- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 5, 2000

Bipartisanship equals victory for military personnel

Thanks to The Washington Times for noting that Republican criticism of Rep. Neil Abercrombie, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee, "appears exaggerated" ("Republicans focus on House chairmen," Jan. 3).

Mr. Abercrombie approaches defense issues on a bipartisan basis. His working relationships with fellow members of the Armed Services Committee cross party lines. He makes a special point of working cooperatively with Rep. Steve Buyer, Indiana Republican, chairman of the military personnel subcommittee.

That cooperation paid off for military personnel in the fiscal 2000 defense authorization bill. Mr. Abercrombie and Mr. Buyer forged a consensus that resulted in substantial increases in pay and benefits for active-duty personnel, reservists, National Guard troops and retirees:

n A 4.8 percent raise in basic pay and a mandate that future raises be based on the full employment cost index (ECI), not the then-current ECI minus 0.5 percent.

n Targeted pay raises above 4.8 percent for midgrade officers, noncommissioned officers and petty officers.

n Reform of the military retirement system to allow service members to opt to accept the pre-1986 retirement system or remain in the post-1986 system and receive a $30,000 payment after 15 years of service.

n Extension of current pay and bonus authorities, creation of new bonus authorities and expansion of recruiting and retention bonus and special pay authorities to address poor retention and shortages in specific skills.

n Reduction in service members' out-of-pocket housing costs by 3 percent and acceleration by three years full implementation of new Basic Allowance for Housing rates.

n Payment of the Women, Infants and Children program overseas.

n Guarantee of veterans' burial benefits, provision of retirement flags for reservists and members of the uniformed services and restoration of equity to widows' entitlements.

n Payment to severely disabled military retirees of a monthly stipend to offset reductions in military retirement pay.

n Waiver of annual medical deductibles for families of mobilized reservists.

In addition, Mr. Abercrombie and Mr. Buyer jointly authored a floor amendment to the bill that authorizes Thrift Savings Plans for service members, allowing them to set aside up to 5 percent of their pay in tax-deferred accounts.

In the 2000 congressional session, Mr. Abercrombie will focus on improving health care for military retirees. He will continue to work with Republicans and Democrats alike to improve all aspects of quality of life for U.S. military personnel active, retired, Guard and Reserve and their families.


Communications director

Office of Rep. Neil Abercrombie


'Don't ask, don't tell' has a long, successful history

TV news, talk shows and newspapers have devoted many words to discussing gays in the military and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

As a young second lieutenant fighter pilot stationed at Wheeler Field, Oahu, I watched bombs fall on U.S. territory the morning of Dec. 7, 1941. For the better part of three years following that eventful day, I island-hopped across the Pacific, firing shots in anger at the bad guys. This was followed by more than 20 years as a career military officer.

During this service, which spanned periods of war and peace, homosexuality was never an issue. It was neither in evidence nor an item of discussion. Since homosexuals have served in the military without vocal recognition, probably since the Revolutionary War, it is suggested that a "don't ask, don't tell" policy has been practiced successfully for a long, long time. Now our fearless leader and his "stand by your man" mate, Hillary Rodham Clinton, have determined that it has failed. If that's true, the when and why it failed can be traced to two words political correctness.

The advent of this culture has created many significant problems that are debilitating to our nation's well-being. This includes women in combat, but that is another dicey subject.


Hilton Head, S.C.

D.C. public school principals are addressing absenteeism

"Absentee principals" (Editorial, Dec. 26) contained innuendoes and insinuations relative to the roles of D.C. public school principals that demand a response.

The major theme of the editorial is evidenced in the first paragraph: "When a school's leadership and other critical factors, such as substandard facilities and poor attendance fall below expectations, the principal's job should be on the line." The assumption that principals are falling down on the job, like many others assumptions in the editorial, is a broad allegation not supported by fact.

A careful analysis of the editorial indicates that there was a misapplication of the absentee percentages used as fact. For example, a check of these figures indicates that The Times used data obtained by an accounting firm on a one-time sample of 20 students from the entire population of one of the schools cited in the editorial. Of that number, six were absent on that day. The Times then used the 30 percent figure of the sample absent on that particular day, not 30 percent of the school's entire population. In reading the editorial, the public is not aware of this kind of misleading representation of figures.

We realize that truancy and absenteeism are tremendous problems, and they are being addressed. The Times poses the question: "Where are the principals and other school officials?" With respect to absenteeism and truancy, The Times and the accounting firm's report mention the procedures that must be followed by all school administrators. Once those procedures have been completed, it is up to the school and parents to address the problem. The question is, where are the parents?

Quite often, the parents never see the absentee notifications. Often they never see a report card. Parental signatures often are forged, and mail is not received, making the parents the last to know of the truancy.

Parents have a responsibility, too. They have the responsibility to send their children to school in a state of readiness to learn and to provide a quiet place at home where their children can study each night, with reference books, newspapers and magazines for their use. The teacher and principal cannot do it all. It takes the parent, the school and the community to educate a child.

Where are the principals? The principals are in their respective schools 10, 12, sometimes 16 hours a day. At the end of a long day, they often must attend required meetings called by the superintendent, lasting until 6:30 or 7:30 p.m. Many times, principals are required to supervise Saturday programs in their buildings, not to mention any number of evening meetings.

This is where the principals are. They are performing to the best of their abilities to expand and improve the learning of their students.

Wouldn't it be interesting to have your editorial writers assigned to inner-city schools as principals for a semester or two and then assess their accomplishments? We love our children and our system. We do our best to make it work with what we have.



American Federation of School


Council of School Officers, Local 4


Professor flunks

Why doesn't it surprise me that it's a professor in West Virginia who proposes that slovenly spoken English be acceptable ("Professor's fixin' to let errors be," Jan. 3)?

Properly spoken English not only enhances communication, it also disciplines the mind of the student learning it. To do as the professor proposes is simply another step in dumbing down our educational system.

Don't he know better? Somebody should ax him why, wif all the problems in education today, he don't want to raise the standards instead of lowering them.



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