EXCLUSIVE: Gen. David Petraeus says bolstering the “core strength” and “will” of the US military to confront China and increase aid to Ukraine should be top priorities in the annual defense policy bill, but he also condemned the Congress for ending the Biden administration’s military COVID-19. vaccine mandate, calling complaints about the mandate “manufactured outrage.”
Former CIA Director Petraeus, who served 37 years in the US Army, spoke to Fox News Digital at the Aspen Security Forum in Washington, DC, on Thursday about the top priorities that should be included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which will be up for a final vote in the Senate before lawmakers leave town for vacation.
The general said the “most important” priority for the country that should be reflected in the NDAA is the relationship of the United States and the West with China and everything to do with the Indo-Pacific, including the “transformation” of capabilities. of the military services. and a strengthening of the “will” of the US.
He said the US should focus on moving away from military services capabilities that are massive and heavily manned and therefore also “huge targets” because of their size.
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“Keep in mind that Ukraine has validated the old Cold War adage that ‘if you can see you can hit, and if you can hit you can kill.’ Think about that in a theater where everything can be seen and there are huge vulnerabilities,” Petraeus said.
“So we have to make sure that we’re transforming all of the theater and service capabilities… to make sure that they’re transformed in a way that strengthens deterrence. And deterrence, of course, is based on evaluating their capabilities on the part of a potential adversary, on the one hand, and their willingness to use them on the other,” he said.
“And we have to make sure there’s no question about capabilities, and we’ve got a lot of work to do there, and this budget will help in that regard,” he said, referring to the NDAA.
In addition, Petraeus said that the “will” of the United States to lead on the world stage is especially important during Russia’s war against Ukraine and the aftermath of the Afghan withdrawal.
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“And that is why support for Ukraine is so important, especially after the withdrawal from Afghanistan to show that the United States can and will lead the world and is willing to do just that. top priority,” Petraeus told Fox News Digital. “Aid to Ukraine, needless to say, definitely has to be one of the top three as well.”
Petraeus said the United States has already provided a “staggering amount” of assistance to Ukraine, totaling more than $19 billion in weapons and weapons assistance and $13 billion in economic assistance over the past year.
He said Ukraine is making good use of the assistance and now has “an army that is bigger and more capable than Russia’s, despite being less than a third the size of Russia and not having all the minerals and other blessings.” “Russia does. I think the situation is irreversible and there is nothing Putin and Russia can do about it.”
The final priority in the NDAA should be building the “core force” of the military, says Petraeus, which means taking care of US troops and their families.
“Taking care of them, taking care of their families, making sure that we are recruiting the best and the brightest that we can attract,” he said. “And of course there are challenges there right now with the very low unemployment rate, ensuring that. Taking care of them, retaining them, educating them, developing them, all aspects of that and their families. Because you know the old saying, you recruit the soldier or the sailor, airmen, marines, now guardians in the Space Force, you hold the family.”
Petraeus said he is concerned about military “readiness” due to misperceptions about the military COVID-19 vaccine mandate, increased troop access to abortion after the rollback of Roe vs. Wade and increasing “woke” diversity and equity trainings.
“I’m concerned that perceptions of everything I can [impact readiness]” he said. “I’m not someone who thinks this is one of the big problems facing the military. However, it is something that is perceived as a problem in certain circles, and that worries me. I don’t think, I don’t see this kind of concern really manifesting. Perception, certainly wrong. But, you know, this is an army that has always shot. If it’s FDA-approved and it improves the preparation, why wouldn’t I get that injection?” Petraeus said.
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“And the reason why there should be some concern about this particular vaccine is, frankly, internal policy issues that I really don’t think have any particular merit. Once the FDA has approved it. Once again, everyone is They get a flu shot every year. ,” he continued.
The House on Thursday passed its version of the NDAA that includes language to strip away the Biden administration’s military COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Lawmakers applauded the move to end the “draconian” mandate, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy calling it a “victory for our military.”
However, Petraeus disagreed, saying the mandate was designed to improve the readiness of the armed forces and that opponents are exaggerating the problem.
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“I don’t really understand this particular issue, and I think it’s a misperception. I think it’s something that shouldn’t be around, frankly. Once it is, FDA-approved again. And it’s for better health and welfare”. the being and preparation of the labor force. That’s something that obviously needs to be supported,” she said.
“So I hope we can get past some of the hype. With all due respect, I think some of these are fabricated grievances to pursue domestic policy issues. And I think we need to put them aside for the sake of our men and women in uniform and their families and for the preparation of the US military.
The Pentagon has 30 days after the final approval of the NDAA to finish the vaccine’s mandate.