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Posted at 11:18 a.m. on June 11, 2014
Prospective GOP presidential candidate Rep. Paul D. Ryan offered up his vision Wednesday for the military and diplomacy, contrasting himself with President Barack Obama and perhaps some potential primary challengers. And in offering up that vision, he proposed some specific ideas for what the Defense Department ought to be doing.
The Wisconsin congressman’s overarching points were that Obama has been indecisive on the world stage, and that the United States needed to “renew our three sources of strength — our allies, our military, and our economy,” he said at the Center for a New American Security’s annual conference. “Our credibility is at risk, and so with it our security,” he said.
And he positioned himself somewhere between the hawkish wing of his party and the more cautious foreign policy stance represented by fellow possible 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul, declaring himself, in the words of Jack Kemp, a “heavily armored dove” who doesn’t think “we should be quick to use” our military while simultaneously arguing “we cannot withdraw from the world.”
Ryan’s speech criticized Obama for deciding to remove all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by 2016, saying it sent a message to our enemies there to “wait us out.” The troops should come home as soon as possible but only after Afghanistan is secured, he said.
And he said Obama’s budget has further weakened the military.
“Every year he cuts so deeply, and so unevenly, that he’s hurting both our current and our future capabilities,” Ryan said. “Today, if a major threat arose, only a handful of Army brigades would be ready for combat, ready to deploy.”
In addition to upping spending on troop numbers, Ryan said the military needed to develop new capabilities like directed-energy weapons — such as lasers and sonic weaponry — and advanced missile defense. The United States should use everything from drone strikes to economic sanctions to go after terrorist groups that threaten the United States and the countries that host them, he said.
The Navy could be better used in Asia to comfort allies, he said.
“If we refuel the U.S.S. George Washington, we can keep 11 aircraft carriers in the fleet. And that way, we will have about three carriers — including the carrier stationed near Japan — forward-deployed at all times,” Ryan said. House Defense appropriators would provide $789 million for that nuclear-reactor refueling in fiscal 2015, which the Obama budget proposed deferring for the year.
At the same time, the Defense Department needs to fix its acquisition process, he said.
Government isn’t the most efficient thing in the world, and the Defense Department is no exception,” Ryan said. “Our equipment is the best out there. But we’re spending too much money and waiting too long to get it. Over the past few years, we’ve canceled nearly every major Army procurement program. We’ve scrapped big parts of the Navy’s modernization plans. And we’ve scaled back procurement of air superiority fighters. We’re just starting to revamp the procurement process, and we can’t let up.”
Ryan said he voted for the Budget Control Act of 2011 that put in place budget caps and a mandatory across-the-board cuts because he hoped it would force leaders to come to an agreement on overhauling entitlement spending. When that didn’t happen, he said, he negotiated a budget deal with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., to ease the impact on the Department of Defense.
“We can’t afford a strong military without a strong economy,” he said. “If we just borrow more or raise taxes, we’d strengthen one asset by damaging another.”