Posts Tagged ‘Military’

Presidential Authority During National Emergencies

Sunday, January 6th, 2019

As the media begins to go absolutely nuts over the idea that the President might declare an emergency and re-allocate military funds to build the wall, it would be useful to review all the sorts of authorities any President has in time of emergency.  The radical statists who comprise the left are in favor of such power, but at the moment, such power, in the hands of President Trump, is contrary to their political interests.  Their whole shtick is “resist.”  Their rabid, anti-America base will oppose him simply because he’s not them.  The NeverTrump republicans, including opportunists like Mitt Romney, will undoubtedly oppose him.  Before the shrill voices grow louder, confounding our ability to understand the issue, let’s look at the law to see if we can easily surmise whether such an action by the President is authorized by the constitution.  After all, the constitution must be our yardstick.  With that in mind, let us examine why it is that President Trump is fully within the bounds of his constitutional authority to declare an emergency and build the wall, using the military to do so if need be.

First, let’s see what the President has to say on the matter, this past Friday in the Rose Garden:

One of the things always available to any president is the powers of Commander in Chief.  Article II of the United States Constitution makes one thing expressly explicit in Section II:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”(Emphasis mine.)

The bolded portion here is easily understood.  He’s in charge of the military.  He decides how and when federal troops and state militia[national guard] will be deployed.  He, solely, is vested with the authority to determine their mission, and their day-to-day activities in pursuit of that mission.  Not Congress.  Not the courts.  Not the Secretary of Defense(who works for him directly.)  Nobody else trumps the President in the deployment of the armed forces.  Nobody can countermand him in his role as Commander in Chief.  Not John Roberts.  Not Nancy Pelosi.  Not Mitch McConnell.  Got it?  Seriously, if you have any doubt whatever about this, I have doubts about your reading comprehension.

The President can, within his authority, bring all of the soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, be they active or reserve components, or National Guard components, and assign them the mission of building the wall.  He can, within the scope of his authority, redirect EVERY MEMBER OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES, up to and including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and also all DoD civilians, shovels and pick-axes in hand, to begin building the wall. He has this authority.

Some will point out that this is all well and good – that the President has the manpower available – but he does not have the money for the materials.  Wrong. Since the President determines the disposition of the Armed Forces, he also has some significant latitude in determining a number of things.  He can, at any moment, instruct the SecDef to cancel a contract.  Imagine all the whining Congress critters who have significant defense contracts in their districts who would lose their collective minds when he redirected funds in this manner.  It’s within his authority. Also, he can call all active forces to support the Army Corps of Engineers, who he can command to direct the construction.  There are all sorts of caches of “emergency funds” built into various budget areas that can be put to work in this way.  Congress is powerless to stop it because they’ve already appropriated and authorized the funds.

The President of the United States has broad powers already delegated to him by Congress to meet various emergencies.  For instance, while I believe the War Powers Act is probably unconstitutional if any President wanted to challenge its limits, there is nothing to prohibit a president from feigning compliance. A president could very easily declare a national security emergency arising from our porous Southern border, and deploy our forces in support of that mission. At the very least, he’d have 60 days to make an initial report to Congress, and a further 30 days to withdraw forces(which means the limit is effectively 90 days, where US border operations would be concerned.)  He need only be able to show that there is an attack of any sort on the United States.  Did you happen to notice those Soros-funded idiots throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails and other weapons at our border agents recently?  That’s an attack against the United States, folks.

Readers would do well to acquaint themselves with Title 50 of the United States code.  It would also be useful to examine the Insurrection Act of 1807, as amended.  This, by itself, may provide all the justification Trump would need under existing law.  Congress would be powerless to impede him.  Under the auspices of the National Emergencies Act, the President can do all manner of thing, but all Congress may do is pass a joint resolution of both houses of Congress to stop it. (And this may be open to Presidential challenge in courts.)

