President Donald Trump has pledged to expand the size of the service branches while upgrading outdated military equipment. The newly sworn-in commander-in-chief placed military and veteran issues at the forefront during his campaign and his transition to the presidency, and included plans to increase military personnel and to modernize the force.
But what does it all mean for service members and their families?
Bob Carey, Director of Military and Veterans Outreach for the Republican National Committee, says long neglected matters finally will be addressed.
“We’re treating veterans really poorly and the scandals at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have not been addressed properly and [the Obama] administration has failed to do so,” said Carey, a retired U.S. Navy Capt. “[Trump] understands that, and so his ability to focus on those issues, to focus on veterans’ issues, and national security issues also made it much easier for us to be able to message to voters — to veteran voters, on veterans’ issues.”
Rebuilding the force
Carey, who served 29 years in the military, says he believes Trump’s top priorities are pretty clear: give troops what they need.
A recent survey by Blue Star Families revealed 72% of service members and their spouses say the current operational tempo exerts an unacceptable level of stress for a healthy work/family life. Carey says the findings are not surprising when “you don’t have enough of a force in order to be able to support those commitments” after 15 years of war and recent drawdowns.
“What I hear anecdotally from the friends of mine who are still in is that they’re being told they’re going on eight, nine, 10-month deployments,” he said. “And you know the Navy and Marine Corps are no strangers to peacetime deployments, but even peacetime deployments are being extended because there aren’t enough forces available. And so, it just seems to stand to argue that you increase the size of the force, you reduce the op tempo.”
All the president’s generals
As President Trump prepared for the transition into his new role, he relied on military experience by naming several veterans to key positions in his administration. One of his first announcements after the election was tapping Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser.
Trump’s pick for Secretary of Defense came during a December speech at Fort Bragg, where he formally named well-known Marine Corps General Jim Mattis to the top Pentagon position. Mattis served 44 years in the Marines and has a favorable reputation among troops and support from both political parties.
“I am proud to nominate General James Mattis to Secretary of Defense,” Trump said during his “Thank You Tour” in North Carolina. “He is one of the most effective generals and extraordinary leaders of our time, who has committed his life to his love for our country. General Mattis is the living embodiment of the Marine Corps motto, ‘Semper Fidelis,’ always faithful, and the American people are fortunate that a man of his character and integrity will now be the civilian leader atop the Department of Defense. Under his leadership, we will rebuild our military and alliances, destroy terrorists and face our enemies head on, and make America safe again.”
In addition, Trump announced his nomination of retired Marine General John Kelly to become the Secretary of the Department ofHomeland Security. Kelly, who served as Commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), is a Gold Star dad who lost his son to combat in Afghanistan.
Another veteran tapped for Trump’s administration is former U.S. Army infantry officer and current Virtu Financial Founder and Executive Chairman Vincent “Vinnie” Viola as Secretary of the Army.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R.-Mont.), Trump’s nominee for Secretary of the Interior, served 23 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL, retiring in 2008 with a rank of Commander after leading SEAL operations throughout the globe. After serving in the Montana State Senate, Zinke became the first Navy SEAL to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives when he was elected in 2014.
Trump’s pick for the CIA Director, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R.-Kan.), is a graduate of West Point and served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also served with the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry in the Fourth Infantry Division.
Even Trump’s Secretary of State nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has military ties, having served in the United States Army Reserve for 13 years. South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Trump’s pick as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, also has a military connection — her husband, Michael, is a captain in the Army National Guard and a combat veteran.
Carey says these appointments — among other actions — proves President Trump’s ability to recognize the experience needed to solve today’s multifaceted problems.
“He’s walking the walk and talking the talk. I think he understands the value of military experience and organizational acumen and ability to get the job done and understanding how to convert goals to tasks,” he said. “Those are all important elements, especially in some of those areas where we have complex problems.”
As the Trump presidency takes shape, service members and their families will find out how much authority the new commander-in-chief has to impact military matters. Trump has said he plans to move swiftly on directing U.S. generals for a new plan to defeat ISIS. He also intends to ask Congress to eliminate the defense sequester in order to make room for a new defense budget that allows for future planning. Still, Carey says the biggest impact that will be seen from the new president is a focus on the quality-of-life of the force along with the re-commitment to letting those troops know they have full support from the White House.
“You increase the size of the force, you give everyone a little more breathing room. Military personnel are not afraid of deploying or doing their craft — that’s why they joined — but you want to know someone has your back and someone is thinking about the impact on you,” he added.
Trump’s vision for national defense
- Work with Congress to fully repeal the defense sequester and submit a new budget to rebuild our depleted military.
- 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.
- Rebuild the U.S. Navy toward a goal of 350 ships, as the bipartisan National Defense Panel has recommended.
- Provide the U.S. Air Force with the 1,200 fighter aircraft they need.
- Grow the U.S. Marine Corps to 36 battalions.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
— From www.donaldjtrump.com/policies