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Opinion Articles

by Tom Jurkowsky, Author

The Washington Times

November 16, 2023
Wshington, DC

Fifty years ago, then-Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird announced the U.S. military would, in the future, fill its ranks exclusively with volunteers rather than with draftees. The all-volunteer force was created, and conscription had come to an end.

The all-volunteer military has worked for our country. There have been some rough periods through both peace and war, but for the most part, it has proved resilient — up until now.

To say the all-volunteer force has hit a rough spot would be an understatement. A better characterization would be that recruiting for the military services has become a dire situation. Despite significant bonuses, eased enlistment requirements and the creation of programs to help potential recruits qualify academically and physically before even entering boot camp, the only military services that met recruiting goals this past year are the Marine Corps and the Space Force. In fact, the services have struggled for the past couple of years to meet recruiting goals.

In short, the nation is struggling to recruit and retain the force we need to defend our country and support our allies when called upon.

To turn this around, the services have raised the enlistment age, implemented new advertising campaigns, increased the use of social media and, in the Army’s case, created a new structure for its recruiting command.

There is another tool in the toolkit that can help the services meet the recruiting challenge, and that tool should be called upon immediately: the veterans who have served this country in uniform.

Those of us who have served have wonderful experiences and stories to tell how our military service has shaped our lives. Each of us who has served or is serving can tout the professional and leadership skills we’ve developed, the friendships we’ve built, the travel opportunities we’ve enjoyed, the educational opportunities we’ve been provided, and the health benefits the military provides for its members and their families.

Reversing the recruiting situation is clearly a challenge. But who better to tell the military’s story than those who have served and have benefited from all that the military has provided them? Quite simply, the military offers a rewarding experience — and it does not have to be a decades-long commitment. A four-year enlistment will suffice. Let the experience speak for itself. The opportunities are unmatched.

TheMessenger.com

October 21, 2023
West Palm Beach, FL

Few Americans approve of the job Congress is doing. According to a recent Gallup poll, Congress has a 17% approval rating, somewhat in line with the ratings it has received for the past two years. Gallup says more than 8-in-10 U.S. adults — or 82% — disapprove of Congress’ performance.

Findings by Pew Research Center are even more discouraging:

•          Just 4% of U.S. adults say the country’s political system is working “extremely” or “very” well;

•          Positive views of many government institutions have hit historic lows. Fewer than 2-in-10 Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what is right “just about always” (1%) or “most of the time” (15%). These numbers are the lowest trust numbers in nearly seven decades of Pew polling; and

•          The share of Americans who dislike both the Democratic and Republican parties is at its highest point in nearly 30 years.

These polling results should come as no surprise. If we look at some of the reported recent behavior of some of our elected officials, it’s no wonder Americans have little or no confidence in those who represent them.

What’s the solution? Who will come forth to clean the “Augean stables,” as in the Greek mythological story about Hercules being ordered to clean up King Augeas’ stables, which had not been cleaned in 30 years? Hercules knew this would mean getting dirty, but he also knew that someone must step up to get the job done. So, who will lead the fix to our Augean task in Congress, difficult and distasteful as it may be?

TheMessenger.com

September 26, 2023
West Palm Beach, FL

A disturbing report on the quality of living conditions at military barracks, released by the General Accountability Office (GAO), reflects a failure of America’s military leaders, who are supposed to look out for and care for the well-being of their people.

While inspecting 10 barracks, GAO investigators observed numerous potentially serious health and safety risks: mold and mildew, bug infestations, dysfunctional plumbing, no heating or air conditioning, inoperable fire systems, and broken windows. In one case, enlisted troops living in a barracks were told to clean up the biological waste following a suicide in one of the rooms.

The appalling report comes at a time when our nation’s armed services are struggling to meet their recruiting goals. One of the factors attributed to the challenging recruiting environment is the fewer influencers — individuals who are apt to encourage young people to join the military. These may include parents, relatives, teachers or coaches. However, what parent or other influencer would want their son/daughter/loved one to enlist in the military when they hear about living conditions that you might expect in a third-world country?

These leaders must look at the military budget holistically, to ensure that our nation has the assets and capabilities to address the threats we face. But it’s our people who form the foundation to achieve that goal. Improving the lives of service members and their families is the best investment we can make. It’s concerning that the military needs to be told about abhorrent conditions in barracks by an outside agency such as the GAO.

TheMessenger.com

Aug 25, 2023
West Palm Beach, FL

On Aug. 26 we will remember a dreadful event: the two-year anniversary of the attack on Abbey Gate in Afghanistan, where 13 U.S. service members were killed and 45 wounded during our disastrous troop withdrawal from that country. The event also serves as a reminder of an injustice that affects our combat-injured service veterans — an injustice that Congress must fix now.

Under current policy, military members forced to retire after a combat-related injury must forfeit a dollar of military retirement pay for every dollar of Veterans Affairs (VA) provided disability benefits they receive. Reducing the retirement pay of a combat-disabled veteran — effectively using it to pay for their disability benefit — is as wrong as it sounds. 

Legislation to correct this wrong, the Major Richard Star Act, has the support of more than two-thirds of Congress ; 327 House members and 71 senators signed on as co-sponsors. The Star Act would repeal this unfair offset that prevents more than 50,000 veterans who live with the wounds of combat from accessing both their VA disability benefits and military retirement pay. 

Our political leaders must make certain that our veterans are not short-changed by unfair rules that cancel out one earned benefit so they can receive another. Veterans should not be pushed aside because they were injured in war. Regardless of their time in service, these veterans have earned all their benefits through extraordinary sacrifice while doing what their country asked them to do. Combat-injured service members deserve better.

TheMessenger.com

July 18, 2023
West Palm Beach, FL

The recent passage of the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in the House of Representatives by a mere nine votes should concern every American who cares about our military, its people who wear the uniform, and their families.

The NDAA is an important annual piece of legislation that specifies the budget and expenditures of the Department of Defense (DOD). It also sets policies under which money will be spent. Since the passage of the first NDAA in 1961, it typically has won bipartisan support — even during the recent years of political polarization.

The detailed work leading up to full votes in the House and Senate is done by the Armed Services Committees in both chambers. In June, it appeared the 2024 NDAA would receive the same type of bipartisan support that it has previously. In fact, the basic legislation won a clearly bipartisan 58-1 vote from the House Armed Services Committee.

Adm. Mike Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was quoted recently as saying that some influencers — veterans, parents, relatives — are telling young people not to go into the service. “Moms, dads, uncles, coaches and pastors don’t see it as a good choice,” he said. Again, is it any wonder? It remains to be seen whether or not the provisions discussed above make it into the final NDAA and are approved. But to some individuals, the damage has been done.

