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Posted on Oct 12, 2020 Print this Article

2020: Choosing the Commander-in-Chief

National Security Depends on a Strong National Defense

Every voter who supports the military and is concerned about national security should consider the record and intended future actions of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

CMR is a non-partisan public policy organization, founded in 1993.  CMR does not endorse political candidates, but in previous years we have conducted a Quadrennial Presidential Candidate Survey to determine the presidential candidates’ views on issues of concern to CMR.

It was not necessary to conduct the Quadrennial CMR Survey in the 2020 race since President Trump is the only candidate running and all the Democratic Party primary candidates were known to have similar views on military/personnel issues.

Due to coronavirus concerns, the Republican National Committee (RNC) decided to forego the traditional national convention event and to re-endorse the 2016 National Platform – many sections of which have been implemented during the Trump/Pence Administration.

The following analysis lists and provides updates on actions of the Trump Administration related to statements in the re-endorsed 2016 National Platform of interest to CMR.  The article below also links to the Democratic National Platform.  Americans who care about the military should be aware of the differences before casting their votes on Election Day.

A.  Republicans Unite Behind Trump - Continue to Reject Military Social Experiments

In 2016, CMR provided information to national delegates assigned to focus on defense issues in the 58-page Republican National Platform:

2016 Republican National Platform Rejects Social Experimentationand Political Correctness in the Military

The document approved by delegates included ten planks of interest to CMR, all of which were implemented or addressed in some way during the Trump Administration since January 2017: 

      1Military Readiness, Not Political Correctness

The 2016 Republican National Platform asserts, “We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept or continue attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness. We believe that our nation is most secure when the president and the administration prioritize readiness, recruitment, and retention rather than using the military to advance a social or political agenda.  Military readiness should not be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.” (p. 44, emphasis added throughout)

Background & Status:  The Obama Administration repeatedly used executive power to impose feminist goals and LGBT law and regulations in the military, regardless of the harmful consequences

The Trump Administration needs to do more on the issue of women in the infantry, but it has taken a significant change in direction on another major issue -- transgenders and persons with gender dysphoria in the military.  In general, constructive changes have been designed to put “mission readiness and combat lethality” first, instead of “sacrificing these qualities on the altar of political correctness.”

Objective Review and Correction of Military/Social Problems

“We call for an objective review of the impact on readiness of the current Administration’s ideology-based personnel policies, and will correct problems with appropriate administrative, legal, or legislative action.” (p. 44)

Background & Status:  On issues ranging from transgenders in the military to the assignment of minimally qualified women to combat arms units such as the infantry, the need for honest evaluations and action to repair the damage done by misguided policies have become increasingly obvious. 

The Trump Administration followed the platform’s stated intent when former Defense Secretary James Mattis initiated a six-month Pentagon review of specific consequences of Obama/Biden policies regarding transgenders and persons with gender dysphoria in the military.  A “panel of experts” published a comprehensive report on the costs and consequences of former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s 2016 directives ordering accommodation of transgenders and persons with gender dysphoria.  Detailed findings in the DoD report, analyzed here, fully supported President Trump’s policy change in March 2018.

LGBT activists and lawyers challenged President Trump’s policies in four federal district courts, even before Trump approved and adopted the 2018 DoD Policy in March 2018.  The Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court approved implementation of the 2018 DoD Policy, pending ongoing litigation, in April 2018.  No one can predict the outcome of future Supreme Court decisions, but the Department of Justice has vigorously defended the DoD policy and it has a good chance of being upheld as constitutional.

     3.  Women in Direct Ground Combat

“We reiterate our support for both the advancement of women in the military and their exemption from direct ground combat units and infantry battalions.” (p. 43)

Background & Status:  The Administration continues to support the advancement of women in all ranks of the military but has yet to re-evaluate policies regarding women in the infantry.  The need for such a review and subsequent action likely will become more apparent.

In September 2015 then-Marine Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford exercised his option to request exceptions to the administration’s plans to eliminate women’s exemptions from the combat arms.  Findings resulting from three years of scientific research supported Gen. Dunford’s request that some direct ground combat units – fighting teams that attack the enemy with deliberate offensive action – remain all-male.  Among other things, in field tests simulating direct ground combat tasks and physical requirements, all-male units outperformed gender-mixed teams’ 69 percent of the time.

On December 3, 2015, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter disregarded the Marines’ best professional advice, issuing orders making minimally qualified women eligible for previously all-male combat arms assignments on the same involuntary basis as men.

Since 2015, women have served in “tip of the spear” direct ground combat units such as Army and Marine infantry, artillery, armor, and Special Operations Forces.  A few female officers made it through Army Ranger School.  In general, however, few women have expressed interest in physically demanding specialties.

Recruiting and retention rates have not improved, cases of sexual assault keep escalating, and “gender neutral” standards have not lived up to theories of gender equality.

