Romney Plans Military Build-Up
If elected, Romney says military needs more planes, ships and 100,000 more active-duty personnel.
MOUNT PLEASANT — Aboard the retired aircraft carrier the USS Yorktown, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said if he is elected, he will invest heavily in military capital and manpower.
Speaking aboard the WWII-era carrier at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Romney said cutting wasteful defense spending will pay for upgrades to the Air Force and Navy fleets while adding 100,000 active-duty service members.
“We need to rebuild our Navy … and our Air Force is smaller and older than it has been since its inception in 1947,” Romney said. “That simply can’t be.”
Speaking to a group of retired military men and women, Romney also pledged to provide better care for retirees and for men and women injured during military conflicts.
The investment is necessary, he said, because the U.S. faces increased threats from emerging countries such as China, India and Russia as well as threats from unstable nations such as Pakistan, which possess nuclear weapons.
“I will protect the U.S.A. by protecting a strong military,” Romney said. “I don’t want to go down the path Europe went down. … They cut the military to pay for social programs.”
Romney is on a two-day Charleston tour, which started at Patriots Point today and continues tomorrow at The Citadel where he will outline his foreign policy agenda.
At least some of the veterans seemed in support of Romney’s ideas. He brought tears to a few eyes as he described how as governor of Massachusetts he received the casket of a dead soldier when the serviceman’s family could not make it to the airport in time.
“The more he talked, the more and more I liked what he had to say,” said retired Rear Adm. James Flatley III. “We’re in a troubling world … and he’s so presidential. Let there be no doubt, he’ll rise to the top, but we’re in a democracy and we’ve got to let everyone have their chance to run.”
But with South Carolina’s first in the South primary looming three months away, some voters here are still waiting to be convinced.
“I think he could turn our country around, without a doubt,” said retired sailor Donald Mook of Ladson. “But I also like what Herman Cain has to say. He’s really onto something with his flat-tax plan.”
With both former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie this week saying they will not enter the presidential fray, Romney appears to be the front-runner.
A recent Washington Post/ABC news poll put Romney at 25 percent support with Perry garnering 16 percent. Other polls show Cain with growing support, but none show him or any other candidate eclipsing Romney.
Romney hasn’t spent much time in the Palmetto State. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, and Rep. Rick Santorum all made campaign trips here before Romney.
Still, Republican leaders say he has decent chances.
“He gave a great speech… all positives there,” said Lanneau Siegling, a retired Army General and a South Carolina Republican Party Executive Committee member. “He is so consistent in his message … He’s definitely in the top two or three. We’re going to get behind whoever wins and work like hell.”