Peter Feaver, a political scientist who has written on the growing gap between civilian and military leaders, says the political tug-of-war over the NDAA hurts the military and shakes public confidence in the institution.

The Washington Times

July 6, 2023
Washington, DC

Sen. Tommy Tuberville is doing grave harm to our nation’s readiness and national security by his actions in holding up the promotions and reassignment of more than 250 generals and admirals.

The Alabama Republican began blocking these promotions in February because he objects to a Department of Defense policy that allows service members to take leave and covers their expenses if they choose to have an abortion.

The senator believes the policy violates federal law. He says he won’t drop his objection to the policy until the Defense Department removes the policy.

In May, seven former defense secretaries signed a letter to the two top Senate leaders — New York Democrat Charles E. Schumer and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell. The former secretaries characterized Mr. Tuberville’s actions as “irresponsible and uncaring” because they harm the families of those who serve their country in uniform.

When an athletic team faces a coaching change, there is angst and uncertainty. It can cause unease and ambiguity about individual roles or responsibilities. This uncertainty may be reflected on the field or in the win-loss column.

But placing 250 senior military officers on hold is far more consequential than a simple win or loss. Leaving 250 officers in doubt at a time of enormous global geopolitical sensitivity sends the wrong signal to our adversaries.

It also sends a poor signal to our allies and friends about what we see as priorities in a challenging geopolitical environment.

The Washington Post

June 16, 2023
Washington, DC

It’s time for Navy leadership to once and for all put an end to the discussion about another golf course on Greenbury Point in Annapolis. The environmentalists don’t want it, the community doesn’t want it, and the Navy, which already has a beautiful course, doesn’t need it.

Greenbury Point lies across the Severn River from the Naval Academy on a piece of property that the community enjoys. Families enjoy it for walking, running, fishing or simply enjoying the flora and fauna that punctuates Greenbury Point’s beauty.

Greenbury Point is one of the few places in Anne Arundel County that allows public access to the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay has almost 12,000 miles of shoreline, and only 2 percent is publicly accessible. A feasibility study to examine building a second golf course at Greenbury Point has many citizens concerned. Hopefully, a feasibility study will look at public sentiment. Since 1845, the Navy has enjoyed an outstanding relationship with the community. Why would the Navy want to throw that relationship to the wayside and incur the wrath of the community?

Leadership has many principles, including “do the right thing.” The right thing for Navy leadership in this case is very clear: Direct those who continue to pursue another golf course to stop. It’s clearly the right thing to do. To do otherwise is running into shoal waters with the community.

Let’s focus on designing and building more badly needed ships — not golf courses.

The Baltimore Banner

June 9, 2023
Baltimore, MD

The Navy’s newest warship, the guided missile destroyer USS Carl Levin, will be commissioned in Baltimore on June 24. Although it isn’t among cities with a Navy installation, the Navy chose Baltimore for the ceremony to commission its newest ship, demonstrating it still sees Baltimore as a Navy town.

The city has a rich maritime tradition that was rooted centuries ago. The Navy’s first ship, the USS Constellation, launched in Baltimore in 1797. Baltimore has always been considered one of the great shipbuilding cities — the birthplace of the famous clipper ships, for example. In fact, in the 1790s, Baltimore led the nation in shipbuilding. During World War II, the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard built 384 

Liberty ships, 94 Victory ships and 45 amphibious landing ships.

Those facts validate Baltimore as a Navy town and having the USS Carl Levin brought to life here. The ship was built in Bath, Maine, and is named after the Michigan senator who served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Although shipbuilding is no longer a dominant industry here, Baltimore’s connection to the sea is vibrant and important. Baltimore is the 11th-largest port in the U.S. measured in tonnage and ninth measured in cargo value. A few years ago, the port set records in numerous categories. These included handling 43.6 million tons of cargo, 858,000 new vehicles and 1.1 million 20-foot container units.

The Port of Baltimore supports 15,330 direct jobs and more than 139,000 jobs connected to port work. The port generates more than $395 million in taxes and $2.6 billion in business income. It serves more than 50 ocean carriers that make nearly 1,800 annual visits.

China, now our main rival, continues to grow its navy at an exponential rate and rebukes the international rules of order. It demonstrated its disregard for complying with accepted maritime rules most recently with its dangerous actions in the South China Sea when a Chinese navy ship crossed dangerously in front of a U.S. Navy destroyer — one like the USS Carl Levin — at 150 yards.

The Messenger

June 1, 2023
West Palm Beach, FL

This year marks the 50th anniversary of America’s all-volunteer military. In January 1973, then-Defense Secretary Melvin Laird announced that, moving forward, the U.S. military services would fill their ranks solely with volunteers. Many Americans supported the decision, although there were those who thought it wouldn’t work.

The decision to eliminate the draft has been successful, and the concept has served this country well. In recent remarks, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said the all-volunteer force “has delivered for us operationally and societally … over the last 50 years, in times of conflict and in times of peace. It has continued to be the right decision.” 

But sadly, our military services today face serious challenges to fill their ranks with qualified men and women. Virtually all the services cannot meet their recruiting goals. In fact, the problem is so severe that we should consider it to be a national security crisis. 

The Army is the worst off. It missed its 2022 recruiting goal of 60,000 recruits by 15,000, and it will miss its 2023 recruiting goal. The Army may need to cut its overall force by 10,000 in 2023 because of a lack of accessions. The other branches also have reported difficulty in reaching their targets.

Congress can play a key role in supporting recruiting by protecting the benefits that have been promised to those who join the military and their families. In addition to reasonable pay, these commitments include housing, health care, child care and prevention of food insecurity. We’ve seen too many members having to rely on food stamps, for example — this is not an enticement to join the military. 

Our military leaders have much work to do on several fronts. When we continue to see reports of sexual assault and harassment, suicide, and poor living conditions in government housing (mold, leaking roofs, vermin), our leaders need to address these issues. Sexual assaults and poor housing conditions have occurred for too many years and it’s time to hold people accountable. What parent wants to encourage a son or daughter to be part of such an organization?

The Washington Times

May 18, 2023
Washington, DC

It’s time for Congress to fix a wrong — actually, an injustice — that affects our combat-injured veterans.

Under current policy, military members forced to retire after a combatrelated injury must forfeit a portion of their Department of Defense retirement pay earned for years of service, equal to their veterans disability compensation. Reducing the retirement pay of a combat-disabled veteran — in effect, using it to pay their disability benefit — is just as wrong as it sounds.

