- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 26, 2000

The 1.4 million-member armed forces may turn out to be President-elect George W. Bush’s most-demanding constituency.
Mr. Bush directly sought the votes of service members, making their needs a pillar of his campaign.
Now, sailors and soldiers tell The Washington Times they have a long “to do” list for the incoming commander in chief.
They say they plan to hold him to his vow to rebuild the force after eight grueling years of social turmoil, budget cuts and expanded missions throughout the world.
Twelve officers and enlisted personnel, all speaking on the condition of anonymity because they are on active duty, said they want better pay and health care, new equipment and a full inventory of spare parts.
“We are all counting on Bush to increase training money, fuel, ammo and spare parts,” said an Army Special Forces soldier. “Many of the planes we fly on become unavailable or strand us somewhere.”
Others want a scaling back of sensitivity training on sexual orientation and feminism. They also like Mr. Bush’s pledge to “restore honor and dignity” to the White House.
“Personally, what I want for Christmas is a new commander in chief who won’t make me worry about being forced to attend a sensitivity session on ‘homophobia’ that coerces me to accept and or affirm behavior that my religion considers immoral,” said an Army officer stationed at a post in Texas. “Also, I don’t want to worry about being used as a pawn by feminists and gay activists.”
Said an Army helicopter pilot: “I expect that the Bush administration will at least treat the military with respect. A refreshing change, that would be. I would hope that this administration will be more responsive to our concerns on issues like pay, morale and overall readiness, which, despite protestations by the Clinton administration, is in the crapper.”
“I also don’t expect them to continue the social experiments, like women in ground combat and the whole homosexual thing, which I am sick and tired of hearing about.”
Mr. Bush has pledged to stick by a policy known as “don’t ask, don’t tell,” which lets homosexuals serve as long as they keep their behavior private.
The president-elect has pledged more money for the Pentagon but has not given a specific number. The Congressional Budget Office said in September it will take an additional $51 billion, on top of the $309 billion budget, just to maintain the force for current operations.
Sen. James Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican and Senate Armed Services Committee member, wants a more drastic infusion of cash. He said in an interview he believes the military needs $100 billion more in each of the next five years.
“We are concerned about modernization,” he said. “We did a lousy job during the Clinton administration. I think we will put that back in the fore again.”
Mr. Bush’s personal pledge to help the military was captured in Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney’s campaign line: “Help is on the way.”
This commitment may be one reason Mr. Bush has not yet named a defense secretary from among the leading candidates former Sen. Daniel R. Coats, Indiana Republican, and former Pentagon policy-maker Paul Wolfowitz.
The incoming president, Republican officials say, wants to make sure he has the right person to carry out his personal promise to men and women in uniform.
A senior officer at the Pentagon said that for him, pay and benefits rank behind an expectation that Mr. Bush will set a good example for the troops, unlike, he said, Mr. Clinton in his affair with former White House Monica Lewinsky.
Adultery in the military is prohibited when the relationship hinders good order and discipline.
“I am much more concerned about strong moral and ethical leadership from the commander in chief and his subordinates,” said this officer. “I want to see a president who lives by the same standards he expects from his military and who sets an example that they can emulate.
“I sincerely hope that President Bush will not buy into ‘advice’ that he should ‘unite’ the country by pursuing policies that will promote gay, feminist or other interest groups’ agendas for the military,” he said.
An Army sergeant in Europe said Mr. Bush got off to a good start by naming Colin Powell, former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, as secretary of state; and Condoleezza Rice, a skeptic of U.S. peacekeeping missions, as national security adviser.
“He has sealed his role with the military already. He has chosen a brilliant gentleman, military leader and tactician whom many of us have served under, as his secretary of state,” the sergeant said.
The soldiers also said Mr. Bush, a former Air National Guard fighter pilot, appears to be one of them.
“Many soldiers took their time and explained to me that George W. Bush struck them as a man who would jump in and play baseball with them or join them in a physical training run,” the sergeant said.
Several officers said they hoped Mr. Bush would pick senior admirals and generals based on operational experience, as opposed to their tenure in Washington.
Richard Armitage, a former Pentagon official and Bush campaign adviser, has expressed general unhappiness with the practices of general officer promotion boards.
“Our new president needs to select our admirals and generals from the field, instead of the ‘Army of the Potomac,’ ” added a Marine Corps pilot. “Too many of our leaders have won their starts by hiding in the Pentagon avoiding time in the tough, demanding jobs in the operating force.”
Said the Army Special Forces soldier, “More than anything else, what I expect of Bush is dignity, integrity and honor in my president and commander in chief… . I expect to be sent on missions that are necessary and not feel-good operations. When we deploy, it will be in the national interest, not a whim or, worse, to deflect attention from a girlfriend’s testimony.”
This reference is to President Clinton’s decision to order Tomahawk missiles strikes on suspected terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan immediately after the grand jury testimony of Miss Lewinsky in August 1998.
Mr. Bush, who becomes president and commander in chief Jan. 20, inherits an armed forces that has debated a series of social issues, such as homosexuals in the military, sexual harassment, dating and adultery, and women in combat.
There have been at least three major reviews of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and new directives to the force on homosexual sensitivity.
“We need to concentrate on warrior skills, not social engineering crap.” said the Special Forces soldier.
A Navy officer at the Pentagon said, “The Tailhook scandal is over, but with Tailhook went the comradeship that used to be an integral part of being in the military. ‘Play hard. Work hard.’
“No more. Now it is work hard, and everyone needs their behavior to be beyond reproach at all times. I think sailors would like to be sailors again, and the adventure needs to return making the Navy more than just a job.”

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