The Secretary of the Navy Lied to Congress

Read this article from Friday: “Do U.S. High Schools Bar Military Recruiters? Activists Try to Call Pentagon’s Bluff.” It discusses the offer that Pat Elder and I made to award funding to any school that could be identified as one of the over 1,100 public high schools that the Secretary of the Navy told Congress in December bar military recruiters. The article states:

“Addressing members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in December, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer described an ‘excess of 1,100 schools and districts that deny access to uniform members to recruit on campuses,’ mainly in the northeast and northwestern United States, he said. And Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green in January said there are ‘just some places where we are not allowed to recruit.’”

If you watch the video of Spencer’s statement, you’ll note that one Congress Member sounded initially surprised by the bizarre claim, but Senator Joni Ernst jumped in to act as if she was totally familiar with it. And that was the end of the reaction from the House Armed Services Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and — as far as I have been able to learn — any of the committees’ members. None of them later asked to see a list of the 1,100 schools or even an example of one. None of them inquired whether all of those schools should simply be allowed to violate the hyper-militaristic laws of the United States which actually forbid giving military recruiters less access than is given to college or job recruiters. Not a single member of Congress or the media, as far as I’ve been able to determine, so much as raised the possibility that Spencer’s list of recruitment-free schools was as real as had been Senator McCarthy’s list of communists in the government.

Now “Pentagon public affairs officer Jessica Maxwell” has told that not a single school in the United States is barring recruiters. And Jessica Maxwell has not claimed that this situation was different in January or December. She has not produced a list of 1,100 high schools that were barring recruiters in December. She has not produced the name of a single such school. But she has, very typically, muddied the waters enough to suggest that it’s possible that she might be implying that the Secretary of the Navy and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps were somehow telling the truth.

How has Jessica Maxwell done this? Well, reports: “Maxwell added that the 1,100 schools Spencer discussed were largely in New York City. The Navy, she said, has since worked with the Chancellor of the New York City Schools to restore access.”

Really? Most of the 1,100 public high schools barring recruiters were in New York City? And others were in the “Northeast and Northwest” perhaps? So, somewhere upwards of 100 percent of New York City public high schools were barring admittance to military recruiters in gross violation of the law, and nobody I know has heard of anybody who has heard of even one such school? And there hasn’t been a single news article or blog post about this? And nobody told Fox News? And sometime in the past three months every one of those schools reversed its policy, and again there’s not a word to be found about this change anywhere?

Of course the Pentagon may realize that someone might find this all a tad hard to believe. So, Jessica Maxwell, as reported on by, adds in an attempt to change the subject: “Interpretation of the law can vary by school and district. Access may mean direct contact and freedom to approach students on campus or in classrooms, or it may be tightly controlled, restricted to requiring direct appointments only and limiting distribution of information. It also may be limited to offsite events such as college fairs.” In other words, schools may be giving military recruiters at least as much access to students as they are giving to college and job recruiters, but the military recruiters may not be satisfied with that. And this dissatisfaction would not, of course, mean that it was true that military recruiters were barred, but we might pretend it meant that, so as to all feel better about prominent public liars.

If we were to try to pretend that, however, we’d quickly run into the problem that thousands of military recruiters all over the United States would probably prefer even more access to kids if they could get it. The notion that such desires are restricted to New York City, or even to the Northeast and the Northwest is as absurd as the notion that this is what the Secretary of Navy was talking about when he lied to Congress.

The point of saying he lied to Congress is not that I know what he was thinking, that I have a magical ability to be sure he knew he was lying to Congress. Perhaps he honestly believed what he was saying. But he spoke, not as an individual, but as the Secretary of the Navy, whose office has never replied to my inquiry, and apparently never communicated to any regret, apology, excuse, or explanation whatsoever. Instead, the Pentagon has done what it typically does: lied further.

