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Our country has never been noted for generosity toward the commissioned officers of its land and naval forces; but never before now has our niggardliness reached the proportions of a menace to our national safety.
Since the armistice, thousands of permanent officers in both branches of the service have been forced to resign by reason of underpay. We are glad to learn that Congress has at last seen the danger which lies in such a wholesale depletion of our armed establishment, and after a long delay has agreed to grant some relief. The present increase is scanty enough; but it is better than nothing. It is the first alteration in the scale of officers' pay for over fifteen years. Hitherto, a second lieutenant received only $1700 a year; and the higher grades have been almost equally underpaid. We must realize, moreover, that the officer is compelled to purchase, out of his own pocket, what the enlisted man receives free.
The bill now awaiting the President's signature is a step in the right direction; but it comes too late. Congress should have acted in this matter at least a year ago, if our forces were to be kept intact. But for what we have we should be grateful. We have been talking much of late about bonuses and rewards for our veterans; and Congress is today bickering about grants for these ends. But without questioning the expediency of such grants, we must not forget that those still in the service deserve at least as much at our hands. A square deal to the forces of the past is an excellent thing. A square deal to the forces of the present and future is no less essential to our national welfare.
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