Our guest blogger is Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org and veteran of the Iraq war.
Yesterday, ThinkProgress highlighted the latest reason from the Bush administration to oppose a real GI Bill for troops, offered by Senators Webb and Hagel. The Pentagon spokesperson said, in part:
[W]e are certainly concerned that this would be eligible to them after only two years of service. We think pegging it to a longer period of service — the number we have in mind, at this point, is six years of service — that the longer you stay in, the sweeter the benefits are to you. Six years would show a commitment to service. … The last thing we want to do is provide a benefit — or the last thing we want to do is create a situation in which we are losing our men and women who we have worked so hard to train.
Wow. There are a few very serious flaws in this logic:
First, the time of service isn’t a measure of commitment to service. What about the troops who served under six years, did a few tours in Iraq, and came back without a limb, and could no longer serve? Have they shown less of a commitment to America? I would love for this spokesperson to go to Walter Reed and tell anyone there who served three years, but now cannot continue their service, that they haven’t shown a commitment.
Second, no one is leaving the military after two years. I’d note that when you sign up, it’s for an eight year contract, most for four years active. They can serve in a number of ways. For example, I served four and a half years active (because I was Stop Lossed), went to grad school and served in the reserves, but was called back up after ten months. So, the point remains that you’re not talking about a flood of people breaking their contract after three or four years. The overwhelming majority of men and women serve out their contract for eight years, so even if they do begin school when they’re done with their active duty commitment, the military can call them up at any time they need them, for the life of the troop’s contract. A GI Bill isn’t going to change it.
Third is that if the administration was serious about retention, they would focus on the role of contractors, who continually snatch up troops, offering them up to 10 times their military pay to do a similar job in Iraq. That’s a much bigger threat to retention than offering a service-member the chance to get a quality education. Read more