Saturday, December 15, 2007


Talk about your "better late than never" step to alleviate a worsening problem!

Finally, twenty years after the problem crossed over into "long overdue" territory, the Defense Authorization Bill for FY 2008 specifically bans gang membership in the ranks. Currently the regulations stipulate prohibitions against membership in organizations that “espouse supremacist causes; attempt to create illegal discrimination … advocate the use of force or violence; or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.”

Street gangs are not explicitly named and forbidden, and civilian law enforcement officials have criticized that loophole as a way for commanders to turn a blind eye to gang affiliations in tough recruiting times. The FBI has reported on gang activity not just on seven stateside installations, but signs of gang activity have been verified at bases in Germany, Italy, Japan and Iraq as well. “I’ve heard from police officers across the country that there are problems with gangs on posts,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Calif., who introduced the amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill. “The FBI suggests there are problems not only in the states but on bases abroad. So somebody hasn’t been serious enough.”

Representative Thompson, who served in Vietnam, expressed the hope that the new stronger and specific language will spur investigations into gang activity by military officials, but he acknowledged that the uniformed services often lack the resources of agencies like the FBI and gang task forces that operate as part of state and local police departments. This affords those law enforcement entities to recognize and identify gang affiliation and activity more readily than the military officials can. “We want to make sure they’re sharing the same list, identifying problems and minimizing the opportunity for gang members to get in (the military),” Thompson said.

Gang membership has been a steadily worsening problem for about twenty years, but a dramatic jump in the reporting of serious gang activity (from 25 incidents in FY 2005 to 60 in FY 06) seems to have penetrated the bubble a little bit.

I have heard anecdotal evidence of entire units that are gang affiliated. In my neck of the woods, Ft. Riley, Kansas has had it's own well-publicized difficulties with white supremacists and methamphetamines.

So can we have just a moment of common sense please? When you have one in five enlisted recruits entering service on waivers - and the most common waiver is for criminality - gang problems in the ranks are destined to worsen.

It is time to restore standards to recruiting and stop handing out waivers willy-nilly. Yes, it will impact recruiting numbers. But the price we pay as a society when we let the wrong people in uniform - and the price that the rest of our military pays when they have to serve with thugs - is simply not worth it.

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