Our parent organization, MOAA,
reached out to Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson,
and Donald Trump for their perspective on issues important to the military community. Each candidate received the opportunity to provide responses to
the same four questions.
Below, in alphabetical order, are the
unedited comments provided by their respective campaigns, in their
entirety. The answers and their relative lengths reflect the views and
choices of the candidates.
Sequestration law requires the defense budget to absorb 50 percent of a
nearly $1 trillion budget cut over a 10 year period. What is your view
of that allocation and the share of future budget cuts that should be
taken from defense?
As Commander-in-Chief, I
would ensure that the United States military is the best-trained,
best-equipped and best-supported fighting force in the world. This
requires us to resource our military at a level that ensures we can
defeat any threat to our vital interests.
Sequestration has been damaging to our force and must be eliminated.
budget roller coaster imposed by a Republican Congress has undermined
our security, our ability to plan for the future and our investment in
our people and future capabilities. What the Department of Defense needs
- and deserves - is a stable and predictable defense budget set
according to strategic need rather than arbitrary budget caps. I will
put a priority on reaching a sustainable budget deal that balances our
need for adequate defense spending with key domestic priorities. I
support lifting the Budget Control Act caps for defense and non-defense
spending. I will commit to a smart, strategic, and sustainable spending
plan that maintains a truly unrivaled joint force.
At the same
time, the American people deserve a defense program that demonstrates
good stewardship of taxpayer dollars. As President, I will prioritize
smart reforms to both defense and non-defense spending. Now more than
ever, the country cannot afford to waste precious defense dollars on
outdated systems, processes, or programs that poorly serve our men and
women in uniform.
across-the-board budget cuts show how dysfunctional Washington has
become. Let's remember how the sequester came about. The federal
government had racked up nearly $3 trillion of debt in just two years'
time. Even the outdated political parties understood that that level of
spending couldn't continue, and so they pledged to work together to rein
in debt. Predictably, Democrats and Republicans refused to compromise
and the automatic $1 trillion of cuts kicked in without regard to any
particular program's merits. That's not how to budget intelligently.
should have the most powerful defense in the world. Our federal
government tries to do too much, spends too much, and wastes taxpayers'
money. But clearly national defense is a core function of our federal
government, and as Commander-in-Chief, I'll ensure that our country will
be protected appropriately.
The Obama administration has
overextended our military with unwise operations in Libya and Syria,
much like the Bush administration did in Iraq. We can save money by
deploying our servicemembers only when America's security is seriously
at risk. We must call on our allies to do their part in responding to
security threats and investing in their own defenses. And we must look
seriously at reforming procurement and benefits structures that
underserve our military.
Our first task after
taking office is to restore robust growth in our economy. Without a
strong economy, we will not be able to begin the effort to modernize our
military forces and restore combat readiness. I will ask Congress to
rescind sequestration and will present a budget that will begin the
process of recapitalizing our military. Our goal will be to reshape the
armed forces to fight current and future enemies while at the same time
establishing fiscal responsibility in our budgeting and acquisition
In the past, large post-war force reductions have left insufficient
forces to meet the next unexpected contingency. Considering the
extraordinary stresses on our military over the past 15 years of war and
continuing threats from ISIS, Iran, North Korea, and others, what force
levels (relative to current forces) do you believe are needed to be
prepared for potential future contingencies?
All-Volunteer Force has been stressed by 14 years of continuous combat
and is endeavoring to rebuild and reset, while facing growing
instability and complexity around the world. As Commander-in-Chief, I
will ensure our military is:
- Ready and
Agile: The U.S. military must be trained, equipped, and led to operate
on short-notice across all domains. We must recruit and retain the best
talent while investing in military readiness, because we cannot send our
men and women into danger unprepared.
- The World's Leader in
Innovation: Our adversaries have increasing access to advanced
technology and a demonstrated willingness to employ a mix of approaches
that challenge us. We must invest in research and development, keep the
defense industrial base vibrant, and develop a military culture that
nurtures experimentation and innovative approaches. We need a military
that's built for threats over the horizon - not fighting old wars or
keeping defense contractors happy.
