Within the past week, GOP presidential candidate, Donald J Trump, has, in an effort to appear a viable Commander-in-Chief, released a letter of support from eighty-eight former military officials; a group self-described as “national security professionals for Trump”. They later criticized President Obama and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, for decimating our military. Let’s examine both.
First, the endorsements.
At first blush, the eighty-eight former military endorsements seem impressive. Further analysis reveals a much different picture, however. That eighty-eight seem paltry compared to the 500 that former GOP candidate, Mitt Romney, had in 2012. And we all know how that turned out. Of that eighty-eight, none has served as Joint Chiefs of Staff. All of the five former GOP Secretaries of State are all conspicuous in their absence. Finally, in August 2016, fifty former military and government officials, including the former NSA and CIA directors, two former secretaries of Homeland Security, and former president of the World Bank, signed an open letter saying, if elected, Trump would be the most “reckless” president in history.
Of course, Mr. Trump’s response was exactly what we have all come to expect when he’s criticized. He attacked, claiming his vision was “one that is not run by a ruling family dynasty. It’s an America-first vision that stands up to foreign dictators instead of taking money from them, seeks peace over war, rebuilds our military and makes other countries pay their fair share for their protection.” This statement was made before his financial ties to Russia were revealed. I can’t remember if he said this before or after he promised to “bomb the sh*t out of the Middle East” and encourage expansion of countries with nukes so they’d have “more skin in the game”.
But he did mention “rebuilding our military” which brings us to our next point.
Increase active Army to 540,000. Why Trump chose to target only one branch of the military (Army) for expansion is unclear. However, active military in all branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard) totals 1,137,916 with the Army accounting for 456,651 of that number. So he wants to increase active Army by 83,349. Why? And why only the Army?
Increase Marine battalions to 36. Which type of battalion? A cursory overview shows several types of battalions: Artillery, Tank, Infantry, and Expeditionary. Mr. Trump provided neither a type nor a reason. Without specifying the type or reason for the expansion, we don’t know whether the current 27 battalions are adequate.
Increase Navy ships to 350. According to Popular Mechanics, the Navy’s current fleet of surface and submarine vessels totals 430. Apparently, we already have a larger fleet than Mr. Trump acknowledges.
Increase fighter jets to 1,200. According to Business Insider, the number of our nation’s fighter jets currently numbers 13,000. With China coming in second at 3,000 and Russia third at 2,000.
According to Mr. Trump:
“Obama and Clinton have overseen deep cuts in our military which only invites more aggression from our adversaries” And “Our adversaries are chomping at the bit”.
Our 2015 military budget was $601 billion. This still places us at number #1 in military expenditures, spending three times as much as China, which is number #2 in spending. If China is removed from the spending equation, we spend more than the next 19 nations combined. In fact, using five different criteria, America remains the world’s strongest military.
I’m not sure where the GOP candidate was heading with these assessments but just a perfunctory Google search reveals the inaccuracy of many of these assertions.
I guess that’s why he loves the poorly educated.