By Alan W. Dowd
Special Bonus for Special Ops
With just $100 million—a rounding error in the gargantuan defense budget—the Pentagon has reversed the exodus of Green Berets and Navy SEALs from the military.
According to the AP, some 1,200 special-operations personnel—more than 900 Green Berets, 300 SEALs, and dozens of Air Force commandos—have decided to stay in the service since the retention program began three years ago. Some of these elite troops have received bonus payments of up to $150,000.
More than 2,320 special-operations personnel have been eligible for the program since 2005, with more than half signing on for extended duty. Under the program, those who re-up for one year receive an $8,000 bonus; two years, $18,000; three years, $30,000; four years, $50,000; five years, $75,000; and six years, $150,000.
According to the AP report, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is so concerned about the private sector luring away U.S. special-ops forces that “he has directed Pentagon lawyers to explore putting no-compete clauses into contracts with security companies” such as Blackwater.
The Pentagon plans to spend $43.5 million to retain elite forces in FY08.
During the same month that Columbia University opened its doors to Iranian strongman Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Stanford University’s faculty protested the appointment of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to a fellowship at the Hoover Institution, which is located at Stanford.
Calling Rumsfeld “fundamentally incompatible with the ethical values of truthfulness, tolerance, disinterested enquiry,” the faculty group circulated a petition that ultimately included the signatures of 3,000 students, alumni and professors. "I'm appalled," said Stanford history Professor Barton Bernstein in an interview with The San Francisco Chronicle. "He is a profoundly immoral man.”
“A school is obliged to provide a public forum to the leader of a repressive terrorist regime,” as The Wall Street Journal concluded about the sad spectacle. “But the mere presence of an American with more than three decades of public service—most recently dedicated to combating such regimes—is beyond the pale?”
After just nine months of official fundraising, presidential candidates took in $420 million, putting the 2008 field “on track to collect an unprecedented $1 billion” by the end of this perpetual campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Here’s how the final financial reports posted in 2007 look:
Candidate Total Raised
Hillary Clinton $90,935,788
Barack Obama $80,256,427
Mitt Romney $62,829,069
Rudy Giuliani $47,253,521
John McCain $32,124,785
John Edwards $30,329,152
Bill Richardson $18,699,937
Chris Dodd $13,598,152
Fred Thompson $12,828,111
The Washington Post reports that Defense Secretary Robert Gates envisions a long-term U.S. presence in Iraq of slightly more than 40,000 troops. Their mission will be “countering al Qaeda, training Iraqi forces and acting as a bulwark against Iran,” according to The Post.
As a contributing editor to The American Legion, Dowd writes columns and news briefs on national security, foreign affairs and U.S. politics each month for the magazine's "Rapid Fire" section.