Mitt Romney for President of the United States of America in 2012
The foundations of our nation's strength are a love of liberty and a pioneering spirit of innovation and creativity. These values - inherited from our Founders and embodied by all who came to our shores seeking opportunity - have made the United States the most powerful nation in the history of the world. But today, under President Obama's leadership, Washington is smothering these values at home and sapping our influence abroad. The federal government has grown too large. And President Obama has presided over one of the worst economies in modern history - millions of jobs have been lost, record numbers of Americans are in danger of losing their homes, and personal bankruptcies have skyrocketed. He has failed the American people.
Mitt Romney believes in America. He believes that liberty, opportunity, and free enterprise have led to prosperity and strength before and will do so again. America, however, must take decisive action to roll back the misguided policies of the last three years, empower our citizens, and restore the foundations of our nation's strength.
Afghanistan & Pakistan
Enjoying the sanctuary of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, al Qaeda set in motion the conspiracy that killed so many Americans on September 11, 2001. We learned many bitter lessons that day, including that we are not safe from enemies who plot freely against us from the other side of the world. That is why so many of our best and bravest young men and women are risking their lives in Afghanistan. Our mission in Afghanistan is to eliminate al Qaeda from the region and degrade the Taliban and other insurgent groups to the point where they are not existential threats to the Afghan government and do not destabilize Pakistan, with its stock of nuclear weapons. Our objective is to ensure that Afghanistan will never again become a launching pad for terror and to send a message to any other nation that would harbor terrorists with designs on the American homeland.
Much of the mission has been accomplished through the courage and dedication of our troops. The killing of Osama bin Laden was a landmark in the struggle for which President Obama deserves credit. Much more, however, remains to be done. Unfortunately, President Obama has repeatedly frustrated and imperiled the American mission through a series of unwise decisions. After a protracted deliberation process, President Obama in December 2009 announced he would support a "surge" that would entail introducing an additional 30,000 troops into Afghanistan. But in the very same speech announcing the surge, he put forward a timetable for withdrawal. The mixed message left our Afghan allies in doubt about our resolve and encouraged the Taliban to believe that they could wait us out. This past June, President Obama disregarded the counsel of his top military commanders, including General David Petraeus, and announced a full withdrawal of those 30,000 surge troops by September 2012. That date falls short of the commanders' reported recommendation that the troops remain through the end of 2012 and the Afghan "fighting season" to solidify our gains. That date also happens to be just weeks before a U.S. presidential election. There is no military rationale for it. It raises questions about whether the timing is politically inspired. Whatever the motivation behind the decision, it means that our military will be compelled to begin moving troops and equipment out of Afghanistan in the middle of the fighting season, taking away forces and resources it needs to combat the enemy.
Mitt Romney will never make national-security decisions based upon electoral politics. Upon taking office, he will review our transition to the Afghan military by holding discussions with our commanders in the field. He will order a full interagency assessment of our military and assistance presence in Afghanistan to determine the level required to secure our gains and to train Afghan forces to the point where they can protect the sovereignty of Afghanistan from the tyranny of the Taliban. Withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan under a Romney administration will be based on conditions on the ground as assessed by our military commanders.
Ensure Buy-In from Afghan and Pakistani Governments
To defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan, the United States will need the cooperation of both the Afghan and Pakistani governments. It is in the interests of all three nations to see that Afghanistan and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region are rid of the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Mitt Romney will work with both the Afghan government and Pakistan to ensure that those nations are fully contributing to success in Afghanistan. But we will only persuade Afghanistan and Pakistan to be resolute if they are convinced that the United States will itself be resolute. Only an America that appears fully committed to success will eliminate the incentives for them to hedge their bets by aligning with opposing forces.
The United States must be clear in what we require of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai should understand that our commitment must be met with reciprocal efforts to crack down on corruption in his government, respect free and fair elections as required by the Afghan constitution, and coordinate with the United States on fighting the narcotics trade that fuels the insurgency. Pakistan should understand that any connection between insurgent forces and Pakistan's security and intelligence forces must be severed. The United States enjoys significant leverage over both of these nations. We should not be shy about using it.
