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Department of Defense
  • Republicans Block Abortion Access for Military Rape Victims

    Marine soldierWhether or not there's a war on women, congressional Republicans seem to be woefully unconcerned about women at war.

    The Pentagon reported 471 rapes of servicemembers in 2011, a number that grossly underestimates the actual number of sexual assaults. And although the military is trying to reduce instances of rape through education and prevention programs, it would be sane and reasonable for the Defense Department to offer women some options in case their assault results in pregnancy.

    Unfortunately, current policy follows the Rick Santorum's policy of turning rape lemons into baby lemonade. A pregnancy cannot be aborted at a military facility, even in cases of rape or incest, nor will military insurance cover abortion at an off-base facility. It's a more restrictive policy than that offered to State Department workers or the guards in the federal prison system. Or inmates in the federal prison system.

    Senator Jeanne Shaheen has led the effort to provide military families with the same access to abortion that other federal employees receive, but although it's found bipartisan support in the Senate, the measure is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House

    "We don't really understand why anybody would oppose [Shaheen's bill]," says Sharon Levin, the director of federal reproductive health policy at the National Women's Law Center. "The only reason it wouldn't go through is if the Republican leadership in the House tried to block it."

    That appears likely. A GOP staffer "familiar with defense issues" told Army Times last week that the Shaheen amendment "stands little chance of surviving" when the House and Senate meet to work out their differences on the defense bill. "Historically, social provisions that are not reflected in both bills heading into conference don't survive," the staffer said—conceding that the House version of the defense bill will not include anything like Shaheen's proposal.

    Women just can't catch a break. Research confirms that Tea Party Republicans are uninterested in almost any topic that features more than two syllables, and the one exception is "abortion?"

    Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Abortion, Crime, Department of Defense, Jeanne Shaheen, Military, Women's Rights
  • Congress Uncovers Green Pentagon Conspiracy

    Constantly looking for new ways to destroy all that is well and good with America, hippies have recently taken to disguising themselves as top ranking military brass. Out are Birkenstocks and hemp skirts, in are polished shoes and chestfuls of distinguished service medals.

    But have no fear, Republican members of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, and a few Democratic allies, are wise to these tricks. The conservative magazine Human Events explains

    The Senate markup of the 2013 National Defense Appropriations Act late last month dealt a grave blow to the liberal green agenda that has taken hold of the Defense Department.

    Like the version of the bill that passed the Republican-controlled House, the Senate version censures military plans to invest heavily in costly biofuels to power ships and aircraft…The Democratic-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee voted 13-12 in late May to include two amendments sponsored by Inhofe and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would prohibit the military from purchasing alternative fuel in the next fiscal year if it cost more than traditional fuel sources.

    It's the military-green energy industrial complex Dwight Eisenhower didn't warn us about!

    I guess it's worth offering up the generals' and admirals' side of the story, since they're the "experts" on security policy, so here goes: The military isn't interested in renewable energy because they speak for the trees, they're invested in green technology because it helps them to blow shit up while reducing the risk of their own soldiers getting blown up.

    The Army's investment in energy efficient tents and trailers? It has something to do with the reality that oil tankers have a nasty habit of coming under enemy fire as they traverse the scenic byways of Central Asia on their way to  forward operating bases in Afghanistan. For those bad at math, fewer tanker trips = less American casualties.

    The Marines' interest in solar panels? Has to do with the fact that Marines operate in small units, away from resupply points, and carrying pounds of batteries reduces the amount rations, weapons and ammunition that can brought to bear on the bad guys.

    With this is mind, do we think that the Navy is invested in biofuels because a) diesel makes baby Al Gore cry, or b) because the ability to make algal biofuel while underway reduces the need for port visits where U.S. warships are especially vulnerable, a la the U.S.S. Cole?

    Though, perhaps I'm wrong and the Congressional oversight committees are doing the military a favor. If only they can harness the power of snake oil peddled by oil and gas industry lobbyists, our ships would never have to refuel again.

    Photo by Song Kyung-Seok — Pool/Getty Images/Getty Images

    Tags: Department of Defense, Energy & Oil, Environment, House of Representatives, Military, Senate
  • From the Pork Barrel: Leader of the Choom Gang

    * According to a soon-to-be-released book, teenaged Barry Obama spent his free time smoking pot amongst other activities. Just kidding. There were no other activities.

    * Hey, who's that white guy next to Obama? Must be William Ayers!

    * Here's an interesting new strategy: "Please, Please, Please Call Me a Racist™" Good luck with that.

    * Has the DNC actually discovered a rare electable Arizona Democrat?

    * Don't forget to download our Election Companion App for iPhone and iPad and follow along as we liveblog Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on this Sunday's This Week on ABC.

    Tags: Arizona, Democrats, Department of Defense, Drugs, Hawaii, Leon Panetta, Marijuana, Pork Barrel, Racism, Richard Carmona, Senate, William Ayers
  • Defense Secretary Really Sorry About Costing Fed $800,000 on Airfare

    As former CIA Director and current Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has learned, working at the Pentagon during two unpopular wars can be really emotionally taxing. So it's important to go home for some R & R every now then.

    Even if those trips cost the government a million dollars

    Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Monday that he regrets that his frequent flights home to California on a military jet have cost taxpayers more than $800,000 since July. He gave no indication, however, that he would end the weekend commutes…

    Under government rules established by President George W. Bush, the defense secretary is required to fly on military aircraft, which are outfitted with secure communication links to the White House and Pentagon…

    The AP calculated that the expense of operating Panetta's military aircraft — usually an Air Force C-37A — totaled about $860,000 for those trips.

    It's OK, though, because Leon Panetta feels so bad about costing the government a million dollars for his fancy military flights. He's so sorry, in fact, he's going to keep doing it for the foreseeable future.

    Come on. Look at that little face. He's so sad. (Or just old?) He's crying big crocodile tears. Well, with a million dollars, they're more like designer crocodile-skin tears.

    Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: CIA, Department of Defense, Leon Panetta, Money