As President-elect Obama's cabinet nominees troop through the Senate seeking confirmation, Think Tank Round-Up is pleased to confirm that new reports on military demographics, health care reform and the challenge of Iran are summarized here for your convenience.

  • Hispanics in the military – or not. More Hispanics want to join the military than any other group, but military standards can keep that goal from being realized. In a federally funded study to be released tomorrow by the RAND Corporation, the authors respond to congressional and Department of Defense concerns that the military reflect the composition of the U.S. population by exploring obstacles to Hispanic service. Compared to non-Hispanic blacks and whites, Hispanics are the most likely to drop out of high school. As the military prefers 90 percent of enlisted service members to be high school graduates, this could be keeping some Hispanics from the ranks. Another obstacle is the aptitude test, given in English, which alone prevents Spanish-dominant Hispanics from making the cut. Obesity also gets in the way. The report refers to many studies that show Hispanics have worse weight problems than other prospective groups. But immigrant, especially first-generation, Hispanics tend not to have weight problems. While the Army and Navy offer English training for under-performing applicants, and the Marine Corps has a weight loss program, no military service fast-tracks applicants’ citizenship. Though the services can and do waive some standards, he report observes “the waiver process is not entirely transparent" and RAND plans to analyze the process after two years of further investigation. -- CP
  • The fruits of health care reform. The Urban Institute presents the results of a monitoring study of health insurance coverage in Massachusetts: Two years after the commonwealth's health care reform was enacted, only 2.6 percent of residents lack medical insurance, compared to national rates of approximately 15 percent. The reforms enacted under Governor Mitt Romney, including health care subsidies for the poor, a mandate that imposes tax penalties on higher income residents who do not buy health insurance, and a new agency to administer the subsidies and facilitate private purchase of insurance plans, have led to a continuous drop in the number of uninsured. A large majority of adults have found employer-sponsored health insurance plans, while larger numbers of children and the elderly are on government programs. As comprehensive health care reform builds momentum on the national level, no doubt many policymakers will look towards the lessons of the Massachusetts program to build a federal equivalent.-- TF
  • Iran's so far away ... from getting a nuclear weapon. [PDF] Anthony Cordesman and Adam Seitz at the Center for Strategic and International Studies have analyzed the Iranian nuclear program, it's chain of command, and the doctrines set out by Iranian leaders. While Iran likely won't be a fully-functioning nuclear power for another three years to five years, the authors caution that "with Iran‘s nuclear program continuing to progress amid international pressure,
    sanctions, the threat of military action, internal strife, and economic meltdown, the
    prospects for meaningful negotiations are becoming all the more unlikely." They note suggestions that a program of military deterrence would be the best response to Iran's ambitions, although consideration of actual policy options will have to wait until their next report. The authors do emphasize, however, that it is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who has the most control over the Iran's nuclear program and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, so any effective diplomatic outreach must be aimed at him.-- TF

-- TAP Staff

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