Clinton, Johnson, Trump: Presidential Q & A

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.

Question 1: 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.

The 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 Now more than ever, the country cannot afford to waste precious defense dollars on outdated systems, processes, or programs that poorly serve our men and women in uniform.


The sequester's 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 Even the outdated political parties understood that that level of spending couldn't continue, and so they pledged to work together to rein in debt.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.

America 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 processes.


Q2: 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?


The 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 greater cost.
  • 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
  • Continue and build on the Obama Administration's effort to elevate military families in the White House and across the government


Politicians 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.


Force 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.


Q3: 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.

As 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 presents.

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.


Military 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.


Military 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.

Q4: 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 constraints?


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.

To 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:


We 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 administration.


The Donald J. Trump ten-step Veterans Reform Plan can be reviewed at Or visit for the full Donald J. Trump Veterans Reform Plan.

The 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.