China & East Asia
In 2010, after 30 years of dramatic growth, China surpassed Japan to become the world's second largest economy after ours. China's size in land and in population, its rapid economic growth, and its sharply increasing military expenditures are dramatically changing the strategic map of the world. While the potential for conflict with an authoritarian China could rise as its power grows, the United States must pursue policies designed to encourage Beijing to embark on a course that makes conflict less likely. China must be discouraged from attempting to intimidate or dominate neighboring states. If the present Chinese regime is permitted to establish itself as the preponderant power in the Western Pacific it could close off large parts of the region to cooperative relations with the United States and the West and dim hope that economic opportunity and democratic freedom will continue to flourish across East Asia. Mitt Romney will implement a strategy that makes the path of regional hegemony for China far more costly than the alternative path of becoming a responsible partner in the international system.
Maintain Robust Military Capabilities in the Pacific
In the face of China's accelerated military build-up, the United States and our allies must maintain appropriate military capabilities to discourage any aggressive or coercive behavior by China against its neighbors. Maintaining a strong military presence in the Pacific is not an invitation to conflict. Quite the contrary; it is a guarantor of a region where trade routes are open and East Asia's community of nations remains secure and prosperous.
Toward that end, the United States should maintain and expand its naval presence in the Western Pacific. We should be assisting partners that require help to enhance their defensive capabilities. The Department of Defense should reconsider recent decisions not to sell top-of-the-line equipment to our closest Asian allies. We should be coordinating with Taiwan to determine its military needs and supplying them with adequate aircraft and other military platforms. We should be assisting Pacific nations to enhance maritime domain awareness, i.e., the ability to employ radar and other detection networks to monitor aggressive behavior in disputed waters. This would minimize the chance of surprise confrontations and prevent military miscalculations that can escalate into larger conflicts.
Deepen Cooperation Among Regional Partners
We need to continue to strengthen alliances and relations with strategic partners like India and build stronger ties to influential countries like Indonesia. Our aim should be to work with all these countries bilaterally but also to encourage them to work with one another as they have begun to do. Our objective is not to build an anti-China coalition. Rather it is to strengthen cooperation among countries with which we share a concern about China's growing power and increasing assertiveness and with whom we also share an interest in maintaining freedom of navigation and ensuring that disputes over resources are resolved by peaceful means. It is yet another way of closing off China's option of expanding its influence through coercion.
As detailed in his book, Believe in America, Mitt Romney will also pursue deeper economic cooperation among like-minded nations around the world that are genuinely committed to the principles of open markets through the formation of a "Reagan Economic Zone." The benefits of this zone - which will codify principles of free trade - will be a powerful magnet that draws in an expanding circle of nations seeking greater access to other markets. Although China is unlikely to accede to the Reagan Economic Zone given its current approach to trade, offering Beijing the possibility of participation will give China significant incentives to end its abusive commercial practices. But with or without China as a member, the Reagan Economic Zone will establish a system of trade that could knit together the entire region, discouraging imbalanced bilateral trade relations between China and its neighbors, limiting China's ability to coerce other countries, and ultimately encouraging China to participate in free trade on fair terms.
Defend Human Rights
Any serious U.S. policy toward China must confront the fact that China's regime continues to deny its people basic political freedoms and human rights. A nation that represses its own people cannot be a trusted partner in an international system based on economic and political freedom. While it is obvious that any lasting democratic reform in China cannot be imposed from the outside, it is equally obvious that the Chinese people currently do not yet enjoy the requisite civil and political rights to turn internal dissent into effective reform. The United States has an important role to play in encouraging the evolution of China toward a more politically open and democratic order.
If the United States fails to support dissidents out of fear of offending the Chinese government, we will merely embolden China's leaders. We certainly should not have relegated the future of freedom to second or third place, as Secretary of State Clinton did in 2009 when she publicly declared that the Obama administration would not let U.S. concerns about China's human rights record interfere with cooperation "on the global economic crisis [and] the global climate change crisis." A Romney administration will vigorously support and engage civil society groups within China that are promoting democratic reform, anti-corruption efforts, religious freedom, and women's and minority rights. It will look to provide these groups and the Chinese people with greater access to information and communication through a stronger Internet freedom initiative. Mitt Romney will seek to engage China, but will always stand up for those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy.
