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2017 National Security Strategy

Moments ago, President Trump gave a speech about his new National Security Strategy.  Most of what the President stated as our “new” strategy is in essence a continuation of previous administrations’ policies.  He spoke in generalities, short on any specifics.  The strategy was based on four prongs: 1. Borders and Immigration; 2. Economic Growth; 3. American Influence; and 4. Peace through Strength.

Homeland security is a big part of national security and we are long overdue for real immigration reform.  Any time this issue arises in Congress, a majority of members succumb to demographic politics and run for the hills rather than address this important issue.  DACA (protection for Dreamers) seems to be the best hope for passing something, but that cannot be the only thing.

The economy is a critical aspect of national security.  Department of Defense officials have described our national debt as the biggest threat to national security.  The debt has many serious consequences.  First, it bankrupts the nation, preventing us from addressing important issues, forcing us to borrow incredible sums of money, and will soon result in runaway inflation and other catastrophic consequences.  As most of our debt is owned by China, China, an economic and geopolitical adversary, has dangerous leverage over us.  We pay China billions of dollars every month in interest payments and they use that money to fund their infrastructure, military, investment in Asia and Africa, creating military islands in the South China Sea, etc.  They also continue to manipulate their currency, engage in unfair trade practices, and are the world’s leading intellectual property thieves.  All of these actions threaten our economy and national security.  President Trump mentioned these issues in the speech, but for the past year he has done nothing but praise China and its repressive leaders who work to the detriment of the United States.  If the President is finally going to address these issues and take appropriate action, it is high time and most welcome.  But nobody should hold their breath…

President Trump spoke about increasing international trade.  He is right about one thing – the U.S. has been the victim of significant unfair trade practices in multiple markets.  However, the U.S. opting out of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will hurt U.S. businesses and only prevents the U.S. from benefitting from the arrangement.  American workers have good reason to be weary of these agreements because they often do not see the benefits.  However, the key is to properly negotiate the agreements, to include the interests of American workers, and then ensure proper enforcement of the terms.  TPP is a reality and provides incredible access to 40% of the world’s economy, access the U.S. has now forfeited to China and Russia.

While tax reform in our country is overdue, the current GOP tax plan is a tax cut and not tax reform.  Putting aside discussion of the various provisions, the ugly truth of this plan is that it will add over 1.5 trillion dollars to the debt, thus directly threatening our national security in a significant way.  President Trump also stated he was introducing a long-awaited infrastructure improvement plan that will cost approximately seven trillion dollars.  We desperately need the infrastructure improvements, but that is seven trillion dollars more on the debt!

Lastly, President Trump spoke about our military, clearly the pinnacle component of national security.  The military has suffered from significant spending cuts that impact training, readiness, and equipment.  These cuts were in large part the result of concern over the national debt and uncontrollable federal spending as well as Congress abdicating its responsibility by not passing budgets for many years.  There is perennial talk of saving money or absorbing cuts by shrinking the huge bureaucracy.  The Department of Defense indeed suffers from a bloated, ineffective bureaucracy.  However, when cuts come down, they are unwilling or unable to absorb the cuts in this manner.  Military equipment is extremely expensive, period.  We can talk about better contract negotiation and management, perhaps ways to limit overages, but that is a reality that we can not eliminate.  The best way to improve and support our military is to end the folly of endless engagements.  As a veteran I know all too well the terrible cost of never-ending wars.  President Trump stated in the campaign and again today that it was time to stop spending trillions of dollars to nation-build in remote places like Afghanistan while ignoring our own country.  He is absolutely correct on that point.  It is unconscionable that we are still in Afghanistan with the tremendous financial cost and continued loss of American lives.  Military leaders keep changing the definition of “winning” to justify recommitment to the mission every few years.  I wholly respect that they do not want the sacrifice of so many to be for nothing.  However, it has been seventeen years and there is still no real end in sight.  Nobody with a soul can look American families in the eyes at this point and tell them it is worth their sons, daughters, spouses, or siblings lives to remain there.

National security is the president’s most important responsibility.  Too much is at stake to get this wrong.  Let’s hope President Trump is up to the task and his actual strategy is much more substantive than the short and simplistic words he spoke today.

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