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Trump Taps Retired Navy Seal for Secretary of the Interior

Digital Communications Director

By Debbie Gregory.

President-elect Donald Trump has officially nominated Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke the job of interior secretary.

Zinke, 55, a retired Navy SEAL, was an early supporter of Trump. He’s been mentioned as a possible challenger to Montana’s Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in 2018.

Zinke said he is honored by the nomination, describing himself “as someone who grew up in a logging and rail town and hiking in Glacier National Park.”

The Montana congressman pledged to “faithfully uphold Teddy Roosevelt’s belief that our treasured public lands are ‘for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.’ I will work tirelessly to ensure our public lands are managed and preserved in a way that benefits everyone for generations to come.”

The U.S. Department of the Interior is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal land and natural resources. The Secretary is a member of the President’s Cabinet.

The department oversees such agencies as the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Geological Survey, and the National Park Service. The Secretary also serves on and appoints the private citizens on the National Park Foundation board.

Because the policies and activities of the Department of the Interior and many of its agencies have a substantial impact in the western United States,  the Secretary of the Interior has typically come from a western state (a state lying west of the Mississippi River.)

While Zinke’s nomination drew praise from  business groups, environmentalists blasted it.

Independent Petroleum Association of America President and CEO Barry Russell said in a statement. “As a conservationist hailing from the energy-producing state of Montana, Congressman Zinke understands the critical role that the Interior Department plays in balancing the effective management of our nation’s lands and waters with multiple use policies that open access to the public for conservation, recreational opportunities, job-creating economic activities, and safe, responsible energy development.”

Rhea Suh, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council said that “without a doubt, Rep. Zinke adds another fossil fuel champ to Trump’s a pro-polluter Cabinet. While Zinke has opposed selling off our public lands, his record falls way short of being able to meet the full mission of the Interior Department. That is to manage and protect our wildlife, our public lands and waters, and our cultural heritage for the benefit of all Americans, today and tomorrow. It is also to uphold and honor our responsibilities to indigenous people in America. That is the job and Zinke is the wrong person for the role.”

Trump’ pick will replace former REI CEO & former Mobil Oil engineer Sally Jewell, who was appointed by Barack Obama.

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President-Elect Trump’s Plan for Military Spending Boost

An aerial view of the Pentagon building in Washington, June 15, 2005. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the Guantanamo prison against critics who want it closed by saying U.S. taxpayers have a big financial stake in it and no other facility could replace it at a Pentagon briefing on Tuesday. REUTERS/Jason Reed JIR/CN - RTREIPO

By Debbie Gregory.

President-elect Donald Trump plan to “rebuild” the military with new fighter jets, ships and troops may not get too much opposition from the Republican-led Congress.

Trump’s Defense Department spending plans include 350 new Navy ships, 1,200 aircraft, equipment and weapons for at least 65,000 new Army soldiers and at least 13,000 more Marines, expected to come with a price tag in the neighborhood of $90 billion per year in spending increases.

He would, however, have to prevail over GOP fiscal hawks who have an aversion to deficit spending, as well as Democrats who want equality for both defense and non-defense spending.

Trump’s campaign proposed an action plan for the first 100 days, including a Restoring National Security Act, aimed at “eliminating the defense sequester” — assumed to mean repeal of the Budget Control Act and its multi-year caps — “and expanding military investment.” It would also expand health care options for veterans, protect infrastructure from cyberattacks and impose politically charged screening on immigrants.

Major defense companies’ stocks shot up in the wake of Donald Trump’s election victory, and for good reason, as experts predict firms like General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin will secure hefty contracts and boost hiring.

Following Trump’s win, Lockheed Martin shares gained 6 percent, Raytheon added 7.5 percent, and Northrop Grumman advanced 5.4 percent, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls led the charge with a rise of 11.4 percent.

With that said, Trump faces an uphill battle convincing Democrats and fiscal conservatives in Congress that increasing the nation’s defense budget by billions of dollars is smart policy.

In service of Trump’s peace-through-strength approach, his proposed military buildup features an active-duty Army of 540,000 soldiers, a Navy of 350 ships, an Air Force fleet of 1,200 fighter aircraft and a Marine Corps stocked with 36 battalions. He has also said he also will build a “state-of-the-art missile defense system” and modernize the Navy’s cruisers to provide ballistic missile defense capabilities.