When Congress convenes to mark up the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, it must act to correct this injustice. Over two-thirds of Congress supported legislation last year to remove the offset; this year, Congress must include the Major Richard Star Act in the NDAA.

Put simply, this offset makes no sense. DOD retirement pay and veterans disability compensation are two benefits established by Congress for entirely different reasons; reducing pay because of a combat disability is not the way to achieve savings. How can this be seen as anything but an attempt to balance the books on the backs of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who risk their lives and get hurt?

This is not how a nation should treat those who volunteer to represent their country and risk life and limb. The policy sends the wrong message to future service members, especially when our recruiting efforts are facing serious problems.

Star was injured on the last of several deployments and was forced into medical retirement before he could complete 20 years of service. Accordingly, his DOD retirement pay was reduced, dollar for dollar, to match his veterans disability.Lawmakers must make certain our veterans are not shortchanged by unfair rules that cancel out one earned benefit so they can receive another. Our veterans should not be pushed aside because they were injured in a war. Regardless of their length of service, these veterans have earned their benefits through their extraordinary sacrifice in defending our nation. Our combat-injured service members deserve better.

The Washington Times

May 11, 2023
Washington, DC

Page B-1

The U.S. Navy has a serious problem. The question is, is anyone paying attention.

The threat from the Chinese navy has been well documented. China has already surpassed the U.S. in number of ships and is the largest navy in the world. China has 348 ships to America’s 296. China will continue to build more ships and is estimated to have a fleet of about 440 in five years. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy is decommissioning ships and will bottom out at 280 in 2027. The Navy’s plan is to decommission ships and take older units out of service, allowing it to pay for a future fleet. The plan is referred to as “divest to invest.”

The plan may be a good and well-intentioned one. But the threat from China is now, not five years from now.

In one of its reports released earlier this year, GAO said that Navy warships are breaking down more often than expected and are taking longer to repair.

These are not good signs for a Navy that is facing a persistent and growing threat from a Chinese navy that is enhancing its capabilities. Even the chief of naval operations, in recent testimony before a House committee, said he’s concerned.

“I’m not satisfied with where we are with respect to maintenance and readiness of the force,” said Adm. Mike Gilday. “It does need to improve.”

Illustrating its current readiness condition, the Navy-Marine Corps team has been unable to deploy to three urgent missions over the past 18 months. The two most recent were the Navy’s inability to send amphibious ships with Marines to offer support after the horrific earthquake in Turkey and Syria and the evacuation of personnel from Sudan.

Neither of these events was combat-related, but noncombatant evacuations, humanitarian assistance operations and disaster relief are part of our country’s DNA. It’s who we are. When sailors and Marines go ashore and provide assistance, including medical support, it makes a statement and enhances our reputation as a global force for good.

Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, told Congress that he had serious regrets over the fact the Marines were not available to support the earthquake and the Sudan evacuation. Gen. Berger said that as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he owes the political leadership the best options.

“Here I felt we couldn’t offer them the best option because we have the Marines and the equipment and they’re trained but we didn’t have the ships,” he said.

The Capital Gazette

April 11,  2023
Annapolis, MD

It’s quite common for Americans to lament their daily intake of news. It can be very debilitating to hear the seemingly constant flow of negative items — violence, crime, inflation, weather-related destruction and failures of our political leadership — to name a few. It can be numbing.

The recent school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, like so many other mass shootings before it, was more than numbing, however. Watching the TV coverage led me to tears. One image struck me especially hard — the image of a little girl with her face pressed against the school bus window, crying in both anguish and fear.

Nashville was another senseless tragedy our political leaders allowed to happen. As I read the accounts of the shooting, I became incensed with the reaction from some of our political leadership:

  • President Joe Biden: “I can’t do anything except plead with the Congress to act reasonably. I have gone the full extent of my executive authority to do on my own about guns.”

  • Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.): “It’s a horrible tragedy, horrible situation. And we’re not going to fix it. Criminals are going to be criminals … I don’t see any role that we could do other than mess things up, honestly.”

  • Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas): “I would say we’ve done about as far as we can go — unless somebody identifies some area that we didn’t address.”                                                            

  • Congress needs to do something to solve this national crisis, including:Support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons like the AR-15.Support requiring background checks for all gun buyers.Support a so-called “red flag” law that would allow police or family members to have guns removed from a person at risk for violent behavior.Congressional members could also demonstrate their integrity by refusing to accept campaign contributions from gun lobbyists like the National Rifle Association.

Perhaps the most profound words were said by Senate Chaplain Barry Black when he offered his morning prayer the day after the Nashville shooting:

“Lord, when babies die at a church school, it is time for us to move beyond thoughts and prayers. Remind our lawmakers of the words of the British statesman Edmund Burke: ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.’ Lord, deliver our senators from the paralysis of analysis that waits for the miraculous.”

The Washington Times

March 22, 2023
Washington, DC

Over the past several years, the preponderance of discussions regarding China has focused on its threat to Taiwan and its increased military capabilities.

 

As China has developed its military power at an almost exponential pace, it has also quietly established economic, political and military relationships with many countries around the globe. Virtually no regions have been overlooked.

 

Qin Gang, China’s new foreign minister, recently said that “China’s diplomacy has pressed the accelerator button” as he discussed his country’s international efforts

 

Has the U.S. watched these relationships develop, or have we slept through the alarms?

The Chinese action is a significant diplomatic achievement that legitimizes China. It also ensures a more stable environment economically for China — a necessary ingredient in the export of oil necessary to fuel China’s economic engine.

 

China’s brokering of the Saudi-Iran deal is just a foreshadowing of the challenges the U.S. faces in the near and long term. Its Belt Road initiative is the centerpiece of President Xi Jinping’s foreign policy — a massive $1 trillion global infrastructure program undertaken 10 years ago by making investments in 150 countries.

 

What should concern every American and our leaders is how China has positioned itself globally. This, too, should set off alarm bells.

Rear Adm. Michael Studeman, the Navy’s top intelligence officer, perhaps said it best: “It’s disturbing how ill-informed and naive the average American is on China. ... China is pretty good about flying under the radar on things that are frankly, very alerting.”

 

We have overslept and failed to hear and see the alarm bells. The question is whether we have time to get to work and address this issue. Our leadership, both at the executive and legislative levels, needs to grasp the situation and address it quickly. It may already be too late. 

Capital Gazette

February 7, 2023
Annapolis, MD

Gov. Wes Moore has spoken — with a proposal that would allow the state to retain and attract military veterans to Maryland. The state legislature now needs to seize this opportunity and follow 38 other states (23 since 2018) that fully exempt military retired pay from state taxes with no age restrictions. Our neighboring states, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, have done it right. They do not tax retired military pay at all — while Maryland lags behind on this issue.

