SFA Commo Sgt comment: This article, from Military Times was originally titled "The next president's military: Here's a comparison of the candidates' priorities". There seems to be a recent phenomenon whereas retired Military Generals have become more public and outspoken in their political commentary, supporting one candidate or another. Most recently USA retired LTG Michael Flynn came out in support of Donald Trump whereas USMC retired General John Allen came out in support Hillary Clinton. Given Mrs. Clinton's support for the lifting of Iranian sanctions, her in-actions before/during Benghazi, and her security violations with classified material it is strange times when military Generals can support this. Watch for more General Officers to come out in support of one candidate or the other, or publically addresing a specific policy stance such as in the instance of Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McCrystal publically supporting enhanced gun control. In fact, the Special Forces Association National Headquarters issued a membership resolution, at the annual convention in July 2016, addressing the SFA stance against Petraeus and McCrystal stating "the U.S. Constitution and all of its amendments, realizing that only the existence of the Second Amendment guarantees the freedom of the American people and that the Bill of Rights was written to delineate and restrict the power of government and not to restrict the powers and rights of the people or states.”
Troops and veterans voting in the presidential election this fall won’t just be picking their choice for commander in chief, they’ll also be choosing which political party sets the agenda on military issues for the next four years.
Democratic and Republican leaders finalized their party platforms at their respective conventions in July, outlining a broad set of goals for handling national defense, Veterans Affairs reform and maintaining service members' morale. Both parties call for a stronger military. Both promise to defeat terrorism abroad and target Islamic State fighters in the Middle East. Both pledge to overhaul veterans’ healthcare programs.
But like the party’s presidential picks, the two plans also offer stark contrasts. Republicans promise to take a more aggressive stance against hostile threats abroad. Democrats advocate the importance of diplomacy and alliances as the smartest path to security. Neither plan agrees on what VA reform means.
For military personnel and their families, those stances could have implications beyond just the next president’s time in the White House. Here are some of the key distinctions between the two parties' platforms.
Military pay, benefits
Democrats want to expand troops’ benefits, promising to push “more educational benefits and job training” for troops and veterans. Party leaders also vowed to ensure reservists and National Guard personnel are “treated fairly” when it comes to benefits, and to improve services to help them transition to civilian careers.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has reinforced that idea in recent months on the campaign trail, and speakers at the party convention in Philadelphia reiterated those general promises.
But the Republican platform on military benefits is significantly more detailed. It supports a full military pay raise equal to the private sector's average annual rise. It also decries Pentagon cuts to other benefits, proposals that many conservative lawmakers have reluctantly approved in recent years.
“Military families must be assured of the pay, healthcare, housing, education, and overall support they have earned,” the Republican platform says. “In recent years, they have been carrying the burden of budgetary restraint more than any other Americans through cuts in their pay, health benefits, and retirement plans. We cannot expect that level of patriotic commitment to continue among young people who have experienced the way their families have been treated.”
Neither party’s plan fully outlines how to pay for any benefits expansion. Both sides blame ongoing budget caps, approved by Congress in 2011, for the financial squeeze being put on service members and their families. Yet neither party has identified a compromise that would replace those spending limits.
Military size, strength
Republicans promise in their platform to “reverse America’s military decline,” a situation they blame on too little funding and too few troops. Their plan calls for adding military personnel, “increasing investments in training and maintenance,” and rebuilding military facilities worldwide.
“Successive years of cuts to our defense budget have put an undue strain on our men and women in uniform,” the platform states. “This is especially harmful at a time when we are asking our military to do more in an increasingly dangerous world.”
That message has been underscored repeatedly by GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. In his convention acceptance speech on July 21, he vowed to "completely rebuild our depleted military" and make foreign allies "pay their fair share" of the cost of stationing U.S. troops and equipment overseas.
The Democratic platform calls for “a smart, predictable defense budget that meets the strategic challenges we face.” The document makes no mention of force size, but it does promise to address the readiness shortfalls that Republicans highlight.
“We must prioritize military readiness by making sure our active, reserve, and National Guard components remain the best trained and equipped in the world,” it states. “We will seek a more agile and flexible force, and rid the military of outdated Cold War-era systems.”
Clinton underscored her message of relying on both diplomacy and military might in her nomination acceptance speech Thursday night.
"America's strength doesn't come from lashing out," she said. "Strength relies on smarts, judgment, cool resolve, and the precise and strategic application of power..."
"Keeping our nation safe and honoring the people who do it will be my highest priority."
The Democratic plans also include promises to end waste in the defense budget, detailing a high-level commission to review the role of defense contractors in Pentagon operations.
The Democratic platform praises repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” law, which prohibited gay troops from publicly revealing their sexual orientation, and lauds efforts to open all combat roles to women. It promises to build on those ideas, looking to ensure that minority groups within the military are protected while still being held to high standards for service.
Republicans call this social experimentation.
“We believe that our nation is most secure when the president and the administration prioritize readiness, recruitment, and retention rather than using the military to advance a social or political agenda,” the GOP document states.
That includes suggestions for requiring women to register with Selective Service — a proposal currently circulating on Capitol Hill — as well as creating rules governing the discussion of religion in the ranks and unspecified “intra-military special interest demonstrations.”
Republicans want “an objective review of the impact on readiness of the current administration’s ideology-based personnel policies” to determine if any such personnel changes need to be rolled back.
Democrats reject that stance entirely in their platform.
“Our military is strongest when people of all races, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities are honored for their service to our country,” their document states. “Democrats welcome and honor all Americans who want to serve and will continue to fight for their equal rights and recognition.”
The Republican platform promises to massively expand health care options outside VA as a way to alleviate wait times and get all veterans the best care possible.
The Democratic platform calls that idea a disaster.
“We reject attempts by Republicans to sell out the needs of veterans by privatizing the VA,” their plan states. “We believe that the VA must be fully resourced so that every veteran gets the care that he or she has earned and deserves, including those suffering from sexual assault, mental illness and other injuries or ailments.”
Most of Clinton’s campaign focus on veterans in recent months has centered on the issue of voucherizing or privatizing VA, an idea she has also promised to vigorously oppose.
Instead, both her staff and the Democratic platform have pledge to put in place more resources to make VA services operate better, rather than moving those appointments outside the system.
But the Republican platform — and Trump — see that approach as naive and too reserved.
“We cannot allow an unresponsive bureaucracy to blunt our national commitment” to veterans, the party’s platform states. “The VA must strengthen and improve its efforts through partnerships with private enterprises, veteran service organizations, technology and innovation.
“That includes allowing veterans to choose to access care in the community and not just in VA facilities, because the best care in the world is not effective if it is not accessible.”
In his convention speech, Trump promised to make every federal department leader, including the next VA secretary, "provide a list of wasteful spending projects that we can eliminate in my first 100 days." He has repeatedly said eliminating fraud and abuse will help fund numerous reforms at the agency.
Republicans in the planning document also outline plans to bolster support for veterans’ cemeteries nationwide and improve transition support for troops leaving the ranks.
Any comments by the SFA Commo Sgt (highlighted in yellow font at the beginning of this post) who serves as the SFA Chapter IX website administrator and moderator, are his comments alone, and are not necessary shared by the general Chapter memberership nor cordoned by the Chapter Executive Board.