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May 2, 2008
GI Bill for the 21st CenturyBy Greyhawk
You may or may not have noticed some of the slowly growing media coverage of the new GI Bill. If not, I suspect you will - this is the sort of story that tends to catch on.
I hope it doesn't - at least not for the reasons I suspect it will - but you'll have to read on to see why.
First: I've never been a fan of the current GI Bill. It's been badly in need of reform on several counts for a long time. Here's what I wrote from Iraq in October last year:
Give the GI Bill to all active duty troops along with Guard/reserve forces activated for service in Iraq and Afghanistan. By "give" I mean ELIMINATE THE "BUY IN" - stop forcing junior troops to decide between feeding their families and tucking some money away for college. And while we're at it, increase the benefit to equal what the troops returning from WWII received. If it could be done for the largest Army in American history, it certainly could be done for the smallest.(See also here.)
And now, lo and behold and glory hallelujah:
WASHINGTON, April 29, 2008 – The national commander of America's largest organization of combat veterans is demanding that Congress pass S. 22, the "Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act."And those who already doled out the cash for their future GI Bill benefits would have that money refunded. To me the whole deal sounded too good to be true. But any doubts I had about the significance of the benefit were erased entirely when I read the best possible endorsement it could ever get:
Gates also restated long-standing Pentagon opposition to GI Bill educational benefits that are too generous, making it more likely for service members to leave the military to attend college. “Serious” retention issues are expected if benefits exceed the average monthly cost for a four-year public college, including tuition, room, board and fees, Gates said.Read into that comment a little bit and you'll realize that it's also an acknowledgement that the current Montgomery GI Bill isn't a threat - it ain't good enough to hurt retention, even in an army at war. However, Secretary Gates also draws attention to an undeniable shortfall in S.22 - benefits can't be transferred to dependents:
Transferability, Gates said, “is the highest priority set by the service chiefs and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, reflecting the strong interest from the field and the fleet,” Gates said.I concur. But not for these reasons:
Transferring benefits is good for the family but also good for the services by helping to keep people in the military while family members are using the benefits, Gates said.So, enter a competing bill - from Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina:
Graham’s bill would raise fulltime MGIB benefits to $1500 a month, up from $1101, for all users. That would include veterans and retirees who left service long before the attacks of 9-11.All very nice - and as a guy with over 20 years time in, I think I'd come out ahead compared to Webb's offer. BUUUUTTTTT...
Other attracted features of S 2938 include an extra $500 a year for books and a fresh chance to buy into the MGIB for roughly 5000 members still on active duty who first entered service when the only education benefit offered was the anemic Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP)....there's that "buy in" again. Put your life on the line, spend time in war zones far from home, and you're eligible to purchase educational benefits if you can afford them (AND LOTS OF LOW RANKING PROPLE CAN'T - please don't argue that it's a reasonable price). I wonder which bill most military members and veterans would prefer?
Anyhow, although I hate to lend credence to anonymous officials, this quote sounds legit:
A senior Pentagon official, speaking on condition of not being identified, said the McCain bill, co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Richard Burr of North Carolina, “is retention friendly. It gives education benefits a big boost, but not more than average national costs. We can manage retention at those levels, but S 22 is a retention killer.”Except that it's not the McCain bill - he is a co-sponsor, but it's Lindsey Graham's bill. But you'd be hard pressed to find that data point in most of the coverage. (More on that politicization of the issue shortly.)
First, for the record, I'm in full agreement with Paul Rieckhoff on the retention issue
Support for expanding GI education benefits in some fashion is widespread. Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and a strong proponent of Webb's legislation, said concerns that the bill's expanded benefits will encourage service members to leave the military is a "very short-sighted argument."So let me introduce my dream-scenario GI Bill:
1. No "buy in"
2. Webb's benefits for short term service, growing to Graham's numbers for career service members.
3. Transferability per Graham's bill. ( I really can't find anyone's defense of the lack of this provision in Webb's bill.)
What I'd gladly welcome: Webb's bill (even though I think I personally benefit more from Graham's.)
And now let me tell you what I think is more likely "New GI Bill": NOTHING. ZIP. NADA, NO CHANGE.
And here's why:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Democrats are discussing a proposal to add money and conditions to a war funding bill despite President Bush's specific objections.The little screaming cynic living in my head is telling me that the entire thing is a scam ro be crammed into a bill that has no chance in hell of surviving a Presidential veto for other reasons - then used as a political commercial in the upcoming campaign season to hammer anyone who "denied veterans" their just due.
But then again, the screaming little cynic isn't always right. Maybe for the first time in decades congress will do the right thing and send the best possible GI Bill as a stand alone measure to the White House.
You can bet I'll be watching developments closely.
The text of Graham's bill (S 2938) isn't available yet - it's too new.
Updates - see also:
Posted by Greyhawk / May 2, 2008 12:32 AM | Permalink
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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