Stating he does not want to “be a farm team for Virginia” when trying to keep military retirees in Maryland, Moore is proposing legislation to exempt $25,000 of military retired pay in 2023 and then $40,000 in 2024. Clearly, this is a positive step in the right direction, but more must be done for Maryland to be equally competitive.The 38 states that fully exempt military retired pay from their income tax understand that it generates more revenue. How is this possible?

The answer is simple. Individuals who retire from active duty in the military and earn a monthly retirement pension cannot live on that stipend alone. If they have a family, living on that income is not nearly sufficient. The only way they can live is to support their military retirement by starting a second career. The income resulting from that second job is, and should be, taxable.

The Washington
Times

January 17, 2023
Washington, DC

As we watched the tumultuous discussions and votes to elect a new Republican leader of the House of Representatives, one could not help but ask: “Is this the Republican Party we’ve come to understand? Is this the same party that proudly fought for a strong national defense and the people that represent this country in uniform?”

The concessions that were made to elect a new House speaker will clearly prove problematic. One is especially troublesome and should concern every American as our national security will be put at risk — the concession that would cap discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels.

In fiscal 2022, the defense budget was $780 billion. In 2023, a bipartisan Congress agreed to an $850 billion budget. But a concession capping discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels could mean a possible $70 billion cut to defense.

When have we ever seen Republicans allowing such a dramatic cut to the defense budget? Just a few months ago, both political parties agreed in truly bipartisan fashion to a record level of spending to meet the global threats our nation faces. Such a concession will have global implications.

The Baltimore Banner.com

December 17, 2022
Baltimore, MD

The Maryland General Assembly will soon convene for its 2023 session. When it does, it will have a golden opportunity to increase state revenues by passing legislation that would fully exempt military retired pay from state income tax. Such legislation would help stem a migration of skilled and experienced personnel who retire from the military and leave the state because of state income tax or tax rates higher than other states. Instead, we should encourage them to pursue careers in Maryland after they retire from the military.

Legislators in more than 20 states during the past four years — some led by Democrats, some led by Republicans — have seen the financial value of fully exempting military retired pay. More than three dozen states already exempt that pay entirely, nine of which don’t tax any income, including military benefits. Just this year, legislators in several states have approved measures that include the retired pay exemptions. About a dozen states, including Maryland, allow for some tax credits or partial exemptions for military retired pay.

…Those states that understand the economics of exempting military retired pay will reap the benefits that come with creating an attractive fiscal landscape.

When Gov.-elect Wes Moore promises “to leave no one behind,” that should include military retirees. If the Legislature doesn’t act to exempt military retired pay, Maryland itself will continue to be left further behind.

The Washington
Post

October 7, 2022
Washington, DC

The Naval Academy Athletic Association (NAAA) should drop its plans for a new golf course at Greenbury Point. Despite concern from a range of political leaders and displeasure from local citizens, the NAAA persists in pursuing plans for the course.

 

It’s time for the Navy’s leadership in Washington to step in and tell Naval Academy officials to “cease and desist” with these plans. The Naval Academy does not need a new course. It already has one very near the proposed course at Greenbury Point. The existing course is quite beautiful and was renovated recently. It serves the military community and the Naval Academy athletic program very well. Also, a second golf course does nothing to support the mission of the Naval Academy: to develop midshipmen mentally, morally and physically.

 

…Our leaders need to put their heads on straight and focus on the things that truly matter for our Navy. A new golf course is not one of them.

The Washington Times

September 28, 2022
Washington, DC

Our military’s recruiting efforts have clearly reached crisis mode. All our services are facing challenges in meeting their goals. The services combined needed to recruit about 150,000 new recruits this year across its six services. That goal will not be met, coming up 15% short. The Army is clearly facing the most severe problem, as it has met only about 60% of its target...

Recruiting is not helped when 52% of parents do not recommend military service to their offspring.

With those facts being said, it was very disappointing recently for Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth to blame the media for exacerbating the recruiting crisis. Ms. Wormuth, speaking to a group of soldiers, said the media hurts recruiting when it discusses a range of problems the military is dealing with such as sexual assault and mental health issues. She says resultant coverage of these issues creates a warped sense of the services.

Our recruiting crisis should serve as a wake-up call to every American — and certainly for every political leader, starting with our president. Our armed services are struggling to meet recruiting goals like never before. As a result, we are facing a national security crisis that must be addressed now. It’s not the fault of the media that we have reached this extreme situation.

The Washington Times

August 2, 2022
Washington, DC

It’s time for some members of Congress to put aside politics and focus on legislation that will help our veterans who have been exposed to toxins resulting from burn pits that were used in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The pits were used to burn various materials ranging from garbage, human waste, chemicals and paint to lubricants, ordnance and medical waste — all often ignited with jet fuel.

Unfortunately, what has resulted from these burn pits has been referred to as the Agent Orange of our time in Southwest Asia. We have seen — and continue to see — a wave of rare cancers and other illnesses suffered by those who have served in those theaters long after being exposed to the toxins from the burn pits. Some veterans, long after their service in uniform, have already died from those illnesses.

Our veterans did not hesitate when we asked them to serve our country and go to war. The Senate should do the same to honor their sacrifice and service. It’s time for Senate members to remember the word “Promise” in the legislation.

The Washington Times

July 28, 2022
Washington, DC

A recent spate of polls on a wide range of issues taken by some of our nation’s respected polling companies should raise concern over the direction of our country. The trend lines are alarming and reflect the desperate need for leadership to ‘right the ship.’

Here’s a snapshot of some of the polls that should raise red flags:

  • A Monmouth poll says 88% of U.S. adults say our country is on the wrong track—a record low going back to 2013. An AP/NORC poll confirms this national dissatisfaction and says it’s bipartisan with 92% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats saying the country is moving the wrong way.

  • A Gallup poll says Americans are less confident in major institutions than they were a year ago, with significant declines for most of the 16 institutions routinely measured. New lows in confidence are for the Supreme Court (25%), presidency (23%), and Congress (7%). These numbers represent an 11-point drop for the Supreme Court and 15 points for the presidency. It’s noteworthy this poll was taken before the court issued controversial rulings on gun laws and abortion.

  • The military (64%) and small business (68%) are the only institutions where a majority of Americans expressed confidence.

  • Five other institutions polled by Gallup are at their lowest points in at least three decades (repeat decades)—police (45%); organized religion (31%); newspapers (16%); criminal justice system (14%); and big business (14%).

