David H. Hackworth
December 1, 1998
TV:THE NUMBING AND DUMBING OF AMERICA
In America, you'd have to be not only deaf, dumb and blind, you'd also have to be in a maximum security cell next to John Gotti not to know that Monica's Oval Office dress was blue, or that Paula had a comp nose job after which she scarfed up about 850 big ones, or not to have seen Bill Clinton wag his finger and say, "I did not have sex with that woman."
But how many folks know that every U.S. Army regular infantry battalion is short a rifle squad in its rifle platoons? Instead of three squads, there are only two.
This is important because a rifle squad is the point element of the whole $300 billion-a-year Pentagon shooting match. They are the guys who kill enemy soldiers right up close. The only reason that every other toy and boy in the Defense Department exists is to support the rifle squad while it attacks the enemy or defends against an enemy attack. From my squad level combat experience, not having three rifle squads in a platoon is tantamount to defeat.
Meanwhile, most support units -- the guys and gals who run the shower points or drive the semis bringing up the beans and bullets -- are at 100 percent of personnel. There's plenty of supporters, but not enough trigger-pullers.
The U.S. Navy's F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter aircraft is such a dog that even the Russian Su-27 and MiG-29 or the F/A-18 C/D aircraft it's scheduled to replace can fly circles around it.
A General Accounting Office report says that the Navy could save $17 billion by upgrading the F/A-18 C/D Hornet instead of buying the unstable Super Hornet. But the Super Hornet is the Navy's No. 1 aviation program, a $46 billion money spinner for the defense contractors who plan to put 548 of these flying lemons onto aircraft carrier decks soon.
And to add insult to injury, sources say that the Navy's Super Hornet test team has cooked the books, that it could end up costing almost twice what's been programmed, a tidy sum in excess of $100 billion.
In the U.S. Army's elite XV111 Airborne Corps, which is the first Army unit to go when trouble explodes on the world scene, there are about 85,000 soldiers. Of these, about 12 percent are women; and of these, 10 percent are pregnant at any one time, and roughly half of this group are not married.
A pregnant soldier can be a loss to a unit for 11 months. And according to a classified report that was slipped to me, these maternity happenings degrade "unit cohesiveness resulting from resentment of soldiers who must work harder and deploy more often to compensate for these unavailable soldiers."
In one division, the highest rate of pregnant soldiers was combat medics, who are a most critical part of any combat operation. And each year the number of pregnant soldiers goes up.
The Corps Commander, Lt. Gen. William Kernan, wrote, "My concern is that during these lean manpower years, soldier pregnancies can leave gaping holes in a unit's deployment readiness."
Most Americans get their news from television. And stories such as I've outlined aren't juicy enough to make the evening news, even though they vitally concern our national security, the welfare of our troops and how our defense dollars are being misspent.
I daily correspond, mostly by e-mail, with soldiers and sailors all over the world. I frequently get scoops that I pass to other reporters if they can get the news out faster than I can.
A few weeks ago I got a report from Bosnia that two of our pilots were wounded by lasers and that laser attacks were becoming a major problem to aircrews. I called two contacts, one with a major newspaper, the other with a major TV network. The printed press reporter got the story nationwide on page one the next day. A week later, the TV guy rang me back and said, "It just isn't our kind of story."
We know the kind of story TV likes. If it doesn't reek of sex, scandal
and sensationalism forget it. Sadly, this leaves most Americans in the dark
about bottom-line matters affecting our very survival as a nation.