The U.S. Military & the 2016 Election: What You Need to Know | American Center for Law and Justice
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The U.S. Military & the 2016 Election

By Wesley Smith1478274657953

With the presidential election just days away, it is important to compare the viewpoints and promises of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as it applies to the Armed Forces of the United States.  In an article in the May 2016 issue of Army Magazine by General Frederick Kroesen, retired Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, he makes the case, “We are now engaged in what may be a generational war with a terrorist complex that is gaining power and influence...We have yet to decide on our own objectives, other than peace.”  And then he makes a telling statement: “So far, no candidate for the office of president has exhibited an understanding of both the need for objectives that will settle this war and the development of the forces needed to achieve them, especially the need for allies seeking the same resolution.”

So where do Clinton and Trump stand as it pertains to the military?  Since the general’s statement last May, have they developed clear military objectives and the forces needed to achieve them?

Looking at the candidates’ respective websites and examining both their personal statements and the statements of their military advisors, here is what we know (My comments are in parentheses):

First, Mrs. Clinton:  On her official website she first states that it is important for the White House and Congress to reach a budgetary agreement and end sequester, which hangs like the sword of Damocles over the military.  However, there is this caveat:  Clinton contends that both defense and non-defense spending must be addressed equally; one cannot call for an increase in defense spending while also cutting domestic expenditures.  The website states that her goal is to “Create a defense budget that reflects good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.  As president, Hillary will prioritize defense reform initiatives, curbing runaway cost growth in areas like health care and acquisition...” (Although,  this statement is followed immediately by a pledge to take care of veterans, curbing benefits appears to be incompatible with taking care of our veterans since one of the most valuable benefits to both service members and former service members (veterans) is the health care provided for those in the military, retirees, and their families.)

This opening statement is followed by five goals regarding the military.

  1. Give military families more flexibility.  (This includes things like paternity leave and time off from the service for education and so forth.)
  2. Support military spouses pursuing jobs and education.  (Clinton’s plan would designate state and federal funds to help spouses who are unemployed or under-employed.)
  3. Help families who are changing locations or transitioning out of the military.  (This would allow families to continue receiving housing allowances for six months after separating from the military, what the website mistakenly calls a “Permanent Change of Station,” or PCS.  A normal PCS move (going from one assignment to another) does not mean that a military family would cease to receive a housing allowance.)
  4. Ensure children in military families receive a high-quality education.  (This goal would increase funding to Department of Defense (DOD) Schools and preserve the Post 9-11 G.I. Bill.)
  5. Champion the care and needs of service members.  (Clinton proposes a standing council to ensure that government agencies are meeting the needs of service members, veterans, and their families.  This would also include extending military healthcare benefits for National Guard and Reserve members, even when they are not deployed.)

Donald Trump’s stance regarding the military begins with what he calls “Peace through strength,” which was a prominent theme for President Ronald Reagan.  Trump believes the military has been degraded and must be rebuilt.  On Trump’s official website, he lists eight priorities for the military:

  1. Work with Congress to fully repeal the defense sequester and submit a new budget to rebuild our depleted military.
  2. Increase the size of the U.S. Army to 540,000 active duty soldiers, which the Army Chief of Staff says he needs to execute current missions. (The size of the Army presently is 475,000, on the way down to the Obama Administration’s target of 450,000.  The Chief of Staff of the Army does say this size is inadequate to meet the defense needs of the United States.)
  3. Rebuild the U.S. Navy toward a goal of 350 ships, as the bipartisan National Defense Panel has recommended. (Today the Navy has 272 ships, the smallest navy since before World War II.)
  4. Provide the U.S. Air Force with the 1,200 fighter aircraft they need. (The Air Force has an aging fleet of planes and, at any given time, over one-third are not combat ready.)
  5. Grow the U.S. Marine Corps to 36 battalions. (This would bring the size of the Marine Corps from the present number of 180,000 to 200,000.)
  6. Invest in a serious missile defense system to meet growing threats by modernizing our Navy's cruisers and procuring additional, modern destroyers to counter the ballistic missile threat from Iran and North Korea. (The Obama Administration has tried to eliminate 11 guided missile cruisers as a part of decreasing the size of the Navy; Congress has blocked these attempts.)
  7. Emphasize cyber warfare and require a comprehensive review from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all relevant federal agencies to identify our cyber vulnerabilities and to protect all vital infrastructure and to create a state-of-the-art cyber defense and offense. (The Pentagon’s “Cyber Command” was created by the Obama Administration.)
  8. Pay for this necessary rebuilding of our national defense by conducting a full audit of the Pentagon, eliminating incorrect payments, reducing duplicative bureaucracy, collecting unpaid taxes, and ending unwanted and unauthorized federal programs.

These are the positions and the goals of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, one of whom will be the next Commander-in-Chief.  Civilian control of the military was in the very fiber of our Constitution and our nation’s founding, from the very beginning; it is an important “American” concept.  Next Tuesday, Americans will choose not only a President, but the Commander-in-Chief of all our Armed Forces.  Your vote matters.

This post is only intended to present the positions of both major candidates for President. The ACLJ does not endorse or oppose candidates for public office.

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