As readers are well aware, the United States of America has been at war since 2001.  Due to this fact, the President’s general set of authorities are somewhat broader than they might otherwise be during peacetime.  Folks, President Trump has so much power that he hasn’t even begun to exercise that he could build a wall from San Diego to Manhattan before the courts could untangle it all.  The simple point is that the President has this authority.  You may not like it.  Hell, generally speaking, I don’t like it because it has been abused constantly to the detriment of the American people.  Wilson and Roosevelt were monsters.  They did so many things under “emergency doctrine” that still carry the weight and force of law that I shudder to consider it.  If President Trump finally acts to build a wall along our Southern border, it will be one of the rare legitimate uses of such powers in my lifetime.

Democrats and NeverTrump RINOs might hate it, but if President Trump pursues this course, he’s certainly got every manner of precedent to support him, and there is every conceivable loophole in existing law to support it.  If he really wants to, nothing can stop President Trump from building that wall, except perhaps  impeachment and removal, and while the Democrats may be able to carry out the first, there’s next to zero chance they can remove him in the Senate. The American people would revolt.  Bank on it.

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Hooah: Allen West Responds to Marine Urination Incident: War is Hell

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Allen West (R-FL)

The Weekly Standard is reporting on a statement via email from Congressman Allen West(R-FL) on the incident involving Marines who urinated on three Taliban Corpses.  West is known particularly for his own service, having retired from the Army  as a Lt. Colonel.  His statement reflects the view of a military realist, who understands the real nature of war, and the things that sometimes happen on the battlefield.  I think the hand-wringers would do well to listen to West on this one, as his statement comports well with my own statement on the matter.   I wish all of our veterans in government were willing to be this blunt:

“I have sat back and assessed the incident with the video of our Marines urinating on Taliban corpses. I do not recall any self-righteous indignation when our Delta snipers Shugart and Gordon had their bodies dragged through Mogadishu. Neither do I recall media outrage and condemnation of our Blackwater security contractors being killed, their bodies burned, and hung from a bridge in Fallujah.

“All these over-emotional pundits and armchair quarterbacks need to chill. Does anyone remember the two Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division who were beheaded and gutted in Iraq?

“The Marines were wrong. Give them a maximum punishment under field grade level Article 15 (non-judicial punishment), place a General Officer level letter of reprimand in their personnel file, and have them in full dress uniform stand before their Battalion, each personally apologize to God, Country, and Corps videotaped and conclude by singing the full US Marine Corps Hymn without a teleprompter.

“As for everyone else, unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth, war is hell.”

I have but one thing to say to this: “Hooah!

National Defense Faces Severe Cuts

Monday, November 7th, 2011

A Scalpel or a Sword?

As you will may remember from the Debt Ceiling debacle in early August, the deal then worked out has some automatic triggers.  If the Super Committee created by the legislation fails to produce sufficient spending cuts, those triggers will kick in and cuts will be forced upon Congress.  The biggest target of these cuts is the defense budget, and as the New York Times is reporting,  it’s Leon Panetta who is now considering what those cuts will be.  This is one of the most despicable parts of our current budget morass, and it’s astonishing that nobody much seems to notice:  One of the few legitimate functions of government is the national defense, and yet among all the things to be cut, defense will be hit the most deeply.  I have no problem with an examination of the necessities of our defense spending, but I’m also aware that while government spends money on all sorts of things for which it has no actual constitutional authority, defense is clearly one of the budget categories for which the federal government exists.  In part, this is the result of the can-kicking in which Boehner and House Republicans joined by making their deal with the devil in August, but it’s also the built-in result of generations of governmental growth in other areas of expenditure.

Defense spending now stands at approximately $700 billion.   That’s an astonishing number that is as large as the entire federal budget just thirty years ago.  Part of that number owes to our engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the actual baseline spending for defense being $530 billion.  That’s still an incredible amount of money, but it is only $130 billion(yes, “only”) more than the defense budget at the height of the Reagan administration, but in inflation-adjusted dollars, it’s actually less.  Defense constitutes the largest single line-item in the discretionary portion of the budget, but the entitlements, in the non-discretionary budget, have begun to dwarf the spending on defense.  Social Security is a larger program, and Medicare and Medicaid together exceed the total defense spending.  It should seem odd to Americans that programs for which there is no clear constitutional authorization are considered “non-discretionary,” while programs that are most definitely among the legitimate roles of our federal government are considered “discretionary.”

