The second wave of killing and violence has started in Kosovo. Before we
lose American soldiers to the tribal violence of the Balkans, I want to
talk about how we have let down our troops.

Everyone who wears an American uniform has volunteered to protect and
serve America. In exchange, they expected America to give them the best
equipment and training, and pay that befit patriots who put their lives
on the line every day. That hasn’t happened.

America’s economy is booming, but Congress has failed to allocate enough
money to properly train all of our troops. As a result, our troops
cannot train as often as they need with live ammunition and functioning
equipment. Sadly, the reason they never sent Apache attack helicopters
into Kosovo was that the pilots had not received sufficient training to
qualify them for combat operations. What if we needed those pilots to
protect the United States?

Most members of Congress and the Clinton Administration have no military
experience. As a result, they don’t know what it means to be in the
military or how important training, proper equipment and proper pay and
benefits are to our defense.

Congress has reduced the size of the active duty military to the point
that we are now dependent upon National Guard and Reserves soldiers for
“normal” operations. Bosnia and Kosovo have made things much, much
worse. The operations tempo is so high and we so spread our troops so
thin that morale is plunging.

Now don’t get me wrong. Our military men and women want to serve their
country. Nevertheless, we are asking the men and women of our armed
forces to leave their spouses, children, loved ones and friends to do
things that warriors are not supposed to do.

The purpose of our military is to protect America’s national security by
being prepared on a moment’s notice to kill or be killed. Only those who
choose Military Police and Civil Affairs units are trained to be police
officers, diplomats, and politicians. Yet that is what the politicians
are forcing our “fighting” men and women to do. Every day that they
serve in Bosnia or Kosovo is a day where they diminish their sharpness
as soldiers, Marines and Air Force personnel.

It is not surprising, then, that our military is losing highly trained
enlisted personnel and career officers. Pilots are leaving in droves to
fly buses for United, American, and Delta. Non-commissioned officers,
the heart and soul of our military, are retiring as soon as they can.
Men and women who should become the heart of tomorrow’s military are
choosing their families over reenlistment. This is a crisis, my friend,
and it won’t get better until we get a new administration in the White
House and people in Congress who put our tax dollars behind our troops.

Congress has reneged on its promise regarding pensions and medical care
for vets and retirees. We have under-funded the Veteran’s Administration
Hospital system so that vets and retirees can’t receive world class
medical care close to their homes. Career soldiers and officers are so
frustrated with the “new military” that they are discouraging their
children from joining the military that they once loved.

Every branch is losing more people than it can replace. The Air Force
will soon have more planes than pilots. Every branch is struggling to
reach its enlistment targets. Some are so desperate that they now accept
recruits who haven’t graduated from high school. To make things worse,
no one seems to care.

America has not shared the wealth with those who protect us. Today, we
have military personnel who receive food stamps because their active
duty pay is not enough to lift them out of poverty. Today, many of our
soldiers make less than receptionists who work for the federal
government. Today, some of our soldiers who live in the San Diego area
have to live in Tijuana, Mexico, to be able to afford a decent home for
their family on military pay. Today, federal mailroom clerks will
receive better retirement and medical benefits than members of our
military. Today, college graduates who volunteer to protect America in
the midst of the greatest economic boom in our history make less than
high school grads who manage Domino Pizza storefronts. That is just
plain wrong.

It is time that we pay every member of our military a salary and
benefits that are competitive with the private sector. It is time that
we give them the best equipment, the best training and the best support
that money can buy. It is time that we reduce the operation tempo level
so that our soldiers don’t have to destroy their families to protect
foreigners against their neighbors. It is time to put America first and
America’s warriors first. It is time that we recognize those who are
prepared to die for us by paying them what they are worth and treating
them with the dignity that they have earned.

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