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[ OUR OPINION ]
The House vote should chill talk about reinstating the draft, but it should not end the discussion about the shortage of military personnel. The debate should focus not on reinstating the draft, but on increasing military pay and benefits to make military service more attractive.
Virtually no one is seriously in favor of a draft. Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., says he introduced the bill a year and a half ago to raise awareness about low- and middle-income Americans shouldering much of the military burden. Hawaii's Rep. Neil Abercrombie says he signed on as co-sponsor "to promote an open, honest public discussion" of the issue. Not coincidentally, Rangel and Abercrombie were against going to war in Iraq from the outset.
In a House Armed Services Committee hearing with Pentagon officials a year ago, Abercrombie described the calling up of Reserve and National Guard units for active duty in Iraq "a draft by default." Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry calls it a "backdoor draft."
Dalton Tanonaka, Abercrombie's Republican opponent in the coming election, accused him of "playing politics and scaring our young people unnecessarily." While this week's political hand was played by Republicans, Tanonaka is right in saying Democrats have used scare tactics in predicting a draft during a second Bush administration. Bush has said unequivocally that he will not reinstate military conscription.
That does not mean the diminished numbers in the military are not a problem. The old draft ended in 1973, and the Pentagon developed an all-volunteer force. The Army was reduced from 750,000 to fewer than 500,000 soldiers following the end of the Gulf War and Cold War.
Reserve and Guard members now comprise nearly half the U.S. troops in Iraq, and the Pentagon is going so far as to call up people who have completed their active-duty requirements for further active service. That has generated concern on college campuses and online chat rooms that a draft is around the corner.
The Legislature asked the Bush administration two years ago for help in providing social services to migrants from the former trust territories. Instead, the government proposed annual payments of $15 million to be shared according to the number of migrants among Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.
The pool has doubled to $30 million since then, but the formula, based on the number of migrants, continues to deal Hawaii the short hand. Its $10.5 million share of the package is based on the number of migrants, about 7,300, in the state.
If federal officials were to follow the guidelines set forth in the 2003 agreement that prescribed the payments, they would factor in the amount of money spent on those services and the quality of services provided in addition to the number of recipients. That price tag amounts to $23 million for the immigrant medical services alone, not including education and other social services.
Lillian Koller, state director of human services, says the Lingle administration is encouraging the Interior Department and Congress to consider those factors. "Not only do we encourage them to put more money into the pot overall," Koller says, "we're encouraging them to look at the formula.
"Our benefits that we afford to these immigrants (are) much greater," she says. "It's not just a question of how many people live here ... more importantly, it's how much are we spending on them here compared to other places."
In 2001, then-Gov. Ben Cayetano estimated the cost of social services and medical and financial assistance to poor Western Pacific islanders over the previous year at $15 million. Hawaii received only $4 million in such compensation from 1986 to that point.
The 2003 amendments to the Compact of Free Association have been an improvement, but Hawaii continues to be treated unfairly. The Lingle administration and the state's congressional delegation should continue to demand that Hawaii receive its fair share of the compensation pie.
David Black, Dan Case, Dennis Francis,
Larry Johnson, Duane Kurisu, Warren Luke,
Colbert Matsumoto, Jeffrey Watanabe, directors
Dennis Francis, Publisher
Frank Bridgewater, Editor, 529-4791; firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Rovner, Assistant Editor, 529-4768; email@example.com
Lucy Young-Oda, Assistant Editor, 529-4762; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Poole, Editorial Page Editor, 529-4748; email@example.comThe Honolulu Star-Bulletin (USPS 249460) is published daily by
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