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Military Officer Corps Becoming More Political, Risking Loss of Public Trust

There was a time that the U.S. military sat comfortably above the political fray. That is no longer the case, and it is social media, perhaps more than anything else, that is responsible for the greatly-increasing politicization of America’s armed forces.

2017-02-27_11-03-44In a poll conducted by the National Defense University, the results of which were shared with the news site POLITICO, 500 West Point cadets and active duty military officers were surveyed as to the role politics played in their lives within the context of their careers.

Among the findings, 75 percent of respondents said they had seen social media posts or reposts by other officers that pertained to political articles and/or ideas.

Additionally, one-third of respondents said they “regularly” witness officers promote a political candidacy and/or criticize that of another.

According to Col. Heidi Urben, USA, a political scientist who helped assemble this study last year, these survey findings are a bad sign.

“Such behavior threatens to erode the trust in which the public holds the military, leading to it being viewed as just another interest group,” says Urben. The colonel also points out that leadership “must do a better job of communicating why this matters.” Referring to Gallup poll numbers that say the American public continues to have great trust in the American military, Urben notes, “Those trust and confidence levels, in part, relate to the fact that we are viewed as nonpartisan.”

Retired Lt. Col. Jason Dempsey, USA, a researcher for think tank Center for a New American Security, says, “It (the military) is the most trusted institution, but a great deal of that is because the military is seen as above the political fray and is interested in the mission without a political ideology getting in the way. What happens when you open that can of worms and the military is perceived as captured? Its reputation will plummet.”

Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large