- Enabling Smart Power: Our
military and diplomacy efforts should fit hand-in-glove. America is most
effective when our military, ambassadors, intelligence professionals,
and development experts operate together and work closely with allies
and partners. APresident has a sacred responsibility to send our troops
into battle only if we absolutely must, and only with a clear and
well-thought-out strategy. That is why we must first embrace all of the
tools of American power, including diplomacy and development, as it is
often the only way to avoid a conflict that could end up exacting a much
- Resourced for Success: Maintaining the best
military in the world takes a dedicated investment, but we should be
much smarter in our defense spending. Every dollar in defense must
contribute to the safety and success of our service members, not to
perpetuate wasteful practices that prop-up industrial-age approaches.
That is why I will advocate for budget reform measures grounded in
permanently ending the damaging sequester while making smart reforms in
both defense and non-defense spending.
I also recognize
that military family readiness is a critical part of total force
readiness and understand that military families face unique concerns and
challenges. Preparing for the future must mean ensuring they have the
support and resources they need not only helps our nation attract and
retain the most talented service members; it is also the right thing to
do. As President, I will:
- Realign the demands
of a military career in service to the nation to accommodate 21st
century family realities while maintaining a strong force
- Back military spouses as they pursue education, seek jobs, build careers, and secure their finances
- Ensure military children receive a high-quality education and the resources to succeed
- Bring key resources for military families into the information age
- Champion efforts to care for our military members and families
and build on the Obama Administration's effort to elevate military
families in the White House and across the government
have asked too much of our servicemembers over the last two
administrations. We should deploy our military force judiciously, and
when the decision to engage is made, we owe it to our troops to equip
them with the most advanced tools.
Our force levels need to be mission-driven. Responding to emerging
threats-ISIS, cyber warfare, and nuclear proliferation among them-may
mean a gradual reduction in total force levels along with new
investments in technology and training.
levels must be determined on how we intend to defend our country and
allies and on how we intend to fight our enemies. We must consider the
configuration of our armed forces as well as the numbers of forces we
intend to field. Our goal should be to blend technology into our force
mix so that we provide maximum lethality and situational awareness to
our fighting men and women. As the threats to this nation change, we
must have an agile, and adaptable, and sufficient force to meet those
threats. In business, we organize to achieve our goals and objectives.
We must have a military that is organized, staffed, and equipped to
meet our nation's threats.
Some studies have proposed making the military benefit package
(retirement, healthcare, etc.) substantially like that of civilian
workers. In view of the dramatically different demands and sacrifices
entailed in military vs. civilian careers, to what extent do you believe
the military must maintain a unique benefit package to attract a
high-quality career force?
I believe we always
have to find a way to do better on behalf of our people and their loved
ones. As a senator and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I
worked to preserve, protect, and enhance critical compensation and
benefits for our service members and their families. I worked across the
aisle to provide affordable health insurance for our members of the
National Guard and Reserve, prevent the closure of schools and
commissaries in the height of war, expand benefits afforded to surviving
spouses, and broaden protections afforded by the Family and Medical
Leave Act to the family members of wounded service members.
President, I will support smart compensation and benefits reform that
attract the best and brightest to our military. The new military
retirement system, for example, must be carefully put in place, so that
our troops and their families make the most of the new opportunities it
Similarly, military pay must continue to keep pace with
the commercial sector, and we must keep our military health system at
the cutting-edge in quality and availability of care.
I will make
the Joining Forces Initiative a permanent part of the White House to
advocate for initiatives that help veterans find jobs and improve
support to military families.
The sacrifices our service members
make are extremely important. There are also a great number of civilians
doing very critical jobs, deploying overseas, and sacrificing. We must
meet our commitments to our service members and their families, and we
need to do more to recognize and support the important work our
civilians are doing as well.
compensation should be competitive with the private sector so that we
can continue to recruit the most skilled servicemembers in the world.
Benefits are one part of the compensation package. As benefits programs
have proliferated, we have to ask whether they serve all of our
servicemembers most effectively. Congress should consider a
simplification and consolidation of benefits programs to encourage
participation and recruitment.
