Election 2020

Armed Services Chairman: Campaign Issues are 'Life and Death,' 'More Serious' Than 'Name-Calling'

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill on May 19, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON — As Donald Trump released his plan to reboot the military today, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said he still isn’t sold on his party’s nominee.

In a speech today at the private Union League of Philadelphia, Trump laid out his proposals including directing generals to come up with a plan within 30 days after his election to defeat ISIS, killing the defense budget sequester, developing a new missile defense system, and reviewing cyber defenses.

His proposed military levels: 540,000 Army active duty, a 36-battalion Marine Corps, a Navy “approaching” 350 surface ships and submarines, and an Air Force of “at least 1,200 fighter aircraft” by recommendation of the Heritage Foundation.

Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), when asked on MSNBC today whether he has confidence in Trump’s ability to serve as commander in chief, noted “there are a number of national security folks who have concerns about what both candidates have said and done, and that’s part of the reason that tonight is important and the next two months is important as we listen to what they would do as far as our position in the world, and especially with regard to the United States military.”

Trump and Hillary Clinton are answering national security questions tonight in an NBC forum, with Trump winning the coin toss and electing to take questions after Clinton.

“There’s lots of questions about what approach you would take with Syria and Iran and Russia and the rest, but the most important question, I think, is what would you do specifically to strengthen the U.S. military, which is the most important force for good in the world,” Thornberry said.

“…There’s been a number of things both candidates have said that go against the consensus of opinion since World War II. So look, it’s no surprise that much of the country has concerns about these two candidates.”

Thornberry said voters want to hear answers from both candidates on questions such as, “What would you do about the disturbing increase in accidents among our military, where they’re not getting the training, not having the maintenance of aircraft, for example, that they need to have? Those are the kinds of substantive issues that need to be addressed.”

“Instead, what a lot of us have heard is lots of back-and-forth calling each other names. These issues are life and death. They’re more serious than that.”

Asked about Trump’s vow to repeal the budget sequestration that has crunched the Pentagon’s finances, the chairman emphasized that “no president can solve these things on their own” and must work through Congress.

“What would you do working with Congress to ensure, for example, that the military gets the full pay raise to which they are entitled by law, instead of what President Obama has done, which is to deny them the full pay raise that is required by law? And what would you do, working with Congress, to ensure that the military is not used as a political football like they were last year where the military funding bill was vetoed not because of anything that was in it, but just as leverage to try to force more spending on domestic programs?”

Thornberry was visiting U.S. troops overseas instead of attending the Republican National Convention in July.

“And partly, I’m concerned that they understand that with all the rhetoric going back and forth in the presidential campaign that they know members of both parties support our troops who are risking their lives every day to defend us,” he said.