Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Congress is robbing veterans of the educational benefits they were promised

As a veteran, retired military and airline pilot I am deeply concerned by HR 3016 (the Veterans Employment, Education, and Healthcare Improvement Act) which will break promises that the United States of America has made to its veterans.

This bill will cause immediate and alarming changes to collegiate flight training degree benefits for our nation’s military veterans. It arbitrarily discriminates against veterans seeking a flight-training degree from public institutions of higher learning because it caps funding only for these degree programs. Other courses of study are not capped.

Without personal financial resources, a veteran would be unable to attain an aeronautical college degree with a commercial pilot license under the proposed cap of $20,235 on flight training for tuition and fee payments at public schools.

It is clear that the Veterans Administration (VA) has a long-standing systemic nationwide breakdown within the agency caused by mismanagement, infighting, and alleged corruption. There is absolutely no excuse or reason for using HR 3016 to punish veterans for bureaucratic and political incompetence and corruption in the VA and Congress.

I certainly understand and support the need for improved fiscal responsibility and strongly support a tightening of existing VA regulations to curb abuses that have occurred in recent years by a minority of flight schools affiliated with collegiate degree programs. However, capping education and training for pilots will harm veterans and limit their employment opportunities in the aviation industry.

It is important to remember three things:
1 - The GI Bill education benefits are an important recruiting tool for the Armed Forces.
2 - Veterans who use their educational benefits to qualify for a career in aviation will be moving into high-tax-paying jobs. Surely that investment is far more prudent than food stamps for able-bodied adult who refuse to find meaningful jobs.
3 - The high cost of preparing for a career in aviation is a direct result of congressional and FAA overreaction -- imposing an arbitrary minimum of 1,500 flying hours – up from 250 hours – before one can sit in the cockpit of a regional jet as a first officer. Helping veterans reach that 1,500-hour milestone is a small way that Congress can redeem itself.

HR 3016 is an egregious disservice to our nation’s veterans, will exacerbate the deteriorating pool of commercial pilots — thereby accelerating the pilot shortage in this country — and will have a lasting detrimental effect on commercial aviation in the United States. Therefore, I urge you to reject HR 3016 in its current form.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The draft, a large standing army, and the militia

USC Title 10, Sec. 311 says, in part, "The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard."

Article XV, Section 1 of the Utah Constitution says, "The militia shall consist of all able-bodied male inhabitants of the State, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, except such as are exempted by law."

The militias of the separate States is what our founders envisioned as the defense force for the Union and the States -- that almost all men be a trained and equipped part of that force -- that we not rely on a large standing armed force. Most of the units deployed in the Union's early wars were, in fact, state militia units and carried the names of their States. Think of the draft as a little more than a way to remind all men of that duty -- not a form of slavery and claimed by hard-core Libertarians.

The problem is that we evolved to using a large standing armed force -- especially since the war between the States. The militia has largely become an object of disdain. The Army Clause of the US Constitution points to the notion that a large armed force shouldn't be necessary for periods loner than two years -- only during periods of national emergency.

Among other problems, our large standing armed force enables politicians to easily stick their noses into the affairs of other nations where and when it is none of our business. The draft becomes evil only when it supplements that large standing armed force.

If those who abhor the draft (and/or the large standing armed force) would push for phasing out the standing army combined with the full restoration of a well-regulated (ie established, equipped, and trained by each individual state) militia and then actively pursue their own duties in the militia the draft would forever be a distant memory. However, I suspect that many of those who most vocally reject the draft would also be the least likely among us to accept their militia duties (hence the justification for a draft). They are self-righteous pontificating cowards. You know who you are.