Military News This Week: July 1, 2022
There have been many developments in the military community in the last week of June 2022. Here’s a roundup of some of the important stories from the last week affecting currently serving troops, military families, and veterans.
These stories aren’t necessarily the breaking news when it comes to defense tech, troop deployments, or other issues; the stories here are the ones that may most directly affect military communities regardless of mission.
Military News for the Week Ending July 1, 2022
Stars and Stripes reports a Defense Department commitment to ensure military communities still have access to reproductive health care in spite of the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe V. Wade in June of 2022.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin went on the record after the decision, stating “The Department is examining this decision closely and evaluating our policies to ensure we continue to provide seamless access to reproductive health care as permitted by federal law,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement Friday.
Austin is not alone in his stance on military reproductive healthcare.
“By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has not only taken a wrecking ball to reproductive rights – it has taken a wrecking ball to military readiness,” according to Janessa Goldbeck, a Marine Corps veteran quoted in the Stars and Stripes article.
How the Roe Issue Affects Military Readiness
Those with an incomplete understanding of this issue might wonder how the overturn of Roe V. Wade can negatively affect military readiness. The overturn of Roe sends abortion law back to the states, and some of those states may have laws that impose undue burdens on servicemembers seeking healthcare.
The military’s association with the specific practice of abortion is limited to circumstances affecting the health of the mother, sexual assault, and related issues. The problem is that some states make no provision even for these circumstances and that is in direct opposition to DoD policy.
A service member who requires an abortion in the circumstances listed above may have no medical option in certain states that ban abortion across the board.
The DoD has invested thousands of dollars for each individual servicemember’s training and career; to have that put in jeopardy because some states refuse to recognize medically necessary procedures is something the DoD seems keen to avoid.
“Female Draft” Back On the Table
In the United States, males of a certain age are required to sign up for the draft, also known as the U.S. Selective Service, even though there has been no involuntary service requirement since the Vietnam era.
Now, women are being considered for this requirement as part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). At least one source reports some lawmakers objecting to the proposal, using outdated arguments about “drafting our daughters” in spite of serious advances in adding women to combat roles across the DoD.
Defense officials say that in spite of the consideration to add women to the Selective Service there are no plans to begin involuntarily placing U.S. citizens in the military once more.
U.S. Army Drops Controversial Recruitment Effort
It only took a single week for the United States Army to end a policy change in its recruiting practices. Something called the “111 Non-Grad (NA) enlistment program” waived a high school diploma requirement for new recruits amid an Army recruiting crisis.
Under this program, the Army permitted new recruits who had high ASVAB scores to enlist even without a high school diploma or GED. But the program has since been canceled according to Army Times.
The Army has only met about 40% of its recruiting goals for the year according to some sources.
VA Overdue Disability Claims Down By 25%
The Department of Veterans Affairs is notorious for its disability claims backlog, but in the last four months that processing logjam was reduced by nearly a fourth. In June of 2021, the VA backlog was at just under 188 thousand. In 2020, that number was recorded at around 70 thousand.
But COVID-19 forced the partial closure of many VA offices and last October the numbers were back up to well above a quarter of a million cases. Some sources report that number is significantly lower as of last week but it may take until 2024 to see the VA backlogged case count drop below 100,000 once more.
The Brandon Act Still Hasn’t Been Implemented
NBC News reports the U.S. military has not put a federal law passed six months ago in response to a wave of suicides in the U.S. Navy.
The Brandon Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden as part of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act all the way back in December. It allows service members to seek mental health services in a more confidential way. The Brandon Act was passed after a whopping five suicides on the USS George Washington last year.
NBC News reports the U.S. Navy is making noises about “establishing implementation policy” for the Act but the need to double down on the Navy’s suicide problem is obviously an urgent one.
Implementing the Brandon Act would help facilitate confidential mental health services for military members; under past policies, some service members were required to report such services to their superiors; prolonged delays in appointments for mental health services under current conditions make for an undue burden on the servicemember who needs these crucial services.
New Air Force Zero-Tolerance Sexual Assault Policy
Air Force Times reports the United States Air Force and Space Force now have a zero-tolerance policy for Airmen and Guardians convicted of sexual assault. Those convicted now receive an automatic military discharge unless the offender qualifies for an exception.
This move to shore up sexual assault policies isn’t limited to the Air Force alone; there is a larger effort to revise the Uniform Code of Military Justice to toughen the consequences for this type of assault in the military.
Under the new Air Force and Space Force rules, when convicted, the offender’s home life, character, and service record can no longer be used to determine whether to kick the offender out of the military.
Also forbidden? Speculation as to whether the sexual assault is likely to happen again. That speculation cannot be used going forward. It seems the military may be catching up to the idea that a single sexual assault incident is in and of itself conduct unbecoming and deserving of the full measure of UCMJ punishment.
About the author
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.