The Hill

June 21, 2022
Washington, DC

The military services face serious recruiting challenges, and while members of Congress know about this looming threat to national security, greater public awareness may push lawmakers to provide those in uniform with a much-needed pay boost. 

“To put it bluntly, I’m worried we are now in the early days of a long-term threat to the all-volunteer force, with a small and declining number of Americans who are eligible and interested in military service,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, after hearing testimony this spring from service personnel leaders. “Every single metric tracking the military recruiting environment is going in the wrong direction.”

The services are responding to these challenges with cash bonuses for signing on — some as high as $50,000. “We’ve never offered $50,000 to join the Army,” said Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, who heads up Army Recruiting Command. “We’re in a search for talent just like corporate America and other businesses. … We’re trying to match incentives for what resonates — for example, financial incentives.”

Stabilizing the all-volunteer force goes beyond bonuses. The number of Americans qualified to join the military is getting smaller. Of the nation’s 31.8 million 17- to 24-year-olds, only 9.1 million meet the initial requirements. Of those, only 4.4 million meet academic requirements. The pool is further reduced by those who have police records, drug/substance abuse issues, or are obese. These factors rapidly shrink the initial pool of 31.8 million to about 465,000 attractive recruits, many of whom will have opportunities in the private sector.

The Washington Times

May 18, 2022
Washington, DC

A nation’s standing in the global world order has always been judged by the strength of its naval fleet — both the quantity and quality of its ships. President Theodore Roosevelt sent the world a powerful message when he built the Great White Fleet and sent 16 new battleships on a worldwide cruise in 1907. Roosevelt’s message was the U.S. was a maritime power with a capable and congressionally supported blue-water fleet. “A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace,” said Mr. Roosevelt.

However, the tide has turned. While leaders like the Roosevelts and Vinson saw the need and benefits resulting from a strong maritime presence, we’ve seen our Navy shrink to levels that should cause alarm. When the proposed budget for the next fiscal year was released a few weeks ago, the Navy budget calls for reducing the fleet from 298 ships to 280 by 2027. Meanwhile, China — our chief adversary — is now larger than the U.S. Navy with 360 battle force ships. China is on a pace to have 425 battle force ships by 2030.

In the past 10 years, China has increased its battle force ships by 140. China added more than 100 in just the past five years alone. Size alone does not necessarily make for a capable fleet. But in China’s case, we see their surface ships, submarines, aircraft, weapons and supporting systems much more capable than they were at the start of the 1990s, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report.

The Hill

May 8, 2022
Washington, DC

Tens of thousands of military members forced to retire after combat-related injuries suffer a lifelong financial injustice: They must forfeit part of their vested retirement pay to receive disability compensation. Reducing the retirement pay of combat-disabled veterans is as wrong as it sounds, and Congress must act on pending legislation to correct this inequity.

When a service member retires from the military with at least 20 years of service, he or she is entitled to receive retired pay from the Department of Defense (DOD). Medical retirees forced to leave service before the 20-year mark because of a combat injury receive retirement pay, but they are forced to give up $1 of their vested longevity pay from the DOD for every dollar of disability compensation they receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Thankfully, the Major Richard Star Act would repeal the unfair offset that prevents more than 50,000 veterans living with the wounds of war from accessing both their disability benefits and retirement pay.

Capital Gazette

March15, 2022
Annapolis, MD

President Joe Biden’s decision to stop purchasing Russian oil is the correct one. The question is, “What took him so long to make it?”

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine ravages that country, the purchase of oil from Russia was morally reprehensible, even for a mere 11 days. This decision should have been made on day one of Russia’s unprovoked invasion into a sovereign country.

Joe Biden’s decision to stop purchasing Russian oil is the correct one. The question is, “What took him so long to make it?”

The answer to this dilemma can be easily solved by our becoming energy independent. We seemed to be well on our way until President Biden blocked the Keystone XL pipeline. He also banned new oil and gas development on public land. We can resume achieving that goal by reinstating the pipeline and lifting the ban.

Capital Gazette

February 15, 2022
Annapolis, MD

Maryland has a golden opportunity to retain many skilled, disciplined and experienced individuals — but only if our state legislators pass legislation as 35 other states have done. The required legislation would exempt military retiree pay from state income tax, enticing career military personnel to remain in the state and pursue second careers here.

This legislative action would make a significant contribution to the state’s economy, generating tax revenue from follow-on jobs by the military retirees who remain.

The Towson University Regional Economic Studies Institute completed a study entitled, “A Study of Employment in the State’s Defense Industry.” The study was done at the direction of the state legislature.

The Towson study found that in the second quarter of 2019 alone, there were nearly 24,000 job postings for defense-related jobs.

Capital Gazette

February 7, 2023
Annapolis, MD

Gov. Wes Moore has spoken — with a proposal that would allow the state to retain and attract military veterans to Maryland. The state legislature now needs to seize this opportunity and follow 38 other states (23 since 2018) that fully exempt military retired pay from state taxes with no age restrictions. Our neighboring states, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, have done it right. They do not tax retired military pay at all — while Maryland lags behind on this issue.

Stating he does not want to “be a farm team for Virginia” when trying to keep military retirees in Maryland, Moore is proposing legislation to exempt $25,000 of military retired pay in 2023 and then $40,000 in 2024. Clearly, this is a positive step in the right direction, but more must be done for Maryland to be equally competitive.The 38 states that fully exempt military retired pay from their income tax understand that it generates more revenue. How is this possible?

The answer is simple. Individuals who retire from active duty in the military and earn a monthly retirement pension cannot live on that stipend alone. If they have a family, living on that income is not nearly sufficient. The only way they can live is to support their military retirement by starting a second career. The income resulting from that second job is, and should be, taxable.

The Washington
Times

January 17, 2023
Washington, DC

As we watched the tumultuous discussions and votes to elect a new Republican leader of the House of Representatives, one could not help but ask: “Is this the Republican Party we’ve come to understand? Is this the same party that proudly fought for a strong national defense and the people that represent this country in uniform?”

The concessions that were made to elect a new House speaker will clearly prove problematic. One is especially troublesome and should concern every American as our national security will be put at risk — the concession that would cap discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels.

In fiscal 2022, the defense budget was $780 billion. In 2023, a bipartisan Congress agreed to an $850 billion budget. But a concession capping discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels could mean a possible $70 billion cut to defense.

When have we ever seen Republicans allowing such a dramatic cut to the defense budget? Just a few months ago, both political parties agreed in truly bipartisan fashion to a record level of spending to meet the global threats our nation faces. Such a concession will have global implications.

