On the Republican presidential campaign trail, the U.S. military is frequently depicted as weak and gutted. And no candidate has been sharper in his criticism than GOP frontrunner Donald Trump, who, despite having never served in the military, continues to repeat the claim that “our military is a disaster.”
On Tuesday, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was asked to comment on political rhetoric along those lines as the Pentagon unveiled its proposed $582.7 billion budget for fiscal 2017.
“I won’t be argumentative, but I will take umbrage with the notion that our military has been gutted,” Selva said, according to the Washington Post. “So I stand here today a person that’s worn this uniform for 35 years. At no time in my career have I been more confident than this instant in saying we have the most powerful military on the face of the planet.”
Unitl last year, Selva had served as commander of the U.S. Transporation Command, and before that, the Air Mobility Command, both based at Scott.
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Selva told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the military still has challenges and is facing a global set of threats, including terrorism that “consumes the readiness of our force to do the other tasks that we are given as part of our mission.”
Even so, “we are far from gutted,” Selva said, noting that the Pentagon has “the most flexible and determined Air Force on the planet, the most capable Navy on the planet, and a Marine Corps no one can match.”
Leaders of the Islamic State are determined to strike targets in the United States this year, senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday, telling lawmakers that a small group of violent extremists will attempt to overcome the logistical challenges of mounting such an attack, according to Military.com.
In testimony before congressional committees, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other officials described the Islamic State as the “pre-eminent terrorist threat.” The militant group can “direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world,” Clapper said.
Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the Islamic State will probably conduct additional attacks in Europe and then attempt the same in the U.S. He said U.S. intelligence agencies believe IS leaders will be "increasingly involved in directing attacks rather than just encouraging lone attackers."
Clapper also said al-Qaida, from which the Islamic State spun off, remains an enemy and the U.S. will continue to see cyber threats from China, Russia and North Korea, which also is ramping up its nuclear program.
Beginning on Friday, active-duty female Airmen will receive up to 12 continuous, non-transferable weeks of fully paid maternity leave in accordance with Defense Department-wide changes to the policy outlined in Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s Force of the Future announcement Jan. 28.
This new policy applies to all Airmen in the active-duty component, and those Reserve component service members on orders to active service for a continuous period of at least 12 months.
Airmen who are currently on maternity leave will automatically be granted a 42-day extension. Those Airmen currently on approved ordinary leave in conjunction with their maternity leave are authorized to convert their regular leave to non-chargeable maternity leave, not to exceed a total of 12 weeks.
Commanders may not disapprove maternity leave, which begins immediately following a birth event or release from hospitalization following a birth event for a continuous 12-week period. This policy in no way restricts unit commanders or medical professionals from granting convalescent leave in excess of 12 weeks if a medical authority deems that leave is warranted.
The U.S. government released its proposed $4 trillion budget for fiscal 2017 on Tuesday, and the Pentagon’s slice of the pie is about $582.7 billion. That represents less than a 1 percent increase over the $580.3 billion budget for fiscal 2016 at a time when the U.S. military is balancing operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, aggressive actions by Russia and China and the modernization of a force that has been at war since 2001, according to the Washington Post.
According to official documents, the Pentagon’s proposal calls for the Air Force to get the largest funding boost from last year, from $161.8 billion to $166.9 billion. The Army’s funding also will get a boost, from $146.9 billion to $148 billion. However, the Navy Department will face a reduction from $168.8 billion to $164.9 billion. Those numbers count both the base budgets and $58.8 billion in overseas contingency operations funding, which goes toward current operations like the fight against the Islamic State. An additional $102.9 billion is set aside in a department-wide category.
Meanwhile, the Air Force on Tuesday released a 2017 budget geared to rebalance the force and counter readiness problems resulting from years of deployments, personnel shortages and sequester-forced spending caps that have cut into modernization programs across the board. Personnel strength will remain unchanged from the current year at 317,000 airmen.
Funding is designed to meet combatant commanders’ needs in part by delaying the previously planned retirement of the A-10 Thunderbolt II now being used for operations in the Middle East. But officials are warning that the money is still not enough to retain a solid edge over adversaries who are "closing the gap in military capability," according to budget documents.
On the reserve side, end strength for the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard is basically unchanged for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The Reserve would drop from 69,200 airmen to 69,000, while the air guard would actually increase by 200 airmen when it goes up to 105,700.