Friday, February 04, 2005

Do the Math 

You have perhaps read about a provision in the President's 2006 budget proposal that would boost the so-called "death gratuity" for soldiers killed in action to $100,000 from its current paltry level of $12,420. (Insurance coverage would also be hiked by $150,000.) Our esteemed colleague Pamela Leavey at Light Up the Darkness thought this proposal sounded strangely familiar:
[A]s President, I will sign legislation to provide for those families who suffer a loss in war and to protect the livelihood of reservists who are called up and have to leave their jobs. This legislation will include $250,000 on top of their present life insurance policies for all service members who die in the line of duty.
That, if you haven't guessed, was John Kerry speaking in March of last year.

We happen to like Mr. Bush's proposal. For one thing, it would finally give the U.S. government a compelling financial reason to equip its military vehicles with armor and radio jammers:
The armor is truly a matter of life and death, as [Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi] explains: "Half of all our casualties, half of all our deaths and half of all our wounded are the direct result of improvised explosive devices [IEDs, or homemade bombs]." But when Washington officials visit Iraq, their traveling security includes not only heavily armored vehicles but also radio-signal jammers, which can disable the IEDs.

What makes Taylor authentically angry is the inexcusable failure of the U.S. brass -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he names -- to provide radio jammers (which cost $10,000 each) to the fewer than 30,000 U.S. military vehicles in Iraq . . . .

"A jammer costs about $10,000, and it probably costs about $10,000 to bury a dead GI. I believe Americans would rather spend the $10,000 to prevent the GI's funeral being held."
In the past, it clearly wasn't worth the expense to keep those troops alive, or the Pentagon probably would have done so. A standard $100K death benefit, however, would shift the numbers decisively, making it much more cost-effective to keep each soldier alive than to ship him home in a box.

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