The proposed defense buildup will have natural allies in the armed services committees, and it dovetails with the traditional Republican argument that the military is overstretched, suffering from a critical readiness shortfall and in dire need of expansion.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Clinton and Trump to Address Military and Veteran Issues

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By Debbie Gregory.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) will be the host of the September 7th live televised “town hall” style forum featuring Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They will take questions on national security, military affairs and veterans issues from NBC News and an audience comprised mainly of military veterans and active service members.

“IAVA is proud to lead this historic event for our veterans community and all Americans,” Paul Rieckhoff, founder and chief executive officer of IAVA said.

The event comes just days before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and three weeks before the first official debate between the Democratic and Republican nominees on September 27.

The event will be broadcast in primetime on both NBC and MSNBC and focus exclusively on issues the next president will have to confront as Commander-in-Chief.

“IAVA members world-wide, 93 percent of whom say they’ll be voting in November, and many deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan right now, are ready to hear from the candidates and hold them accountable,” Rieckhoff said.

Clinton and Trump will appear back-to-back in the one-hour event. In addition to questions about the size of the military and fixing the Veterans’ Affairs Department, the two will separately discuss national security.

Preparedness to be commander in chief has become a major issue in the presidential race, with Clinton and Trump questioning each other’s fitness. Trump said Clinton “lacks the mental and physical stamina to take on ISIS and all of the many adversaries we face.”

Clinton, meanwhile, has touted the endorsements of a growing number of Republican military and national security figures who question Trump’s temperament and knowledge of international affairs.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Do Trump’s Public Attacks Impact Bergdahl’s Right to a Fair Trial?

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By Debbie Gregory.

Not one to mince words, Presidential candidate Donald Trump has been vocal with his ideas for punishing Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Trump has said that Bergdahl’s fate should include execution, being thrown out of a plane without a parachute, or being dropped in terrorist territory “before we bomb the hell out of ISIS.”

Bergdahl, the soldier who was captured by the Taliban after abandoning his post in Afgahnistan and freed five years later in a prisoner swap, is facing a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Bergdahl was taken captive within hours of leaving his patrol base, Observation Post Mest, and held for the next five years in Pakistan by the Haqqani network, a group linked with the Taliban. He was tortured regularly, starved and tried to escape repeatedly, said Terrence Russell, an official with the Pentagon’s Joint Personnel Recovery Agency.

Bergdahl’s defense attorneys argue Trump’s attacks are damaging Bergdahl’s chances for a fair trial. The attorneys reference comments that the Republican presidential front-runner keeps repeating, including that five soldiers died trying to save Bergdahl, which the Pentagon has confirmed as being untrue.

Trump and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.)  have been the most vocal critics, trying to pressure the military to punish Bergdahl.

“When they get that kind of media attention, it gets information in front of a jury,” said Philip Cave, a retired Navy attorney who’s not involved in the case. “There is concern that all of this information … prejudices Bergdahl in getting a fair trial.”

What do you think?

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Trump, McCain on What’s Next for Bowe Bergdahl: Military Connection

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By Debbie Gregory.

Although Bowe Bergdahl’s fate lies in the hands of Gen. Robert Abrams, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said that Bergdahl should have been executed. Having previously called Bergdahl a “dirty, rotten traitor,” Trump has often railed against the prisoner swap that returned Bergdahl to U.S. custody.

In March, Bergdahl was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. Bergdahl has been accused of leaving his post in southeastern Afghanistan in June 2009. He was held prisoner by the Taliban for five years, then exchanged for five Taliban commanders being held by the U.S.

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain, a Navy pilot who was tortured and held captive for five years during the Vietnam War, said that Bergdahl is “clearly a deserter,” and threatened to hold a congressional hearing into the case “if it comes out that he has no punishment.” McCain serves as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

The preliminary hearing officer on the case, Army Lt. Col. Mark A. Visger, recommended the charges be referred to a special court-martial and that Bergdahl receive no jail time.

Eugene Fidell, Bergdahl’s attorney, said that McCain is wrong for threatening a congressional hearing over his client’s actions.

“Sen. McCain’s comments are deeply disturbing and constitute unlawful congressional influence in a sensitive military justice matter,” he said.

The preliminary hearing officer on the case, Army Lt. Col. Mark A. Visger, last week recommended the charges be referred to a special court-martial and that Bergdahl receive no jail time.

Fidell said the defense has asked that the charges “be disposed of not by court-martial, but by nonjudicial punishment” — such as loss of rank, a drop in pay, extra work, etc. He has also urged Visger to make his report public

General Abrams is expected to decide soon whether the case should go before a court-martial now that the military equivalent of a grand jury proceeding has concluded.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.