Disarm North Korea
North Korea's nuclear weapons program is a serious menace to world peace. A nuclear weapons capability in the hands of an unpredictable dictatorship with unknown leadership and an unclear chain of command poses a direct threat to U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere in East Asia, threatens our close allies South Korea and Japan, destabilizes the entire Pacific region, and could lead to the illicit transfer of a nuclear device to another rogue nation or a terrorist group. As president, Mitt Romney will commit to eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons and its nuclear-weapons infrastructure. A key mistake in U.S. policy toward North Korea has been to grant it a series of carrots in return for only illusory cooperation. Each step the world has taken toward North Korea has been met with further provocations and expansion of its nuclear program. Over the years, North Korea has found that its pursuit of a nuclear weapon reaps it material and diplomatic rewards, taking away any incentive for it to end its program.
Mitt Romney will reverse that dynamic. The United States will make it unequivocally clear to Pyongyang that continued advancement of its nuclear program and any aggression will be punished instead of rewarded. Mitt will work with allies to institute harsher sanctions on North Korea, such as cracking down on financial institutions that service the North Korean regime and sanctioning companies that conduct commercial shipping in and out of North Korea. He will also step up enforcement of the Proliferation Security Initiative to constrain North Korean illicit exports by increasing the frequency of inspections of North Korean ships and discouraging foreign ports from permitting entry to North Korean ships. Such measures would significantly block the trade revenue that props up the North Korean regime and shut off routes by which the regime supplies its nuclear program.
China holds significant political and economic leverage over North Korea. It is not using that leverage, however, to achieve the goal of ending North Korea's nuclear program. China fears a destabilized North Korea and the implications of its possible collapse for the region along its border. Mitt will work to persuade China to commit to North Korea's disarmament. He will reassure China it will not be alone in dealing with the humanitarian and security issues that will arise should North Korea disintegrate. This will involve detailed planning for such an eventuality to ensure that we are ready to deal with the numerous issues that will arise if and when the North Korean regime collapses under the weight of its own economic and political contradictions. Mitt will also pursue robust military and counter-proliferation cooperation with our allies and others in the Pacific region. As the United States invigorates our relationships with South Korea, Japan, and others, and increases our collective military presence and cooperation, it should demonstrate to the Chinese that they should join the coordinated effort or be left behind as a regional counter-proliferation partner.
Mitt Romney believes that it is unacceptable for Iran to possess a nuclear weapon. Should Iran achieve its nuclear objective, the entire geostrategic landscape of the Middle East would tilt in favor of the ayatollahs. A nuclear Iran will pose an existential threat to Israel, whose security is a vital U.S. national interest. As Iran's ballistic missile capacity improves, it will endanger Europe and eventually the continental United States. It will provoke an arms race in which the Arab nations themselves forge ahead with nuclear programs of their own. The result will be a nightmarish cascade of nuclear tensions in the world's most volatile region. Iran's sponsorship of international terrorism would take on a new and terrifying dimension.
As president, Mitt Romney's strategy will be to end Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon, eliminate the threat of Iranian nuclear terrorism against the United States and our allies, and prevent nuclear proliferation across the Middle East.
A Credible Military Option
U.S. policy toward Iran must begin with an understanding on Iran's part that a military option to deal with their nuclear program remains on the table. This message should not only be delivered through words, but through actions. The United States should restore the regular presence of aircraft carrier task forces in both the Eastern Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf region simultaneously. The United States should repair relations with Israel, increase military coordination and assistance, and enhance intelligence sharing to ensure that our allied capabilities are robust and ready to deal with Iran. The United States should also increase military coordination with our Arab allies in the region and conduct more naval exercises as a demonstration of strength and resolve. Only if Iran understands that the United States is utterly determined when we say that their nuclear-weapons program is unacceptable is there a possibility that they will give up their nuclear aspirations peacefully.
