In the very brief memorandum to the Secretary of State dated November 16, 2016, Eligibility of the Multinational Force and Observers to Receive Defense Articles and Defense Services Under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Arms Export Control Act, the President effectively authorized the use of defense articles (whatever that means) and defense services by multinational forces and observers.
There is no explanation as to what this means, but presumably it allows for our armed forces and the State Department to cooperate fully with the multinational forces and observers in various parts of the world. The date of the original congressional action (1961) implies this is a fairly routine act by the President.
Behind all the legalese of the November 14, 2016 memorandum entitled Presidential Determination Pursuant to Section 1245(d)(4)(B) and (C) of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, the basic decision being announced is the determination that “there is a sufficient supply of petroleum and petroleum products from countries other than Iran to permit a significant reduction in the volume of petroleum and petroleum products purchased from Iran by or through foreign financial institutions. However, consistent with U.S. commitments specified in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the United States is no longer pursuing efforts to reduce Iran’s sales of crude oil. The United States action to fulfill these commitments became effective upon reaching Implementation Day under the JCPOA, which occurred once the International Atomic Energy Agency verified that Iran had implemented key nuclear-related steps specified in the JCPOA to ensure that its nuclear program is and will remain exclusively peaceful.”
Not knowing any more than what this statement says, it appears to be a routine determination and the report (this memorandum) is placed in the Federal Register.
The official title of the memorandum issued November 11, 2016 is “Presidential Memorandum: Advancing Fair Practices by Education and Training Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Eligible Spouses, and Other Family Members”. (I suspect the date chosen for this memorandum was not just coincidence.)
This is a lengthy memorandum addressed to the heads of executive departments and agencies. The gist of it is to establish a working group to improve implementation of Executive Order 13607 (Establishing Principles of Excellence for Educational Institutions Serving Service Members, Veterans, Spouses, and Other Family Members), signed on April 27, 2012.
Here is part of the justification for this action:
“Although thousands of institutions have committed to the Principles of Excellence, more work remains to strengthen oversight, enforcement, and accountability within these benefits programs so that these critical investments are protected and can continue to serve our service members, veterans, their eligible spouses, and other family members. To accomplish these goals, we must continue to improve the coordination of Federal tools and resources, provide new mechanisms to increase collaboration across Federal agencies, identify best practices that can support and inform initiatives to enhance educational and career readiness and success, implement better data-sharing strategies, and develop more streamlined protocols to improve enforcement and information sharing. ”
I endorse this effort whole-heartedly. What I find alarming is the need for the original executive order. Having devoted a significant portion of my professional career to service in higher education, I would have hoped for better, but apparently there were enough institutions failing to provide good services and accurate information – some even to the point of fraud – that this kind of executive action was necessary.
On November 10, 2016 the president sent a letter to the speaker of the house reporting some amendments to the administration’s budget for the 2017 fiscal year. The amendments are to increase funding for national security activities at the Department of Defense, the Department of State, and the U.S. Agency for International Development to fund Overseas Contingency Operations. According to this letter, an enclosure accompanied it. That enclosure was a letter from the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Since that letter was not available on the White House web site, I am arbitrarily deciding it is beyond the scope of my reviews (I have to draw a line somewhere!) and presume it is publicly available online at a different site.
This seems to be a routine kind of action as part of the budget process and I see no reason to flag it as a concern. But, just to give a little more context, I will quote the last part of the letter from the president here.
“While these amendments focus on funding our overseas national security efforts, our efforts here at home are equally important to fighting terrorism and protecting the American people. For this reason, I urge the Congress to fully fund not only the international security needs outlined in this request, but also the domestic security programs included in the FY 2017 Budget. Specifically, the Congress should fund critical cybersecurity programs and ensure the Nation has the resources needed to aggressively counter evolving cybersecurity threats. I also encourage the Congress to provide the resources necessary for the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration and its Countering Violent Extremism programs.”
On November 9, two memoranda were issued on the topic “Continuation of the National Emergency with Respect to Burundi”. One is a Letter and the other a Notice. The letter is addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate. The Notice is the official statement of the action to continue the previously established national emergency declaration as a result of conditions in Burundi.
Apparently in certain circumstances, the president believes it necessary or useful to send a letter to the Congress justifying a particular action. It appears from this instance, that notice of the action is included as an enclosure with the letter.
In this case, the action is a continuation of Executive Order 13712 of November 22, 2015 that “…declared a national emergency to deal with the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States constituted by the situation in Burundi, which has been marked by the killing of and violence against civilians, unrest, the incitement of imminent violence, and significant political repression, and which threatens the peace, security, and stability of Burundi.”
In the notice, the president states: “The situation in Burundi continues to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” He therefore believes it necessary to continue the declaration of national emergency.
Since I am unaware of the situation in Burundi, it is impossible to know if this action is justified, but like many actions of our elected leaders, I will trust the president’s judgment on this one, and not consider this an over reaction or overreach/abuse of authority.
A logical place for my monitoring to start is with actions taken beginning the day after the election. Since then and up until the date of this post, President Obama has issued one executive order, six memoranda, four proclamations, and as best I can tell no signing statements to legislation.
Three of the four proclamations were issued November 10, 2016. They are for: National Apprenticeship Week, Get Smart About Anti-Biotics Week, and American Education Week. The fourth proclamation was issued November 14, 2016 and it is for America Recycles Day.
All of the above are easily accessible by following the top link on the sidebar of this page.
The six memoranda and the executive order address more sobering subjects and, as of this post, I have not yet read them carefully enough to summarize or comment on them. I will address them in a future post or posts.
The recent election was a shocking event for me. Although in many respects, it was not completely surprising, the enormity of the change in our political culture set me to thinking seriously about what I am going to do about it. As a result of my disappointment in the outcome of so many races – local, state, and national – I have decided to create this blog. Doing so is an act of a responsible citizen using this medium to voice questions, concerns, and opinions about our current political climate.
Because one of my primary concerns is authoritarianism, I have chosen monitoring of presidential executive actions as a central element to this site. Along with that, I plan to raise questions for contemplation and to express my own opinions on various topics. I expect the site to evolve over time depending on circumstances and events, so intend to remain flexible on its role and scope.