Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Military Times reached out to her campaign for answers on several questions related to her military and veteran policy plans if she is elected president.
To see all of the candidate responses, click here.
President Donald Trump has touted that the U.S. military is now stronger than ever before, due to increases in military spending and fewer battlefield restrictions on troops. What is your assessment of the current state and readiness of the armed forces? Are they in a better place than they were four years ago? Why?
Senator Klobuchar believes the men and women of our armed forces have faced tremendous challenges in recent years and responded with great skill, courage, and honor. The senator is committed to ensuring that our troops continue to be the best-trained and best-equipped in the world, while also providing for their families at home. She strongly opposes efforts by the Trump administration to cut military construction funding, including for schools, to pay for President Trump’s border wall. She also believes our troops deserve better than foreign policy by Tweet and will treat our servicemembers with the respect and honor they have earned.
After one year of your administration, what size will the U.S. troop presence be in Afghanistan? In Syria and Iraq? In Europe?
U.S. troops have been in Afghanistan longer than some of our younger servicemembers have been alive. Senator Klobuchar believes it is time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. She would support maintaining counterterrorism and intelligence capabilities to prevent Afghanistan from again being used as a launching pad for terrorist attacks against the United States or our allies.
Senator Klobuchar believes we should not have withdrawn troops from Syria before there was a responsible and enforceable plan in place that protected our Kurdish allies and prevented ISIS from re-grouping. The reported release of ISIS terrorists was a shameful result of the president’s action.
She supports keeping U.S. forces stationed overseas as a force for stability, capacity building, and training.
What is the top personnel policy problem you see facing the armed forces today? How will you approach that issue differently from the current administration?
Senator Klobuchar believes the military’s personnel system must be prepared for a future dominated by new technologies, especially cyber threats. As president, she will adopt innovative approaches like allowing servicemembers to take temporary leave to gain new skills in the civilian workforce and bringing in civilian cyber experts for tours of duty in the U.S. government. Senator Klobuchar will make this a top priority for the Defense Department and direct the armed services to examine promotion policies to ensure that we are building a diverse and innovative force to tackle future threats.
Should the Defense Department budget increase or decrease? To what level?
Senator Klobuchar is committed to maintaining and extending our military superiority over any adversary and ensuring that our troops are the best-trained and best-equipped in the world. Virtually every analysis of the Pentagon’s budget has found duplicative and unnecessary programs and, as president, she would order her secretary of defense to undertake a comprehensive review of the DOD budget and identify a list of cuts and efficiencies, as well as potential gaps in defense spending. Her focus would be on providing our servicemembers, and not defense contractors, with what they need.
What is your plan to deal with the rising number of suicides in the military and veterans community?
Too many veterans and servicemembers dealing with mental health and addiction don’t have access to the services they need. Senator Klobuchar’s plan to combat addiction and prioritize mental health focuses on military personnel and veterans and specifically addresses the high rates of suicide among veterans. As president, she will invest in the mental health workforce at the VA, increase counseling services, and expand resources to help the tens of thousands of veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health needs. She will also expand the VA’s family caregiver program to place a greater emphasis on mental health.
What would be your top policy priority involving veterans, and how will you approach that issue differently from the current administration?
Senator Klobuchar believes that when we ask our young men and women to serve in defense of our country, we make a promise to provide them the full resources they need to do their jobs and to take care of them when they return home. Building on her strong record in the Senate, Senator Klobuchar has released a plan to take immediate action as President to uphold the federal government’s responsibility to those who have served and provide them and their families the health care, full benefits, and education and economic opportunities they deserve.
Her top priorities include strengthening the Veterans Health Administration, increasing accountability and improving implementation of the Mission Act to make sure our veterans are receiving the best possible care, doubling the number of apprenticeships in our country with a strong focus on supporting our veterans, streamlining the certification and licensing requirements for veterans who have gained relevant skills during their service, and making sure our veterans and their families receive full retirement pay and disability benefits. Read more about her plan for veterans here.
Have administration officials gone too far in pushing veterans health care services into the private sector? Would you repeal or alter existing VA community care programs?
Senator Klobuchar opposes efforts to privatize the VA and believes that expanding access to private care cannot come at the expense of fully funding and expanding the current Veterans Health Administration (VHA) infrastructure. As president, Senator Klobuchar will direct the VHA to use data on private care usage only as a means to help guide investments in its own growth, not as a way to further privatize its core functions.