Implement a Fifth Round of Tougher Sanctions
Sanctions are not ends in themselves. They are intended to persuade Iran to change course and abandon its nuclear program. President Obama deserves credit for pushing for a fourth round of international sanctions on Iran early in his term, just as before him President Bush deserved credit for the three previous rounds. But time has shown that existing sanctions have not led the ayatollahs to abandon their nuclear aspirations. We therefore need to ratchet up our pressure on Iran with a fifth round of sanctions targeted at the financial resources that underpin the Iranian regime and its Revolutionary Guard Corps, focusing on restrictions on the Central Bank of Iran, as well as other financial institutions. We should place sanctions on all business activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which include much of Iran's petroleum industry. To stanch the flow of the petroleum commerce that supports the Iranian regime, we should pursue sanctions on firms that transport such products to and from Iran.
Ideally, these sanctions would be implemented through the U.N. Security Council, but persuading Russia and China to go along might prove impossible. In the absence of a U.N. imprimatur, the United States should be ready to take action in conjunction with as many willing governments as possible. And if necessary, we should be prepared to act on our own. To that end, Mitt Romney will step up enforcement of existing U.S. laws that bar commerce with Iran, such as the exportation of refined petroleum products to Iran.
Mitt will also push for greater diplomatic isolation of Iran. The United States should make it plain that it is a disgrace to provide Iran's Holocaust-denying president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the trappings and respect offered to responsible heads of state. He should not be invited to foreign capitals or feted by foreign leaders. Quite the opposite. Given his calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, Ahmadinejad should be indicted for incitement to genocide under Article III of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Support the Iranian Opposition
In 2009, President Obama refrained from supporting the nascent Green Movement as it was facing a violent crackdown by the Iranian regime. As protestors demonstrating against a stolen election were shot down in the streets, President Obama stated he did not want to "meddle" in Iranian affairs, fearing that his unconditional outreach to the Iranian regime would be endangered if he did so. This was a disgraceful abdication of American moral authority.
Mitt Romney would make plain that the United States supports the emergence of a democratic alternative to the current repressive and reckless regime in Tehran. He would work to improve the flow of information to the Iranian population about its own government's repressive activities. He would recognize the strong national interest we have in the success of the Arab Spring in Syria and the removal of the Bashar al-Assad regime, Iran's closest ally. And Mitt will not stand silent while the Iranian regime ruthlessly terrorizes its own people.
Commit to the On-Time Completion of a Fully Capable Missile Defense System
The United States and our European and Middle Eastern allies have a vital interest in establishing a fully operational and effective missile defense system in Eastern Europe to create a protective umbrella against Iranian nuclear weapons. Under pressure from Russia, President Obama early in his term scrapped President Bush's plan to deploy ground-based interceptors in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic. He instead favored a plan that featured a longer development timeline based upon technologies that have not yet been developed. He has since partially reversed course to reassure our allies who were alarmed by his abrupt about-face and subsequently clarified that his new program will also feature interceptors in Poland along with interceptors in Romania and a radar system in Turkey, all to be built in stages through 2020. As president, Mitt Romney is willing to commit to deploying missile defenses in Europe along that timeline, but he will do so with the following two qualifications.
First, Mitt would reserve the option of reverting to President Bush's original plan of deploying proven interceptor technology in Poland if it becomes clear that Iran is making faster progress on developing long range missiles than the Obama plan assumes or if the new technologies on which the plan relies fail to materialize in a timely fashion. If Iran is going to deploy intercontinental missiles sooner than 2020, the United States should retain the option of defending against them.
Second, Mitt would make clear that while he is willing to cooperate with Russia on missile defense in ways that will enhance the overall effectiveness of the missile-defense system, he will not compromise the capability of the system or yield operational control of it. Russia must abandon any backdoor scheme to constrain our missile defenses. The United States should never give Russia a veto over our security and that of our allies.