These are a few of many articles and books reporting how predictions of problems in “gender-neutral” training and operations in the combat arms have been proven true:

In January 2013, Army General Martin Dempsey, then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, claimed without evidence that assigning women to direct ground combat units would reduce sexual assaults.  As this article explains, annual Defense Department reports have proven the opposite to be true:

The Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) issues annual reports on sexual assaults, which keep escalating, year after year.  Total numbers of actual cases (not estimates based on surveys) rose from 5,277 in FY 2017 to 6,236 in FY 2019 – a 19% hike in two years and a 155% increase since the 2,444 service-member cases reported in FY 2007.

Pentagon officials have devoted countless hours to wheel-spinning exercises purporting to examine every aspect of the sexual assault problem, except for one: the possibility that misguided policies rooted in false assumptions and ideology are increasing the numbers of sexual assaults, not decreasing them as promised.

The administration should continue efforts to ensure non-discrimination and recognition of individual merit but end all pressures to achieve percentage-based gender diversity “metrics” (meaning, demographic quotas) in the military.

      4.  Military Standards

“. . . In particular, we warn against modification or lessening of standards in order to satisfy a nonmilitary agenda imposed by the White House.” (p. 44)

Background & Status: In a January 2013 discussion of how training would change if women were eligible for the combat arms, then-Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey said that a standard too high for women would be questioned. "Does it really have to be that hard?"  

Under the "Dempsey Rule," gender-neutral standards often result in standards being "validated" at levels lower than before, sometimes bu using different scoring systems or by dropping tougher tests that are suitable for most men but not most women. 

Both the Army and Marine Corps have tried to make training standards “gender neutral,” only to confirm once again that women are disadvantaged in competition with men.  Attempts to fix the problem have been unsuccessful to date:

In the interests of true equality, mission effectiveness, and combat readiness, the next administration should reinstate policies that recognize differences in male and female personnel, and publish information on the costs and consequences of treating women as if they are interchangeable with men in the combat arms. 

    5.  Support for the All-Volunteer Force, Not Compulsory National Service

 “Our country’s all-volunteer force has been a success. We oppose the reinstatement of the draft, except in dire circumstances like world war, whether directly or through compulsory national service.” (p. 43)

Background & Status:  Congress declined to approve recommendations in the March 2020 Report of the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service, which was established after a debate about “Draft Our Daughters” legislation in 2016. 

CMR analyzed the Commission’s report, which called for a new Cabinet-level bureaucracy to manage mandatory national service for all young Americans, to include the option of military service for women on the same basis as men: 

Volunteer service should be encouraged, but reinstatement of a military draft or mandatory national service, on a gender-neutral basis, would be unwarranted extensions of government power that would weaken the special culture of the all-volunteer force.

Opposition to Registering Women for Selective Service

“[We] oppose unnecessary policy changes, including . . . Selective Service registration of women for a possible future draft.” (p. 43)

Background & Status: In 1981 the Supreme Court upheld as constitutional young women’s exemption from Selective Service obligations.  The Court tied the decision to military women’s exemption from direct ground (infantry) combat.  The court also cited a Senate report affirming that the only legitimate purpose of registration or a draft is to find and train “combat replacements,” not support troops.

As CMR explained in meetings with the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service, the court also affirmed the right of Congress to exempt women for other rational, fact-based reasons.  One of those reasons is speed in mobilization during a time of catastrophic national emergency:

Calling up thousands of potential female draftees, most of whom will not meet combat standards, would slow mobilization at the worst possible time.  Congress should review capabilities of the Selective Service system, applying standards of military readiness, not “gender equality.” 

The Administration and Congress should reject any attempt to re-define the purpose of Selective Service registration, or to approve the National Commission’s recommended Council on Military, National, and Public Service.  A Cabinet-level Big Government agency empowered to commandeer the lives of young people would replace Americans’ “Presumption of Freedom” under the Constitution with a “Presumption of Service” under the direction of government.

     7. Religious Liberty

“We support the rights of conscience of military chaplains of all faiths to practice their faith free from political interference. We reject attempts by the Obama Administration to censure and silence them, particularly Christians and Christian chaplains. We support an increase in the size of the Chaplain Corps.  A Republican commander-in-chief will protect the religious freedom of all military members, especially chaplains, and will not tolerate attempts to ban Bibles or religious symbols from military facilities.  A Republican commander-in-chief will also encourage education regarding the religious liberties of military personnel under both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the current National Defense Authorization Act.”

Background & Status:  The Trump Administration has been fully supportive of the principles stated in this plank, recognizing that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees rights of conscience and religious liberty for both chaplains and military personnel, especially when they are deployed far from home.  This is a contrast with the previous administration, starting in 2011, when there were numerous attempts to censure and silence chaplains and people of faith, creating a "chilling effect" and fear of career penalties for exercising rights of religious liberty. 

