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Joe Sestak
Former 3-star Admiral Joe Sestak served in the Navy for 31 years and then as the highest ranking military officer ever elected to Congress when he represented Pennsylvania’s Seventh Congressional District from 2007-2010. He commanded an aircraft carrier battle group that conducted operations in Afghanistan and Iraq with 30 U.S. and allied ships and more than 15,000 sailors and 100 aircraft. Prior to that, Joe served as President Clinton’s Director for Defense Policy on the National Security Council and the first Director of the Navy’s anti-terrorism unit after 9/11.

In 2006, Joe defeated a ten-term incumbent in his home District, which was 55 percent Republican. As a member of the Armed Services and Education & Labor Committees, and as Vice Chairman of the Small Business Committee, Joe would have ten pieces of legislation signed into law. In his first term, he was named the most productive member of his freshman class by the Majority Leader’s Office.

Joe ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, bucking the entire Democratic Party leadership because he believed Pennsylvanians deserved a leader who would always put their interests first, even ahead of his party. Against all odds, he rallied from an initial 40 point deficit to win the nomination over a 30-year incumbent. After the primary, Joe continued to run as the candidate with a pragmatic, independent approach in a Senate election decided by only two points in a year when the party lost the governor’s race by 9 points and lost five Pennsylvania Congressional seats by 8 points or more.

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Entries by Joe Sestak

Global Leadership for U.S. National Security

(1) Comments | Posted November 8, 2014 | 9:43 AM

Commentators in recent years have been telling us that Americans are turning inward, showing little interest in affairs overseas. They cite polls indicating that, after over 10 years of wars, most people would rather focus on nation-building here at home.

And so, as the logic goes, American policymakers -- and...

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The One Percent

(1) Comments | Posted May 17, 2014 | 10:02 AM

Today, I am commemorating Armed Forces Day inside Pennsylvania's Graterford Penitentiary with the veterans our nation left behind. It's the 25th anniversary of the prison's Vietnam Veterans Chapter, and I'm with fellow veterans I've come to know over the years, although not all are from Vietnam. Too many are imprisoned...

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Making the Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

(20) Comments | Posted February 17, 2014 | 12:51 PM

When I entered Congress in 2007, the year the recession began, the second vote I took was to raise the minimum wage $1.40 to $7.25 an hour. I did so recognizing an important fact: This first increase of the minimum wage in 10 years was still less than the minimum...

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Justice: Washington, D.C.-style

(4) Comments | Posted December 18, 2012 | 11:24 AM

On Veteran's Day this year, I visited those who had served this nation but are now serving time in Pennsylvania's Graterford Penitentiary. Former "shipmates" of mine, almost half are there for a drug-related crime. I watched with respect as each of the too-numerous incarcerated veterans was called up by name...

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Principal Reductions Can Save the Economy... By Saving Homes

(229) Comments | Posted August 16, 2012 | 9:04 AM

Co-written with Marc Gilmore

The Federal Housing Finance Agency's recent announcement that it would bar Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from reducing principal for borrowers at risk of foreclosure has brought attention to an almost certain means to fix an economy that over the past few years...

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The Truth About SOPA: How the Corporate Lobby's Argument Doesn't Add Up

(385) Comments | Posted January 18, 2012 | 4:27 AM

A case for facts, statistics, and common sense. Let's be #OPEN about it.

Across the internet today, you'll see some of your favorite websites "blacked out" in protest of something called SOPA -- the Stop Online Piracy Act. However, don't be fooled by its seemingly straightforward title: SOPA is one...

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Making a Stand for Our Veterans

(46) Comments | Posted November 11, 2011 | 9:33 AM

Today's news is filled with discussion about our national debt and what we must do about it. On this Veteran's Day, I would like to talk about another national debt -- the one we owe to our 24 million American vets. This immeasurable debt can never be fully repaid, but...

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Also Ensuring the Common Good

(57) Comments | Posted October 26, 2011 | 12:38 PM

America's character is based on an alliance of rugged individualism and common enterprise. Each individual has his own fair opportunity to attain his dream, but always in an alliance with America's commonwealth. America has been built by those striving for their own achievement, but always with a sense of being...

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"Occupy Wall Street:" An Inevitable Moment for America

(18) Comments | Posted October 13, 2011 | 10:31 AM

I originally wrote this piece, featured in the Mediterranean Quarterly this past May, to signify the Arab Spring as a harbinger for America. As the Occupy Wall Street protests grow across this nation, the following excerpt has renewed significance:

My perspective on the events in the Middle East...

