- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
I ask because as I understand it, after more than a year in the White House, Michelle Obama still doesn’t have a full-time aide for military family issues, despite having her concern for the military family part of the Obama presidential campaign.
There is a White House aide named Matt Flavin who handles both, but mainly the veterans’ portfolio, and a bunch of other people with a finger in the pie, but no one dedicated to the issue. This is one reason we are seeing screw-ups like promising tuition aide for military spouses and then trying to shut down the program when it proved unexpectedly popular.
A big part of the problem has been the disarray in the Pentagon’s personnel office. This might have been resolved lately, with retired Marine Maj. Gen. Clifford Stanley finally being sworn in, but it is amazing that it went on for so long.
When Michelle Obama does engage, she seems to hang with generals’ wives at officers’ clubs, which indicates a certain tone deafness. Maybe that’s how they do things at Princeton, but those are not the people with whom she needs to connect. Have lunch with the wives of the enlisted — and make sure there is day care provided. This is another indication to me that she needs full-time help on this. It is time to get beyond lip service, and monitor implementation of policies and executions of budgets. The bureaucracy will spend all that money on itself unless pushed.
Here’s an interesting question: How many soldiers’ wives committed suicide last year?
Gordon Lubold is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He is also the author of FP's Situation Report, an e-mailed newsletter that is blasted out to more than 70,000 national security and foreign affairs subscribers each morning that includes the top nat-sec news, breaking news, tidbits, nuggets and what he likes to call "candy." Before arriving at FP, he was a senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, where he wrote on national security and foreign policy. Prior to his arrival at USIP, he was a defense reporter for Politico, where he launched the popular Morning Defense early morning blog and tip-sheet. Prior to that, he was the Pentagon and national security correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, and before that he was the Pentagon correspondent for the Army Times chain of newspapers. He has covered conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries in South Asia, and has reported on military matters in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and Latin America as well as at American military bases across the country. He has spoken frequently on the sometimes-contentious relationship between the military and the media as a guest on numerous panels. He also appears on radio and television, including on CNN, public radio's Diane Rehm and To the Point, and C-SPAN's Washington Journal. He lives in Alexandria with his wife and two children.| Situation Report |