Center for American Progress Action

Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton
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Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton

Sen. Clinton unveils plan for new G.I. Bill and other measures to help our soldiers stay safe on the battlefield and health when they return home.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Friday, February 17, 2012. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Friday, February 17, 2012. (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

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Senior Fellow Lawrence J. Korb discusses the CAP report, “Beyond The Call of Duty” and introduces Sen. Clinton

Sen. Clinton speaks at the Center for American Progress Action Fund about the need for action to help our soldiers on the battlefield and our veterans at home.

Event attendees speak with Sen. Clinton after the event

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) unveiled a plan today at the Center for American Progress Action Fund for a new G.I. Bill that would strengthen America’s promise to its soldiers by ensuring veterans and their families have the proper health care and support they need.

Clinton proposed the implementation of key services that that would help returning service members adapt to civilian life, fix the process that determines medical compensation for injured troops, and increase aid to families and children who have lost a loved one.

“In the leadership vacuum that has been left by the Bush administration, too many members of the military and their families have been left literally holding their breath about what will happen next,” Clinton said. “A new G.I. Bill of Rights will honor the basic bargain at the heart of America’s promise.”

Clinton’s proposals for reform also include The Iraq Troop Protection and Reduction Act, which prohibits funds from being spent to send troops to Iraq unless they are deployed with adequate equipment and training. “We have all heard story after story of mothers and fathers or husbands and wives buying body armor and shipping it to their loved ones,” Clinton said. “We have had a mismanaged and poorly conceived and executed war policy from the very beginning.”

Clinton referenced the recently released Center for American Progress report “Beyond the Call of Duty” as evidence that the need for action is undeniable. “Four years after the Iraq war began, our troops are stretched to the breaking point,” Clinton said. “Virtually all of the active Army’s combat brigades not currently deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan are rated not combat ready.”

Clinton continued, “The [report’s] authors conclude, “Not since the aftermath of the Vietnam War has the U.S. Army been so depleted” … [The National Guard and Reserves] are not prepared for overseas deployments, and in some cases cannot even adequately respond to homeland security threats or emergencies.”

The report dictates that such a stretched military force deprives both the troops of necessary resources and the country as a whole from having the strategic reserves necessary to respond effectively to crises. The newest escalation of troops to Iraq has also forced Army and Marine commanders to further cut corners on training and equipment, putting even more stress on those in uniform.

Clinton described many of these problems as interconnected. “The reports out of Walter Reed represent the latest pointed example in a constellation of disgraceful episodes, a pattern that has to go right to the top—a failure of planning, a failure of priorities, and a failure to achieve results,” she explained. “Clearly we are failing on all counts because of the current leadership that we have in our government.”

“When I visited Walter Reed again on Friday to meet with soldiers from New York, I found their tales of being caught up in the bureaucratic nightmares that surround them heartbreaking,” she said. “When the injured soldiers return home, they should be greeted with open arms, not a wall of bureaucratic red tape.”

Clinton emphasized that we must improve the quality of care both for U.S. soldiers fighting in the field and those recovering in hospitals at home. “We’ve got to make sure that we are reordering our priorities from wasting billions of dollars in overpayments to contractors overseas that cannot be accounted for, and instead spending what it takes to give the benefits that truly are needed by our soldiers, our veterans, and their families,” she said.

Although these goals certainly are lofty and expensive, Clinton feels that the nation is prepared to sacrifice for such an effort. “The only thing that we’ve been asked to do as a nation since 9/11 is go shopping,” she said. “and I think that is a disgrace.”

“This administration is frankly unable to run a two-car parade, let alone a big government,” Clinton said. “I’m here to say that the buck does stop with this president. And if he doesn’t take responsibility, I can assure you that the next president will.”

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