CHARLESTON, S.C. – Aboard the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier in Charleston Harbor today, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stood flanked by retired World War II aircrafts as he promised a group of veterans that he will strengthen the country’s military and work to ensure the safety of the nation if elected president.
“I want to make sure we do not shrink the military budget,” said Romney. “We all recognize America needs to economize but I don’t believe we can economize on securing our nation and protecting our citizens and assuring our work remains safe and free for us, for our children and theirs.
“And I’ll protect the United States of America by protecting a strong military,” he said.
Romney spoke today on the 888-foot hangar adorned with World War II memorabilia that he toured prior to his address. The doors of the hangar remained open during his speech, revealing views of Charleston and dolphins playing in the water below.
Ahead of Friday’s foreign policy speech Romney is scheduled to deliver at The Citadel in South Carolina, Romney previewed some of the specific steps he would take if elected to improve the strength of the U.S. military.
“We’re going to have to increase our investment in our Navy,” Romney said, as the crowd of 50 veterans cheered. “Secondly, our Air Force. The Air Force is smaller and older in terms of the average age of the equipment than it’s been since 1947 when the Air Force was put into place. That simply can’t be allowed.”
Romney said he’d also like to add 100,000 active duty personnel to eliminate the high rotation schedule many of the active troops are on and said he wants to make sure veterans are treated “the way veterans deserve to be treated.”
He also spoke briefly about how the threats around the world make it that much more important for our military to remain strong.
Referring to Pakistan as a “very fragile nation,” Romney said the country’s nuclear weapons, if obtained by the wrong hands, “could change the world.”
“There are also forces that are bent on changing the world from one that celebrates freedom and opportunity to one that is more totalitarian,” he said. “Iran, of course, is seeking a nuclear weapon of its own so it can blackmail the world potentially or threaten the very existence of its neighbor, Israel.”
“And we have jihadists who are seeking to attack us and destroy us in various places across the world,” he added.
“I recognize the need not to shrink our military but to strengthen it,” Romney said.
Shaking hands with veterans after his speech, Romney was approached by one man who said he hopes the former governor will bring the respect back to the country’s military.
We need a Ronald Reagan,” said the veteran. “I’m not comparing you to him … but we need to bring the respect back to the country.”
“He was a great man, what a great leader Ronald Reagan was; I sure love that guy,” Romney responded.