Typically, Pentagon lies are about topics that may seem more significant: fraudulent cases for wars over WMDs, etc., or coverups of atrocities: “They were insurgents. Even the kids. Well, not the kids. But we were nowhere near them. They killed themselves. They’re still alive right now. They were used as human shields by our former weapons customer, so we had to kill them. Which we did not do.” Etc. But recruitment is not a minor concern. The only way they can throw a war and have nobody come is if some limit is placed on the extravagances of the recruitment industrial complex. has its own pagedangling $50,000 bonuses in front of anyone who will sign up to join the U.S. military. If $50,000 won’t do it, perhaps $100,000 will. After all, the poor recruiters have one hand tied behind their backs by the 1,100 schools that won’t let them in.

Or perhaps this part of the article is the part worth taking seriously:

“Swanson said the [military is] having trouble recruiting because of low unemployment and the unpopularity of ‘participating in endless brutal wars that serve no clear purpose, increase hostility to the United States and leave participants at heightened risk of death, physical injury, brain damage, post-traumatic stress disorder, moral injury, violent crime, homelessness and suicide.’”

According to Pat Elder, lying is routine, not only in the process of military recruitment, but also in how the military talks about that process:

“The United States Military Entrance Processing Command, (USMEPCOM) is the division of the Pentagon that is responsible for inducting America’s youth into the all four branches in the military. The command is a reckless institution with little or no regard for transparency, rule of law, or civil liberties.

“USMEPCOM routinely misleads the American public. Following is a brief description of the most destructive lies they tell. They fall into four categories that cover military testing, the JROTC program, the access recruiters enjoy, and the “opt-out” process.

“(1) The command claims it is providing a public service when it administers the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) to nearly 700,000 children in 12,000 high schools across the country. Military recruiting manuals say the ASVAB’s primary purpose is to collect information on youth to procure leads for recruiters. Throughout the country, the testing regime is marketed in high schools as a free “career exploration program” that helps students – especially those who don’t go on to college – figure out what they want to do when they grow up. USMEPCOM also misleads the American public regarding a thousand schools that now require students to take the military test during school hours, usually without parental knowledge or consent. The command fails to disclose the actual number of schools that make the test mandatory.

“(2) The military lies to the public about the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program (JROTC). The military stands by the absurd contention that the JROTC program is a public service, rather than a recruiting program. The JROTC textbooks teach an untruthful and highly reactionary brand of American history. In addition, the military minimizes the potential health risks of lead contamination associated with nearly 2,000 marksmanship programs it operates in America’s high schools. Children routinely shoot lead ammunition from firearms in their cafeterias and gyms where the floors are covered with lethal lead dust.

“(3) The military continues to mislead the public regarding the access they have to our children in the high schools. Federal law says college recruiters and military recruiters are to have the same access to kids. In many schools, however, recruiters enjoy far greater access to students than college recruiters. Military recruiters often have lunch with students in the cafeteria and are free to fraternize with students during unsupervised encounters. Meanwhile, college recruiters usually meet with a small handful of students in the guidance office.

“(4) USMEPCOM continuously misleads the public by spreading misinformation regarding Section 8025 of the Every Student Succeeds Act, (ESSA). This section of the law says schools must relinquish the names, addresses and phone numbers of children – but nothing more. The law also says parents should be told they have the right to remove their child’s information from lists being forward to the Pentagon, although this fact is rarely conveyed by the recruiting command. USMEPCOM also peddles the misperception that ‘opting out’ by parents will preclude ASVAB data from reaching recruiters, although this is not the case.”

Why offer $2,000 to anyone who can prove the Pentagon has told the truth? Because:

1) There’s no real risk of losing the $2,000, and

2) Perhaps the Pentagon will now be compelled to admit, even to its Congressional sycophants, that it has forced open every schoolhouse door and still can’t manage to gather its cannon fodder, and

3) Perhaps someone will ask why that is.

David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of and campaign coordinator for Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at and He hosts Talk Nation Radio. He is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and was awarded the 2018 Peace Prize by the U.S. Peace Memorial Foundation. Longer bio and photos and videos here. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook, and sign up for: