Background on Homeland Security
Homeland Security topics in the 2020 election cycle:
- Veterans' Medical Care: The Veterans Choice Program (VCP) is a benefit that allows Veterans to receive health care from a community provider rather than waiting for a VA appointment.
Each Veteran's medical benefits will include care and services to help:
The Veterans Health Administration is the largest integrated health care system in the US, providing care at 1,255 health care facilities, to over 9 million Veterans. (DVA)
- Treat illnesses and injuries
- Prevent future health problems
- Improve your ability to function
- Enhance your quality of life
- Veteran Mental Healthcare: Trump frequently points to VA accomplishments such as improved wait times and the offering of same-day mental health services. But those same-day services at VA were started during the Obama administration. A 2019 study found improved wait times at VA from 2014 to 2017, a period largely covering the Obama administration. (AP)
- TRUMP: VA is one of the most incompetently-run agencies (Nov 2015)
- BIDEN: Caring for veterans is our only sacred obligation (Oct 2012)
- PENCE: Fact Check: Takes credit for Veterans Choice passed in 2014 (Aug 2020)
- HARRIS: Champion a robust VA for our Veterans (Aug 2016)
- NEWS: Latest statements on Veterans from presidential candidates and political pundits
- Worldwide armaments expenditures: Total global military expenditure rose to $1,917 billion in 2019, an increase of 3.6% from 2018 and the largest annual growth in spending since 2010. The five largest spenders in 2019 were the United States, China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia. (SIPRI)
- American armaments expenditures: The United States remains the world's largest defense spender in 2019, with its $732 billion representing 38% of global military spending. That was followed by China ($261 billion, at 14% of global total), India ($71.1 billion, at 3.7%), Russia ($65.1 billion, at 3.4%) and Saudi Arabia ($61.9 billion, at 3.2%). (Defense News)
- TRUMP: I rebuilt our depleted military with $2.5 trillion (Sep 2020)
- PENCE: The time has come to dramatically increase defense spending (Feb 2015)
- BIDEN: Boost the defense budget (Jul 2019)
- HARRIS: Slash the defense budget (Jul 2019)
- NEWS: Latest statements on Defense Spending from presidential candidates and political pundits
Bounties on U.S. Troops
- Russian Bounties: American intelligence has assessed that Russia offered militants bounties to kill American troops in Afghanistan. Initial intelligence was shared with the White House and included in one of Trump's daily briefings in early 2019. In spite of that, Trump has maintained a warm relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin throughout his presidency.
Homeland Security topics in the 2016 election cycle:
- The U.S. Diplomatic Mission in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked on Sept. 11, 2011, by a group of over 100 gunmen.
The attacks killed 4 Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens.
Numerous inquiries were held by Congress, focusing on the role of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
who (her opponents claim) ignored requests for additional security.
- Following is the list of fatalities on US overseas diplomatic facilities during the George W. Bush presidency (the eight years prior to Hillary's tenure).
The list excludes many attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad (since that was a war zone).
This list is often ignored by Hillary's critics, who say, for example, that Benghazi was "the first deadly assault on a U.S. diplomat since 1979" (Newsmax, Oct. 2012)
- The list below also includes two repeat attacks (Karachi and Sana'a).
Many Benghazi critics focus on "the six months leading up to Benghazi [in which] where there were multiple requests for more security", and that Hillary's State Department failed to secure the facility adequately.
The two repeat attacks in the list below indicate that, tragically, warnings months or years ahead cannot prevent deadly attacks regardless of who is in charge.
- Fatal attacks on US overseas diplomatic facilities, under George W. Bush's presidency (2001-2009).
- 1/22/2002. U.S. Consulate in Calcutta, India: 5 killed.
- 6/14/2002. U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan: 12 killed.
- 2/28/2003. U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan: 2 killed.
- 5/12/2003. U.S. Compound in Riyadh, Arabia: 36 killed (9 Americans).
- 7/30/2004. U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan: 2 killed.