In September 2020, the Department of Defense issued new Guidance that fully protects rights of Conscience and religious liberty for military chaplains and people of faith who are free to discuss matters of morality during all activities, not limited to worship services.  The revised regulation, DoD Instruction 1300.17, Religious Liberty in the Military Services, states that DoD components “will accommodate individual expressions of sincerely held beliefs” ― provided there are no adverse impacts on military readiness and unit cohesion.  The new regulation implements requirements of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which states that “governments shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion.” 

     8.  Special Interest Demonstrations

“We affirm the cultural values that encourage selfless service and superiority in battle and oppose anything which might divide or weaken team cohesion, including intra-military special interest demonstrations.”  (pp. 43-44)

Background & Status:  From 2009 through 2016, the Obama/Biden White House celebrated June as LGBT Pride Month.  Those events often were used to promote special interest demands of LGBT groups demanding access and benefits for transgenders in the military.  Obama holdovers tried to continue LGBT events at the Pentagon and some military bases, but the Trump Administration discontinued them.  In the same way that our military does not allow labor unions, activist events promoting LGBT Law and other special interest causes are inherently divisive and harmful to unit cohesion.  

     9.  Military Justice

“We oppose legislative attempts to modify the system of military justice that would undermine its fairness and due process rights for all concerned, both the accuser and the accused.” (p. 44)

Background & Status: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has repeatedly sponsored misguided legislation to remove local commanders from decisions regarding prosecution of many crimes, including sexual assault.  The Trump/Pence Administration has opposed the legislation, which Congress has not approved.  Legislation based on a presumption of guilt, not innocence, or the premise that accusations alone justify "victim" or "survivor" status, would be demoralizing and unjust.  As this article explains, rates of unsubstantiated accusations have steadily increased, along with rates of actual cases warranting punishment:

Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), commanders are accountable for everything that happens in their area of responsibility.  This includes decisions to convene courts-martial or to impose career-ending non-judicial punishments.  Military judge advocate generals (JAGs) advise commanders on legal matters, but they do not need (or want) responsibilities of command.  The best way to protect due process is to support and improve legal representation for both the accuser and the accused. 

    10.  Military Superiority

“Republicans continue to support American military superiority, which has been the cornerstone of a strategy that seeks to deter aggression or defeat those who threaten our vital national security interests.” (p. 42)

Background & Status:  The 2016 Republican Platform included many sound ideas to restore the strength of America’s military, and to restore respect for America worldwide.  It began by quoting President George Washington, who wisely reminded us that “to be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” 

Our All-Volunteer Force is the only institution we must defend America in a world that faces multiple threats and is far from peace.  The statement above reaffirmed that long-standing, important principle, which the Trump/Pence Administration has applied in many ways.  Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis has noted that Trump is “an unorthodox transactional leader” who “makes judgments based solely on American interests.”

Speaking at the Republican National Convention, Vice President Pence’s National Security Advisor, retired Army Lt. General Keith Kellogg said,

“Over the past three and a half years, I have witnessed every major foreign policy and national security decision by the president.  I have been in the room where it happened.  I saw only one agenda and one guiding question when tough calls had to be made . . .is this decision right for America?  Ask yourself, has this president kept his promises . . . to keep us out of needless conflicts and to pursue ending wars without end?  Has he defended your interests in renegotiating trade deals that previously hurt Americans and our national security?  Has he fulfilled his Commander in Chief role by decisively going after our Nation’s enemies?  You and I know, the answer is yes.  The choice is clear.” (emphasis added.)

The Republican Platform states in four different places, “We are the party of peace through strength.” (p. 41)

B.  Democrats Choose Biden After Heated Primary Race

All of the 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidates and leading Democrats in Congress have advocated for controversial causes such as women in direct ground (infantry) combat, LGBT family law, celebrations of Pride Month in June, legislation to include young women in Selective Service registration for the draft, mandatory government-enforced National Service, and full eligibility for transgenders and personnel suffering from gender dysphoria to serve in the military.

In June, Democratic nominee Joe Biden enthusiastically endorsed the agenda of the well-funded Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBT activist group.  In July, Democratic Party delegates approved a National Platform that endorses some reasonable defense and foreign policy proposals, but states the Party’s intent to reverse the 2018 Defense Department policy on transgenders in the military and to promote “gender equality” in the military. 

Candidate Biden also chose as his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), whose voting record places her to the left of Socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) as the most liberal member of the U.S. Senate. 

For voters concerned about national defense, choices and priorities are clear.  Civilian control of the military means that civilians have the responsibility to get out and vote.

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The Center for Military Readiness is an independent, non-partisan public policy organization, founded in 1993, which reports on and analyzes military/social issues.  More information is available on the CMR website,

Posted on Oct 12, 2020 Print this Article