The Democratic Party platform expected to be approved by party leaders this week includes plans to ensure military pay keeps pace with civilian wages, provide new tax credits for caregivers of injured veterans, and “rebalance our investments” in the Defense Department to limit wasteful spending.
The document also includes vows to “root out systemic racism from our military justice system” and “fight the scourge of rape and sexual assault in our military” as top national security priorities for the party for the next four years.
The Republican and Democratic party platforms — approved every four years as part of the presidential convention process — are designed to be guiding principles for political leaders as they outline their visions for governing the country.
Often the broad policies outlined in the documents draw criticism not just from partisan opponents but also individuals within the party. Earlier this week, several prominent Democratic House members said they would not sign onto the draft platform being circulated ahead of a vote this week, because of concerns that the party’s health care plans do not offer enough support for all Americans.
But the provisions on national security and veterans within the 80-page Democratic statement offer a look at how policy leaders — and the Democratic presidential ticket — plan to “honor our sacred covenant with our women and men in uniform, our veterans, and our military families who have carried the burdens of wars.”
As they did in 2016, Democratic platform writers this year included pledges to protect the rights of gay and transgender service members, and to block efforts to privatize key responsibilities of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Democrats mentioned veterans suicide as a key challenge in their 2016 document but devoted an entire section to the topic this year, promising significant new investments in mental health and suicide prevention services.
The party promises that they will keep the U.S. military as “the best-trained, best-equipped, and most effective fighting force in the world,” but also to “bring our forever wars to a responsible end and rationalize our defense budget.”
That includes ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan, ending financial support for Saudi Arabia’s military actions in Yemen, and promoting “less costly diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement tools” as an alternative to continued defense funding increases.
“Rather than continuing to rely on legacy platforms that are increasingly exposed and vulnerable, Democrats support funding a more cost-effective, agile, flexible, and resilient force with modern transportation and logistics capabilities that can operate in more contested environments,” the document states.
Party leaders also put a heavier emphasis in the platform on providing for military families than purchasing military equipment. The document promises that military pay will “keep pace with the current economy” and that leaders will increase time between deployments, improve education options for military children, and develop better post-military transition programs.
Plans also call for expanded tax credits for caregivers of injured veterans, though no specifics of that proposal were unveiled.
The platform language takes several direct and indirect shots at President Donald Trump, blasting him by name for “crass, craven, corrupt leadership” and pledging not to “issue commands by tweet” or “pardon war criminals,” the latter a reference to a series of controversial moves last fall by Trump to intervene in decisions by military justice officials.
“Democrats will hold regular press briefings to explain the legal and policy justifications for military operations, because transparency and open debate with Congress and the American public are necessary for democratic accountability,” the platform states.
“Democrats will never use active duty soldiers as political props, and we will never send military forces to suppress Americans exercising their constitutional rights.”
Republicans will finalize their party platform next week, when the party hosts its own convention in advance of re-nominating Trump as their presidential candidate for this year.
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.