Whistleblower Protection at Veterans Affairs

I can certainly support what this order purports to be – improved accountability and increased protection for whistlblowers. In fact, this ought to be important for all of government.

This executive order creates a new office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection in the Department of Veterans Affairs. Whether or not it makes any difference, remains to be seen. It is unlikely we will know for years if this was useful.

My current skepticism leads me to believe it will not have much impact.

Actually, the timing of this signing leads me to believe it is just part of the flurry of activity trying to create an impression that much is being accomplished in the “first hundred days”.

Sad to say, issuing executive orders and memoranda are not results in the usual sense of the word.

Anyone else catch the irony in this order? Does this administration really want to empower whistleblowers when they are so intent on finding and prosecuting the “leakers”?

Official Title: Presidential Executive Order on Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection at the Department of Veterans Affairs

Executive Order dated April 27, 2017

Attack on Syrian Air Base

The official report to Congress of the military action in Syria, as required by law when a president takes unilateral military action, is finally available for public view. In it the president cites the War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148) as his authority for taking this action.

After reading the resolution cited, I do not believe this action – bombing property in a sovereign nation not currently at war with the United States – is covered. The three tests for a president to take action are: 1) after declaration of war, 2) specific statutory authorization, or 3) a national emergency created by attack on the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces. I do not believe any of these apply in this case.

While the use of poison gas is never justifiable, this military action response is, in my view, not constitutional and also may violate international law. It certainly violates the U. N. Charter.

An early review of the legality of this action written by Marty Lederman on his blog dated April 6, 2017 (and posted just a couple of hours after the incident itself) is a useful analysis of the legalities in this instance. The nuances discussed in his post are quite interesting, as he cites other colleagues and their points of view, including Harold Koh, who believes there is now a “customary exception” to the U. N. Charter provision for humanitarian reasons.

At this point, I am not persuaded the military actions in Syria ordered by POTUS 45 are legal. If they are acceptable, we are in grave danger for yet another war to erupt.

Official memorandum title: A Letter from the President to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate

Presidential Memorandum dated April 8, 2017

Delegation of Presidential Authority

This evening on a whim I decided to check to see if any new presidential actions were taken today and I was a little surprised to find a new memorandum. It is so brief, I am going to quote it in its entirety here.

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE

SUBJECT:         Delegation of Authority Under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, I hereby order as follows:

I hereby delegate to the Secretary of State the functions and authorities vested in the President by section 3132 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 114-328) (the “Act”).

Any reference in this memorandum to the Act shall be deemed to be a reference to any future Act that is the same or substantially the same as such provision.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

DONALD J. TRUMP

After looking up section 3132 of the National Defense Authorization Act, I found it refers to nuclear proliferation, quoted below.

Sec. 3132. Updated plan for verification and monitoring of proliferation of nuclear weapons and fissile material.

I don’t know what to make of this action. It appears to be a routine delegation of the monitoring process to the Secretary of State. If so, why not the Secretary of Defense?

I am hoping tomorrow there will be media coverage of this memorandum and maybe some sort of explanation of it to see if my reading is accurate.

Official Memorandum Title: Presidential Memorandum on the Delegation of Authority Under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017

Posted March 20,2017.

Presidential Memorandum Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria

One item to note immediately in the title is a shift in language. The previous administration (and Democrats in general) used the term ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) rather than ISIS. (Here is a useful article to explain why and what the differences are.) I suspect the use of ISIS in this memorandum may simply be because this president wants to use the popular name that Republicans prefer, rather than any other reason.

The plan referred to here is to be coordinated by the newly re0rganized National Security apparatus as defined in the executive order on this same date. This “comprehensive” plan is to be developed and reported to the president in 30 days from the signing of this memorandum.

A stark observation and question: does he really believe a full and comprehensive plan to defeat ISIS can be developed in just 30 days when years have gone into the efforts to contain that organization with international cooperation?

Delusional at best.

Presidential Memorandum signed January 28,2017.

Presidential Memorandum on Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces

Because the immigration executive order took up so much attention of the national news media this past weekend, this memorandum was almost lost in the flood of information. I saw some reports, but not much analysis of this memorandum.

