The question that military members should be asking in 2016 is: What does the presidential election really mean for the military? The answer to this question may surprise some veterans.
In just three short days we the people will elect the next President of the United States. The media feeding frenzy that we call election year politics is particularly ferocious this year. No candidate will survive this election cycle unscathed. Even Hollywood has their view on who should be elected president [H.R.C.], although I still can’t figure out why they feel the need to suck up television air time to impart their wisdom on us humble folk. I don’t get my taxes done at a movie theater and I don’t look for advice on how to elect my representatives there either.
With all the controversy, scandals, name calling, and finger pointing, the front running candidates have had very little time to discuss the real issues facing the people of the United States. One group that has received very little discussion this cycle is the people that serve our country in the armed services. The very people that volunteered to “support and defend the Constitution…from all enemies foreign and domestic” (Oath of Enlistment) are rarely mentioned when the media covers the presidential candidates.
The military was a major talking point in 2008 and 2012 election cycles as the media focused on pulling troops out of the unpopular operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today, with the majority of regular military troops already out of Iraq and a large reduction in the forces deployed to Afghanistan, the media and the candidates themselves have been pretty happy with the status-quo. Any attention given to the military this cycle mostly focuses on how much to spend on growing the military, which brings me back to my original question. What does the presidential election really mean for the military?
The answer is: Very little. I know what you are thinking. But the President is the Commander in Chief of the military! This is true but in reality that Article 2 Section 2 of the Constitution (1) grants the president very little power over the military without Congressional approval. Also the Executive Branch is not directly involved in decisions regarding the Armed Services, with the exception of recommending the annual budget for the DoD. The responsibility of forming initiatives for the Armed Services falls on Congress in particular the Senate Committee on Armed Services also called the SASC.
The jurisdiction of the SASC includes but is not limited to:
• Aeronautical and Space activities for weapons development and military operations
• Common Defense
• The DoD Services
• Military R&D
• Pay, promotions, retirement, and other benefits to include overseas education for military dependents
• Selective Service
Another important player in the government’s support of our active military and veterans is the House of Representatives. It is true that the Executive branch proposes the annual budget for all of it’s departments to include the Department of Defense; however, the House of Representatives has the power of the purse. In other words they control the bank account and represent the people in deciding how we spend our tax money.
That’s right I said ‘our tax money’ because when we give the IRS a percentage of our income it still belongs to we the people not to the government. In fact every single one of us is the boss of every single public servant working at local, state, and federal level. They work for us and we can fire them if they do not spend OUR money on the things that WE approve. How do we approve these things you ask? Well we approve them by voting in local and state elections. And it’s not just enough that we vote, we must know what each and every candidate stands for before we cast our ballot for them.
To sum this up, the President of the United States only suggests the dollar amount to spend on the military and on veterans services. It is up to the state elected Senate, in particular the SASC, to decide how to spend that money and the state elected House of Representatives to approve the use of our tax money on these programs.
No matter if you are an active duty service member, reserve, or retired veteran, while you are deciding which presidential candidate to vote for know this, it really doesn’t matter because when it comes to policy the Republicans and Democrats are not that much different. They both want to budget more of our money than the current administration for defense and they both want to fight terrorist organizations like the Islamic State.
So go out an vote for president if you like one of the candidates and can figure out what exactly there policy is. But if you’re like most people who can’t stand any of the 2016 presidential candidates then you should focus on electing local government and state Congress members because that is where your vote will make the most impact on YOUR life.
– W. Buglehall, 2016