Military Morale Sinks to New Low

Article excerpt

The Clinton/Gore administration's policy of forcing political correctness on the military is causing many of the best to leave and creating a weak, feminized `fighting' force.

A military man who has to tell his wife and family that he has been fired from the service is not likely to forget the experience. But having to tell them that he has been selected out by a review board because his unit had too many white males to suit the Pentagon's affirmative-action program made Frank Christian furious after a Selective Early Retirement Board (SERB) decided in July 1992 that his services -- and those of 1,031 other lieutenant colonels who are white males -- no longer were required by the U.S. Army. "All of us were hurt and felt something was wrong, either with us or the way this was done" Christian tells Insight. Now the U.S. Claims Court has agreed.

Also in 1992, a board at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, selected 610 male colonels for early retirement. No female colonels were selected out. A class-action lawsuit followed, with 83 of the colonels contending that the use of affirmative-action policies in their dismissals violated their right to equal protection. Their case was settled by the government out of court for $10 million.

A similar class-action lawsuit, Berkley vs. U.S., was filed in 1998 to protect the rights of 1,595 other officers. It is still before the courts.

Christian says that the practice of getting rid of white males so that the ratio of female and minority groups will meet politically correct quotas is not the only reason for falling morale. "We're also overworking the forces and giving them inappropriate roles. The purpose of the armed forces is to win wars," he tells Insight.

Joseph Mehrten Jr., a graduate of West Point, draws on his personal experience in a way that suggests where it all has gone wrong. Mehrten complains about what he regards as a failure of loyalty by the higher command and says this is reflected not only in "the general frustrations of being unable to keep talented people, but also in not having the necessary tools to do our jobs." He fulfilled his five-year commitment to the Army after graduation and then moved as a captain into a reserve unit -- not because he didn't want to serve his country but, to the contrary, because of the environment in which he was expected to serve.

"You spend all your time trying to work with your broken equipment," says Mehrten, "rather than training the skills that you may need to fight and win a war. That sort of frustration is causing the talented senior and junior NCOs [noncommissioned officers] to get out, which compresses things, so you have inexperienced, untrained people being asked to serve beyond their capabilities"

The current retention rate for West Pointers such as Mehrten shows a dramatic drop from the levels experienced under President Reagan during the early 1980s. But according to Scott Snook of the Office of Policy, Planning and Analysis at West Point, "If you want to look at retention rates and compare them from one year to another, you need to put them into context of what was going on in the world. In general, the West Point retention rates track along with what the Army's trying to do," says Snook, citing recent drawdowns within the military.

The declining retention rate has raised alarm at the Pentagon. The Army announced in late October that it would begin new initiatives designed to retain the appropriate number of company-grade officers. The most recent reports show that of its 15,000 captains the Army has lost 1,725 instead of the expected 1,425.

"It's something the Army's concerned about," says Martha Rudd, a spokeswoman with Army public affairs, who nonetheless insists the Army is taking steps to contain its losses. For example, it has announced a string of new incentives to encourage officers to remain in the service, including the options of earning a master's degree or choice of locations for deployment. …