The Baltimore Banner.com

December 17, 2022
Baltimore, MD

The Maryland General Assembly will soon convene for its 2023 session. When it does, it will have a golden opportunity to increase state revenues by passing legislation that would fully exempt military retired pay from state income tax. Such legislation would help stem a migration of skilled and experienced personnel who retire from the military and leave the state because of state income tax or tax rates higher than other states. Instead, we should encourage them to pursue careers in Maryland after they retire from the military.

Legislators in more than 20 states during the past four years — some led by Democrats, some led by Republicans — have seen the financial value of fully exempting military retired pay. More than three dozen states already exempt that pay entirely, nine of which don’t tax any income, including military benefits. Just this year, legislators in several states have approved measures that include the retired pay exemptions. About a dozen states, including Maryland, allow for some tax credits or partial exemptions for military retired pay.

…Those states that understand the economics of exempting military retired pay will reap the benefits that come with creating an attractive fiscal landscape.

When Gov.-elect Wes Moore promises “to leave no one behind,” that should include military retirees. If the Legislature doesn’t act to exempt military retired pay, Maryland itself will continue to be left further behind.

The Washington
Post

October 7, 2022
Washington, DC

The Naval Academy Athletic Association (NAAA) should drop its plans for a new golf course at Greenbury Point. Despite concern from a range of political leaders and displeasure from local citizens, the NAAA persists in pursuing plans for the course.

 

It’s time for the Navy’s leadership in Washington to step in and tell Naval Academy officials to “cease and desist” with these plans. The Naval Academy does not need a new course. It already has one very near the proposed course at Greenbury Point. The existing course is quite beautiful and was renovated recently. It serves the military community and the Naval Academy athletic program very well. Also, a second golf course does nothing to support the mission of the Naval Academy: to develop midshipmen mentally, morally and physically.

 

…Our leaders need to put their heads on straight and focus on the things that truly matter for our Navy. A new golf course is not one of them.

The Washington Times

September 28, 2022
Washington, DC

Our military’s recruiting efforts have clearly reached crisis mode. All our services are facing challenges in meeting their goals. The services combined needed to recruit about 150,000 new recruits this year across its six services. That goal will not be met, coming up 15% short. The Army is clearly facing the most severe problem, as it has met only about 60% of its target...

Recruiting is not helped when 52% of parents do not recommend military service to their offspring.

With those facts being said, it was very disappointing recently for Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth to blame the media for exacerbating the recruiting crisis. Ms. Wormuth, speaking to a group of soldiers, said the media hurts recruiting when it discusses a range of problems the military is dealing with such as sexual assault and mental health issues. She says resultant coverage of these issues creates a warped sense of the services.

Our recruiting crisis should serve as a wake-up call to every American — and certainly for every political leader, starting with our president. Our armed services are struggling to meet recruiting goals like never before. As a result, we are facing a national security crisis that must be addressed now. It’s not the fault of the media that we have reached this extreme situation.

The Washington Times

August 2, 2022
Washington, DC

It’s time for some members of Congress to put aside politics and focus on legislation that will help our veterans who have been exposed to toxins resulting from burn pits that were used in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The pits were used to burn various materials ranging from garbage, human waste, chemicals and paint to lubricants, ordnance and medical waste — all often ignited with jet fuel.

Unfortunately, what has resulted from these burn pits has been referred to as the Agent Orange of our time in Southwest Asia. We have seen — and continue to see — a wave of rare cancers and other illnesses suffered by those who have served in those theaters long after being exposed to the toxins from the burn pits. Some veterans, long after their service in uniform, have already died from those illnesses.

Our veterans did not hesitate when we asked them to serve our country and go to war. The Senate should do the same to honor their sacrifice and service. It’s time for Senate members to remember the word “Promise” in the legislation.

The Washington Times

July 28, 2022
Washington, DC

A recent spate of polls on a wide range of issues taken by some of our nation’s respected polling companies should raise concern over the direction of our country. The trend lines are alarming and reflect the desperate need for leadership to ‘right the ship.’

Here’s a snapshot of some of the polls that should raise red flags:

  • A Monmouth poll says 88% of U.S. adults say our country is on the wrong track—a record low going back to 2013. An AP/NORC poll confirms this national dissatisfaction and says it’s bipartisan with 92% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats saying the country is moving the wrong way.

  • A Gallup poll says Americans are less confident in major institutions than they were a year ago, with significant declines for most of the 16 institutions routinely measured. New lows in confidence are for the Supreme Court (25%), presidency (23%), and Congress (7%). These numbers represent an 11-point drop for the Supreme Court and 15 points for the presidency. It’s noteworthy this poll was taken before the court issued controversial rulings on gun laws and abortion.

  • The military (64%) and small business (68%) are the only institutions where a majority of Americans expressed confidence.

  • Five other institutions polled by Gallup are at their lowest points in at least three decades (repeat decades)—police (45%); organized religion (31%); newspapers (16%); criminal justice system (14%); and big business (14%).

The Hill

June 21, 2022
Washington, DC

The military services face serious recruiting challenges, and while members of Congress know about this looming threat to national security, greater public awareness may push lawmakers to provide those in uniform with a much-needed pay boost. 

“To put it bluntly, I’m worried we are now in the early days of a long-term threat to the all-volunteer force, with a small and declining number of Americans who are eligible and interested in military service,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, after hearing testimony this spring from service personnel leaders. “Every single metric tracking the military recruiting environment is going in the wrong direction.”

The services are responding to these challenges with cash bonuses for signing on — some as high as $50,000. “We’ve never offered $50,000 to join the Army,” said Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, who heads up Army Recruiting Command. “We’re in a search for talent just like corporate America and other businesses. … We’re trying to match incentives for what resonates — for example, financial incentives.”

Stabilizing the all-volunteer force goes beyond bonuses. The number of Americans qualified to join the military is getting smaller. Of the nation’s 31.8 million 17- to 24-year-olds, only 9.1 million meet the initial requirements. Of those, only 4.4 million meet academic requirements. The pool is further reduced by those who have police records, drug/substance abuse issues, or are obese. These factors rapidly shrink the initial pool of 31.8 million to about 465,000 attractive recruits, many of whom will have opportunities in the private sector.

The Washington Times

May 18, 2022
Washington, DC

A nation’s standing in the global world order has always been judged by the strength of its naval fleet — both the quantity and quality of its ships. President Theodore Roosevelt sent the world a powerful message when he built the Great White Fleet and sent 16 new battleships on a worldwide cruise in 1907. Roosevelt’s message was the U.S. was a maritime power with a capable and congressionally supported blue-water fleet. “A good Navy is not a provocation to war. It is the surest guaranty of peace,” said Mr. Roosevelt.

