the department for running the DoD school system and the cherished commissary system, which until recently were not particularly controversial.
But Coburns’ office argues that domestic DoD education programs are duplicative:
The Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS) that educates children of military families here in the United States and the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs that duplicate the work of the Department of Education and local school districts ($10.7 billion). The Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program which provides college funding for military members on active duty and duplicates the Department of Veterans Affairs ($4.5 billion).
Further, Coburn argues that the domestic DoD school system is extraordinarily expensive and wasteful: The Department of Defense operates 64 domestic schools on 16 different military installations serving 19,000 students, at a cost of $50,000 per student.
In contrast, the average per pupil education expenditure for public schools nationwide was $10,694 in 2008-2009, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Furthermore, Coburn finds that DoD schools are top-heavy with public employee salaries: The staff to student ratio for public schools nationwide is 15-1, Coburn asserts; the staff-to-student ratio in the domestic DoD school system is 9.5 to 1.
These schools cost the taxpayer nearly half a billion dollars in 2010, according to the Senator’s report.
Coburn argues that the taxpayer could also save $9 billion per year by eliminating subsidies to military commissaries – which would force military families to go off post to do their grocery shopping. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that military families would pay about 7 percent more in groceries per year – or about $400 per year, per Coburn’s office. (His report is missing the footnote, however.) Coburn advocates taking the savings from the commissary subsidy and increasing pay or the basic allowance for housing benefit. However, if Congress transfers this money to BAH, reserve component members would generally lose their commissary benefit without any compensating benefit in pay, since reservists and Guardsmen do not receive BAH.
Coburn’s report echoes an earlier recommendation by the Congressional Budget office that the Department of Defense eliminate the commissary subsidy in favor of a grocery allowance.
Meanwhile, Coburn’s calculation that the average military family receives only a $400 benefit from the commissary program – and the CBO’s recommendation – has been hotly contested by the Military Resale and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Center for Research. It calculates that a military family of four that regularly uses the commissary would save closer to $4,500 per year – and that Coburn understates the benefit to servicemembers by a factor of 10. It also concludes that the benefit for a couple equals about $2,800, and about $1,500 for single servicemembers (because all of you cook at home regularly, of course).
At any rate, don’t look for your local commissary to be padlocking its doors anytime soon. None of the proposals being put forth would totally eliminate the system, according to CouponsInTheNews.com. Some options include leasing store space to private sector grocers, or reducing the subsidy without eliminating it entirely.