Tag Archives: Defense Department

Lloyd Austin needs to lead DOD

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I will get to the point immediately. Lloyd Austin is an outstanding selection to become our nation’s next secretary of defense and the U.S. Senate should confirm him.

Indeed, Austin’s nomination from President-elect Biden comes with a caveat: He needs a congressional waiver to serve as the leading defense official in the government. Austin retired four years ago from the U.S. Army; federal law requires that defense secretaries need to have been out of the military at least seven years.

Austin served with honor and distinction. He was a four-star general. He led the Central Command before retiring from the Army. He has led men and women in combat. Austin would become the nation’s first African-American defense secretary.

I get the need to ensure civilian control of the military. Thus, Austin is now “Mr. Austin,” not “Gen. Austin.” He is a civilian.

Congress granted a waiver for Donald Trump’s first defense secretary, James Mattis, who needed the exemption because his service in the Marine Corps fell within the seven-year window. Mattis served well as defense secretary until he resigned in a major snit with the commander in chief.

I should note that my hope would be that future defense secretaries shouldn’t require the waiver that Austin will need. Future presidents, or even the president who’s about the take office, should be able to find competent, capable patriots to lead our military services who do not have the conflict that confronts Lloyd Austin.

Lloyd Austin, though, is highly regarded by the individuals who served under his command. The waiver should be granted. President-elect Biden needs a defense secretary he can trust. He found one in Lloyd Austin.

Let this patriot serve the nation.

Biden to make history with DoD pick

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin is President-elect Biden’s choice to become the next secretary of defense.

I applaud the choice. Gen. Austin would be the first African-American to lead the Pentagon. He is a former Central Command leader and a warrior with a distinguished and heroic military career.

But oh yes. There’s an issue with Austin. The law requires that a former military man or woman must be out of the service a minimum of seven years before assuming a top-level Cabinet post. Austin’s been out of the Army for only four years.

What does the Senate do? Simple! It does what it did for retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis when Donald Trump nominated him to be defense secretary. Mattis received a waiver from the Senate because he, too, hadn’t been a civilian for the requisite length of time.

The Senate can — and should — do the same for Lloyd Austin. Sen. Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Senate shouldn’t grant another waiver so soon after it did so for James Mattis. “Waiving the law should happen no more than once in a generation,” Reed said in 2017. “Therefore, I will not support a waiver for future nominees. Nor will I support any effort to water down or repeal the statute in the future.”

Hooey! Lloyd Austin is an outstanding choice who deserves a Senate waiver to enable him to take command of the Pentagon.

Trump proposes pilfering defense funds to pay for The Wall

I guess Donald John Trump can stop pledging to force Mexico to pay for The Wall he wants to build along the border that separates us from our neighbor.

He now intends to pilfer money appropriated to pay for defense projects to pay for the structure.

What happened to “promises made, promises kept”?

Texas Democrats and Texas Republicans are criticizing a plan to divert $3.8 billion in defense money to pay for The Wall. One of the critics happens to be Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican who once chaired the House Armed Services Committee. Thornberry, who isn’t running for re-election this year, calls the diversion an inappropriate maneuver.

The money involves assembly of aircraft being built in Texas. They are the F-35 fighter and the V-22 Osprey, the tiltrotor aircraft assembled in Amarillo, which Thornberry represents.

As the Texas Tribune reported: Thornberry … stated that the southern border was a national security challenge that partisanship had “exacerbated,” but he took issue with the executive branch’s decision to reallocate the funds. (H)e said that while the Department of Defense was able to make recommendations in the budgeting process, once appropriations decisions are made, “the Department of Defense cannot change them in pursuit of their own priorities without the approval of Congress.”

Then again, understanding how that process works requires a commander in chief with knowledge or a willingness to learn about the nuts and bolts of the government he was elected to lead.

Trump is too preoccupied with a ridiculous campaign promise — the one about Mexico paying for The Wall — that he never should have made in the first place.

Wanting next POTUS to rescind transgender ban

Donald Trump took office as president and began issuing a flurry of executive orders, even though he criticized Barack Obama for his use of executive authority when he was president of the United States.

One of the orders he issued revoked an Obama order that allowed transgender Americans to serve openly in the U.S. military. Trump listened to his base of supporters and rescinded the previous order.