From the title, one can insinuate the president does not believe the current status of the armed forces is adequate. While the action here does not do much specifically other than direct the Secretary of Defense and the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to do some reviews of the status of various aspects of the military and provide reports to that effect, it does give some clues as to what he wants to be emphasized with regard to the military.

A 30-day Readiness Review is the first directive that includes review by the OMB to handle anticipated budget reallocations for the current fiscal year.

Under the title of “Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces” one section directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a National Defense Strategy (NDS) based on a new National Security Strategy upon its submission to the Congress. “The goal of the NDS shall be to give the President and the Secretary maximum strategic flexibility and to determine the force structure necessary to meet requirements.”

Part of this “Rebuilding” section includes two more reviews:

  • a new Nuclear Posture Review
  • a new Ballistic Missile Defense Review

On the one hand, this should order come as no surprise given the campaign promises to strengthen the military. On the other, it is a chilling reminder that this unhinged individual is in charge of the nuclear arsenal and has threatened to expand it and use it. I am not particularly comforted by the fact the primary Cabinet officer who might dissuade him from using nuclear weapons goes by the nickname “Mad Dog”.

Presidential Memorandum signed January 27, 2017.

Letter from the President — Report with Respect to Guantanamo

Not surprisingly, this letter from President Obama to the leaders of Congress is blunt and at times scathing.

He reports a one time high of nearly 800 detainees is now down to 41. During the Obama years, 196 have been transferred out. He articulates the bipartisan support is still there, as it was when he took office in 2009, for closing Guantanamo detainment facility. He expresses once again his challenge to Congress to close the facility and move the remaining detainees to secure federal prisons.

Included with the letter is an updated plan for closing of the facility submitted by the Defense Department.

Memorandum posted January 19, 2017.

Actions of January 12, 2017

Yesterday a total of eight actions were added to the White House website. All are more or less routine although some are more significant in their importance.

Three Executive Orders
  • Executive Order — Amending Executive Order 11016 to Update Eligibility Criteria for Award of the Purple Heart

This order is routine in the sense that it appears to be just updating a previous order to include more recent definitions of hostilities and department names, such as Homeland Security.

  • Executive Order — Designating the World Organisation for Animal Health as a Public International Organization Entitled to Enjoy Certain Privileges, Exemptions, and Immunities

A short, simple order to add this international organization to the list of recognized entities.

  • Executive Order — Exclusions from the Federal Labor-Management Relations Program

Due to national security, some department, agencies and programs are exempt from the normal labor law requirements with regard to collective bargaining, etc.  This appears to be a routine updating of those exclusions.

Five Proclamations

Two of the proclamations have to do with the environment. Both build on National Monuments established by President Clinton in 2000.

  • Boundary Enlargement of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument
  • Boundary Enlargement of the California Coastal National Monument

Three proclamations are related to civil rights in one way or another.

  • Presidential Proclamations — Establishment of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument
  • Presidential Proclamations — Establishment of the Freedom Riders National Monument
  • Presidential Proclamations — Establishment of the Reconstruction Era National Monument

I believe these three proclamations are very important for the country as a whole to not forget the past and to celebrate individuals and groups who have made a difference.

One Memorandum
  • Presidential Memorandum — Promoting Diversity and Inclusion in Our National Parks, National Forests, and Other Public Lands and Waters

I’ll simply quote from the memorandum one paragraph that says it all:

“The purpose of this memorandum is to ensure that all Americans have the opportunity to experience and enjoy our public lands and waters, that all segments of the population have the chance to engage in decisions about how our lands and waters are managed, and that our Federal workforce — not just the sites it manages — is drawn from the rich range of the diversity in our Nation. In this memorandum, “diversity” refers to a range of characteristics including national origin, language, race, color, disability, ethnicity, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender (including gender identity), socioeconomic status, veteran status, and family structure. The term “inclusion” refers to a culture that connects each employee to the organization; encourages collaboration, flexibility, and fairness; and promotes diversity throughout the organization so that all individuals have opportunities to participate and contribute to their full potential.”

All actions posted January 12, 2017.