Next Tuesday, President Bush will deliver his State of the Union address. If his previous speeches are any guide, he’ll fill his speech with promises to support the troops:
2002: “Our men and women in uniform deserve the best weapons, the best equipment, the best training — and they also deserve another pay raise. “¦ Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay.”
2004: “[M]y administration, and this Congress, will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on terror.”
2005: “During this time of war, we must continue to support our military and give them the tools for victory.”
While it is quick with rhetorical support, the Bush administration has repeatedly refused to take the actions necessary to provide the troops the resources they need. The latest example comes from the Army Times, which reports that the Pentagon is currently working on a proposal to triple the costs of the military health insurance program (Tricare):
Increases would be substantial “” as much as $1,200 more a year by 2009 “” with no end in sight because the plan calls for annual rate hikes in 2010 and beyond that would match inflation.
Steve Strobridge, government relations director for the Military Officers Association of America, said it best:
In the middle of a war, with troops and families vastly overstressed, recruiting already in the toilet, and retention at risk, the Defense Department wants to pay for weapons by cutting manpower and trying to cut career military benefits by $1,000 a year or more? That’s just flat unconscionable.
More soldiers have been taken off the battlefield in Iraq by injuries and illnesses than by enemy fire. An increase in health care costs would be a great burden for these soldiers. Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer recently wrote to President Bush demanding that he disavow the program.
You can help. Already, more than 22,000 members of the Military Officers Association of America have written Congress opposing the initiative. Contact House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, and tell them what you think about Bush’s proposed policy.