The use of U.S. generals and admirals (or “Flag Officers” as they are called when grouped together) as endorsers of American Presidential candidates has been done before; however, never as much in recent history as today. 12 high-ranking military officers eventually served as President, from George Washington to Dwight David Eisenhower.
John R. Hawkins III
As with most things in politics there is good in this and bad in this. The garnering of support of retired military officers to assist in the development of national security policy and to give a hint of the types of potential appointed Defense Department civilian leaders is a good thing. The gathering of military officers, like harvesting food for sustainment in the fall, is the part that I think arguably is bad.
At first glance, when hearing that 88 retired Flag Officers have signed-up for Donald Trump and that 95 retired Flag Officers signed-up for Hillary Clinton, one might be impressed. Obviously they all have their reasons. Retired Air Force General Lloyd “Fig” Newton, a four-star and the first African American Thunderbird pilot, a Hillary Clinton supporter, has stated that he felt a “moral imperative” to endorse Secretary Clinton because of her demonstrated “…experience, temperament, critical thinking and level-headed leadership.”
From my foxhole, if you are trying to determine who has the personal attributes needed to be a Commander in Chief then such endorsements as General “Fig” Newton are most admirable. Having said that, if American voters want to know who has the best plans for the well-being of service members you may be better served by listening to retired senior enlisted members, or non-commissioned-officers. If you want to determine who has the best plans for the families of those serving in the military it probably is best to listen to the military spouses or retired single parent service members. If you want to determine who has the best plans for veterans, then you should get the opinions of veterans receiving or attempting to receive those services.
I ask that you note that when looking for endorsements for candidates concerning military policy, I refer to retired or prior-service personnel; not those currently serving. Those currently serving are not to endorse one candidate over another when speaking in their official capacity and the determination of official capacity versus otherwise can be a very subjective call and best avoided. I can remember during Republican and Democratic administrations, escorting many uniformed members to Capitol Hill to testify on budget issues and personally testifying and at times thinking many different thoughts but being required to say only “…I support the President’s budget.”
From my foxhole, it is essential that the next President step up to the plate on day one with the experience and understanding of the international picture and a feeling for the differences between yester-year warfare involving force-on-force such as that fought by General Patton and the Asymmetric and Cyber warfare of today(as in terrorism-antiterrorism and insurgency-counterinsurgency). While there will be time for briefings the position of Commander in Chief is no place for on the job training.
Maj Gen US Army (ret) John R. Hawkins III, JD, MPA is President and CEO of Hawkins Solutions Intl., a government relations and lobby company. His last military assignment as a “two star” was Dir., Human Resources Directorate for the Army world-wide and prior to that Deputy Chief Public Affairs for the Army, world-wide.