Delegation Memo

Yesterday a memorandum was sent to the Secretary of Defense delegating the quadrennial executive responsibility to review military compensation. Probably just routine.

Official Title and Link: Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense

Memorandum dated September 15, 2017

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Police Equipment

Fairly widely reported as being in the works, yesterday the official executive order to rescind an Obama order was posted. In a nutshell, this again allows police departments access to surplus military equipment. In my view, this is dangerous. Already law enforcement agencies are too militarized and, in several cases, are trying to change the culture to return to the community policing model that is far more effective. This action will make it more difficult to change police culture.

Official Title and Link: Presidential Executive Order on Restoring State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement’s Access to Life-Saving Equipment and Resources

Executive order dated August 28, 2017

News Dump Actions

Yesterday several actions were posted late in the day – a classic example of releasing potentially controversial decisions/actions late on Friday in hopes the media will be otherwise distracted and the story will die over the weekend. It didn’t work this time, and I dare say in the contemporary world of instant communication with heightened media attention on this president, it probably never will again. In fact, I think the modern media have come to anticipate and expect bombshells at the end of the work week and many of the stories actually tend to dominate the weekend news cycles.

Even though hurricane Harvey was definitely the lead story in the news at the time, numerous reports of these presidential actions appeared in the media shortly after they were posted.

One other highly controversial action was taken by POTUS 45 that also led many breaking news bulletins – the pardon of former Sheriff Arpaio of Mesa, AZ. So far, I have not been able to find anything on the official website about this, not even a press release.

Of those posted, the first two were about Venezuela sanctions – a letter to Congress and the executive order itself. The order on the sanctions is an expansion of a 2015 order regarding Venezuela. The sanctions include not importing of Venezuelan oil. [Ed. Note: I saw one report that POTUS 45 has exempted an American oil company he has ties to from this sanction.]

The third action almost made me laugh because it is so contrary to the normal behavior of this man. It is the routine proclamation of August 26 as Women’s Equality Day in honor of the ratification of the 19th Amendment (Women’s Right to Vote) on that date in 1920.

And, the fourth action was the highly anticipated announcement about transgender individuals and service in the military. I find this to be a particularly unnecessary and discriminatory action. The ACLU has already announced their intent to sue and most likely will prevail on equality of opportunity grounds.

None of these five actions are insignificant, but the pardon is also quite disturbing because it effectively condones racism as well as defiance of constitutional authority of the courts. Unfortunately, it is not at all surprising, but that does not make is less worrisome for the future of our democratic republic. Pardoning someone convicted of contempt of court actions, in my opinion, is abuse of the executive power of the pardon. I intend to contact my senator – Grassley – who chairs the Judiciary Committee to urge him to open an investigation on this abuse of power.

Official Titles and Links:

Memoranda, Proclamation and Executive Order posted August 25, 2017

Cyber Command

I learned something about the military command structure as a result of reviewing the most recent memorandum. I’m sure most of us have heard of CENTCOM, but now I know more what it is. Various command operations are designated “unified” under central command because they call for cooperation of several or all of the armed forces branches.

Yesterday, the Cyber Command unit was designated as a new unified command. That makes sense in our current world of cyber activity. I suspect McMaster and Kelly were key players in instigating this change.

Official Title and Link: Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense

Memorandum dated August 18, 2017

Manufacturing Base

While this order appears to be routine, it may turn out to be much more than that. Essentially it orders the study of manufacturing and the defense industrial base. Within 270 days a report is to be produced that identifies problems and recommends actions to remedy the problems, including possible legislation.

I suspect the intent is to eventually create more ways for this administration’s cronies to benefits from defense spending.

Official Title and Link: Presidential Executive Order on Assessing and Strengthening the Manufacturing and Defense Industrial Base and Supply Chain Resiliency of the United States

Executive order dated July 21, 2017

Potentially Massive Change in War Powers

[Ed. Note: I’m stepping a little out of my normal practice of reviewing and commenting only on official executive actions with this post, because when I saw the brief news report (see link below) it occurred to me if the bill passes as amended by the House Appropriations Committee, this president will have much less freedom to “authorize and fight wars” than either of his two most recent predecessors.]

What am I talking about?

Today, according to a report published by The Week (posted 12:30 p.m. ET), the House Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill of 2017 proposed by Rep. Barbara Lee, CA, that repeals the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40) that was passed by Congress in the immediate wake of September 11, 2001. That law has been the basis for all war actions since it was enacted – used by both George W. Bush and Barack Obama to execute military actions in several places around the world. In effect, it was congressional authorization to use military force against terrorist activities, a.k.a. the “War on Terror”. Both the original law and the current amendment (photo of it is in The Week article cited above) are quite brief, so it does not take long to see what this is about.

Based on a Tweet by Rep. Lee, she appeared to be surprised it passed the full committee. The bill, along with this amendment, will be debated openly on the floor of the House of Representatives. Just getting this to the full House is a major change with enormous consequences.

At the time the AUMF passed, I believed it was a colossal overreaction to the 9-11 events and I am extremely pleased that at least the House Appropriations Committee is ready to reclaim the power of Congress to declare war instead of abdicating it to the president. It is long overdue to require a full, congressional debate before sending military forces into any kind of war.

The prospect of this law being repealed is so unexpected I’m having trouble wrapping my head around what the full ramifications would be.

What are the chances it will pass the full House? Will the Senate go along? If it reaches the president’s desk, will he veto the whole defense funding package just to keep that provision?

What precipitated the Appropriations Committee action to approve the repeal amendment? According to my count, the committee membership has 30 Republicans and 22 Democrats, (and of course, chaired by a Republican) which means the Republicans could easily have kept the amendment from passing. Does this mean even Republicans are concerned about this president having that level of power? Does the escalation in Syria have anything to do with this committee vote?

So far, I have not found online a breakdown of who on the committee voted for/against the amendment, but I hope it will be available at some point. It would be very interesting to see just who supports the repeal.

Needless to say, I will be watching for other news reports about this important amendment and its progress through the bill’s approval process.

Update June 30, 2017:

Two items to add: 1) Representative Lee was the only person to vote against the original AUMF in 2001, and 2) the vote by the Appropriations Committee yesterday was a voice vote and it passed nearly unanimously. From the video clip I saw of the vote, it sounded like one faint no vote voiced.

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