Sunday, February 11, 2018

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Army Secretary visits West Point, talks of budgeting, military parade, North Korea

WEST POINT – US Secretary of the Army Dr. Mark Esper said that while he is pleased that a two-year federal budget has been approved recently, it is months late, given that the federal fiscal year begins on October 1.

While visiting the US Military Academy at West Point on Saturday, Esper said a late budget can affect military preparedness.

“We have lost a lot of ground that has an impact on our readiness, that has an impact on our equipping, that has an impact on our recruiting; I am pleased that the end is in sight and that we will have a two-year deal, which is important, but even with the two-year deal, we still need to see the funding at the beginning of the fiscal year so that we can do that planning, that type of training that is critical to ensuring readiness,” he said.

The recent report concerning sexual assaults at West Point and the other military academies, which suggested the number of instances has increased, is a “good news story,” Esper said.

“It’s always good when we see reporting of sexual incidents. What it tells me is that our cadets are comfortable with reporting. They feel that the chain of command is listening to them and that type of reporting enables us to either treat them as victims as they want and to prosecute those who are the alleged assailants,” he said. “So, the reporting is good. I think the more reporting the better. I think it shows confidence in the system and confidence in the chain of command and I actually hope we see more reporting; that will help us drive down the rates of incidents as well.”
Esper believes the war of words between President Trump and the Northern Korean leadership will be resolved.

“I trust in the diplomacy of our State Department to handle that situation and others as they best see fit,” he said. “Our job is to remain prepared to ensure that all options remain on the table for our diplomats so we strengthen their hand.”

And what about the president’s desire to conduct a military parade? Esper said he will institute “whatever is asked of us by the national command authority.”

As far as critics who say it will be too costly?

“We will see. I have been given no guidance from the Secretary of Defense’s Office on what that might look like and we will implement as frugally as we can and always be conscious of the stewardship of the dollars that the taxpayers provide us,” he said.

Esper spent the day at West Point meeting with cadets and cheering on Army’s men’s and women’s basketball teams against Navy.


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