Though Not A Topic On The Debate Stage, Military Issues Are On The Minds Of Democratic Candidates

Extended troop deployments, health care, homelessness and suicide are among the issues presidential candidates say they want to address.

By Rhonda FanningNovember 19, 2019 7:48 am,

The fifth Democratic presidential debate is scheduled for Wednesday night, with 10 candidates facing off in Atlanta. In previous debates, candidates have talked about health care, immigration, gun control, taxes and more. But one topic has been noticeably absent: the military.

The Military Times reached out to top Democratic candidates, seeking responses to questions about how each would address military and veterans’ issues. Leo Shane covers Congress, veterans’ affairs and the White House for Military Times. Shane says most candidates responded to the publication’s request, and some have even addressed military issues in their own plans and policy statements. But military topics haven’t made it to the debate stage so far.

“This commander-in-chief aspect is often difficult for an audience to understand and get into,” Shane says.

For active-duty military personnel, the number and length of troop deployments overseas is a big issue, Shane says. Most candidates told Military Times that they want the U.S. to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

“But we have seen some differences when we talk about the Middle East – Iraq and Syria,” Shane says.

Candidates Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg have advocated maintaining a smaller presence in those areas, while Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Julián Castro advocate a full withdrawal.

On issues important to veterans, many candidates advocated improvements to health care, including mental health support. Biden advocates a crackdown on for-profit colleges that he says victimize veterans. Castro and Booker say homelessness among veterans is another important issue to address.


Written by Shelly Brisbin.