Nine Defense Questions for the Next President

If you were to hire a CEO for a company with a budget of $600+ billion, wouldn’t you ask them some questions about it?  Wouldn’t you want to know if they were familiar with company’s programs, and how they intend to manage them?

Evidently, the media and politicians don’t think so.  Sure, Senator Sanders has bragged about his bill to help veterans, and many politicians have vowed to strengthen the military. However, no one is asking the candidates the most basic questions about how they intend to oversee Defense spending, which is approximately half the Federal budget.

Here is a list of questions that I think every candidate should be asked.  None of them concern trivial matters and all reflect actual decisions the next president will have to make. A presidential answer to any of these questions would profoundly affect strategic thinking in capitals all around the world and cause billions of dollars (if not more) to change hands.

  1. Drawdown With the wind down of our involvement in Asian land wars, the ARMY is experiencing a personnel drawdown. As president would you continue this drawdown? If not, then how do you justify maintaining the ARMY’s larger size in the current world situation? If you would continue the drawdown, how would you do it?  Would you do it the way that it was done in the 1990s with an early retirement program, or would you limit recruitment of new enlistees?
  2. Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) Funding Our recent wars have been funded through the OCO.  Would you continue doing this, or would you fund future military operations through the main Defense budget? How would your decision affect sequestration?
  3. F-35 The F-35 program has been heavily criticized and there have even been calls for its cancellation. Do you intend to keep the F-35 program or cancel it?  If you intend to maintain it, how would you improve it? If you intend to cancel it, what would you replace it with?
  4. Procurement reform  While the people who work in acquisition may be professional and honest, the Defense procurement process itself has a terrible reputation. How do you plan to reform defense acquisition?
  5. Redundancy Do you think that redundancy is a problem in the Pentagon? If you do not think it is, then you’re an idiot and no further questions are necessary. If you do think it is a problem, how do you do plan to deal with it?
  6. “Pacific Tilt” Do you plan to implement the current administration’s “Pacific Tilt?” How will your decision affect Defense spending priorities?
  7. Pentagon audit Contrary to federal law, the Department of Defense has never passed an audit. They do not even have relational database for their inventory.  As president, how do plan to deal with this problem?  Do you support the Audit the Pentagon Act of 2015, which was co-sponsored by Senators Sanders and Cruz?
  8. War on terror How do perceive the military’s role in the War on Terror? How would this affect spending priorities?
  9. Budget Do you plan to increase or decrease Defense spending? What funding do you plan to cut?  Where do you plan to increase spending?

By the way, I think a perfectly fine answer to some of these questions is “I do not know.” The President is Commander-in-Chief, not a miracle worker.  But we should expect him to have at least a cursory familiarity with these challenges, and he should give us an idea of he would manage them.  AMREL has an interest in Defense management, since we have been supplying warfighters with customized mobile rugged computer solutions for over 30 years. Along with you, we will be very closely watching this election and our new president.