- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2007

E-mails from U.S. military officers in Iraq and Afghanistan have exposed an alarming, politically correct practice that is endangering the lives of troops serving in those conflict zones.

According to the officers, U.S. troops are being forced to carry unloaded weapons on most U.S. bases because commanders are more worried about a “negligent” discharge than the very real likelihood of a terrorist attack by an insider on the base. The rule is all the more disconcerting because these troops are in areas where they receive combat pay.

Defense officials say the fear of “negligent” weapon discharge is due to lack of training and is different from concerns about accidental discharge, which involves a mechanical malfunction that rarely occurs.

“This selection of political correctness and safety concerns over force protection contrasts markedly with combat experience in World War II, Korea or Vietnam, where soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines were required to be armed - with loaded weapons - at all times,” one official said.

“This is a gross failure of leadership, and in all likelihood has contributed to the U.S. casualty rate,” the official said.

The officer in Iraq said the unloaded-gun rule is a symptom of bigger military leadership problems, especially in the Army.

“Unfortunately, many military leaders are little more than managers, and many of those have consciously chosen to reduce themselves to the level of permanent administrator, because it is safer for their careers than risking real decision-making,” he said.

The officer warned that the leadership crisis in the Army is producing a “stilted, uninspired Army.” “Such a sterile, hyper-politicized, ponderous, disconnected Army is no match for an inspired, committed, agile, flexible force, even one smaller and less technologically sophisticated,” he said of the Islamic terrorist enemy.

A soldier in Afghanistan said the no-loaded-weapons rule is true for bases there as well, adding that soldiers are required to unload weapons after returning from “Indian country.” “The idea that anyone, anywhere, would carry firearms for serious social interaction, yet do so with them in any condition other than ready to fire at a moment’s notice, is so stupid no ‘discussion’ appears necessary, at least among the sane,” the soldier said.

Obering collaboration Defense officials say they are upset by recent comments made to Democratic congressional staffers by Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry A. “Trey” Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency.

Gen. Obering was asked during a private meeting with the Democratic staffers on the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee how much of a cut in money for a third missile defense interceptor site in Eastern Europe he could live with.

The three-star general told the staffers that his bottom line was $160 million, a total of $150 million less than President Bush requested for the interceptor site. The site is the focus of U.S.-Russian government wrangling and a target of anti-defense leftists in both Europe and the United States.

A week after the meeting, the subcommittee followed through with Gen.

Obering’s bottom line and cut the money out of the defense authorization.

“It’s always interesting to see how money is cut from defense programs, but administration officials like Gen. Obering typically defend the president’s budget request, not the demands of Democrats,” said one specialist on missile defense who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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