Military Officers Have A Wishlist For The Next President

President Barack Obama attends the U.S. Military Academy commencement address at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y., May 22, 2010.
White House Photo by Pete Souza

As military leadership prepares for the proverbial changing of the guard — the election of a new commander-in-chief, senators, and congressional members — its officers have certain qualities that they hope those seeking government offices will embody.

Many of the men and women who choose to become officers pledge their entire careers to military service. And so Task & Purpose reached out to the Military Officers Association of America, the largest association for military officers across the country, to find out what they expect from their civilian counterparts — those that will make decisions that have can a lasting impact on the armed forces.

We spoke with MOAA’s vice president of government affairs and Air Force veteran Steve Strobridge to find out exactly what characteristics officers look for when voting for a commander-in-chief, and what their concerns are over the next election cycle.

What are the most concerning issues facing the military over the next four to eight years?

Readiness. Over time, we’ve tended to have some kind of crisis, like 9/11, and you build up all the forces, and then Congress thinks that’s passed, and then the public wants a peace dividend. So you get into a budget crunch, then you keep getting these yo-yo kinds of circumstances. I think we would rather have some kind of baseline level, and not have some arbitrary budget limit — like sequestration. It’s going to come back with a vengeance next year, and when you have this kind of political divide, it’s very hard to get consensus on how much of a defense budget to put out there.

In terms of the next commander-in-chief, what qualities do military officers look for?

Military officers are concerned with all the normal kinds of things: integrity, coolness under fire. And you know, you can probably find things in both candidates that people will like, and not like, compared to those standards. It’s hard to get into that without seeming to lean one way or the other, but I think it’s the standard leadership qualities that most Americans want.

What about politicians who use service members to garner votes or push an agenda?

We believe in civilian control of the military, and no matter who is president, you owe allegiance to the office. I think our view is that when you’re in office, you have our public trust. But once you are retired, you’re just like anyone else. You’ve got the same First Amendment rights as anyone else. There’s no problem with endorsement. Those are the personal freedoms that we stand for.

Related: 8 Smart ways veterans can win any election »

What advice would you give to a candidate looking to get officers’ votes?

I think one key thing is to be sensitive to the difference between veterans and career service members. There tends to be a lumping together of those people. They’re focused on the VA. But people are forgetting those who served 30 years in uniform, and there seems to be a concerted campaign to cut their benefits, to reduce the rewards of career service. We’re doing everything we can to take care of veterans who served and got out, but we’re more than ready to penalize those that stayed for 30 years and sacrificed the most, quite frankly.

What is the biggest threat facing the military today?

The biggest concern is making sure the country is prepared, no matter what, to have a military that is prepared to handle any threat. Nobody was expecting on Sept. 10, 2001, that we would be at war for a decade and a half, and I think people can get complacent. I think that’s a significant concern to military officers.

And what are your thoughts on Veterans Affairs issues?

We have some obvious problems. No matter who is in charge, it takes time to make those changes. We think the current secretary at least has some good efforts underway, but it’s almost like the minute someone takes over, the next day somebody is calling for them to be fired. These big things can’t be fixed overnight.

Seven of the twelve Soldiers participating in the Army National Guard Military Funeral Honors Level 2 course at Fort Indiantown Gap practice folding the flag April 25. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Zane Craig)

Retired Army Master Sgt. Mark Allen has died 10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for deserter Pvt. Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.

Allen died on Saturday at the age of 46, according to funeral information posted online.

Read More Show Less

For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.

"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.

In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.

"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."

Read More Show Less
Defense Secretary Mark Esper (Associated Press photo)

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Sunday he and the Pentagon will comply with House Democrats' impeachment inquiry subpoena, but it'll be on their own schedule.

"We will do everything we can to cooperate with the Congress," Esper said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "Just in the last week or two, my general counsel sent out a note — as we typically do in these situations — to ensure documents are retained."

Read More Show Less

Most of the U.S. troops in Syria are being moved out of the country as Turkish forces and their Arab allies push further into Kurdish territory than originally expected, Task & Purpose has learned.

Roughly 1,000 U.S. troops are withdrawing from Syria, leaving a residual force of between 100 and 150 service members at the Al Tanf garrison, a U.S. official said.

"I spoke with the president last night after discussions with the rest of the national security team and he directed that we begin a deliberate withdrawal of forces from northern Syria," Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday's edition of CBS News' "Face the Nation."'

Read More Show Less

BEIRUT/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Women affiliated with Islamic State and their children fled en masse from a camp where they were being held in northern Syria on Sunday after shelling by Turkish forces in a five-day-old offensive, the region's Kurdish-led administration said.

Turkey's cross-border attack in northern Syria against Kurdish forces widened to target the town of Suluk which was hit by Ankara's Syrian rebel allies. There were conflicting accounts on the outcome of the fighting.

Turkey is facing threats of possible sanctions from the United States unless it calls off the incursion. Two of its NATO allies, Germany and France, have said they are halting weapons exports to Turkey. The Arab League has denounced the operation.

Read More Show Less