He is now getting his re-election campaign ramped up. Many of the Democrats seeking to succeed him want to yank the transgender ban off the books and allow those patriotic Americans to don the uniform of their country while serving in the military.

I fully support lifting the ban. Even the Washington Examiner, a newspaper friendly to the Trump agenda, has urged the president to take a second look at the transgender ban.

Trump offered a number of dubious assertions seeking to justify his decision to rescind the previous executive order. The worst of those reasons had something to do with the money that the Defense Department would be spending on personnel who would be in various stages of what is called “gender reassignment.” The counter argument to that notion, of course, came from those who noted the enormous amount of money the Pentagon spends on medication to correct maladies such as, oh, “erectile dysfunction.”

Without doubt, though, the most ironic aspect of Trump’s decision dealt with his denying Americans’ desire to serve their country when, back in the day, Trump avoided/evaded such service during the Vietnam War. He secured the now widely derided medical exemption relating to alleged “bone spurs” that Trump said he suffered on his feet.

For this president to deny Americans the opportunity to serve, which they seek to do voluntarily, is ridiculous on its face.

Furthermore, I equate the military transgender ban with the idiotic Bathroom Bill that the 2017 Texas Legislature considered enacting. You’ll recall that one, yes? The Senate approved a bill that required people to use public restrooms in accordance with their gender at birth; it was meant clearly to discriminate against transgendered individuals. The Texas House, led by then-Republican House Speaker Joe Straus, killed the idea in a special session.

Whoever succeeds Trump — whether it’s after this upcoming election or the next one — has vowed to restore some justice to our military ranks. My fervent hope is that the opportunity comes sooner rather than later.

SCOTUS says POTUS can use defense funds to build The Wall

This judicial ruling might raise a hackle or two among some congressional Republicans. I now will explain.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled 5 to 4 that it’s all right to spend Defense Department funds to build The Wall along our southern border, giving Donald Trump a victory in his ongoing fight with those who oppose The Wall.

Why the GOP objection? Get a load of this: When he was chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Republican Mac Thornberry — my former congressman — criticized openly any effort to redirect appropriated Defense money to build The Wall. Thornberry said wall construction is not part of the military’s mission. He opposed any effort to turn our troops into construction workers.

A lower court had said any such move would violate federal law.

I happen to agree with the lower court.

Congress appropriates Defense Department funds to pay for military missions. Trump has said the immigration “crisis” on our southern border is a national security matter. Thus, he is willing to divert those funds to build The Wall he believes is necessary to curb illegal immigration.

I am wondering how Thornberry, who represents the 13th Congressional District of Texas, is going to respond to the high court’s ruling that pokes the former committee chairman in the eye.

Another ‘acting defense secretary’ set to take over

How is this going to work?

The United States well might go to war with Iran. We’re still fighting terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and who knows where else. The Pentagon has just ordered another 1,000 American troops into the Persian Gulf region.

Against that backdrop, the acting secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan, today has pulled out of the nomination to become the permanent defense boss.

Is this another example of Donald Trump’s “fine-tuned machine” in action? Is this how we’re supposed to believe that our national security network is in steady hands?

Trump has named Army Secretary Mark Esper to be the latest acting defense secretary. For how long will Esper be the “acting” Pentagon boss?

Oh, my.

I’m still trying to get over the resignation of former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who quit because of serious policy disagreements with the president, who then lied about Mattis being “fired.”

Shanahan said something today about wanting to spend more time with his children. Trump said Shanahan had done a great job as the acting defense secretary. There were reports of a domestic disturbance in 2010 with his now former wife, which might have played a part in his decision to pull out of the effort to be confirmed as permanent defense secretary.

The revolving door keeps on turning at the Pentagon. It is happening at a time of tremendous national peril.

What in the world can possibly go wrong without a strong hand at the Pentagon helm?

Frightening.

Gates, hardly a flaming lib, weighs in on ‘case closed’ claim

Robert Gates is no one’s flaming liberal. He’s a lifelong Republican who served as defense secretary for — get set! — Republican President George W. Bush and Democratic President Barack H. Obama.

Gates’ bipartisan credentials are, thus, set. So, when he says that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s declaration that it’s “case closed” regarding the Russian attack on our electoral system is flat wrong, well, I’m inclined to listen to him.

Gates has suggested that the Trump administration’s response to the Russian attack has been tepid and weak-kneed.

