The Republican presidential candidates talked a big game on defense during their first presidential debate, held Thursday in Cleveland.
Gov. Chris Christie called for boosting the size of the U.S. Navy to a 350-ship fleet. He also wants at least 500,000 active-duty soldiers in the Army, at least 185,000 active-duty Marines in the Marine Corps, upgraded Ohio-class submarines, and a 2,600-aircraft Air Force.
Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, noted the increasing age of the fleets, specifically the Cold War-era B-52 bomber known as the Stratofortress.
Echoing similar comments by Sen. John McCain, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker called for deploying weapons to Ukraine so its forces can better fight pro-Russian separatists. Walker also proposed deploying missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic.
Yet none of the candidates specified how he would pay for more military personnel and equipment. Republicans and Democrats in Congress remain at an impasse over taxes and spending, and can’t agree on an alternative to the 2011 deficit-control legislation that established automatic spending caps known as sequestration.
Take, for example, the size of the Navy fleet -- just getting to 300 ships is going to be a challenge, as my colleague Kris Osborne has reported:
The uncertainty of refueling dollars for the USS George Washington, strained funding for amphibious warships, and challenges to the Ohio Replacement Program all present serious complications for the Navy's goal of reaching a 300-ship fleet in coming years.You can read more about what several of the GOP candidates said on defense matters during the debate at Military.com.
Several analysts and watchdog groups say the dollars simply are not there to support the Navy's fleet size goals.
The prospect of sequestration returning in 2016 and the $15 billion overall budget reduction within its 2015 budget proposal place additional pressure on the Navy's shipbuilding ambitions.
Hopefully, the candidates or least the frontrunners will talk about the cost of their military proposals in future forums. After all, we've got nearly a year to go before the Republican Party nominates its candidate at the Republican National Convention back in Cleveland in July.