Senator Sessions, Leading Candidate As Trump’s Secretary of Defense : “Advance Peace Through Strength “, Rebuild the Military, rebuild US Alliances
(www.defensenews.com) – Christopher P. Cavas and Joe Gould – Top Trump Military Advisers Detail GOP Candidate’s Defense Plan
The 2016 presidential election campaigns have not focused deeply on issues, certainly not on defense. While there is agreement that the restrictions of the Budget Control Act – the sequester — should be lifted, both sides have made rather general references to military policies, Clinton more on the policy side, Trump more on rebuilding what he claims is a “disaster” of a military. But details have been few and far between.
Now, with just a week to go, two top Republican advisers on the military to the Trump campaign provide some insight into what a Trump election might mean for defense. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been widely mentioned as the leading candidate to become secretary of defense should Trump win. Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia, chairman of the House Seapower Subcommittee, will be out of a job in January, having been defeated in his primary election. But Forbes is widely respected for his knowledge of naval affairs and could be a contender to become secretary of the Navy.
Both men spoke Friday with Defense News about Trump’s plans for the Pentagon.
What are the key points of the plan you would be implementing on inauguration day next year?
Sessions: Trump’s views are that the United States should advance peace through strength. He believes that the military has been degraded. It needs to be rebuilt. That the sequester has done the damage. That means that you have to place American national interests first.
We should focus on core national interests that includes rebuilding our alliances, and new friends and a more realistic foreign policy that does not seek to achieve things that won’t work, and end up making things worse, and costing lives, and treasure. That is kind of a philosophy that I appreciate. I think we have attempted a lot of things at great cost that haven’t benefited us or the people we tried to help.
Trump’s first commitment militarily is the destruction of ISIS. He said he would have his military produce a plan within 30 days. It would involve military action, cyber, financial, ideological and diplomatic efforts to focus on the destruction of ISIS. Because ISIS represents a direct threat to the United States. They have announced that unequivocally, and have said they intend to attack us. They celebrate people who do attack us. They are an enemy that just has got to be confronted and defeated.
He indicates and has said repeatedly he is proud of the American way. He will not apologize for that around the world, but will celebrate our achievements. He said that immigration is a part of national security, and that we will not bring in persons into the country who might present threats to the United States.
He said that we should expand our production of American energy, which not only creates jobs and keeps wealth at home, it also reduces our dependence on dangerous areas of the globe.
Now, he is specifically committed to fixing our cyber capabilities or improving them. We have got to both have a defensive plan and an offensive plan. You simply can’t allow yourself to be vulnerable all of the time to cyber-attacks and not have a response.
Specifically with the Defense Department, he has dealt with the major categories of expenditures in discussion. He proposes an increase in the Army. We now have about 480,000 troops. He proposes that the Army should be sustained at 540,000 troops. (…)
Forbes: (…) The big difference between a President Trump and a President Clinton is that President Trump is going to return the direction on our capacity and capability so that president has more options. If you take Ms. Clinton at her word where she said she is going to basically continue what President Obama has done, then I ask you this — do we really want to continue in a situation where we have gone from, in 2007, meeting ninety percent of the needs our combatant commanders had for ships of the Navy, until this year where we will meet 42 percent of our needs? Do we really want the oldest and smallest Air Force in our country’s history, which is what we have had? Do we really want the Army carried down to the direction it is headed to 450,000 troops? And do we want the Marine Corps headed to where they’re going?
What we do know is a President Trump has committed as the senator pointed out, to rebuilding that capacity and capability.
We need to move to about 346 to 350 ships. That will be a huge direction. Because by increasing that capacity and capability the next president is going to have more options on the table for threats, which means we have a better chance of not just being successful but of protecting American lives.
Sessions: We’re already down to 180,000 of Marines, and Trump proposes to go to 200,000. I think at this point in history with the credibility of president of the United States eroded, were they to suspect that the United States is abandoning its defense spending. It takes more than a speech to turn this around.
Trump’s plans are actually to build more ships and maintain a higher number of troops and aircraft. It will go a lot further than words to convince the world that we remain strong. It will help us to maintain the peace. (…)
There appears to be a contradiction in there. You call for a more robust military. But also there is a less aggressive posture towards, say, Russia, and an emphasis on allies doing more. Would a President Trump support the Pacific pivot?
Sessions: The situation with Russia has deteriorated dramatically under this administration and during the time Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. This is a colossal disaster. Can it be turned around? I don’t know. But we need to attempt to, because Russia – if you look at it in a realist approach. Look at it according to what our national interests are. The United States and Russia should be able to be far more harmonious than we are today. But things have really deteriorated. China is also asserting itself dramatically. The Japanese have been having to launch aircraft to intercept Chinese aircraft. They are very close to Japan on a regular basis at record levels. The major world powers also are causing great concern.
I think the defense increase in preparing for whatever threat might be out there – as I’ve gotten older, it does appear that whenever we anticipate one threat, it’s another one that arises. It is not the one that we so much anticipated. And I feel very strongly that our allies around the world do need to pay more of their share. It is not easy to say exactly what they should spend their money on, but it’s hugely important. We’ve only got five of the NATO nations at two percent on gross domestic product on defense, while we are 3.6 percent – and this might take it higher than that.
We have every right to end this pleading with them and begging them. We really need to have a serious discussion. Donald Trump knows how to do that. We sit down and say we need it, you need to contribute more. That could help us get the job done and not all of it come out of our budgets.
Forbes: We need to realize there is absolutely no conflict between those two points. Because one of the things Mr. Trump realizes is you don’t build your national defense on what you think the other players’ intent might be. Intent can change in 48 hours. You build it on capacity and capability.
This is not just Mr. Trump saying it. We have the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the previous chairman of the Joint Chiefs and previous chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. They specifically referenced a tipping point – when the United States continued to reduce its capacity and capabilities it actually encouraged countries like Russia and China to spend more on national defense because they felt they could then catch us. I think Mr. Trump’s positions are exactly harmonious with each other – a strong defense and more capacity and capability actually makes for not only a more harmonious world but it actually keeps our competitors from spending more on national defense.
Sessions: Another issue is the nuclear arsenal. By reducing it too dramatically, you can always encourage other nations to believe they could be a feared competitor of the United States. I was worried about that and I think some of that has been proven to being true. The world needs to know that we are not going to be a second-rate military power. You are not going to surpass us. I think that kind of strength allows us to do a better job of maintaining peace in the world.
I have got to tell you, Donald Trump does not believe in war. He sees war as bad, destructive, death and a wealth destruction. You see what has happened to the people in Syria, the people in Libya. Egypt has not yet recovered from the Muslim Brotherhood and all of that instability. Iraq was just beginning to come back. And Hillary Clinton, they pulled out all of the troops against the military’s advice. And now they’re struggling to try to take back their own territory when they were a peaceful nation with an elected government in 2011, when we pulled all of the troops out. (…)
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Photo Credit >>> Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions pledges his commitment to Republican candidate for President Donald J Trump before he speaks to supporters at a rally at Ambridge Area Senior High School on October 10, 2016 in Ambridge, Pennsylvania © Jeff Swensen/Getty Images