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Fair Opportunity, Greater Effort

(8) Comments | Posted September 20, 2011 | 11:34 AM

Today, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) will be repealed by the Defense Department, and today forward all Americans will finally be able to serve in our military, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation. As a young Navy Captain, I was asked by the Admiral I worked for what I...

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Go With What Works

(75) Comments | Posted September 8, 2011 | 5:02 PM

If you had a great running back, wouldn't you design your plays around him to win the game? Then why aren't we?

Over the past twelve months as our nation has tried to recover from the recession, over 1.6 million private sector jobs have been created through the sheer grit...

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A Message for Elizabeth Warren

(0) Comments | Posted September 5, 2011 | 2:03 AM

I just signed up at to receive updates on Elizabeth Warren's final decision on her possible run for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, and also sent her a letter of encouragement. This isn't my first letter of support for Elizabeth Warren. In 2010, I penned a letter to President...

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Where's the Plan for Defense Spending? (Updated w/Video)

(146) Comments | Posted August 30, 2011 | 8:44 AM

UPDATE (9/12): I just finished discussing this on MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan Show. Watch it below:

Secretary Panetta must justify his "can't cut" assertion as part of the debt reduction debate.

Three defense issues have implications for both savings and investments in the debt reduction debate: (1) what size does our future military need to be; (2) why do we still measure military power by numbers of ships or brigades rather than the capability to rapidly acquire the knowledge to win; and (3) how do we achieve savings through transparency and accountability in the acquisition system?

Since Gen. Colin Powell was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the early 1990s, the United States has sized its military principally based upon a strategy of being able to win two large wars simultaneously. During his tenure, the two most stressing -- and likely -- wars were chosen: defending South Korea and a conflict with Iraq. These requirements have largely justified today's force levels.

One of those two wars began in 2002, and over time defense officials acknowledged that the Army's continuing commitment in Iraq prevented it from fulfilling its requirements for the defense of South Korea. Senior military leaders characterized this as an "acceptable risk," emphasizing that the Navy and Air Force's new technology was capable of "filling in" for Army units.

The defense budget has also increased 40 percent since 9/11, not including the costs for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those two conflicts were funded by "emergency" supplementals, containing significant spending that was neither "emergency" nor needed for these two conflicts. The Navy funded submarine-hunting helicopters, the Air Force bought the future "Joint Strike Fighter," and the Army purchased more new equipment in the 2008 "emergency" supplemental than was in that year's normal defense budget.

Despite this large increase in funding, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently stated that defense cannot be part of further debt reduction. After 31 years in the U.S. Navy, I strongly support a military always capable of defending us and winning. But the super committee on debt reduction should ask Secretary Panetta: What is the metric-based justification for your assertion?

One of the two force-sizing wars of our past national strategy is ending (Iraq); the second, Korea, hasn't had large numbers of Army units able to support it for a decade -- at "acceptable risk." What, then, should be the basis for the size of the Armed Forces now? What is the national strategy -- and the related force-sizing metrics -- that justifies how many future forces we need? What has replaced Gen. Powell's two war strategy to objectively determine the size of our military force?

For far too long we have continued to benchmark our military prowess to the size of our forces: believing that numbers of ships, airwings, and brigades is what matters -- just like during the Cold War. The right metric is now knowledge gained by sensors and our capability to quickly turn this gained information into swift action -- from the strike on Osama bin Laden to Korea's defense, where aircraft technologically connected to exact targeting information can replace large Army units.

In 2005, the Navy sent Congress a ship-building plan that sought to improve its capability to win a future conflict by investing in knowledge and speed, not in more costly force size. For instance, rather than buying more submarines at $2 billion each, the plan proposed a netted sensor information system to track Chinese underwater movements, and then direct an aircraft to drop a torpedo for the "kill."

The plan never advanced beyond Congress, not only because of internal Navy, Defense and industry resistance. There was also inevitable Congressional opposition to reducing a program that meant jobs for representatives' districts -- whether these programs are the ones best needed for our military or not.

Now the Navy can afford even fewer submarines than in 2005, yet it has no plans for any netted tracking system. We risk having a less effective military today both by retaining size-driven metrics and by not investing in less-expensive capabilities that make the number of planes or ships less relevant to our ability to win.