- 12/6/2004. U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: 9 killed.
- 3/2/2006. U.S. Consulate Karachi, Pakistan (again): 4 killed (one Diplomat).
- 9/12/2006. U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria: 4 killed.
- 3/18/2008. U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, Yemen: 2 killed.
- 7/9/2008. U.S. Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey: 6 killed.
- 9/17/2008. U.S. Embassy Sana’a, Yemen (again): 16 killed.
Another misconception about Benghazi is that Hillary Clinton's actions have not been fuly invesigated.
Whether you believe Hillary or not on Benghazi, calling for "a Benghazi investigation" really means calling for "a 7th Benghazi investigation" in addition to the previous six (as of early 2016):
- State Department Accountability Review Board report on December 20, 2012
- Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs report on December 31, 2012
- Five House Committees joint interim report on April 23, 2013 (interim report by Republicans only)
- FBI report on May 2, 2013 (investigation still ongoing)
- U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on January 15, 2014
- U.S. House Select Committee on Benghazi: three hearings and 29 witnesses since its creation on May 8, 2014 (interim progress report released on May 8, 2015)
Worldwide Defense Spending
- Defense spending is intentionally made murky by the federal budget process -- politicians hide from voters how much the United States spends on our military.
- $524B: Pres. Obama's officially proposed figure for defense spending is $524 billion for 2013. That figure only includes Department of Defense operations -- excluding the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
- $673B: Pres. Obama's 2013 proposed budget includes an additional amount for "Overseas Contingency Operations", which means the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the real total for the Department of Defense is $673 billion.
- $192B: Pres. Bush considered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to be "supplemental budget items" which did not appear in the budget at all. That "supplemental" item totaled $192 billion for 2007 for the Iraq War. Pres. Obama ended the "supplemental" practice in 2010.
- $221B: The Department of Homeland Security's 2013 budget is $55 billion; the Department of Veterans Affairs' 2013 budget is $60 billion plus $89 billion in mandated spending; and part of the Department of Energy's 2013 budget of $35 billion goes toward maintaining our nuclear weapons. Hence another $221 billion in defense spending is distributed in departments outside of the Department of Defense.
- $894B: A more realistic total for defense spending in Obama's 2013 budget, accounting for the items as listed above, is $894 billion.
- $820B: When politicians compare defense spending to entitlement spending, they use the official $524 billion figure to compare to Social Security's $820 billion budget. Using the more realistic comparison figure, defense spending is actually more than Social Security spending.
- $811B: The total for Medicare/Medicaid/SCHIP spending in 2013 is $811 billion; in other words, defense spending is comparable to either healthcare entitlement spending or Social Security entitlement spending. Those three together acount for over 60% of the budget.
Candidates for president often state that the U.S. military should be unequaled--are we at risk for being out-spent? The table below summarizes that U.S. military spending equals all of our potential enemies combined, and exceeds the total spending of most of our allies as well. Advocates for military spending made the same arguments during the Cold War--that the USSR was out-spending the USA--but those arguments proved to be false, and today's arguments are equally based in deception of the public. This table comprises the top 15 military-spending countries in the world:
|Country||2015 spending (billions)|
- The U.S. annual military budget ($581B) approximately matches the total of the next ten countries combined ($598B).
- Total military expenditures worldwide come to $1.7 trillion (hence the U.S. alone accounts for 34% of the world total military expenditures)
- To compare U.S. allies with potential U.S. enemies, the total military spending for our NATO allies in western Europe is $307 billion.
- Adding the U.S. and NATO totals, the U.S. and allies spend $888 billion per year. Everyone else in the world spends a combined total of $812 billion -- all of our current enemies plus all possible future enemies spend less than we do.
The U.S. has numerous mutual defense treaties, where we promise to help defend the other country (and they promise to help defend us).
The U.S. has numerous bilateral treaties with individual countries (such as numerous agreements with Israel).
