Their résumés are unlike those of any of their soon-to-be colleagues: one from SEAL Team Six; one a member of the team that captured Saddam Hussein; and one who worked undercover for the CIA in some of the world’s most dangerous places.
Montana’s Ryan Zinke, Oklahoma’s Steve Russell, and Texas’s Will Hurd will soon be freshmen members of Congress, but their credentials will probably separate them from their peers. This trio of Republicans, each with his own unique special-operations background, expect to use their experience in national security when they arrive on Capitol Hill next month to help reverse what they see as the country’s declining standing in the world.
“We’re going to look to move the ball up the field,” Zinke told National Review Online, referring to advancing policies that keep the country safe both abroad and at home.
Zinke knows what that’s like. A third-generation Montanan, Zinke, 53, attended the University of Oregon on a football scholarship, racking up multiple accolades as an offensive lineman. After college, he embarked on a 23-year career as a Navy SEAL, during which he was awarded two Bronze Stars for combat. He served two three-year stints as a commander of SEAL Team Six and performed duties in Europe, the Middle East, and the Pacific. He hesitates to share details of his time with the SEALs, whose operations are highly guarded, and calls the Obama White House’s habit of leaking information about their missions, such as in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, an example of the administration’s national-security failings.
Overall, Zinke blames President Obama and his team for involving themselves too much in military decisions — a complaint registered by his former defense secretaries as well. As a result, the military and its missions are put at risk when officials don’t trust the servicemen and women in the field to make these decisions, he says. For example, the White House’s ISIS strategy, “by every estimation, is failing” because of the president’s controlling approach, such as (reportedly) insisting on signing off personally on all strikes. Zinke expects the U.S. to be in the same position in three years unless it changes course. This approach is not only affecting how the military operates, but other areas as well.