Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Pentagon shutters program to help military spouses because it’s too popular!

This is a great way to slap around military spouses: Start up a program to help them with college tuition, and then shut it down a few months later when it proves unexpectedly popular. Not only are they rejecting new applicants, they left existing participants in the lurch on future payments. The Military Spouse Career ...

Jasoon/flickr
Jasoon/flickr
Jasoon/flickr

This is a great way to slap around military spouses: Start up a program to help them with college tuition, and then shut it down a few months later when it proves unexpectedly popular.

Not only are they rejecting new applicants, they left existing participants in the lurch on future payments. The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program recently has been re-started but still isn't accepting new applicants. Secretary Gates said the project could cost as much as $2 billion -- that is almost as much as one submarine or B-2 bomber. Which do you think helps national security more -- getting one more platform, or making tens of thousands of military spouses happier with their lot? 

It is almost like, hey, your husband is deployed to Afghanistan? You're losing sleep over IED fears? We'll distract you by giving you something else to worry about!

This is a great way to slap around military spouses: Start up a program to help them with college tuition, and then shut it down a few months later when it proves unexpectedly popular.

Not only are they rejecting new applicants, they left existing participants in the lurch on future payments. The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program recently has been re-started but still isn’t accepting new applicants. Secretary Gates said the project could cost as much as $2 billion — that is almost as much as one submarine or B-2 bomber. Which do you think helps national security more — getting one more platform, or making tens of thousands of military spouses happier with their lot? 

It is almost like, hey, your husband is deployed to Afghanistan? You’re losing sleep over IED fears? We’ll distract you by giving you something else to worry about!

The logic of this is amazing: It turned out there was a huge demand for this, so we had to stop doing it. That’s like taking a car off the market because so many people wanted to buy it. Time for a senior official to step up and make this right, first with a public apology. Congrats to McClatchy Newspaper for breaking this story. Les Blumenthal’s article is chockablock with great quotes. Here is one, from Sen. Patty Murray (D., Wash.): "How they have handled this is infuriating. This is crazy."

This is just another reason why military spouses are so sick of lip service that praises their sacrifice, but fails to follow through by making their problems a top priority. Are you listening, Mrs. Obama?

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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