What this means is that we don’t have a choice on a year-to-year basis about those items in the non-discretionary budget.  We are going to spend to support them, because previous legislation has mandated it.  Discretionary budget items are those that are adjusted on an annual basis, and not necessarily tied to previous legislation.  You can look at it this way for simplicity’s sake:  Non-discretionary spending is comprised of entitlement programs.  Discretionary spending is comprised of everything else.  In our federal budget, non-discretionary spending is roughly twice the size of discretionary spending.

I am certain defense can be trimmed without hampering the nation’s immediate defenses, but I am less certain that over the long run, we can maintain a force capable of deterring and repelling enemies around the globe.  Even in the midst of a deep recession, we are having difficulties with recruiting and retention of military personnel.  This is because just like any other large organization, most of the defense budget is actually spent on salaries and benefits for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines. In precisely the same way that the CEO of a large corporation will make cuts to employees first, mainly because it’s the biggest single operational cost, the Defense Department suffers from the same basic problem: Service-members cost a great deal, and a good deal more than their already pathetic pay and benefits represent.  Training costs are phenomenal, and the costs of supporting units in the field are huge.

Many will suggest, naively, that we simply “buy a few less $400 toilet seats.”  While that makes for a good laugh line, the reality is that the defense budget has finally managed to clean up most of those sorts of egregious expenditures over the last decade or so, largely because the Defense Department has had no choice.  Still, there are matters that should be examined, like the billions of dollars simply missing, and other problems with big-ticket line items.  Nevertheless, in our dangerous world, there is an ever-escalating competition between us and our would-be and real enemies, where high technology will be contribute directly to reducing the number of flag-draped caskets that arrive at Andrews AFB during each future engagement.  This sobering recognition is among the reasons that any such spending cuts in the military budget must be accomplished as some might say, “not with a machete, but with a scalpel.”  We must be certain that whatever cuts we make do not leave us naked to attacks, and that when we do engage in warfare,  our troops are given every advantage we can provide to win with minimal losses.

One of the areas in which Secretary Panetta is looking for cuts to defense is in the area of medical and other benefits, in addition to gross payroll.   That’s a mistake.  We already have difficulties attracting people to serve in the military, and this too can have a dramatic affect on morale, and readiness.  In truth, to make the level of cuts they’re intending, nearly $200 billion annually, we’re going to be forced to withdraw from virtually all overseas engagements and forward locations.  This poses another danger, inasmuch as we may be slower to respond to crises around the globe, and we may be less able to react when things go awry in one theater of operations or another.  We can ill-afford to be caught short again, because the direction of global terrorism is marching toward weapons of mass destruction.  The 9/11 attacks of 2001 were just a sample of the sort of mayhem the terrorists around the globe are going to be able to create, and this says nothing of our strategic adversaries such as Russia, China, and several others.

This impending doom for the DoD makes plain the problem with our current budgetary priorities.  We are spending far too heavily on entitlement programs of every description, and it will no begin to affect our nation’s defenses.  There are those who argue that the military should be cut, but they don’t think in terms of scalpels or even machetes, but guillotines.  This short-sighted approach is surely destined to create a situation in which we will face increased vulnerabilities on some fronts, and escalating troubles with recruitment and retention.  Our fighting forces deserve the best equipment and training we can afford, but now the question is:  What can we afford?  The answer to this question is likely to be unsatisfactory, because too many politicians derive too much support by virtue of entitlement spending, and while the argument could be made that there is a certain element of the same thing with the defense budget where it comes down to large bases and projects, it’s also true that they aren’t so concerned about the costs in morale and readiness for ordinary soldiers.  What the American people must begin to recognize is that we’ve blown our budget not so much by virtue of military spending, but because we’ve over-extended our social spending to such a degree that it is now squeezing out defense.  There’s something terribly wrong in our thinking when we look at military spending as “discretionary” but Medicaid as “non-discretionary.”  What is our government here to do, after all?  Now we’ve been reduced to the near inevitability that a big-government liberal, Leon Panetta, is going to be hacking away at our nation’s defenses.  We should all be worried at this prospect.