WASHINGTON (SBG) - Joined by Vice President Mike Pence and White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, President Donald Trump made a rare visit to the Pentagon Friday morning. There he participated in closed-door briefings on classified military operations.
Although the White House declined to specify the subjects discussed, the list of participants included Lisa Curtis, the senior director on the National Security Council for South and Central Asian Affairs – a clue that Afghanistan, which is located in South Central Asia, may have been on the agenda.
The visit raised the question, more than halfway into the commander in chief’s term, of the overall well-being of the U.S. armed forces; and key to the performance of America’s service personnel is the state of their morale.
Trump received deferments in Vietnam, President Trump was as well received as any other commander in chief when he visited al-Asad air base in Iraq at Christmastime. A number of eager troops have sought autographs for their "make America great again" hats.
“The retention’s been pretty good. The Army’s had some recruiting challenges; the other services, I think, have met their goals,” said Mark Cancian, a retired Marine corps Colonel who served in Vietnam and both Iraq wars. “We haven’t seen any increase in disciplinary problems. So, by those criteria, morale seems to be holding up pretty well.”
Halfway through the current fiscal year, defense department statistics show all four branches of the armed forces slightly ahead of recruitment goals with all branches, save the army, having exceeded them the previous fiscal year, as well.
Under President Barack Obama’s tenure, the Pentagon spokesman at the time reacted sharply when a reporter asked if the commander in chief had had a positive impact on the morale of the rank-and-file.
So how would we measure whether Mr. Trump is boosting the troops’ morale now?
“Look, I have to really take issue with the question, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon Spokesman. “The commander in chief is the commander in chief, and it doesn't matter who he is.”
Morale at the Pentagon, and at u-s bases worldwide, certainly never suffers when the commander in chief, acting as chief executive in his relations with Congress, seeks to boost the military budget. And the spending plan submitted by president trump this week, if approved by Congress, would increase defense spending by nearly 5-percent.