March 1, 2010  


Lt. Col. Paul L. Yingling articulates well the need to reduce the standing military [“The Founders’ wisdom,” February]. He correctly explains both the constitutional and economic challenges faced by maintaining a large standing military and the self-perpetuating cycle of new and expanded programs. It is clear that a large, standing military in the U.S. will eventually bankrupt the country and/or require the delay or cancellation of required equipment modernization.

Missing from the article, or at least understated in an otherwise well-written piece, is that reducing the active force while expanding the National Guard would pay benefits tenfold over the long term. First, a much larger and robust force could be maintained in the National Guard for far less cost than the active military. Second, the Guard is much more representative of American society than the active military, and callously taking small-town America to war would wreak havoc on political careers if the need for such wars was not well articulated and accepted.

Increasing the size of the National Guard provides increased flexibility and capability to state governors and would greatly reduce costs for federal involvement in domestic crisis. Additionally, National Guard forces should be responsible for domestic defense and recovery (as was the original intent of the militia). Placing the Guard in charge of domestic response would allow for massive reductions in funding for U.S. Northern Command, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies and programs.

The U.S. can’t maintain its standing force for both economic and political reasons. While decreasing the standing military and increasing the size of the National Guard makes perfect sense, I have little faith military leadership would accept such a radical departure from the norm. Thanks for the superb article.

Lt. Col. Drew L. Daugherty

Texas Air National Guard

On active-duty assignment at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas

With regard to Joseph Collins’ article “What civil-military crisis?” [February], the statement that a proposed “code of conduct” for senior officer retirees “would not bind retirees who are private citizens with full civil rights” generates a point of order that is substantively important to the debate over the propriety of post-retirement political stances by general and flag officers.

Retired general and flag officers are not, in fact, “private citizens with full civil rights.” Rather, retirement pay is more akin to retainer pay than a vested pension. Retired officers are not truly retired. Their names are simply moved from the active-duty list to the retired list. Commissions endure for the officer’s lifetime, and retired officers remain subject to recall until death; to wit, Gen. Peter Schoomaker had been retired for almost three years when he was recalled to serve as chief of staff of the Army in 2003.

Moreover, Uniform Code of Military Justice jurisdiction remains attached to the officer for his lifetime (though the Defense Department has voluntarily self-imposed restraints on the recall of retirees to active service to stand trial by court-martial, more as a function of system efficiency than legal mandate.) Because retired officers retain their commissions for life, they are never again truly “private citizens,” except in the most colloquial usage of the term. Moreover, because they are subject to recall at the secretary’s beck, and because the UCMJ technically still governs conduct until death terminates jurisdiction, retired officers never enjoy the full panoply of a nonofficer’s civil rights.

Internalizing this distinction — that an officer never stops “being” an officer, both legally and, in most instances, culturally — informs the debate on the wisdom and propriety of post-retirement political conduct.

Finally, the creation of a new “code of conduct” for senior retired officers is not necessary. All that is necessary to ensure appropriate retired conduct is extension of the express applicability of DoD standards of conduct regulations to retired officers, including the requirement to file annual public financial-disclosure statements that they were required to file on active duty. The regulatory modification, when coupled with a few well-publicized examples of secretarial discipline for failure to comply, would speak volumes about the imposition of civilian control over the post-retirement conduct of commissioned officers.

Lt. Col. Butch Bracknell, Marine Corps

Joint Center for Operational Analysis,

U.S. Joint Forces Command

Norfolk, Va.