New Report Reveals US Security Is At Greater Risk Than Any Time In Decades
Here are today’s top stories:
1. “The security and well-being of the United States are at greater risk than at any time in decades. America’s military superiority—the hard-power backbone of its global influence and national security—has eroded to a dangerous degree.”
So begins a recently published assessment from the National Defense Strategy Commission on the state of the country’s national defense. The bi-partisan, congressionally empowered commission goes on to the paint a picture of a US military unprepared to meet the challenges of resurgent threats, one that would “struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.” Even such calamities as a Chinese invasion of Taiwan or a North Korea missile strike on South Korea may catch the US flat-footed. (As if to illustrate this point, the Russian military succeeded in jamming GPS signals during a major NATO military exercise in Norway today.)
The commission’s main purpose is to evaluate the National Defense Strategy (NDS), the document in which the Defense Department outlines its priorities. The 2018 NDS called for a greater focus on China and Russia’s military resurgence, as well as belligerence from North Korea and Iran while scaling back counterterrorism efforts. The commission concurred with this direction but warns that the US is overestimating its ability to confront these threats, citing wide-ranging vulnerabilities across multiple areas including missile defense, cyber warfare, electronic warfare, space operations, and nuclear deterrence.
In a separate interview, Ambassador Eric Edelman, the commission’s co-chair, stressed that consistently higher military spending- at minimum 3-5 percent annually, an increase Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has requested- is needed to make up this shortfall. While spending has decreased, from about 4.7% of GDP in 2010 to just over 3% last year, any increases ought to be coupled with stipulations for smarter and more efficient spending by the incoming Congress. Hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted by the Pentagon, often on administrative and bureaucratic matters. Add that to the list of shortcomings.
2. Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker remains under fire after he replaced Jeff Sessions last week. Not only has he received calls for his recusal due to the anti-Mueller views he’s espoused and his ties to Sam Clovis who is a witness in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, his appointment has also been called unconstitutional by conservative legal scholars. Members of the Federalist Society have defected and organized a group called “Checks And Balances” with the purpose of spotlighting Trump’s threats to the rule of law, including his appointment of Whitaker. This effort is being led by Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway.
This all comes as Maryland’s Attorney General sues the Trump administration over Whitaker’s appointment. Today, the DOJ argued that Whitaker’s appointment was constitutional Or, as Slate put it: “Here’s that argument, in a nutshell: The Constitution’s text doesn’t really matter; the Framers didn’t mean what they said; and an acting attorney general who served without Senate confirmation for six days in 1866 provides the historical precedent to justify Whitaker’s claim to the office.”
3. CNN has sued President Trump and several aides for the restoration of White House press access to Jim Acosta. Acosta’s press access was denied after he pressed President Trump on his lies regarding the migrant caravan during a press conference. The White House then used a fake video from Infowars to claim Acosta assaulted a White House intern. And now, in response to CNN’s lawsuit, the Trump administration is claiming that they have the ability to deny any reporter White House press credentials. Legal precedent and the first amendment beg to differ.
4. The budget deficit hit over $100 billion for the month of October, the largest in three years and a 60 percent increase from a year ago, per Bloomberg News. The biggest reason for the shortfall was from Trump’s tax cuts, which outweighed the returns generated from an otherwise booming economy, causing spending to outpace tax revenue by a ratio of 2 to 1. Trump’s first full fiscal year, which ended in September, saw the overall budget deficit grow to $779 billion, the highest since 2012, when the country was still reeling from recession. At that time, Republicans used fiscal conservatism as a weapon to obstruct every move Obama tried to make to revive a recovering economy and lower unemployment. Once in power, the numbers show they abandoned all pretenses of fiscal restraint.
5. A rape trial acquittal in Ireland has sparked widespread protests and a national conversation about sexual assault and consent. A 27-year-old man was found not guilty of raping a 17-year-old woman in a muddy patch in the Irish city of Cork, despite the victim’s testimony she was dragged over 30 yards and a witness seeing the man’s hands on her throat. In her closing arguments, defense lawyer Elizabeth O’Connell insinuated the victim was asking for it, saying “You have to look at the way she was dressed. She was wearing a thong with a lace front.”
The trial outcome, and Ms. O’Connell’s comments in particular, drew country-wide ire, with protests forming in several cities, with women placing underwear at the courthouse in Cork and other prominent sites. Irish women also posted pictures of their underwear under the hashtag #ThisIsNotConsent to protest rape culture and victim blaming.