DeSantis lays out 5-point ‘Mission First’ plan for military during SC stop

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis detailed a five-point plan for the military to accomplish what he describes as reversing the decline of the nation.
Published: Jul. 18, 2023 at 10:20 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2023 at 5:27 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis detailed a five-point plan for the military to accomplish what he describes as reversing the decline of the nation.

DeSantis laid out his “Mission First” agenda Tuesday morning shortly after he became the first GOP candidate to file the paperwork to be on the ballot for the South Carolina GOP primary on Feb. 24.

He said his mantra on Jan. 20, 2025, as the next commander-in-chief would be an aggressive overhaul of how the military has been running.

“So we’re going to come in and we’re going to take very swift action to right the ship, restore us to where we need to be, and you know what you’ll see? You will see better retention and you will see better recruitment,” he said.

His “Mission First” plan begins, he said, was correcting the wrongs he said were committed with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“One of the biggest mistakes they made was driving out perfectly capable service members due to the COVID-19 vax mandate,” he said. “That mandate was a mistake. That mandate was wrong. That mandate was not based on scientific data.”

He claimed military personnel who meet standards were probably “at close to zero risk of significant COVID to begin with.”

“Many of them had already had COVID and had natural immunity,” he said. “We are going to offer service members who were separated their jobs back, including with back pay, and I think that’s an important thing to do.”

The second part of Mission First is making lethality, readiness and capabilities trump political agendas like the “Green New Deal.”

“You put security first. You don’t tell folks, operators, contractors, that they have to be more concerned with reducing emissions than they do with military effectiveness,” he said. “We don’t need military vehicles that run on electric. We need real military vehicles that are going to be dependable and that are going to get the job done.”

He said the third part of his agenda involves ending “social experimentation and woke ideology” in the military.

“And that involves doing things like eliminating the [diversity, equity and inclusion] bureaucracy from the Department of Defense,” he said, touting the fact that he eliminated DEI from Florida universities because he feel it has been harmful.

“But I think it’s much more detrimental when you’re talking about a military context, because you, by definition, are sacrificing some your individuality to be able to join because it’s what the unit needs. That is most important,” he said.

Fourth on his agenda for the military is to restore high military standards, he said.

“You can’t shirk on standards. There’s got to be one standard to be able to participate in different endeavors. If you’re going to be a Navy SEAL, you got to go through that training. And if you can’t make it, then you’re just not going to be able to do that,” he said. “And that’s true in aviation is true in Indian infantry. It’s true across the board. don’t water down the standards due to political or social reasons. That’s not good for being a fighting force.”

The fifth part of his Mission First agenda, he says, is to work hard to rejuvenate recruitment.

“It’s at a very significant low. Veterans frequently come up to me and they say, ‘You know, I don’t know that I’d want my kids or grandkids joining the military anymore.’ And that’s something that’s sad, because there’s always been a sense of pride in families having their kids and grandkids join, especially if there was a family tradition.”

He blamed the change on a lack of focus on the mission he says is making America lose out on “some really, really talented people.”

DeSantis files paperwork for SC Republican primary

DeSantis signed his filing documents during a stop at the South Carolina Republican Party headquarters Tuesday morning, flanked by supporters including state legislators who have endorsed his bid.

The filing comes at a consequential moment for DeSantis and his campaign as the governor makes his third swing through South Carolina as a White House hopeful. He entered the race in May with expectations that he would become the primary threat to former President Donald Trump. But DeSantis has struggled to make inroads against Trump, who holds a commanding lead in the primary, and recently began cutting campaign staff.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he rejected suggestions that his campaign might have grown too big in its early stages.

“At the end of the day, when you when you start there are certain investments that you make,” he said. “We really believe having an important apparatus on the ground is important in caucus states and early states.”

DeSantis opened his swing through South Carolina on Monday, holding an event in Tega Cay, an affluent community on Lake Wylie along the state line with North Carolina.

After about a half hour of remarks, in which he hit on the high points of his stump speech, DeSantis also took a handful of questions from the crowd of about 900 gathered to hear him. Questioners included a woman who described herself a “hardcore Trump supporter” who said the 2024 election represented “the most important vote that we’re going to have” and that she felt DeSantis “did an excellent job” making the case for his candidacy.

In his response, DeSantis condemned what he has characterized as the “weaponization of government” in the legal cases being brought against Trump, echoing a line the former president has honed in his own speeches following his indictment on federal charges.

“I appreciate what President Trump did. ... He was treated wrong, he was treated in ways that are unconstitutional,” DeSantis said. “Here’s the thing — the question for us now is, what are we going to do about it? ... It’s not about me, it’s about you. It’s about me standing up for you and standing up for the Constitution and restoring this country to what the founding fathers envisioned.”

Later Tuesday in West Columbia, DeSantis — a former Navy officer who served in the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps in Iraq — plans to to roll out his plans to reform a U.S. military he has argued is too focused on efforts at diversity and inclusion.

DeSantis previewed those plans on Monday night, saying that as commander in chief he would be “ripping the woke out” of a military that today is full of “social experimentation, ideology, woke agenda, pronouns, drag queens.” The rollout, along with a rare press conference, was planned for a stop at the Celebrate Freedom Foundation. The nonprofit, founded by retired military leaders, says on its website it aims to “honor past aviation pioneers and inspire future space and aviation pioneers” through a STEM outreach program directed at K-12 students.

The rollout is DeSantis’ second official policy pronouncement of the campaign. In June, he outlined his immigration proposals — which call for ending birthright citizenship and finishing construction of the southern border wall — during a visit to a Texas border city.

South Carolina is set to hold its GOP presidential primary Feb. 24. The state, which also boasts two homegrown 2024 candidates of its own — former Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott — is critical for Republican presidential hopefuls and has been a strong base of support for Trump in his previous campaigns.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis detailed a five-point plan for the military to accomplish what he describes as reversing the decline of the nation.