Along with changing the metric for sizing our force, Secretary Panetta should pursue real savings from an accountable acquisition system. In heading the Navy's $70 billion warfare requirements directorate, I was struck by what the Defense Department does not tell Congress, who approves its funding. And when I was in Congress, I was taken by Congress' failure to be accountable for the funds provided for our country's defense.

"Unanticipated" growth in defense costs -- $300 billion for programs in 2008 -- could be checked if Defense Department were to reveal to Congress its "confidence level" (the probability that the price is right) in originally pricing its programs.

For instance, when Congress approved the new nuclear aircraft carrier (CVN 78), the internal Defense confidence level was less than 50 percent for its $11 billion cost. Nor was Congress informed of the same low chance of achieving the estimated cost of $2 billion for a Virginia-class submarine. In 2006-2007 alone, 30 major warfare programs ran 15 to 25 plus percent over cost estimates. And while Nunn-McCurdy legislation mandates a report to Congress of cost breaches, there is no follow-on enforcement of accountability for these frequent cost overruns.

Congress should pass legislation mandating: (1) The Defense Department provide Congress its confidence level for the cost of a program, with Congressional approval requiring an 80 percent confidence factor; and (2) if a Nunn-McCurdy breach then occurred, continued program approval would be contingent upon the Defense Department providing other programs to offset the breach. Otherwise, the "tyranny of optimism" that pervades industry, Congress and the Defense Department about unrequited funding is a detriment to military readiness -- and accountability.

These changes can contribute not only to debt reduction; acquisition changes are essential for accountability so we can afford the best and most of what our warriors need. Measuring what it takes to win our conflicts also requires leadership that shifts the benchmark away from capacity in numbers, to capability in knowledge. Secretary Panetta's role is to be accountable only to the young men and women who serve us, not to the defense complex.

Joe was a former 3-Star Admiral, Director for Defense Policy and the first Director of the Navy's anti-terrorism unit. In 2006, he became the highest ranking military officer ever elected to Congress, representing the 7th District of Pennsylvania until 2010, when he ran for the U.S. Senate.

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Don't Fall for Toomey's Green Energy Scare Tactics

(41) Comments | Posted July 15, 2010 | 4:39 PM

Every time a regulation is proposed to improve the health, safety, or well-being of the American people, big corporations respond with predictable scare tactics and bogus impact studies. This time around, one of the most vocal pawns of the Big Oil special interests that oppose job-creating energy reform is Congressman...

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Pennsylvania's Joe Lieberman

(19) Comments | Posted December 16, 2009 | 4:04 PM

This is what happens when we play politics instead of standing up for our principles.

After the House passed health care reform with a strong public option to provide real choice and savings for Americans, Joe Lieberman has killed the public option in the Senate and threatened reform as a...

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Losing Health Care: Families on the Brink

(38) Comments | Posted December 15, 2009 | 11:52 AM

This past weekend, I met at the Philadelphia Unemployment Project with a conference room full of men and women, all with much to be proud of about their careers, families and accomplishments. All have been laid off in a historically difficult economic environment created in large part by past government...

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Our Veterans Deserve Our Thanks and Our Service

(63) Comments | Posted November 11, 2009 | 9:40 AM

For the seventh consecutive Veterans Day, we find our nation at war. It is essential that we take time to express our thanks for the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have worn the cloth of this nation. But we must always take care that our gratitude...

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Don't Let COBRA Benefits Run Out on American Families

(57) Comments | Posted October 28, 2009 | 12:43 PM

Though the economy is showing some signs of stabilizing, Americans are still losing their jobs -- including more than a quarter-million last month -- and the unemployment rate is still expected to climb over 10%. In many communities all across the country, unemployment is already well beyond that figure.


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The Baucus Bill: Right Step, Wrong Direction

(57) Comments | Posted October 18, 2009 | 6:12 PM

The health care reform bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee chaired by Sen. Max Baucus is not the reform we need and is not the reform we promised the American people. In its current state, the bill reinforces health insurance monopolies, does not provide access to affordable care for...

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The Civil Rights Test of Our Generation

(72) Comments | Posted October 9, 2009 | 11:01 AM

When we think of the civil rights movement, we tend to think of grainy footage of marches and speeches, Selma, Ala., and the National Mall.

But our generation, too, is a part of that movement and has a critical role to play. It has been a long journey for our...

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