Decades of remarkable progress in Latin America toward security, democracy, and increased economic ties with America are currently under threat. Venezuela and Cuba are leading a virulently anti-American "Bolivarian" movement across Latin America that seeks to undermine institutions of democratic governance and economic opportunity. The Bolivarian movement threatens U.S. allies such as Colombia, has interfered with regional cooperation on key issues such as illicit drugs and counterterrorism, has provided safe haven for drug traffickers, has encouraged regional terrorist organizations, and has even invited Iran and foreign terrorist organizations like Hezbollah into the region. The region is also witnessing an epidemic of violent criminal gangs and drug cartels, which have wrought death and mayhem across much of Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
President Obama has done little to reverse these disturbing trends and has to some degree exacerbated them. He has neglected our democratic allies in the region while reaching out to those nations that are working against our interests and values. He has squandered valuable time in which to advance free-market principles throughout the region by waiting for three years to present free trade agreements with our allies Colombia and Panama to Congress for ratification. He has relaxed sanctions on Cuba while demanding no reforms in return that would offer the Cuban people their long-denied freedom. He has allowed the march of authoritarianism to go unchecked. In some cases, he has actually encouraged it, as when he publicly backed former Honduran president Manuel Zelaya - a Hugo Chavez ally - despite Zelaya's unconstitutional attempt to extend his term as president in defiance of the Honduran supreme court and legislature.
Mitt Romney will chart a different course. Under a Romney administration, the United States will pursue an active role in Latin America by supporting democratic allies and market-based economic relationships, containing destabilizing internal forces such as criminal gangs and terrorists, and opposing destabilizing outside influences such as Iran.
In his first 100 days in office, Mitt will launch a vigorous public diplomacy and trade promotion effort in the region - the Campaign for Economic Opportunity in Latin America (CEOLA) - to extol the virtues of democracy and free trade and build on the benefits conferred by the free trade agreements reached with Panama and Colombia, as well as those already in force with Chile, Mexico, Peru, and the members of the Central American Free Trade Agreement. Through old and new media and through numerous public events conducted in conjunction with our regional partners, CEOLA will draw a stark contrast between free enterprise and the ills of the authoritarian socialist model offered by Cuba and Venezuela. The campaign will also seek to involve both the U.S. and Latin American private sectors in efforts to expand trade throughout the region with initiatives that not only help American companies do business in Latin America, but also help Latin American companies invest and create jobs in the American market. The goal of CEOLA will be to set the stage for eventual membership in the Reagan Economic Zone for nations throughout Latin America and the creation of strong and mutually beneficial economic ties between the region and the United States.
Mitt will build on separate existing anti-drug and counterterrorism initiatives to form a unified Hemispheric Joint Task Force on Crime and Terrorism. The aim of this group will be to coordinate intelligence and enforcement among all regional allies. Coordinated strategies are required to combat regional terrorist groups and criminal networks that operate across borders. And a regional effort is required as well to sever all financial, logistical, and material connections between regional groups and foreign terrorist entities like Hezbollah that are operating in the region.
Mexico and the United States must take immediate action on the problem of violent drug cartels operating across our shared border, which has already inflicted great costs to both our countries in human life, drug addiction, and social decay. The United States and Mexico currently cooperate through the Merida Initiative, a program run by the U.S. Department of State to improve Mexico's law enforcement capabilities. However, in light of the severity of the cartel problem and the sheer firepower and sophistication of the criminal networks we are facing, the United States and Mexico should explore the need for enhanced military-to-military training cooperation and intelligence sharing similar to practices that were successful in combating cartels and narco-terrorist networks in Colombia. Mitt will use the full powers of the presidency to complete an impermeable border fence protecting our southern frontier from infiltration by illegal migrants, trans-national criminal networks, and terrorists.
The Greater Middle East is experiencing the most dramatic change since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The protests that have broken out across the Arab world bespeak a generational yearning for a better life and for human dignity, and present an opportunity for profoundly positive change. History may show that the individual who moved the Arab world from autocracy to the path of freedom was not a head of state, but a humble Tunisian street vendor.
But the ongoing revolution is doubled edged. The region is riven by tensions, and Iran and Islamist extremists are seeking to influence events and expand their control. The future of democratic institutions in the region - and the security of the United States and its allies - hangs in the balance. Mitt Romney believes that the United States cannot be neutral about the outcome.
To protect our enduring national interests and to promote our ideals, a Romney administration will pursue a strategy of supporting groups and governments across the Middle East to advance the values of representative government, economic opportunity, and human rights, and opposing any extension of Iranian or jihadist influence. The Romney administration will strive to ensure that the Arab Spring is not followed by an Arab Winter.
