"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Time to Get Rid of Chaplains - Win for Sequestration and the Constitution


With all the talk of cutting warfighters yet again, and remarks about being creative in solving the budget issues, I find it interesting that there has been no discussion of cutting the chaplain corps in its entirety.  Here is why I think it makes sense to cut chaplains, especially these days.

First, their existence is a violation of our Constitution.  Article VI (the same article that requires military officers to swear to support the Constitution), states:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
As should be obvious, being religiously certified is required to be a chaplain.  A non-religious person cannot be a chaplain.  Not all religious people can be a chaplain either, they have to have certain certifications and pass certain tests to get into that position (ie for the "qualification").  In the military, chaplains are sworn in as executive officers and become taxpayer funded military officers with military retirements.  Their existence is quite clearly unconstitutional, as a religious test is most assuredly required for the public office of the chaplaincy.

Second, the nation has become more secular and very few people in the service use the services of a chaplain.  While there are some people who are religious who do, and some non-religious people who use them for secular counseling sessions, very few overall use their services and many chaplains are never seen other than being asked to give an official prayer at a public event, or perhaps when the chapel hosts various diversity events.

Third, the religious services of chaplains are easily replicated at no cost to the taxpayer.  One has only to drive out the front gate of their base to find plenty of religious options, should that be their desire.  For those who wish to worship, the vast majority can have their needs met anywhere in the United States off base.  In fact, the vast majority of religious people do get their needs met off base, despite having a chapel available to them.  Some religious traditions are not so easily met in a community, and typically in that case they are not met on base at the chapel, either.  Further, most religious institutions have a missionary ethic, and it would be easy for non-military religions to supply ministers and such to deploy, for free, with the military as desired.  It doesn't make sense to spend taxpayer money on something that so many desire to provide without compensation.

Fourth, chaplains are all officers.  According to Wiki, there are nearly 3000 active duty chaplains.  Remembering those are all officer positions that come with officer retirements, it then stands to reason that there is a huge amount of money to be saved by cutting their billets (my rough calculations show a savings of at least 300 million a year, but I suspect it's closer to a billion a year in savings).  Beyond that, there is even more warfighting capability to be garnered by sending their enlisted aides to combat support and operational positions.

I have several chaplain friends, and many of them do great work.  The reality, however, is that they should not exist in their current form.  A volunteer chaplain corps could easily exist, with the same board that certifies chaplains today still continuing to certify them.  Some religious traditions would likely see working without the trappings of military benefits, and retirement, and money from Ceasar as even more meaningful.  Either way, the service the chaplaincy provides can easily be provided without cost to the taxpayer.  Of course it's a hot button political issue, and politics will likely continue to trump solutions that make sense, so instead of chaplains, I expect those cut in 2014 will be skilled warfighters not easily replaced for free by simply walking out the front gate.

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