Our multilateral treaties are more significant; these include:
Defense Spending Proposals
- NATO: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was, during the Cold War, the main counterbalance to the Soviet Union. Now it includes 28 countries, including some of the former Soviet bloc. At issue in 2015 is which former Soviet allies to include in NATO: the most recent additions were Albania and Croatia in 2009.
- SEATO: The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, is the equivalent of NATO for the Pacific. SEATO was founded to stop the spread of Communism outward from Indochina. It was dissolved in 1977, after the Vietnam War was resolved. NATO, on the other hand, has survived the resolution of the Cold War.
- ANZUS: The Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty is our only other multilateral defense treaty.
- The presidential candidates talk about defense spending as a percentage of GDP. "GDP" means the country's Gross Domestic Product, or the total earnings of all 300 million Americans.
- Defense spending as a percentage of GDP is between 3% and 4%. Defense spending as a percentage of the annual federal budget is between 18% and 25%. And their definition "defense spending" only counts the part of military expenditures which goes toward the Department of Defense operations.
- America's GDP stands at $14.7 trillion in 2012, according to CIA World Factbook. Gov. Romney's suggestion that we spend 4% of GDP on defense spending would mean a defense budget of $588 billion. President Obama's 2013 budget proposal includes $524 billion for defense, or 3.6% of GDP. Hence Romney would spend $64 billion more on defense than Obama in 2013.
- Obama further proposes slowing the growth of defense spending in future years. Obama would increase the defense budget by 2% per year, while the CBO projects GDP to grow at about 3% per year. In 2017, Obama proposes $568 billion. Applying Romney's 4% target on 2017 GDP of about $17 trillion would mean $681 billion on defense. Hence Romney would spend $113 billion more on defense than Obama in 2017.
- The 2005 BRAC report (Base Realignment and Closure Commission) recommended the following occur by 2011:
- 9 bases for closure (originally 14 bases, but 5 later removed)
- 13 bases for realignment
- 12 joint bases created by merging two adjacent bases.
- Another BRAC commission is scheduled for 2015, and then every 8 years thereafter. The five bases originally slated for closure had their status reversed by political action; the purpose of having an independent BRAC commission is to avoid such political interference.
- U.S. bases abroad:
The United States Armed Forces maintain 395 military bases abroad. These bases cost billions of dollars and have not been subject to periodic BRAC-style closures since 1965. Base counts by country:
The PATRIOT Act
|U.S. Bases in Europe /||U.S. Bases in the Mideast /||U.S. Bases elsewhere in the world|
| || || 16 || Afghanistan || 2 || Australia |
| 62 || Germany || 3 || Bahrain || 1 || Brazil |
| 1 || Greece || 1 || Diego Garcia || 1 || Cuba |
| 1 || Greenland || 1 || Djibouti || 2 || Guam |
| 124 || Italy || 2 || Israel || 1 || Honduras |
| 1 || Kosovo || 4 || Kuwait || 103 || Japan |
| 1 || Netherlands || 2 || Oman || 1 || Singapore |
| 1 || Portugal || 3 || Pakistan || 48 || South Korea |
| 2 || Spain || 1 || Qatar || || |
| 1 || Turkey || 1 || Saudi Arabia || || |
| 5 || United Kingdom || 3 || U.A.E. || || |
The ‘hollow military’ refers to a reduced size of the US armed forces resulting in lack of readiness. The term was popularized in the post-Vietnam 1970s, but has come back into use for the post-Cold War.
Current US military policy is to achieve sufficient ‘readiness’ to fight two ‘nearly-simultaneous’ wars.
NEWS: Latest statements on Armed Forces Personnel from presidential candidates and political pundits
‘Star Wars’ Strategic Defense Initiative
- President Reagan in the 1980s proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, popularly known as the ‘Star Wars’ Missile Defense).
- Its cost is estimated at $60 billion ($26 billion for the initial phase).
