Deborah Lee James & Eric Fanning - Donald Trump and the Transition of U.S. Military Power

November 10, 2016 - Deborah Lee James & Eric Fanning 11/10/2016 Views: 3,959

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Army Secretary Eric Fanning explain the transition of military power between presidents and discuss diversity in the armed forces. (6:51)

Watch Full Episode

Please welcome Deborah Lee Jamesand Eric Fanning.

(cheers and applause)

Thank you very much.

Thank you.


-Welcome to the show.-Thank you.

Thank you.It's great to be here.

It is wonderful to be here, uh,

for you,and for us especially,

just before Veteran's Day,which we'll chat about shortly.

But for those who don't know, Imean, there are many positions

within the U.S. government.

There are many positionswithin the military.

What exactly is the roleof a secretary?

Well, a secretaryis the civilian lead

of a military service.

So in our country, of course,we have the principal

of civilian controlof the military.

So the way to think about it,

is Eric and Iare the civilian CEO's

of the Air Forceand of the Army.

And our job is to workon people issues,

and to work on training issues,

and equipping, both for todayand tomorrow,

so that our militaryis ready to do the jobs

that we call upon them to do.

You are also really special,in that you are

really the torch-bearers,pioneers, in your fields.

Only the second woman to be

in the power-leading divisionof the military,

and the first openly gay person

who is leading in the military.

A question to you,

when "don't ask don't tell"came into effect,

what did that meanfor you personally,

and what did that meanfor the military?

Uh, it was a difficult periodfor me, personally.

I felt like I was the onlygay person in the Pentagon

and actually ended upleaving, uh, government service,

moving to New York City,

and-and doingsomething entirely different.

Um, but Debbie got me back inWashington D.C. at a think tank

we ended up both working at,

and I was lucky enoughto be in the Pentagon

when "don't ask, don't tell"was repealed.

It's a very different time now,and it was a very exciting thing

that this presidentwas able to do.

So when transitioningfrom one president to another,

do your jobs change?

Does the visionof the military change?

How, uh... how bigcan the differences really be?

Well, the president, of course,is the commander in chief

of the armed forces, um,

so Eric and I are appointeesof President Obama.

So we serve at the pleasureof the president.

So, yes, we will be tendering,um, our resignation.

But until that time,we continue to serve.

-There's work to be done.-Uh-huh.

Um, we have stilla strong agenda

that we are, uh, advancing.

And until the very last day,we're gonna continue to do that.

In addition, um,the orderly transition

is crucially important.

It's importantacross the government

but most especiallyfor the military.

We have men and womenin harm's way

all around the worldas we speak.

And so we're gonna be workingon that transition

to make sure that it's orderlyand done properly.

When you...when you say the president

obviously has a large roleto play within this,

um, I mean,Donald Trump has said before

he is the best at military.

-Uh, that's a direct quote,by the way. -(chuckling)



I feel like we're allin the Twilight Zone.


What is your jobin relating to a president?

What are you doing in serviceof the president?

Well, our direct reportis the Secretary of Defense,

-who, of course, reportsto the-the president, -Mm-hmm.

but we have both hadthe opportunity

to be directlywith President Obama.

-Yes. -I, for example,had the opportunity

to brief himon our nuclear enterprise

and several other issuesthat, um, are impactful

to the Air Force,really impactful to the nation.

So, um, we, again, serve atthe pleasure of the president,

and, uh, there will be thosewho will take our jobs

into the futureand carry us into the future.

Wh-When you... when you lookat a few things that are said,

because...many civilians may know...

I-I know I don't knowthe-the real answer to this--

and that is,Donald Trump once said, um...

he-he would give an order tokill the families of terrorists

and the Army would haveto execute that.

And, you know, he was then told,"No, you know,

"the-the militarywould deny your request,

because that is unlawful."

And he said, "No, I will tellthem to do it and they will."

Um, if something like thatwere to happen,

at what point does the militaryact beyond the president?

At what point does the militarydeny the request

of the commander in chief?

We all, all of us,in or out of uniform,

take an oathto the Constitution.

And the military takes thatincredibly seriously.

Most people conflatewhat the military does

with who the military is.

The military's an incrediblyprofessional, well-trained,

lethal, um, instrument of powerfor the United States,

but civilians decidewhat it does

within the constraintsof the law.

And we certainly havea number of lawyers

that are swirling around usat the Pentagon,

uh, who make surethat we don't cross those lines.

If you, uh... if you look atyourselves in these positions--

I know it's a... it'sa deeply personal question--

but there is a possibility nowthat America could be facing

a time where their presidentdoes not believe

that women or peoplewho are transgender

should be servingin the military.

Uh, I'm not saying for youto disagree with it or not,

but if you were to implore him

or even tell us whyit's so important to have that,

what would you say?

I would explain thatit's really, really important

that, as we go into the future,we have to continue

to recruit and retainthe very best young people

that America has to offer,

who are willing to comeinto the military.

We, of course,are an all-volunteer force,

and we're in a war for talent,

just like every corporationacross America.

And so you wantthe widest pool of people

to be able to choose from.

I would also point out that,in my opinion,

having diverse backgrounds,

different waysof approaching problems,

the wayyou've grown up differently,

this is having, uh...innovation springs

from that kind of diversityof thought.

So I would say, if you wantthe best armed forces

that Americacould possibly have,

uh, going into the future,

make sure that you havea diverse armed forces

-going future.-(cheering and applause)

That is, uh...

I guess, uh,that-that says it the best.

Thank you very much.Happy Veterans Day for tomorrow.

-Thank you. -Thank you so much.Thank you for being here.