In his first term, President Obama oversaw repeal of the controversial “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
Then he broke with one of the military’s most deeply rooted traditions and vowed to lift the ban on women serving in combat.
And the commander in chief has aggressively sought to change military culture by cracking down on sexual assault and sexual harassment, problems that for years were underreported or overlooked.
Obama is an unpopular president in the eyes of the men and women in uniform. Yet his two-term administration is etching a deep imprint on the culture inside the armed forces. As commander in chief, he will leave behind a legacy that will shape the Pentagon’s personnel policies and the social customs of rank-and-file troops for decades to come.
For Obama’s supporters, the cultural changes he’s overseeing are on a level with President Truman’s 1948 order that desegregated the military and put it at the forefront of the national push for racial equality.
But to his critics, his moves amount to heavy-handed social engineering that erode deep-seated traditions and potentially undermine good order and discipline.
And for the troops in today’s career force, the wave of changes to deep-seated policies and attitudes can be jarring.