However, the tide has turned. While leaders like the Roosevelts and Vinson saw the need and benefits resulting from a strong maritime presence, we’ve seen our Navy shrink to levels that should cause alarm. When the proposed budget for the next fiscal year was released a few weeks ago, the Navy budget calls for reducing the fleet from 298 ships to 280 by 2027. Meanwhile, China — our chief adversary — is now larger than the U.S. Navy with 360 battle force ships. China is on a pace to have 425 battle force ships by 2030.

In the past 10 years, China has increased its battle force ships by 140. China added more than 100 in just the past five years alone. Size alone does not necessarily make for a capable fleet. But in China’s case, we see their surface ships, submarines, aircraft, weapons and supporting systems much more capable than they were at the start of the 1990s, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report.

The Hill

May 8, 2022
Washington, DC

Tens of thousands of military members forced to retire after combat-related injuries suffer a lifelong financial injustice: They must forfeit part of their vested retirement pay to receive disability compensation. Reducing the retirement pay of combat-disabled veterans is as wrong as it sounds, and Congress must act on pending legislation to correct this inequity.

When a service member retires from the military with at least 20 years of service, he or she is entitled to receive retired pay from the Department of Defense (DOD). Medical retirees forced to leave service before the 20-year mark because of a combat injury receive retirement pay, but they are forced to give up $1 of their vested longevity pay from the DOD for every dollar of disability compensation they receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Thankfully, the Major Richard Star Act would repeal the unfair offset that prevents more than 50,000 veterans living with the wounds of war from accessing both their disability benefits and retirement pay.

Capital Gazette

March15, 2022
Annapolis, MD

President Joe Biden’s decision to stop purchasing Russian oil is the correct one. The question is, “What took him so long to make it?”

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine ravages that country, the purchase of oil from Russia was morally reprehensible, even for a mere 11 days. This decision should have been made on day one of Russia’s unprovoked invasion into a sovereign country.

Joe Biden’s decision to stop purchasing Russian oil is the correct one. The question is, “What took him so long to make it?”

The answer to this dilemma can be easily solved by our becoming energy independent. We seemed to be well on our way until President Biden blocked the Keystone XL pipeline. He also banned new oil and gas development on public land. We can resume achieving that goal by reinstating the pipeline and lifting the ban.

Capital Gazette

February 15, 2022
Annapolis, MD

Maryland has a golden opportunity to retain many skilled, disciplined and experienced individuals — but only if our state legislators pass legislation as 35 other states have done. The required legislation would exempt military retiree pay from state income tax, enticing career military personnel to remain in the state and pursue second careers here.

This legislative action would make a significant contribution to the state’s economy, generating tax revenue from follow-on jobs by the military retirees who remain.

The Towson University Regional Economic Studies Institute completed a study entitled, “A Study of Employment in the State’s Defense Industry.” The study was done at the direction of the state legislature.

The Towson study found that in the second quarter of 2019 alone, there were nearly 24,000 job postings for defense-related jobs.

Washington Times

October 25, 2021
Washington, DC

...throughout the (CSIS) report, the author compares military to civilian compensation. Unfortunately, one is hard-pressed in the 47-page report to find any discussion of the sacrifices or dangers military personnel must face as they go into harm’s way.  To illustrate this point, at about the same time the CSIS report was issued in September, CBS News carried an interview with a Marine major who was at Kabul airport when a suicide bomber detonated a suicide vest. Thirteen U.S.servicemen were killed, along with nearly 200 Afghans.

The major talked about the actions of several of his Marines that day. He said after the suicide bomber detonated his vest, shooters opened fire from a nearby roof. The major said one Marine was blown off his feet and shot through his shoulder. Nonetheless, he still had the wits about him to recover his weapon and put the opposing gunmen down.   

Addressing the willingness to serve issue, Maj. Gen. Thomas said America’s youth are becoming more disconnected from the military more than ever before. Another recent Defense Department study of 3,300 Americans between the ages of 16 and 21, shows only two percent of those polled would “definitely” serve in the military in the next few years. Nine percent would “probably” serve.  

Capital Gazette

August 1, 2021
Annapolis, MD

As hard as it may seem to believe, the world’s strongest and most well-equipped military does not take care of its people who serve it in uniform by ensuring they have food to put on their table.

Here’s the issue: For many junior enlisted personnel, especially those at the three or four lowest pay grades, their housing allowance (referred to as Basic Allowance for Housing or BAH) is considered income. By law, this allowance is supposed to cover 95 percent of housing costs including rent and utilities. The remaining five percent is, in theory, left to the military family to pick up.

Unfortunately, this 95/5 percent split is not what has happened. Blue Star Families, a military support group, conducted a survey and found that many military families are paying more than $200 per month out of pocket for their housing. That amount, coupled with a low base salary to begin with, leaves them very little to pay for essentials such as food.

One would think that this would qualify junior personnel to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Because their Basic Allowance for Housing, however, is considered income, they do not qualify for food stamps.

Washington Times

However, a lesser-known category of injuries exists that Congress must acknowledge and address immediately. These injuries result from exposure to burn pits that existed in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 20 years.

Burn pits are sites used to burn various materials ranging from garbage, human waste, chemicals, and paint to lubricants, plastics, ordnance, and medical waste—all often ignited by jet fuel. Burn pits were used because a more appropriate facility to dispose of these materials was simply not available.

Unfortunately, what has resulted from these burn pits has been referred to as the Agent Orange of our time in Southwest Asia. We are seeing a wave of rare cancers and other illnesses suffered by those who have served there and became exposed to the toxins from the burn pits. Some veterans, long after their service in uniform, have already died from these illnesses.

For example, an Army soldier deployed to Balad Air Base in Iraq died at 36 from pancreatic cancer. The average age of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis is 70.  According to the soldier’s spouse, the soldier kept a journal and wrote in detail about the burn pits that were more than ten acres in size and burned 100 to 200 tons of waste per day. 

July 20, 2021
Washington, DC

Capital Gazette

The violence in our nation is staggering and frightening. It seemingly has no end. Day after day, week after week, we hear news about another mass shooting or shocking homicide numbers in any one of our cities.

As a result, police departments are in a crisis mode. Morale is at rock bottom.

Defunding the police is not the answer to the violence we are seeing. Police reform is a better approach. A more rigid training period will help weed out the bad cops from the good cops. It will also better prepare them when they hit the streets.

