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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans in Public Office

Rebecca Burgess reports at AEI:
For well-on thirty years, military veterans have been a decreasing presence in Congress. From the high-water mark of the 1970s when veterans made up more than three-fourths of Congress, today their numbers have receded by about 75%, inviting concern from more than one quarter about the negative ramifications a national legislative body with miniscule practical military knowledge — but significant powers over the purse and the sword — has both domestically and abroad.

But looked at from a different perspective, while Washington legislators are more likely to have served in the armed forces than those at the state level, legislators at the state and federal level are more likely to be veterans than the general population.

In 1971, veterans made up 72% of members in the House of Representatives, and 78% of the Senate. In 1991, the Congress that approved the use of force against Iraq in Operation Desert Storm had only slightly more veterans than non-veterans.

Three Congresses later, the percentage of veterans had dropped to 32%. The 114th Congress currently features a Senate with 20% of its members as veterans and a House with 18%, split 70% Republican and 30% Democratic in the former, 75% Republican and 25% Democratic in the latter.

Across the 50 states, 7 governors and 4 lieutenant governors have military experience (Governors Robert Bentley, AL-R; Rick Scott, FL-R; Nathan Deal, GA-R; Butch Otter, ID-R; Terry Branstad, IA-R; Steven Beshear, KY-D; Gary Herbert, UT-R; Lt. Governors: Tim Griffin, AK-R; Mike Stack, PA-D; Matt Michels, SD-R; Ralph Northam, VA-D). Also at the state level, out of 1,966 state senators, 249 share military service. Out of a total of 50 states, only one—Mississippi—currently has no state senator who has served in the military (but its US Senator Thad Cochran served in the Navy for several years). Of all state senators, current tabulations put 170 as Republican, 79 Democratic.