Friday, Oct. 20, 2006 | 7:59 a.m.
E xcessive personal debts are far outweighing poor health as the reasons thousands of American troops are being denied the security clearances that allow them to serve overseas.
According to a story by the Associated Press, information from the Navy, Marines and Air Force shows that security clearances that were revoked for financial reasons have risen from 284 in 2002 to 2,654 last year.
The trend shows little sign of abating . And while military officials told AP that the revocations have not hindered the military's fighting capabilities, it has been challenging to assemble troops to go overseas.
Military personnel whose personal debt is equal to 30 percent to 40 percent of their salary - the maximum percentage is different for each branch of the military - are considered security risks because financial woes can distract them from their duties or make them susceptible to treason or bribery, Pentagon officials have said.
Part of the problem stems from a proliferation of payday loan shops that have opened near military bases. These operations allow people to borrow against future paychecks, while charging interest rates of 300 percent or more. President Bush signed legislation Tuesday that caps the amount of interest that such businesses can charge military personnel. And the military has stepped up efforts to offer troops financial counseling.
Still, buying on credit is more ingrained in the American culture than it has ever been. The consumer credit industry estimates show that the average American household carries $7,500 to $9,000 in credit card debt alone.
The military needs to probe the reasons some of these troops need to borrow so heavily. A few go on live-for-the-moment spending sprees upon returning home from tours of duty, officials said.
But the overarching reason is that they just aren't paid enough.
As our nation is engaged in a war against terrorists who despise the American culture, it is ironic that a weakening force within the U.S. military just might be the credit card.