The Military Officers Association of America recently reached out to President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney for their view on issues that impact servicemembers, retirees, and veterans. MOAA gave each candidate the opportunity to respond in writing to an identical set of five questions.
I have posted the responses in two separate blog entries. The following are Governor Romney's unedited responses. Click here to see President Obama’s responses.
MOAA – In the past, large post-war force reductions have left insufficient forces to meet the next unexpected contingency. Considering the extraordinary stresses on our military over the past decade of war and continuing threats from Iran, North Korea, and others, what force levels (relative to current forces) do you believe are needed to be prepared for potential future contingencies?
Gov. Mitt Romney – This election is a choice of two paths for the nation. President Obama wants to shrink the military and increase the size of federal government. I want a smaller government and a strong military. Along with determining our economic future, this election will also determine the military’s future. Stopping President Obama’s defense cuts, which could force over 200,000 troops out of service, is one of my top national security priorities. The military should be strong enough to deter our adversaries. And it must be ready so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, like the early stages of the Korean War, where we lost too many good people because we had cut our armed forces so deeply.
MOAA – Some studies propose making the military benefit package (retirement, health care, etcetera) more like that of civilian workers. In view of the dramatically different demands and sacrifices entailed in military versus civilian careers, to what extent do you believe the military must maintain a unique benefit package to attract a high-quality career force?
Gov. Mitt Romney – When you have an all-volunteer military, you have to compete with the private sector to recruit talented people. I plan to get our economy thriving again, so we will have to ensure that service remains an attractive option. We do have some challenges. It is getting just as expensive to sustain our veterans and military retirees as it is the active force. So the balance we have to strike is figuring out innovative ways to control costs, without breaking the promises we made to those who have served.
MOAA – Sequestration law requires the defense budget to absorb 50 percent of the nearly $1 trillion budget cut over the next 10 years. What is your view of that allocation and the share of future budget cuts that should be taken from defense?
Gov. Mitt Romney – The president insisted that defense spending bear 50 percent of the sequester’s cut, even though it is less than 20 percent of the government’s budget. I would have never put our troops, veterans, and retirees in that position. Reversing his defense cuts is very important. We also have to reform the Pentagon. We can all agree that we must improve the way we spend taxpayer money. During World War II, the U.S. built 1,000 ships per year with 1,000 people working in the Navy’s shipbuilding office. Today, when we are building only nine ships a year, the Pentagon manages the shipbuilding process with some 25,000 people. We have to rebuild our forces but also rein in that enormous bureaucracy, simplify everywhere we can, and treat the taxpayer dollar with more respect.
MOAA – The past decade of war imposed dramatically increased demands on National Guard and Reserve forces. Under the current “operational reserve” concept, such demands likely will continue to disrupt their civilian work careers. To what extent do you believe these extra demands warrant an improved Guard/Reserve compensation and benefit package?
Gov. Mitt Romney – You’re absolutely right to point out that the Guard and Reserves have been, by any definition, an operational reserve these past few years. Part of the reason for that is, quite frankly, the fact that we cut the active duty force so drastically during the post-Cold War drawdown. To ease the burden, we have to stop President Obama from forcing 200,000 troops out of service. That would devastate the ranks of our guardsmen and reservists. So I think that the absolute best thing we can do for our guard and our reserves is to rebuild a military that’s really hurting from the president’s defense cuts.
MOAA – Recent VA budgets have been increased substantially, but many wartime veterans will need continuing support for decades. What is your view on how this national obligation can be met in the face of increasing budget constraints?
Gov. Mitt Romney – Despite increased spending, problems like disability backlogs, veteran unemployment, and veteran suicide rates have exploded. We have to face the fact that this administration is not very good at making organizations run efficiently. Because of that mismanagement, an entire generation of young veterans could lose faith in the VA. Under no circumstances will I allow that to happen. We have to institute positive, pragmatic reforms to the VA system that emphasize quality care that is delivered in a timely fashion. I’ve had some success turning around organizations in the past, and you better believe I’m going to bring