There's growing recognition that
reforms are needed to sustain and strengthen the largest military
benefits. The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization
Commission's proposals, while not without controversy, offer some ideas
for reforms. Phasing in a 401(k)-style retirement plan for military
personnel could give them more choice and greater certainty than the
traditional 20-year retirement track. Similarly, it's possible that
Tricare could provide better service at a lower cost if we empowered
military families with more healthcare options. Regardless of the
particular reforms, it's important that the government lives up to its
obligations to current servicemembers and ensures that changes be made
gradually and toward the goal of a competitive compensation package.
benefits, including health care, housing, commissaries, exchanges and
retirement, need to be structured to attract the best talent needed to
our armed forces. I will use my private sector experience to make sure
that we are doing the best we can by our military members. We will
certainly not be reducing or cutting benefits for our members. More
importantly, the best benefits package is of little value if military
personnel are over-extended by repeated deployments to frustrating
combat situations. As Commander in Chief, I will ask to put our forces
in harm's way only when it is to protect our national interests and only
if we have a clear objective and plan for victory.
Recent VA budgets have been increased substantially, but many wartime
veterans will need continuing support for decades. What is your view on
how this national obligation can be met in the face of increasing budget
Supporting our veterans is a
sacred responsibility. Fulfilling that responsibility ensures that
veterans receive the opportunity, care, and support they earned by
serving our country.
The systemic failures of the VA to uphold its
core mission underscore the need for fundamental reforms and focused
leadership. Long wait times for health care, crippling claims backlogs,
and lack of coordination among agencies represent government at its
worst. I recognize the gravity of these challenges, and as President, I
will pursue a veteran-centric reform agenda that tackles problems
head-on and revitalizes the VA. I will end the excuses and ensure our
veterans receive the timely health care they deserve. I will also oppose
the privatization of the VA system, which would undermine our veterans'
ability to get the unique care that only the VA can provide while
leaving them vulnerable to a health care market poorly suited to their
needs. And I will lead a national effort to invest in and empower
veterans to apply their considerable skills in their communities.
ensure the VA and other federal agencies have the resources they need
to serve veterans, I will advocate for permanently ending the sequester,
and I will prioritize full funding of the VA, and advance
appropriations for the entire agency.
My administration will
invest in the pillars of the VA to ensure it continues to serve veterans
for decades to come. To be prepared for the unique and growing needs of
the twenty-first century, we cannot simply throw more money at the
problem or tell veterans to go get private care, as the VA's
implementation of the Veterans' Choice Act has shown. We also cannot
throw our veterans at the mercy of the private insurance system without
any care coordination, or leave them to fend for themselves with health
care providers who have no expertise in the unique challenges facing
veterans. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) must embrace
comprehensive process and systems integration across its health care
enterprise to ensure a fully-networked and financially-sustainable
organization that is dedicated to best practices and continual
improvement in everything it does.
For more details, see Sec. Clinton's comprehensive veterans policy agenda at: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/briefing/factsheets/2015/11/11/supporting-our-veterans-troops-and-their-families/
have a solemn duty to care for veterans injured in war. The types of
care our veterans need, especially for vets returning home from
Afghanistan and Iraq, can last a lifetime. While I'm a critic of the
misguided strategies that resulted in some of the deployments over the
last 15 years, there is no doubt that we must provide world-class care
for troops injured in those deployments. It will be a top priority in my
The Donald J. Trump ten-step Veterans Reform Plan can be reviewed at https://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases/icymi-trumps-ten-point-plan-to-reform-the-va. Or visit https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/veterans-administration-reforms for the full Donald J. Trump Veterans Reform Plan.
guiding principle of the Trump Veterans Plan is ensuring veterans have
convenient and timely access to top-quality care. The Veterans health
system will remain a public system, because it is a public trust. But
never again will we allow any veteran to suffer or die waiting for care.
That means Veterans will have the right to go to a VA facility, or the
right to see a private doctor or clinic of their choice - whatever is
fastest and best for the veteran. The Veteran will be in control.