Immediate Post-Revolutionary States: Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia
Nations in the Middle East in transition to new governmental structures face serious pitfalls on the road to more representative forms of government. Already, destabilizing jihadist forces and Iranian-backed elements, often better funded and organized than their democratic counterparts, are seeking to exploit the upheaval to make political inroads. A Romney administration will support those individuals and groups that are seeking to instill lasting democratic values and build sturdy democratic institutions that will sustain open societies in countries that have been closed for too long. Mitt will make available technical assistance to governments and transitional bodies to promote democracy, good governance, and sound financial management. He will convene a summit that brings together world leaders, donor organizations, and young leaders of groups that espouse the principles of representative government, religious pluralism, economic opportunity, women's and minority rights, and freedom of expression and conscience in the Arab world. And in his first 100 days, Mitt will engage Congress and relevant executive branch agencies and begin organizing all diplomatic and assistance efforts in the greater Middle East under one regional director. Unlike recent "special envoys" or regional "czars," this official will possess unified budgetary and directive authority, and therefore real ability to create results. One official with responsibility and accountability will be able to set regional priorities, craft a unified regional strategic plan, and properly direct our soft power toward ensuring the Arab Spring realizes its promise.
The United States must recognize Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad for what he is: an unscrupulous dictator, a killer, and a proxy for Iran. For far too long, the Obama administration held out hope that it could negotiate with Assad to stop his violent crackdown on pro-democracy protestors. It even labeled him a "reformer" while he was turning heavy weapons on his own people. Mitt Romney holds no illusions about Assad's character or about Iran's interest in maintaining a client regime in Damascus.
Mitt Romney believes the United States should pursue a strategy of isolating and pressuring the Assad regime to increase the likelihood of a peaceful transition to a legitimate government. We should redouble our push for the U.N. Security Council to live up to its responsibilities and impose sanctions that cut off funding sources that serve to maintain the regime's grip on power. We should work with Saudi Arabia and Turkey to call on Syria's military to protect civilians rather than attack them. This effort would aim to drive a wedge between Assad and his military, minimize violence, and increase the possibility that the ruling minority Alawites will be able to reconcile with the majority Sunni population in a post-Assad Syria. And we should make clear that the United States and our allies will support the Syrian opposition when the time comes for them to forge a post-Assad government.
U.S. military and diplomatic personnel have made stunning gains in Iraq, pulling the war effort there back from the precipice of defeat. The 2007 "surge" of troops successfully provided security to the population and granted space and time for the Iraqis, our diplomatic corps, and our coalition partners to establish institutions of governance. This placed the goal of a democratic Iraq allied with the United States within reach. The Obama administration, however, has made decisions that threaten to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. President Obama's astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq and his decision to pull out all U.S. troops by the end of 2011 have unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government. Reports indicate that our commanders in the field recommended a 14,000 to 18,000-strong residual force as the minimum necessary to carry out our transition mission. In light of these developments, it is impossible to forecast what conditions in Iraq will confront the next American president in January 2013. Mitt Romney will enter office seeking to use the broad array of our foreign-policy tools - diplomatic, economic, and military - to establish a lasting relationship with Iraq and guarantee that Baghdad remains a solid partner in a volatile and strategically vital region.
American military power is vital to the preservation of our own security and peace around the world. Twice in the 20th century, the United States was compelled to come to the rescue of Europe when it was engulfed in war. And it was American military power that enabled the United States after World War II to stand in opposition to brutal and aggressive Communist dictatorship. It was American fortitude and power that turned around the Soviet missiles on their way to Cuba. It was American resolve and power that helped to liberate the captive nations of Eastern Europe and precipitate the collapse of the USSR. It is America today that patrols the global commons and keeps them safe for trade and commerce. It is America today that is working to extinguish terrorism around the world. A weak America, an America in decline, an America that retreats from its responsibilities, would usher in an era of uncertainty and danger, first for the United States but also for all those everywhere who believe in the cause of freedom.
President Obama came into office with a military in serious need of modernization. However, instead of rebuilding our strength, President Obama has put us on course toward a "hollow" force. President Obama has repeatedly sought to slash funds for our fighting men and women, and over the next ten years nearly $1 trillion will be cut from the core defense budget. This budget cutting enterprise is proceeding while American troops are in combat in Afghanistan, returning from their mission in Iraq, and fighting the remnants of al Qaeda worldwide.
