About Us
Mission Statement
Rules of Conduct
Remember Me

Ask a Vet
Author: TriSec    Date: 04/09/2024 00:39:15

Good Morning.

In a rarity, I've got follow-ups for a story and an opinion rendered in last week's blog.

Our lead story last week was potential cuts to a popular military credentialing program that allowed veterans to get equivalent civilian licenses for work they have done in the military. That program was on the verge of being deeply cut.

Looks like Congress isn't done with the knives - now the tuition reimbursement program is on the chopping block, too.

Tuition assistance was introduced in 1999, but it was broadly implemented in the Army in 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks when the service needed to quickly beef up its ranks. At the time, college was also becoming a greater priority both in the service and in the civilian workforce.

Since 2020, about 101,000 soldiers across all Army components use the benefit each year -- averaging about $218 million in cost. But it's unclear what specific cuts or changes to tuition assistance the Army is mulling.

The Army's Credentialing Assistance Program, or Army CA, was introduced forcewide in 2020 in its current form, after evolving from a smaller version of the benefit. It was broadly seen by senior leadership as key during a time in which the service wanted troops to have diverse skill sets outside of their military occupation.

At the same time, the Army CA benefit could set soldiers up for success in the civilian world when they transition out of the service.

In the last four years, 64,500 soldiers have used the benefit, with licensing and qualifications in project management, personal training and piloting being among the most frequently chosen fields. The use of the benefit has ballooned since 2020, costing $8 million then and growing to $60.2 million last year, according to data provided by the Army.

Right now, the service is looking to cut its credentialing benefit in 2025 from $4,000 per year without a cap on use to just $1,000 per year and never to exceed $4,000 in a soldier's career, sources with direct knowledge of the deliberations explained to Military.com. The publication also reviewed an internal brief and emails confirming the plans, though it was unclear whether those plans had been finalized.

Seems like many incentives to volunteer are withering away. So will we be left with a conscripted, loyalist force under a future presidency?

The military hopes not. I opined about this myself last week, but of course the words of an actual veteran carry far more weight than mine.

The foundation of what we teach at West Point is that the military's allegiance is to a system of government codified in the Constitution. Article I of the Constitution says that Congress declares war and funds the military. Article II of the Constitution makes clear that the military must follow the orders of the democratically elected civilian president. The Framers of the Constitution shared authority over the military among elected officials to ensure no one person has unchecked power to direct the military, and that the actions of the military are beholden to the public it serves.

The course we teach provides context and depth for cadets to understand their oath. On their first day at West Point, cadets take an oath to the Constitution. When they graduate, they take a similar oath, also to the Constitution, as they transition from cadet to military officer. Graduations, promotions, reenlistments and other major milestones are commemorated by service members reaffirming their commitment to the Constitution.

We are West Point graduates ourselves and have been taught, as we now teach, that our oath forms the basis of a nonpartisan ethic. In the U.S., unlike in many other countries, the oath implies military leaders should be trusted for their expertise and judgment, not for their loyalty to an individual or political party. We emphasize to cadets the rules and professional expectations associated with this profound responsibility.

We explain that they will likely face challenges that cannot be addressed by the text of their oath. We teach cadets that when the rules are vague or inadequate, they should live and lead without political partisanship and in ways that will maintain the trust of the elected leaders and the American public they serve.

Our assessments of students' learning provide evidence that our lessons are working. Among the concepts taught, cadets demonstrate the largest growth in understanding the Constitution's provisions for civilian control of the military and the expectation of nonpartisanship.

Moreover, we find that by the end of the course, their increased political awareness and understanding corresponds with less cynicism about the state of American politics.

Our course and similar efforts at the other service academies teach future officers to internalize the importance of their oath to the Constitution, especially in the current hyperpartisan political climate.

It's unclear what path this may take. Of course as a student of history, I'll make a comparison to the darkest part of our past. There have been many paramilitary units that operated outside the jurisdiction of the state military. These often feature oaths of loyalty - not to a concept - but to a person. None of them has ended well.

Perhaps the most obvious example would be the "Night of the Long Knives". Hitler actually sacrificed his private army, and in exchange received the loyalty of the state military, which he then used in an attempt to subjugate Europe.

While no blatant personal militias exist in the United States today - aren't the events of January 6 just one step removed from that? One wonders just what those "patriots" in Texas and elsewhere are doing. Why? And for whom?

1 comments (Latest Comment: 04/09/2024 13:24:17 by Will_in_Ca)
   Perma Link

Share This!

Furl it!