- Some aspects of testing and deployment of SDI would breach the ABM Treaty and the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. In particular, deploying a missile defense system only within the US would breach the ABM Treaty, but the US and Russia have issued numerous statements advocating a ‘global protection system’ as well as ‘theater defense systems.’
- The ‘Aegis defense system’ is the Navy’s existing ship-based anti-missile system.
- The newer term for SDI is ‘NMD’, for ‘National Missile Defense’, which generally implies a smaller system.
- NEWS: Latest statements on Nuclear Weapons from presidential candidates and political pundits
The Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty of 1972 is an agreement that neither the USA nor the USSR would build any nation-wide missile defense, on the theory that ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ was the best means to avoid nuclear war. Russia and the 3 other post-Soviet nuclear states have agreed to abide by the USSR’s limitations within the ABM Treaty.
In general, calling for abrogating the ABM Treaty implies support for NMD, while supporting nuclear test bans of any kind implies opposition to NMD.
‘Loose Nukes’ and Weapons of Mass Destruction
- Concern over nuclear war has been replaced by concern over proliferation of nuclear technology and other Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs, referring to nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons). The concern is that terrorists or ‘rogue states’ will unleash WMDs on the US or elsewhere.
- ‘Loose Nukes’ refer to the sale or theft of nuclear weapons from the former USSR.
The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) addresses loose nukes, and is the primary arms control treaty under negotiation today.
Existing treaties address ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and SLBMs (submarine-launched ballistic missiles), both of which can reach the US; recent negotiations include non-missile nuclear threats.
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
The 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty intends to limit nuclear proliferation. As of April 1999, it has been signed by 152 countries and ratified by 32, but requires 44 ratifications to enter into force of law. Ratification implies that a nation will not advance its nuclear technology beyond its present status. India & Pakistan, who both exploded nuclear devices in 1998, have promised to sign the Treaty now that their testing is complete.
2012 update: The figures below represent consistent totals to allow comparisons between countries. Since those figures were gathered, nuclear reductions have occured, reducing the total number of warheads worldwide to 20,500, of which 8,500 belong to the United States.
|China||400 warheads; at most 50 on ICBMs; 45 nuclear tests||9/24/96; unratified.|
|France||450 warheads; 210 nuclear tests||9/24/96; ratified 4/6/98|
|India||Conducted tests, 1998||Unsigned|
|Iran||Seeking nuclear capability||9/24/96|
|Iraq||Sought nuclear capability under Saddam Hussein||Unsigned|
|Israel ||Unacknowledged nuclear capability||9/25/96; unratified.|
|North Korea||Conducted tests, 2006||Unsigned|
|Pakistan||Conducted tests, 1998||Unsigned|
|Russia||23,000 warheads; 715 nuclear tests; 3,630 warheads on ICBMs,|
including missiles in Belarus, Ukraine, & Kazakhstan
|South Africa||Developed weapons but relinquished them in 1993||9/24/96; unratified.|
|United Kingdom||260 warheads; 45 nuclear tests.||9/24/96; ratified 4/6/98|
|United States||1,030 nuclear tests and 12,000 warheads,|
including 2,000 ICBMs & 3,450 SLBMs.
|9/24/96; rejected 10/13/99.|
Click for Amazon books on Homeland Security
Living Under The Patriot Act
Righting Trans-Atlantic Defense Spending
Terrorism and Homeland Security
The Nuclear Express
Click for references and citations on Homeland Security
Department of Veterans Affairs, "Things to Know About Veteran Choice," and "About V.A. Health Benefits," downloaded Oct. 2020
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, "Global military expenditure sees largest annual increase in a decade, reaching $1,917 billion in 2019," 27 April 2020
Associated Press, "AP Fact Check: Trump exaggerates his gains for veterans," by Hope Yen, September 23, 2020
Defense News, "Global defense spending sees biggest spike in a decade," by Aaron Mehta, April 27, 2020
Military Times, "Russian bounties on American troops further strain Trump's bond with veterans," by Steve Peoples, July 1, 2020