The Obama administration's cuts have left us with a military inventory largely composed of weapons designed forty to fifty years ago. The average age of our tanker aircraft is 47 years, of strategic bombers 34 years. While the weapons in our arsenal remain formidable, they are well along on the path to obsolescence. Along with the aging process, there has been a precipitous decline in sheer numbers. The U.S. Navy has only 284 ships today, the lowest level since 1916. Given current trends, the number will decline, and the additional contemplated cuts will cause it to decline even further. Our naval planners indicate we need 328 ships to fulfill the Navy's role of global presence and power projection in defense of American security. Our Air Force, which had 82 fighter squadrons at the end of the Cold War, has been reduced to 39 today. President Obama has cut funding for national missile defense.
The Obama administration is seeking to reap a "peace dividend" when we are not at peace and when the dangers to our security are mounting. This flies directly in the face of conclusions from the bipartisan Perry-Hadley Commission set up by Congress in 2010. Even before Congress had adopted its latest round of cuts and even before President Obama had proposed yet deeper cuts, the Commission warned that: "[t]he aging of the inventories and equipment used by the services, the decline in the size of the Navy, escalating personnel entitlements, overhead and procurement costs, and the growing stress on the force means that a train wreck is coming in the areas of personnel, acquisition, and force structure." There is a price to strength, but a greater price to weakness, because weakness tempts aggression.
An additional factor must be considered. The men and women of America's military are among the finest who have ever served any nation at any time. They are all volunteers; they have all chosen to dedicate their careers in the service of their country. Many have spent more time in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last ten years than they have spent at home. Thousands of them went overseas and will never come home. They have willingly chosen this path of sacrifice. It is unconscionable that these men and women must fly in airplanes that are old and unreliable, must sail in ships that have cracked hulls, or must ride in vehicles that are urgently in need of replacement - all because their government has had neither the vision to plan for their needs or the simple common sense to manage its own budget.
As Commander-in-Chief, Mitt Romney will keep faith with the men and women who defend us just as he will ensure that our military capabilities are matched to the interests we need to protect. He will put our Navy on the path to increase its shipbuilding rate from nine per year to approximately fifteen per year. He will also modernize and replace the aging inventories of the Air Force, Army, and Marines, and selectively strengthen our force structure. And he will fully commit to a robust, multi-layered national ballistic-missile defense system to deter and defend against nuclear attacks on our homeland and our allies.
This will not be a cost-free process. We cannot rebuild our military strength without paying for it. Mitt will begin by reversing Obama-era defense cuts and return to the budget baseline established by Secretary Robert Gates in 2010, with the goal of setting core defense spending - meaning funds devoted to the fundamental military components of personnel, operations and maintenance, procurement, and research and development - at a floor of 4 percent of GDP.
Mitt will also find efficiencies throughout the Department of Defense budget that can be reinvested into the force. The Department's bureaucracy is bloated to the point of dysfunction and is ripe for being pared. In the years since 2000, the Pentagon's civilian staff grew by 20 percent while our active duty fighting force grew by only 3.4 percent. That imbalance needs to be rectified. During World War II the United States built 1,000 ships per year with 1,000 people employed in the Bureau of Ships, as the purchasing department of the Department of the Navy was then called. By the 1980s, we were building seventeen ships per year, with 4,000 people in purchasing. Today, when we are building only nine ships a year, the Pentagon manages the shipbuilding process with some 25,000 people. That kind of excess must be brought to an end along with the byzantine rules and wasteful practices that riddle the military procurement process.
With proper management, we can do far better in controlling costs and getting more for our taxpayer dollars. The measures Mitt Romney will take include establishing clear lines of authority and accountability for each weapons system so they remain on time and on budget. He will institute shorter design and delivery cycles for weapons systems to eliminate the current practice of relying on yet-to-be-developed technologies, which creates delays and cost overruns. This will foster more realistic planning, get equipment into the field at a faster pace, and save the cost of having to keep older weapons systems in circulation. He will institute greater competition at all levels of the procurement process. And he will work with Congress to pass budgets on time - something the Obama administration has habitually failed to do - to allow the Department of Defense and defense contractors to properly plan multi-year projects without delay and disruption. These and other reforms will ensure a functioning procurement system that redirects savings into the defense of our nation.
