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Project 2025: The Department of Defense

The Pentagon

The Pentagon, home to the Department of Defense.

Schmidt is a syndicated columnist and editorial board member with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

This is part of a series offering a nonpartisan counter to Project 2025, a conservative guideline to reforming government and policymaking during the first 180 days of a second Trump administration. The Fulcrum's "Cross-Partisan Project 2025" relies on unbiased critical thinking, reexamines outdated assumptions, and uses reason, scientific evidence, and data in analyzing and critiquing Project 2025.

After reading the 45-page section on the Defense Department and related arms of the government, it is pretty clear that Project 2025’s recommendations would give nearly unlimited power to the president and that its overly partisan attacks on our institutions would make the United States less safe.


The second section of “The Mandate for Leadership. The Conservative Promise” is titled “The Common Defense” and also covers the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the intelligence community and Media agencies.

Christopher Miller, who briefly served as acting secretary of defense at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, wrote the chapter on the Defense Department and is widely quoted in the section’s preamble. Right out of the gate, Miller calls the DOD “a deeply troubled institution,” claiming the department “has emphasized leftist politics over military readiness.” He writes that “recruiting was the worst in 2022 that it has been in two generations” and blames “the Biden Administration’s profoundly unserious equity agenda and vaccine mandates have taken a serious toll.” (Enlistments have been dropping for decades.)

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Paragraph three of the introduction throws out this incomprehensible and undefined sentence:

"But this is now Barack Obama’s general officer corps.” A serious policy report should be devoid of innuendo but unfortunately this sentence is only one example of pejorative statements made against past and present presidents.

The section should of course focus on ensuring that America’s best and brightest choose military service, but Project 2025 suggests the following when it comes to recruitment: “Should rigorously review all general and flag officer promotions to prioritize the core roles and responsibilities of the military over social engineering and non-defense related matters, including climate change, critical race theory, manufactured extremism, and other polarizing policies that weaken our armed forces and discourage our nation’s finest men and women from enlisting.”

It is really not clear that any of the above is actually happening within the DOD nor impacting recruitment.

Project 2025 does admit that China poses the most significant danger to the U.S. from abroad and sets to make recommendations. It prioritizes a denial defense against China and, in general, the needed reforms suggested are strategic.

Following the portion on China and the need to secure our Southern border, the document is full of frightening authoritarian nuggets. The most concerning line in the entire section reads: “The recommendations outlined in this section provide guidance on how the next President should use the federal government’s vast resources to do just that.”

Project 2025’s recommendations include giving the president the power to reduce the number of generals. “The next President should limit the continued advancement of many of the existing cadre, many of whom have been advanced by prior Administrations for reasons other than their warfighting prowess.”

Presidents do have the power to remove generals under Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution. That said, traditionally generals or admirals have been relieved of their posts for misconduct or a failure to perform their duties. Relieving a group of them as a political act by a president would tarnish the perception that the military is apolitical.

Project 2025 recommends that the president usurp Congress’ constitutional mandate when it comes to national defense. “The President should examine the recommendations of the congressionally mandated Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Reform and develop a strategy for implementing those that the Administration considers to be in the best interests of the American people.”

These suggestions are being made based on occurrences that are not taking place, like “using the Army as a test bed for social evolution.” and “Marxist indoctrination and divisive critical race theory programs.”

It is ironic that while Project 2025 wants to diminish the administrative state, it proposes appointing a special assistant to the President who would liaison with Congress, DOD and all other interested parties on the issue of recruiting and retention.

According to Pew Research, most Americans continue to express positive views of the military: 60 percent say it has a positive effect, while 36 percent say its effect is negative. Promoting this kind of negative propaganda of our military forces is irresponsible and would ultimately leave the country less safe.

Project 2025’s partisan recommendations for our common defense should be of great concern to all Americans because, if implemented, it would grant vast powers to the “next conservative president.”

Americans should be united in our desire for safety and security. Instead the proposals put for by the Heritage Foundation in Project 2025 would only make us more divided and therefore much less secure.

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