President Barack Obama on Tuesday will use a speech before troops at Florida's MacDill Air Force Base to defend his national security moves over the last eight years as an effective and sustainable strategy to defeat terrorism and ensure the long-term health of the military.
The remarks, scheduled for late afternoon, are expected to be his last major comments on national security before stepping away from the White House next month, officials said. They'll come shortly after a scheduled meeting with troops from U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Central Command.
In recent months, President-elect Donald Trump has attacked Obama's counter-terrorism moves as too soft and scattered, arguing both that he has been too involved in foreign conflicts and has not responded forcefully enough when choosing to use force.
Obama is expected to push back against those criticisms, although White House officials insist that the speech has been planned for several months and is not a response to or rebuke of the incoming commander in chief.
Instead, Obama is expected to tout the dramatic reduction in U.S. troops stationed in combat zones over the last eight years, one of his campaign promises and a move the White House has defended as a more responsible approach to global security.
He’ll argue the move from U.S.-led combat missions to a broader training and advising role in numerous hotspots has not only led to fewer U.S. casualties but also produced more reliable foreign forces able to defend their own homelands.
And the president will also warn about a return to illegal interrogation techniques and torture, arguing that disavowing those practices has improved American intelligence gathering and helped restore the country’s image as a moral champion.
The speech comes a day after the White House released a 61-page document outlining the administration’s legal opinions and military directives over the last eight years, a formal defense of Obama’s legacy as commander in chief.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the location for the speech was chosen in recognition of the increased responsibilities the president’s strategy has placed on special operations forces.
"He feels a deep, personal connection with the special operations community," he said. "A lot of the military operations he has ordered involve these personnel. ... He really wanted to thank this community."
Officials said the speech is also designed to highlight those troops and military families, to better educate the public on the sacrifices behind military missions.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.