Jeb: Ready to Serve on Day One

November 21, 2015

As Americans, we take many things for granted.  Thanks to reliable international trade, we have access to low-cost goods on demand, year-round. We travel freely through our cities and towns without fear of attack. We are so busy complaining about politics, we fail to appreciate our marvelous rights to speak freely and to decide for ourselves who should lead our country. Around the world, the same values we hold dear — freedom, democracy, economic liberalism — increasingly have become the norm, with even despots paying them lip service.

It’s easy to forget that the world order from which we derive so many benefits didn’t simply happen. It was the result of wise decisions and visionary American leadership. Particularly since World War II, American leadership — and specifically American military might — has been the guarantor of global security and the way of life to which we are accustomed.

Recent attacks in Paris should remind us that this world order is hardly set in stone. After all, the self-proclaimed Islamic State does not aspire simply to dominate Syria and Iraq; it wants to destroy Western civilization entirely.

The Islamic State is not the only challenge to America’s future. An expansionist Russia, a provocative China, a ruthless Iran — these and other threats too often are considered abstract or far away. Left unchecked, however, any one of these forces could undermine our personal security and our economic security right here at home.

Unfortunately, the current administration’s approach — a mixture of complacency, naivety, and apology — has already begun to erode America’s global position. It will fall to the next president to address threats too long ignored by the Obama administration.

Jeb Bush, whom I support, is the only candidate for president who has laid out both a fulsome understanding of the national security threats we face and a plan to confront them. This week at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, he enunciated a thoughtful but aggressive plan to get America’s national security policy back on track.

1. Reassert American leadership in the world.

America must have the tools to lead — and Bush’s strategy addresses those tools — but first we need to rediscover the will to lead. This begins with bolstering our alliances around the world, which Obama shamefully has allowed to atrophy.  Too many of our allies rightly feel neglected as resources and attention have been diminished. The consequence has been a loss of credibility. Bush lays out a specific plan to rebuild these alliances and restore our credibility.

To bolster our commitment to NATO, Bush’s plan calls for sending an Army special forces group back to European Command, holding more frequent naval exercises in the Black and Baltic Seas, and leading consultations to ensure NATO forces meet contemporary challenges. Bush’s plan would increase the U.S. presence in Asia, ironically making the Obama/Clinton “rebalance” finally mean something. In the Middle East, Bush would stand up for our long-time ally Israel, push back against Iran’s nuclear and regional ambitions, strengthen cooperation between U.S. and Gulf Cooperation Council special operations forces, and make sure America doesn’t abandon Afghanistan as we did Iraq.

In short, Bush’s plan will once again make our enemies fear us and our allies want to follow us. (A good place to start is Bush’s plan for defeating the Islamic State, which today is making a mockery of Americans’ sacrifices over the past 15 years.)

2. Rebuild our military.

Years of arbitrary budget cuts have decimated our military and jeopardized our ability to meet global threats. Bush has laid out specific proposals to reverse recent cuts to military end strength. His plan also will ensure our troops have the modern assets they need to do their job.

Specifically, Bush has called for increasing the size of the Army by 40,000 soldiers and the size of the Marine Corps by 4,000 Marines. He would expand our naval fleet and increase the rate of submarine production from one to two annually. He would boost the production rate of the next generation of stealth bombers and ensure a more modern fleet of fighter jets.

When it comes to restoring credible American global leadership, there is simply no substitute for a capable military.

3. Reform the Pentagon.

Rebuilding America’s defense capabilities isn’t just about spending more — it’s about spending more wisely. Bush believes the Pentagon’s process for buying weapons and services is bloated and broken. His plan will streamline the acquisitions process by ensuring clear lines of accountability. Under his plan, one person would have clear responsibility for each major program and authority to manage it, with his or her tenure tied to major investment decisions. Bush would simplify the requirements generation process to prevent time-consuming “requirements creep” or “gold-plating” that can delay and add unnecessary cost to programs. He also calls for revisiting regulatory barriers that discourage cutting-edge companies from doing business with the Pentagon.

Furthermore, Bush’s plan calls for cuts in “overhead” spending, such as eliminating redundancies, shrinking the DOD’s civilian workforce, reducing administrative costs, and other belt-tightening measures that could free up billions.

Bush’s plan will ensure our defense dollars get the most bang for the buck.

4. Defend the Homeland.

The Islamic State and other enemies do not intend to keep the fight overseas. This group has called for attacks on American soil. The Boston marathon bombings, shootings at military installations, and other acts of terrorism highlight our continued vulnerability to terrorists. Other adversaries target our information systems with cyber attacks, with troubling effectiveness.

Bush has a plan to secure the border, protect our infrastructure, and enhance our cyber security. His plan would foster greater cooperation between the private sector and government officials to ensure survivability and continuity in the event of a disaster, looking at things like aerostats with communication systems, water purification systems, and solar powered command centers. Importantly, Bush understands that no law enforcement or military personnel can protect Americans from terrorism without adequate intelligence, and is determined to get our intelligence professionals the technologies and support they need.

In an increasingly interconnected world, the Paris attacks highlight the ability of terrorists to infiltrate and bring havoc to our homeland. The next president must address this reality head-on.

Ready to Lead

The world has become more and more unsettled, while the Obama administration has done less and less to shape events. We need new leadership to get our country back on track.

We cannot afford to have our next commander-in-chief begin learning on day one in office, as the current one did. As a former governor, Jeb Bush has the background and management skills necessary for the Herculean task of executing a national security strategy that keeps America safe and protects our way of life.

At the same time, Bush is substance, not sound bites. He understands the gravity of the office of president and the complexity of the world. Bombastic statements like “let Russia fight ISIS” and “seize the oil fields” make for good television but not a serious foreign policy in one of the more dangerous times in our history.

American engagement overseas matters here at home. Your safety from terrorism or cyberattack; your ability to buy cheap goods at Walmart, or relatively inexpensive gas, or the newest electronics — these everyday assumptions hang in the balance. America needs steady, proven leadership in the White House that understands the imperative of responsible global leadership.


Michael G. Waltz is the author of the recently released book, Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan, which details his experiences with Afghanistan both as a Green Beret and a policy-maker in the White House and Pentagon.   He is also a Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, as well as the Co-Founder of and a Principal in Askari Associates, a strategy and policy firm serving clients in the Middle East and North Africa.


Photo credit: Gage Skidmore