Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Gaming the Taxpayers Out of $349,000

More than two years ago, Vigilis, a self-described sentinel of wasted American tax dollars, described an ongoing scandal at our military academies. Politicians encourage favored constituents and sometimes their own kin (who may have doubtful military career ambitions) to attend West Point, Annapolis or the Air Force Academy at full taxpayer expense, while incurring active duty obligations that are only 5 years beyond graduation. Retention has declined over the decades.

As taxpayers and as parents, we should rightfully expect serious (lifelong) commitments to a military career as the first and foremost qualification for admission to our prestigious U.S. military academies of those admitted. Afterall, there is no shortage of bright, physically qualified applicants, many of whom must now be rejected due to limitations on class size.

Even West Point's mission statement describes "... [candidates] prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the Nation as an officer in the United States Army. (In 2005, West Point cost taxpayers an estimated $349,327 per graduate). Free tuition

Definition of "To game", verb, transitive: to take dishonest advantage of; to cheat, as in "gaming the taxpayers".

Current evidence suggests that screening has been perfunctory and woefully inadequate. Remember, for instance, Naval Academy graduate Lisa Nowak? She still has her O-6 commission, but what use is she to our military?

Now, there is a more egregious example. West Point Grad Wins Objector Status. What was he, too young to make a serious commitment to the military (lifelong), or just bright enough to see how the "game" is being played nowadays? While in Iraq, Brown applied for discharge from the Army as a conscientious objector. The ACLU (lawyers) sued in July, asking a federal court to order the Army to reverse its decision. Submitting to political pressure (Senate lawyers), the Army did reconsider! You won, Capt. Brown, and taxpayers and parents lose.

Brown testified he had no conflict between his faith and military service until after he graduated from West Point in 2004 and began to study scripture and his belief. Duh, can we think of a better screening criterion? Army officials at Fort Drum had no immediate comment. According to government figures, there were 426 applications for conscientious objector status from 2002-06, with 224 approved, 188 denied and 14 still pending. But Brown gamed West Point on his own. Congratulations, Capt. Brown, this will not be the end of your public story.



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