Politics

4th District candidate Jake Auchincloss, a Marine veteran, thinks the Pentagon budget should be cut by ‘at least’ 10 percent

"I appreciate how our military should be used — and how it shouldn’t."

Jake Auchincloss at a rally for affordable housing outside of Newton City Hall. Jessica Rinaldi / The Boston Globe

No matter the outcome in the 4th District primary election, Jake Auchincloss is slated for a promotion on Sept. 1.

Auchincloss, a Newton city councilor and Democratic primary candidate to replace Rep. Joe Kennedy III in Congress, will advance to the position of major in the Marines’ Individual Ready Reserve on the day of the Massachusetts primary. And with just a few days to go in the crowded race, his campaign is releasing a sweeping foreign policy vision in an effort to highlight the Afghanistan combat veteran’s military experience and maybe — maybe? — win over some left-leaning voters, after taking sustained criticism from the field’s more progressive contenders.

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As part of the plan, Auchincloss says the $740 billion Pentagon budget should be cut by at least 10 percent, a reduction level that was recently proposed by Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Ed Markey — and which would ostensibly put the 32-year-old Marine to the left on the issue of roughly half the Democrats in the Senate, including the party’s vice presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala Harris.

In addition to the immediate 10 percent reduction, Auchincloss says he supports “potentially significantly more” cuts to the budget over the next 10 years.

“As a former infantry and reconnaissance officer, I appreciate how our military should be used — and how it shouldn’t,” he told Boston.com in a statement. “Our next Congress must be ready to end our failed forever wars, pivot to emerging strategic priorities in the Pacific, and restore our global standing. I’m ready for that work on Day One, and will push for at least a 10% budget reduction at the Department of Defense.”

According to his campaign, Auchincloss thinks the military’s “tooth-to-tail ratio” (i.e. the ratio of support personnel and resources to front-line troops) has spiraled out of control and that the savings should be reinvested into health care, transportation, and education.

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“We can make cuts that restore a healthy ‘tooth-to-tail ratio’ without affecting expeditionary readiness or our ability to protect the global commons,” he said.

The Auchincloss campaign touts the new nine-page plan as the first comprehensive foreign policy platform released by any of the seven candidates in a race that has focused mostly on domestic issues, though its unclear how much of an impact it will have, with early and mail-in voting already underway.

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Foreign policy has not recently been a top priority for Democratic voters, even in presidential races where the stakes of the issue are higher. Auchincloss also isn’t the only one claiming foreign policy bona fides. Massachusetts Peace Action, the local chapter of the largest anti-war group in the country, has endorsed Ihssane Leckey, a former Wall Street regulator from Brookline, as has the veterans group Common Defense. Brookline epidemiologist Natalia Linos worked at the United Nations for more than 10 years and has been endorsed by Nick Burns, the former United States ambassador to NATO. And fellow candidate Alan Khazei, the founder of City Year, has received endorsements from national figures like retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

For his part, Auchincloss has the backing of VoteVets, the country’s largest group of progressive veterans. During his five years in the Marines, including stints in Afghanistan and Panama, Auchincloss says he “saw firsthand” both the positive impacts and “failures of American foreign policy.”

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Auchincloss centers his focus on how President Donald Trump has “recklessly endangered Americans at home and abroad.” His plan includes reversing the administration in order to further better multinational partnerships, such as rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Climate Agreement and committing to better trade relationships with China, while also calling out the country’s human rights abuses. Auchincloss also says that trade deals should include “robust” environmental standards and “job retraining or education credits” for displaced workers.

“The United States has much to do to recover from the foreign policy aberrations of our current administration,” Auchincloss says in the plan.

Still, the plan calls for changes that go well beyond the Trump administration.

Auchincloss says 2001 and 2002 Authorizations for Use of Military Force should be repealed to put the power to declare war back in the hands of Congress, and he outlines clear objectives to ensure the withdrawal of on-the-ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“These resolutions do not constitute good policy in the hands of any president,” he writes.

The plan also links to a lengthy page of the Auchincloss campaign’s website outlining his support for a “strong Israel” and two-state solution with Palestine.

But it goes far beyond the Middle East as well, with specific sections addressing Russia, India, North Korea, and Central and South America, as well as issues that are inherently global, such as climate change and the government’s pandemic response apparatus, which Auchincloss says has been “dismantled” by Trump. He also says foreign policy solutions exist for bolstering American election security, such as lessons from Estonia’s heralded cyber defense system.

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Auchincloss says the country’s Cold War posture of “readiness and deterrence” has become outdated, and his plan calls for prioritizing investments in naval power, air power, cyber capabilities, and the special operations forces that eliminate terrorist threats.

But ultimately, the plan comes back to repealing the use of force authorizations, which Auchincloss says have allowed the administration to engage militarily overseas without congressional approval and resulted in a foreign policy that “is not representative of the people it means to protect.”

“Congress has the power to reverse this dangerous course of action — and it must start by retaking its Article I authority to control the declaration of war,” the plan says.

This article has been updated to reflect the foreign policy credentials of Natalia Linos.

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