The burden of defense spending is substantial but in any honest accounting, the benefits need to be tallied along with the costs. Those benefits include, first and foremost, prevention of war. By patrolling the commons, our forces have also contributed to the maintenance of a worldwide system of free trade that has brought us enormous financial dividends, far more than we have spent on maintaining a military. And our strength has protected the development of democracy around the world, enhancing stability and providing new allies and partners in the cause of peace and freedom. The cost of preparedness may sometimes be high, but the cost of unpreparedness is almost always higher - not just in tax dollars but in human life and in the survival of liberty and representative government.
In a 1939 radio broadcast Winston Churchill famously called Russia "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." The line is quoted often. But most leave out the rest of Churchill's statement, where he offered a key to understanding Russia, and "that key is Russian national interest." What is Russia's national interest today? At the risk of oversimplification, we can say that Vladimir Putin, who just started a third term as Russian president in 2012, aims above all else to preserve his power, stoking Russian nationalist passions to maintain popular support, and using wealth garnered from energy and arms sales to stave off economic calamity. With the Kremlin's leverage over the energy supplies of Central and Western Europe, its stockpile of nuclear weapons, its recent history of aggressive military action, and the power it wields in multilateral institutions like the United Nations, Russia is a destabilizing force on the world stage. It needs to be tempered.
President Obama famously sought to "reset" U.S. relations with Russia. The ambiguity of that term cannot mask that the Obama administration has failed to move Russia toward a more beneficial working relationship with the United States and our allies. President Obama began his reset policy by withdrawing, without reciprocal concessions, from President Bush's plan to place a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, a move Russia strongly desired. He continued the same "we give, Russia gets" policy by signing the New START treaty in 2010. While the agreement compels the U.S. to reduce our nuclear launcher and warhead limits, the levels it sets for Russia are above what the Russians possessed at the time the agreement was reached. In other words, New START gave Russia room to expand its arsenal while requiring the United States to reduce our own. In any event, even if we put aside the demerits of the treaty, it was a squandered opportunity to extract concessions from the Russians that would have advanced our interests. Thus, President Obama failed to press for meaningful reductions not only in Russia's strategic nuclear arsenal, but also in its extensive tactical nuclear force. And he failed to elicit Russian help in dealing with North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions.
Upon taking office, Mitt Romney will reset the reset. He will implement a strategy that will seek to discourage aggressive or expansionist behavior on the part of Russia and encourage democratic political and economic reform.
Review New START
Mitt Romney will review the implementation of the New START treaty and other decisions by the Obama administration regarding America's nuclear posture and arms-control policies to determine whether they serve the best interests and national security of the United States.
Decrease Europe's Energy Reliance on Russia
Mitt Romney will pursue policies that work to decrease the reliance of European nations on Russian sources of energy. He will explore increasing technical assistance to the Eastern European nations currently developing the Turkey-to-Austria Nabucco natural gas pipeline, which will supply Europe with a cheaper source of energy and options apart from Russian oil and gas. A Romney administration will also work with the private sector to spur access to untapped shale energy resources in Western Europe.
Build Stronger Relationships with Central Asia
A Romney administration will build stronger relationships with the states of Central Asia by enhancing diplomatic ties, increasing military training and assistance, and negotiating trade pacts and educational exchanges.
Support Civil Society
A Russian government that respects the civil and political rights of its people and that is truly representative of their wishes will be a more productive participant in an international system based on liberal trade and political values. Deepening authoritarianism and centralized control of the economy serves only to impede Russia's economic development and turn the country into a more menacing presence on the world stage. A Romney administration will be forthright in confronting the Russian government over its authoritarian practices. Mitt Romney will support measures to increase the flow of information into Russia that highlights the virtues of free elections, free speech, economic opportunity, and a government free of corruption. A useful additional step would be to bring more leaders of Russian civil society organizations to the United States on exchanges programs, which would raise their profile and empower them with ideas that can be shared with their fellow Russians upon their return.
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