Mitt Romney Campaign Response: Today's guest is Secretary John Lehman, Special Adviser to Gov. Mitt Romney and Co-Chair of Romney Campaign’s Defense Working Group
To what extent is the Navy setting forth a strategic vision that agrees with your understanding of America’s global role?
Congratulations on five years of blogging here at Information Dissemination, a forum for serious policy discussion, one that is clearly influencing the public debate about sea power. Thank you also for the opportunity to speak directly to your readers about the importance of our Navy to the security and prosperity of our country.
I have been asked to respond to the question: “To what extent is the Navy setting forth a strategic vision that agrees with your understanding of America’s global role?” The answer is pretty simple: the Navy is doing about as well as it can, given the rudderless leadership provided by the President. His failure to respond effectively to strategic challenges that reach from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf to the Western Pacific substantially increases the slow and steady decline in American power relative to the risks confronting the United States. The insufficient funding he has provided the Navy and his misplaced priorities for the money the Navy does receive exposes the U.S. and those in uniform to expanding risk in the future. Our Founders understood that America is a maritime nation that depends on the sea for trade and security. President Obama does not understand this. Put another way, the Navy’s strategic vision fits well with Mitt Romney’s vision for America; it simply needs the tools and resources to implement it.
Last October, the Romney campaign released a white paper entitled “An American Century: A Strategy to Secure America’s Enduring Interests and Ideals” (PDF). In it, the campaign stated:
“It is only American power —conceived in the broadest terms — that can provide the foundation of an international system that ensures the security and prosperity of the United States and our friends and allies. Every American has a profound interest in global peace and prosperity. Our prosperity is tied to free markets and free trade. Our security is dependent on the security of Asia and Europe. We created this world order, and our well-being as a nation depends on preserving it against the many challenges it faces.”Over the past century American sea power has played a crucial role in preserving today’s world order. Mitt Romney will make it a priority of his administration to strengthen and enlarge our Navy to do just that. The Obama administration, however, plans for a Navy that is too small to preserve future American sea power even without the threat of another half trillion in defense budget cuts looming under sequestration.
|US Navy Photo|
In his 2013 budget request and shipbuilding plan, President Obama scrapped even the 313-ship goal for a fleet of “around 300.” Yet at the same time, President Obama wants U.S. foreign policy to “pivot” toward Asia. The important states of Asia form a great maritime region in which dominant sea power is the key to prosperity, security, and a balance of power. However, the President’s latest budget cut 16 ships out of the shipbuilding plan and takes nine ships out of commission years before their service lives have expired, while spending hundreds of millions of dollars on algae for jet fuel and other unaffordable distractions. The unavoidable fact remains that the Navy is retiring ships faster than it builds them, and the “pivot” to Asia exists mainly in words.
The President’s plan for the Navy continues a pattern of kicking the can down the road. Like the coming pain of Obamacare and the drastic need to address the nation’s growing debt burden, the President considers a decision deferred to be a decision made. In reality, he has consistently pushed off the tough choices so that his successors face the consequences. We must begin to rebuild our Navy today and reject empty “out year” procrastination when it comes to shipbuilding.
We face an uncertain world—a rising China, a dangerous Iran, instability in North Africa and the Middle East, and a new wild-card as tyrant of North Korea. Whoever is president will assuredly lean more heavily on the Navy in the years to come.
No president can ask our Navy to do more without providing the resources to do the job. This is exactly what President Obama is doing. He cannot have it both ways. Mitt Romney will give the resources the Navy and our sailors need to do their jobs. Our strength, position in the world, and security depend on a military second to none, including a dominant Navy. We need to rebuild the U.S. Navy, and to that end, Mitt Romney will establish a competed building program of 15 ships a year. By contrast, the President’s plan averages 8, a number he does not even adequately fund.
The shrinking fleet that is the consequence of this administration’s policies is a prescription for declining American influence and power. There is no substitute for a forward deployed, persistent and powerful Navy, visible to friend and foe alike. John Adams, Theodore, and Franklin Roosevelt knew this. Mitt Romney does, too. This is the Navy on which America’s prosperity and security depends. It is the Navy Mitt Romney supports and will commit to build.