Police reform may be an issue for the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus to handle. The caucus is a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans who seek to foster bipartisan cooperation on key policy issues. Congress certainly has enough issues on its plate, but our nation is in extremis with the violence we are experiencing. It must end. At this point, leadership at all levels appears nonexistent.

 

Capital Gazette

Unfortunately, as each year passes we continue to reinforce all the things that Memorial Day isn’t. It’s a holiday observed on the last Monday in May to honor the men and women who died — who died — while serving in the U.S. military. Sadly, we have cheapened the meaning of this very special day by, among other ways, commercializing it.

President Teddy Roosevelt captured the true meaning of Memorial Day in a speech he gave at Arlington Cemetery in 1902. Remember that many of those he was addressing had fought in the Civil War.

“Among the holidays which commemorate the turning points in American history, Thanksgiving has a significance peculiarly its own. On July 4 we celebrate the birth of the nation; on this day (Memorial Day), we call to mind the deaths of those who died that the nation might live, who wagered all that life holds dear for the great prize of death in battle, who poured out their blood like water in order that the mighty national structure ... the great leaders of the Revolution, great framers of the Constitution, should not crumble into meaningless ruins,” Roosevelt said.

The Hill

For many junior enlisted personnel, especially those at the three or four lowest enlisted pay grades, their housing allowance — Basic Allowance for Housing, or BAH — is considered income. By law, this allowance is supposed to cover, on average, 95 percent of housing costs including rent and utilities. The remaining 5 percent is theoretically left to the military family to pick up.     

The Armed Services YMCA, one of the top food pantry providers at military installations, reports a 400 percent increase in demand for assistance. The pandemic clearly has played a role in this increase because many military spouses have lost their civilian jobs.

“I’m doing all I can and serving my country, and I have to worry about how I’m going to buy food?” said one service member.    

“We thought being in the military might be a way out of living paycheck to paycheck. … I’m shocked that so many military families are standing in line at the food pantry because they really need help,” said another. 

 

May 23, 2021
Washington, DC

May 31, 2021
Annapolis, MD

June 22,  2021
Annapolis, MD

Capital Gazette

May 15, 2021
Annapolis, MD

Sikorski, now a European Parliament member, told his hosts: “You had a heart attack. It’s a signal you need to change your lifestyle.” The “heart attack” he was referring to was the January assault on Capitol Hill.

Sikorski also said that people are now “less enamored” by democracy. Speaking about the United States and the European Union, he said, “We can only stand up to authoritarians around the world when our own house is more or less in order.”

I had heard about at the same time. Putting these items together, I felt Sikorski was correct—we clearly need a lifestyle change.

Capital Gazette

Apr 26, 2021

Annapolis, Maryland

Our nation’s security and prosperity depend on free and open international waters. In an $80 trillion global economy, 80 percent of trade by volume and 70 percent by value moves by sea. Additionally, 95 percent of international data moves along undersea cables.

American security rests upon our ability to control the seas and project power ashore — especially in the face of China’s and Russia’s growing military power.

The Hill

April 7, 2021

Washington, DC

In February, however, Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reintroduced legislation addressing the exposure-recognition barrier preventing many veterans from getting VA health care and benefits for illnesses and diseases related to exposure to burn pits. The legislation, S. 437, is called the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act. Similar legislation proposed in previous years has failed.

Capital Gazette

May 15, 2021
Annapolis, MD

Sikorski, now a European Parliament member, told his hosts: “You had a heart attack. It’s a signal you need to change your lifestyle.” The “heart attack” he was referring to was the January assault on Capitol Hill.

Sikorski also said that people are now “less enamored” by democracy. Speaking about the United States and the European Union, he said, “We can only stand up to authoritarians around the world when our own house is more or less in order.”

I had heard about at the same time. Putting these items together, I felt Sikorski was correct—we clearly need a lifestyle change.

Capital Gazette

Apr 26, 2021

Annapolis, Maryland

Our nation’s security and prosperity depend on free and open international waters. In an $80 trillion global economy, 80 percent of trade by volume and 70 percent by value moves by sea. Additionally, 95 percent of international data moves along undersea cables.

American security rests upon our ability to control the seas and project power ashore — especially in the face of China’s and Russia’s growing military power.

The Hill

April 7, 2021

Washington, DC

In February, however, Sens. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) reintroduced legislation addressing the exposure-recognition barrier preventing many veterans from getting VA health care and benefits for illnesses and diseases related to exposure to burn pits. The legislation, S. 437, is called the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act. Similar legislation proposed in previous years has failed.

Capital Gazette

Feb 21, 2021

Annapolis, Maryland

For our country to move forward and progress, it’s critical that all four pillars of our democracy must function — executive, legislative, judiciary and news media. But the information media provides must be done objectively and fairly. In essence, the media serves as an intermediary between the government and the people. If presented properly, the information media provide can help determine which issues can be discussed.

Capital Gazette

Jan 24, 2021

Annapolis, Maryland

One way to accomplish that treatment has already been initiated by Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina. Scott did not join some of his fellow Republican senators in challenging Biden’s Electoral College win over Trump.  Instead, he chose to certify the result. Scott said there was no reason to think the presidential election result should have been thrown out.

Capital Gazette

Jan 10, 2021

Annapolis, Maryland

I will always remember the day I cried for our country — Wednesday, January 6, 2021. I will never forget the images of protesters, U.S. citizens, storming the Capitol building of our country.

I thought that way until a few days ago when Trump began encouraging protests during the congressional certification of Biden’s electoral college victory. “See you D.C. and be there and be wild,” he tweeted. 

Capital Gazette

Dec 5, 2020

Annapolis, Maryland

Where was the U.S. at the negotiations? We were not there but look who was — many of our democratic allies such as Japan, Australia, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and New Zealand. RCEP is a slap in the face to the U.S. But how can you blame our allies for doing what they did when we are no longer perceived as being a reliable partner?

Capital Gazette

Nov 22, 2020

Annapolis, Maryland

Rare earth minerals are a set of 17 metallic elements and are an essential part of many high-tech devices. The U.S. Geological Survey says they are the necessary components of more than 200 products across a wide range of applications, especially high-tech consumer products, such as cell phones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles and flat-screen monitors. {In addition to U.S. defense related uses.}

Capital Gazette

Oct 4, 2020

Annapolis, Maryland

Additionally, several major Wall Street banks — Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley — are among underwriters selling bonds worth several billion dollars to help state-owned Chinese companies. Many of these companies support the Chinese military. In essence, U.S. investors are unknowingly investing in China’s military growth when these bonds are purchased through index and pension funds and other vehicles.

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