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An On V Update to Old Ideas, Round Five

Since we took so long between updates--before yesterday’s post, we posted our last update in the beginning of December--we have quite a few updates to get through, so we decided to keep the fun rolling along with another On V update today:

Update to “I Didn’t Deserve My Combat Pay”

Of all the guest posts and op-eds Eric C and I have written, my op-ed “I Didn’t Deserve My Combat Pay” for the Washington Post created by far the most controversy. Since we have no plans to start a political action committee dedicated to reforming the pay system, and the military tends to move as slow as molasses and never against the troops, we expected it to end there.

However (and huge hat tip to former “Helldiver” Jesse Murphree for the notice), it looks like the military (and by extension, the Obama administration) has changed the rules of who qualifies for Imminent Danger Pay.

The change is simple: imminent danger pay is now prorated by day, not month. This means--as we specifically spelled out in our op-ed and repeated by the Air Force Times--that people who visit a war zone for two days--on the last day of one month and the first day of another, like Generals visiting for Change of Command ceremonies--only receive two days worth of Imminent Danger Pay, not two months--something like 15 dollars versus 450.

So two issues remain. First, some conservative blogs blame Obama for screwing the troops. He isn’t. He is simply eliminating a loophole to prevent soldiers--especially flag officers--from gaming the system and screwing the taxpayer, which conservatives should love. It is also unclear who made this change; did General Dempsey propose it? Some finance officer? The secretary of defense? Or did President Obama do it himself, because he routinely goes through the Pentagon budget line by line searching for ways to screw soldiers? We don’t know.

Second, this doesn’t solve all of the military’s issues with pay, including how many different countries qualify as “war zones”, the fact that the “combat zone tax exclusion” is still given out by month, the fact that sailors and airmen not deployed to war zones can collect the same benefits as those soldiers deployed on the ground, and the fact that soldiers who bear the brunt of the fighting still deserve plenty more.

Despite the need to change more, I cannot believe that we might have played a role in this. The Air Force Times, for example, uses almost my exact analogy to justify the change. Expect us to follow up on this issue.
Inanities and Hyperbole in the Defense Department Budget Fight, continued...

In every On V update so far, we have provided some links about the defense department’s struggle to keep every single dollar of its budget intact. Today we will limit it to three good articles on the topic:

1. Chuck Spinney’s article on the F-35 is brilliant. The plane--in as simple words as possible--is a waste of money.

2. This is an even handed take on the subject by the NY Times.

3. This Todd Purdum article in Vanity Fair bemoans the growth of Top Secret America and the Military Industrial complex through George F. Kennan’s eyes. A great read.

Video Games Aren’t Violent?

A long time back, close friend Will M. guest posted about the link between violent video games and school shootings. Will quoted an expert in psychology and killing, Lt. Col. David Grossman, whose wildly influential books On Killing and On Combat influenced my thinking on this subject for years.

However, a recent EconomistSpecial report on video games” took issue with this very premise. In general, the link between video games and violence just hasn’t been shown in any scientifically rigorous way--ie experiments.

Update to Criminals and Counter-Insurgents

Any long time reader can tell that Michael C generally finds more in common between counter-insurgency wars and crime than between conventional inter-state wars and counter-insurgencies. On this, read this blog post by Mike Few, which shows the cooperation of the city of Salinas and students at the Naval Post Graduate School to help fight crime. It sure seems like crime and COIN are related.

Also, listen to this Fresh Air interview with David Kennedy called “Don’t Shoot”. David Kennedy’s approach to stopping inner-city crime seems awfully familiar to population-centric counter-insurgency too.

Wanat Stays in the News

Besides being the best topic for a war movie, Wanat had a profound effect on both authors of this blog because it occurred in Michael C’s battalion right before he returned to Italy. In the larger world, it remains insanely controversial (as pointed out by Derek in the comment’s section of that post.). But I believe Mark Bowden did a fairly even handed description of the larger issues with the battle of Wanat in his piece for Vanity Fair. (Full disclosure: I remain close to the leaders in that battalion, particularly Colonel Ostlund.)

Update to Kill Company

In the first few months of On V’s existence, we wrote about a brigade run amok in Iraq, punctuated by a company that earned the moniker “Kill Company”, in part for killing civilians. The leader of the Rakkasans--third brigade of the 101st Airborne Division--Colonel Michael D. Steele of Black Hawk Down fame, ended up becoming a case study in unethical leadership.

He popped into the news recently, supporting Herman Cain for presidential campaign. Enough said.

Update to Offensive and Security Operations

While researching a different post, I stumbled upon this Command and General Staff College thesis paper that argues for a middle ground between “population-centric” and “enemy-centric” counter-insurgency. It sounds a lot like my argument for having offensive, defensive and security operations going on simultaneously.

One comment

That update to military pay still blows my mind.