He said this on “Face the Nation” today: “And frankly, I think elected officials who depend on honest elections to get elected ought to place as a very high priority measures to protect the American electoral system against interference by foreigners.”

Gates doesn’t believe the Trump team has made those measures a “very high priority.” Gee! Do ya think?

I remained baffled and astonished that Donald Trump would stand next to Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and actually disparage U.S. intelligence analyses that Russians interfered in our election in 2016, and then went on to say he didn’t see “why they would.”

The president was wrong. Stubbornly wrong at that.

Robert Gates has served at the pinnacle of power in administrations governed by presidents of both major parties. He is not the partisan hack that clearly fits the description of the Senate majority leader.

This case is not “closed.” Nor is the matter involving the obstruction of justice charge that special counsel Robert Mueller left wide open in his 448-page report.

Case closed? Not . . . even . . . close!

Promise made … promise broken

Donald Trump made a solemn vow while campaigning for the presidency of the United States of America.

He said he wouldn’t be a typical Republican. He said he would leave Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security spending alone. He wouldn’t touch them. He would solve the nation’s budgetary woes — as he defined them — without laying a hand on those valuable social programs.

So, what does the president do when he presents his fiscal year 2020 federal budget? He proposes cuts to Medicare by $845 billion, cuts for Medicaid by $1.5 trillion and reduces Social Security spending by $25 billion.

His record-setting budget of $4.75 trillion does add money for the Department of Defense.

Broken promises

My point here is that Donald Trump persuaded many American voters that he would leave these coveted programs alone.

OK, he has officially stuck it in our household’s eye. My wife and I are retired Americans. We draw from our Social Security accounts and we also depend on Medicare to help with our health care needs; I also have Veterans Administration benefits to assist with my health care issues.

Is this the bargain the nation got when it elected this promise-breaker president of the United States?

Trump does Mattis a huge favor

Put yourself into James Mattis’ boots for a moment.

You’ve just tendered a resignation letter that scorches the commander in chief’s methods of governing, of managing the nation’s foreign and military policies.

You have told the president of the United States you would stay in your job as defense secretary until Feb. 28.

But the president is so angry with you — with all the attention and love you’re getting from the media and politicians of both parties — that he’s decided to cut you loose early.

You’ll be gone instead by the end of December, just a few days from now.

How do you react to that? If it were me, I would be thrilled to death. Thrilled beyond words. Excited to get my life re-started. Secretary Mattis isn’t married, so he doesn’t have a spouse or children to share his joy, but my guess is that he’s cheering along with his best friends, siblings and other extended family members.

Donald Trump well may have done Mattis the biggest favor he could imagine. He has spared the retired Marine general from the chaos of another two months working within an administration where the cadence is being called by someone who is clueless about how government works. He doesn’t know how to forge and maintain strategic alliances. The commander in chief has no inkling of how his policy pronouncements via Twitter disrupt the normal flow of information.

Mattis brought a retired Marine Corps general’s order and discipline to the president’s inner circle, to his national defense team. He will take it all with him when he departs on New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump will keep on bumbling his way toward an uncertain future as our head of state.

The newly department secretary of defense will be relieved of the insanity and chaos that now masquerade as presidential governance.

James Mattis is likely smiling broadly.

I know I would be. So would you.

Angry POTUS gives Mattis an early out

This is the least surprising development in the days since Defense Secretary James Mattis announced his resignation from the Trump administration.

Donald Trump has told the defense boss to hit the road at the end of next week; don’t bother waiting until the end of February.

The president appears to be angered over Mattis’ rebuke of him in his letter of resignation. It’s an unprecedented dismantling of the president’s approach to foreign and defense policy. What’s more, the letter lacks a single word of appreciation for the service Mattis rendered to the president himself, although Mattis does restate his pride in serving the men and women in uniform.

Accordingly, Trump decided to give Mattis an extra push out the door. If you think about it, that is an understandable reaction from the president, given the tone and tenor of the letter that Mattis delivered in announcing his resignation.

It does not diminish or degrade the essence of the concerns that Mattis raised in declaring his intention to depart from his post as defense secretary.

So now the Trump administration will have an acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, to go along with an acting White House chief of staff, an acting Environmental Protection Agency administrator, an acting interior secretary, an acting attorney general and,  um, no ambassador to the United Nations.

This is not a “fine-tuned machine.”