Obama on the issues
Questions answered for the record by the Obama campaign during the primaries earlier this year:
What is your opinion of the military’s “Don’t ask, Don’t tell” policy?
I agree with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. I will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
Do you agree with plans to expand the Army and Marine Corps, and to shrink the Navy and Air Force?
I support increasing the size of the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000 troops to help units retrain and re-equip properly between deployments and decrease the strain on military families.
For the Air Force, we need greater investment in advanced technology ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles, to systems like cargo and air refueling aircraft which give our pilots a critical advantage.
We must recapitalize our naval forces. I will extend our sea basing capabilities and increase investment in riverine and coastal patrol craft. I endorse the concept of the Littoral Combat Ship.
And are plans to increase the Army and Marines realistic in light of the existing strain on recruiting and retention?
I believe so. The burden of fixing recruiting problems have been placed on young recruiting sergeants, instead of leaders in Washington. I will encourage young people to serve in the military, and I’ll be a Commander in Chief who encourages retention.
We need to make sure our troops have the proper training and equipment to face the battles of the 21st Century. Because our military is built on families, we need to better support those families of whom we are asking so much. And to show young Americans how much we value service, I will uphold America’s sacred trust with our veterans by building a 21st-Century Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Army has increased the number of recruits for whom they’ve allowed moral waivers. What is your position on this?
I believe there is a significant recruitment and retention problem that can only be fixed by taking the steps I’ve enumerated above.
How would you improve the quality of life for families of military deployed overseas? What about those families living overseas?
Our military is built on families, and troops decide whether to re-enlist based largely on how their families are faring. An Obama administration will:
Create a Military Families Advisory Board to ease the evolving burdens on spouses and families.Provide additional support to military families coping with deployments and with living overseas by offering more counseling and support to family members.Work to bring pay more in line with that of the private sectorEnd the “Back Door Draft” policies.Establish regularity in deployments: so that families know what to expect.How do you feel about the military’s use of private contractors and proposals to limit the work they can do overseas?
Private contractors in Iraq get paid far more than our troops and are not held to the same standards. Even worse, they have repeatedly undermined our troops’ efforts. Months before the Blackwater scandals, I introduced the first effort by the Senate to:
Create the accountability needed to oversee contractors.Require the Pentagon to figure out better rules for when contracting makes sense.Codify the legal status of contractor personnel, making possible to hold them accountable for crimes committed overseas.Would you support allowing military facilities overseas to perform abortions for military women and military dependents?
Yes. These services are available stateside, and family members overseas should have access to safe family planning procedures
What more needs to be done to ensure troops receive the health care they need following deployments?
I led a bipartisan effort to fix the problems that forced wounded warriors to fight a second battle at military hospitals like Walter Reed. We need to beef up the DOD’s surge capacity to adequately demobilize active duty troops returning from combat.
As president, I will demand that the military and the VA coordinate to provide a truly seamless transition for service members from active duty to civilian life.
Finally, we need to create a 21st century VA and fully fund it so it has all the resources it needs to serve the veterans who need it, when they need it.
Are peace-keeping, humanitarian efforts, and environmental cleanups valid military missions? What would be your criteria?
We need to support our military’s ability to engage in missions that go beyond combat. First, we should increase the number of military civil affairs, information operations, engineers, and foreign officers, as well as invest in foreign language, human intelligence and other counterinsurgency and stabilization skills.
Second, we need to establish expeditionary capabilitywithin agencies like State, Justice, Treasury, and Agriculture to deploy personnel where they are needed. This will help move troops out of civilian roles. Finally, I also will enlist civilians with special skill sets to be pre-trained and screened for deployment.