A leaked communication between the Trump transition team's Undersecretary of Defense for policy Brian McKeon, and the Pentagon, has revealed the four biggest defense priorities for the president-elect. Among the top four items listed in the memo from are: 1) developing a strategy to defeat/destroy ISIS; 2) build a strong defense by eliminating budget caps/the sequester, 3) develop a comprehensive cyber strategy, and 4) eliminate wasteful spending by finding greater efficiencies.
The list was communicated to McKeon by Mira Ricardel, one of the leaders of Trump’s Pentagon transition team, according to the memo obtained by Foreign Policy magazine and published Tuesday.
A major point of concern among defense pundits is that notably absent from the memo is any mention of US "free and fair election scourge" Russia. Foreign Policy magazine cited the current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, as saying that Russia “could pose an existential threat” to the US – more so than China, North Korea or ISIS, which came in at first spot on the list.
Trump and Obama are, ironically, united in downplaying the threat Russia poses to America and its allies. Some Pentagon brass beg to differ: pic.twitter.com/RruJSohyS9— Oren Kessler (@OrenKessler) December 20, 2016
Suggesting that Trump may have a soft spot for the Kremlin, the US “foreign policy establishment – including large swaths of employees at the Pentagon, State Department and CIA – remains deeply skeptical of Moscow,” said the magazine. The article included quotes by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Evelyn Farkas and Brookings Institution scholar Steven Pifer, both known for hostility towards Russia.
Foreign Policy also reached out to Lieutenant-General Ben Hodges, commander of US Army forces in Europe. Without quoting him directly, the magazine reported that Hodges saying that the Pentagon and NATO have “revamped some training exercises specifically to replicate fighting Russian armed forces” and that US, British and Canadian troops were training Ukrainian forces who are “seeing daily combat with Russian-trained and equipped separatists.” Hodges reportedly also claimed that many of those units were led by Russian officers.
The Trump’s transition team did not deny the authenticity of the memo, although it added that the list was incomplete.
“For the media to speculate that this list of issues represents all of the president-elect’s priorities is completely erroneous and misleading,” a Trump transition official, who insisted on anonymity, told Foreign Policy.
We, for one, would welcome a defense policy that is less focused on "offensive" measures, including launching and perpetuating proxy, or "fake" wars to benefit the US Military-Industrial complex, instead focusing on truly tangible threats.
Overall, the published list matches what Trump has addressed on the campaign trail, from pledges to defeat the Islamic State, to rebuilding the US military and review expensive but ineffective weapons programs such as the F-35.