Will the real congressional policy on gambling in the armed services please stand up?

If there is a consistent stance on this subject, it's hard to discern from the conflicting set of marching orders contained in the latest report from the House Armed Services Committee.In one part of the report, the committee notes the psychic ravages wrought by compulsive gambling and urges the Pentagon to do more to alleviate the problem:

"Given the destructive nature of obsessive gambling, the committee directs the secretary of defense to provide a report on the feasibility of establishing gambling treatment programs within military health facilities or family counseling centers on military installations."

Yet in another part of the report, the committee views with alarm the dwindling dollars available for morale-boosting recreation programs and suggests:

"The committee requests the Department of Defense to conduct an independent assessment of the merits of conducting a lottery at overseas military bases."

Someone obviously needs to tell the House panel that a cure for compulsive gambling or any other ailment is no substitute for preventing the problem in the first place.

Meanwhile, could it be that the committee's left hand doesn't know what its right hand is doing? That certainly seems like a safe bet.