and a Japanese fishing
boat, Pentagon bosses change the rules so it doesn't happen again.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did just that when he recently
declared a moratorium on civilians at the controls of any military
ship, aircraft or vehicle. However, his decree could have a serious
consequence: A moratorium that lasts indefinitely could widen the
gap we already find between our soldiers and sailors on one hand,
and our shopkeepers and stockbrokers on the other.
Although a short-term ban is good policy, especially while the
current investigation is underway, we must ensure that civilians
stay a part of military life. With the end of the draft in 1975,
and many base closings in recent years, almost two generations have
passed with little or no connection to military life. Allowing
civilians to interact with the military-visiting ships and touring
bases-will help them better understand the daily sacrifices made by
those who volunteer to be in uniform.
A 1999 study found a great amount of disparity between military
and civilian perceptions. More than two-thirds of 2,000 civilians
surveyed said they believe the military sometimes tries to avoid
civilian orders it doesn't agree with, according to a report by the
North Carolina-based Triangle Institute for Security Studies. The
report also found nearly half doubted the safety and security of
civilian control of the government.
Of course, most people in the military know these fears are
unfounded. But the survey results show that "schisms and trends"
between civilians and military personnel, if left ignored, will
"degrade military effectiveness" in certain circumstances, said
Peter Feaver, the Institute's executive secretary.
The military must make a conscious effort to incorporate
civilians into its lifestyle, or troop retention, morale and
recruitment will suffer. With the Army falling short of its
recruitment goals by thousands in recent years, and the Air Force
missing its recruitment goals as well, this is vital.
It's also easy. Most military members take pride in showing what
their lives are like and what they're capable of doing. When I was
in the Navy, my crew and I loved flying in air shows because, quite
frankly, it gave us a chance to show off. Talking to kids as they
walked through our plane on a tour was a blast. Just as
importantly, watching the Navy's Blue Angels fly stunts or the
Army's Golden Knights parachute team perform, helps our families
and friends-and, one always hopes, future soldiers and sailors-to
appreciate what those defending our country do for a living.
This up-close exposure also is a great way to help recruit more
young people into an all-volunteer military. And the military needs
all the help it can get: Morale in the military is as low as it's
been in years. Mid-level officers such as captains and majors, the
important "middle management" of the military, are leaving the
service in droves, partly to join the go-go economy and partly
because they're frustrated with a military that's attempting to do
more with less.
The services are trying to revamp their images-consider the
Army's lamentable black-berets-for-all initiative and its "Army of
One" campaign. But they have yet to address deeper issues, such as
pay that's still too low, outdated equipment, random deployment
schedules and problems with military housing and support.
When civilians rally behind the troops, our soldiers, sailors,
marines and airmen embrace that gung-ho attitude critical to high
performance. But when our military feels it doesn't have the
support of the people it's sworn to defend, it affects
everything-including the mission at hand.
In politics, there's another saying: "Hard cases make bad law."
The military will make a grave mistake if it allows the
justly-called moratorium to last indefinitely. The
Greeneville incident is a rare and tragic occurrence that
should be investigated. But it shouldn't impede civilian contact
with our military. The men and women who serve in uniform do it
with pride. They are true professionals and know their jobs well.
It's important that we rally around them and not widen the gap
Dexter Ingram, a database editor in The Heritage
Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy, served as a naval
In the military, we had a saying: "Rules are written in blood."
That means that when a tragic incident occurs, such as the fatal
collision of the U.S.S.