Obama Wants to Bolster Recruitment, Move Military Into 21st Century

Posted September 24, 2008 at 2:38pm

When it comes to defense, Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is most often cited for having opposed the war in Iraq from the start. Beyond that, the Senator from Illinois has little defense experience, but that hasn’t stopped him from mapping out an extensive plan to implement if elected.

The crux of Obama’s plan focuses on moving away from what he calls a “military of the Cold War era” and into a modern, highly capable military. The Senator plans to lend more ground support to the U.S. military by expanding the Army by 65,000 troops and the Marines by 27,000.

The nominee also wants to raise recruitment by instilling the value of public service in the nation’s younger generations. Obama also believes in a more specialized military with better special forces, civil affairs teams, information operations and foreign language training.

He also plans to update equipment and take advice from those on the ground when considering what new technologies and equipment to purchase.

“Each major defense program will be reevaluated in light of current needs, gaps in the field, and likely future threat scenarios in the post 9-11 world,” Obama says on his campaign Web site.

The Senator says he will establish regularity in deployments so that military personnel know what to expect and have a better understanding of what is expected of them. He also vows to end the “back-door draft” by eliminating the stop-loss program — an involuntary extension of a soldier’s military service — and allow troops to leave the military after their enlistment has expired.

Obama also plans to take a definite stance on nuclear weapons, with a goal of ridding the world of them. Citing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Obama says he will find a way to reduce U.S. and the world’s dependence on these weapons.

The presidential hopeful says he will lead a “global effort to secure all nuclear weapons materials at vulnerable sites within four years.”

The nominee would also like to lessen the role of contractors in the American military, while creating more transparency for those that remain. He says companies such as Blackwater, the private security contractor, should be more accountable.

“There are more than 160,000 private contractors working in Iraq, paid salaries far more than our servicemen and women, and yet not held to the same legal standards,” Obama says. “Even worse, a lack of planning, oversight and management of these contractors has repeatedly undermined our troops’ efforts in the field.”

Obama believes in using force for self-defense, not for potential threats as the Bush doctrine has prescribed it. If elected, he says, he will make fewer unilateral defense decisions, especially those that involve pre-emptive strikes.

“When we use force in situations other than self-defense, we should make sure every effort to garner the clear support and participation of others — the kind of burden-sharing and support President George H.W. Bush rallied before he launched Operation Desert Storm,” Obama says on his Web site.