Donald Rumsfeld left the Pentagon and so far no one has been very sad about it. The new Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been showing that leadership doesn't need the trappings of power that Rumsfeld insisted upon with his countless ''snowflake'' memos – edicts from Rummy the Great that, like snowflakes, fell from heaven and melted away. Now it is time for Secretary Gates to make a few more changes. This time he needs to lobby his boss, the president, for the military's top general officer, Gen. Peter Pace, to tender his resignation.
Gen. Pace has been chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) for 18 months. He logged four years as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, giving him more than five years in a major power position in the Pentagon. During the course of his tenure as the number one or two man in the military chain of command, the military and nation have suffered tremendously. If he were a CEO, the board of directors would have removed him a long time ago and likely never promoted him to chairman in the first place.
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A short look at Peter Pace's Pentagon yields the following:
First, the country was founded on civilian control of the military. Yet, Pace seems to think he serves only one civilian, the commander in chief. He is more of a spokesman or cheerleader for the administration than a thoughtful man of arms. Aside from the non-responsive answers he gives Congress in hearings, Pace was recently asked by the state governors attending the National Governor's Association winter meeting at the White House, ''What is Plan B, what was the Pentagon's backup plan for Iraq?'' Pace's reply? ''I'm a Marine, and Marine's don't talk about failure, they talk about victory.'' This wasn't a press conference designed to get the word of the day out; it was a legitimate question by our top elected administrators who are supplying hundreds of thousands of their men and women in National Guard units to fight and die in this war. Pace should have been prepared and given an answer which reflected real thought and planning. He should have been respectful of the sacrifice made by those the governors are sworn to serve.
Second, General Pace has not taken the action necessary to make sure that our troops are safe and are protected with the best equipment possible. Rep. John Murtha, championed as pro-military before he started questioning the war, has found troop readiness, which was at an all-time high as we entered the war, to be at an all-time low today. Murtha has found that before the war 80 percent of the Army and almost 100 percent of the active combat units were rated at the highest levels of readiness and, ''Now the active-duty combat units at home and all of our Guard units are at the lowest level of readiness.'' Equipment is being borrowed from units stationed within the United States making them less available to respond to any other emergency that may take place. There is still a shortage of body armor. This with a budget that is larger than the entire world's military combined.
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Third, the care of our injured soldiers is just one more mismanaged department under Pace's watch. Walter Reed (just a symptom of a sick military medical system) is right under his nose but he was either ignorant or negligent, neither excuse passes the military's test for competence and integrity. The Washington Post has reported with endless detail about the conditions of the buildings at Walter Reed, as well as the problems that injured soldiers have had getting basic coordinated services when they return from Iraq. To make matters worse, injured soldiers were prohibited from speaking to the press without the consent of Walter Reed's press office. Thinkprogress.org questioned Army Spokesman Paul Boyce about this policy. He said it was a government building and if they wanted to talk they could go to Starbucks (across the street). Tell that to a solider who can't get out of bed. Pace succeeded in making the chain of command into a chain of cocoons so no one finds out the truth.
Taking care of wounded soldiers is one Pentagon task, making it safe for soldiers to serve is yet another. Peter Pace's Pentagon has failed at this job as well. As has been documented by a Pentagon report released on Wednesday, reports of sexual assaults increased 24 percent last year. Yes, some of this may be due to encouraging women to come forward, but some is due to conditions of recruitment such as allowing more ''waivers'' for convicted felons. Reports of rapes have increased with women saying they don't report it because they do not expect anything to be done about it (as only approximately 10 percent of the cases ever result in a formal charge). This needs to be addressed from the top, with Pace and the other Joint Chief's making sexual assault and harassment completely unacceptable.
The Sexual Assault Report makes Gen. Pace's remarks about homosexuality a couple of weeks ago even more absurd. While Pace believes that homosexuality is immoral, two soldiers a day are being discharged from the military for being gay. Some gay soldiers have risked all for their country, like Staff Sgt. Eric Alva who lost his leg in Iraq. Most of these discharges are not for gay conduct, but because someone in their unit may suspect them of being gay or have seen them in a public non-military setting with another person of the same sex, or because they refused to lie about their sexual orientation. Pace signs off on the moral waivers and turns a blind eye to the sexual assault of his own troops, but thinks gays should be kept out of the military because they are immoral? This guy runs the military?
It is time for new leadership in the Pentagon. Gen. Pace has had plenty of time to address the military's needs, and instead has chosen to take on the mantel of ''Denial and Divider in Chief.''