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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Congress Short on Military Experience

Congress Short on Military Experience
Richmond Times - Dispatch February 06, 2007

As Congress debates the war in Iraq , the Senate and House are short on military experience. Only 130 of the 535 senators and representatives in the recently seated 110th Congress served on active duty or in the reserves of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard.

It's the lowest number since World War II, when 196 veterans served on the Hill in 1945. The ranks of veterans in the House peaked at 317 in 1973. The Senate had 78 in 1977.

Since then, the roll call of veterans has become much shorter. Public discontent over the Vietnam War, plus elimination of the draft, meant fewer people entered the armed forces.
Since 9/11, Congress has been dealing with the gamut of military issues -- from funding equipment and more troops to boosting pay and benefits.

Organizations representing veterans and military personnel said they spend more time lobbying nonveterans -- both politicians and staff members -- than those who served. "The impact to us is we have to educate them on veterans' issues," said David Greineder, deputy national legislative director for AMVETS.

The lack of veterans in Congress has resulted in an insensitivity to the burdens placed on troops and their families by the war and frequent deployments, said Steve Strobridge, director of government relations for Military Officers Association of America.

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