2012 Election - Military Issues

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President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney face off on issues that are important to members of the military community.

MOAA reached out to President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney for their insight on issues important to MOAA members. Each candidate received the opportunity to provide up to 1,250 words in response to the same five questions. Following are their responses, in their entirety and unedited. Differences in length reflect the choices of the respective campaign offices. They do not necessarily reflect the position or opinions of MOAA or Military Officer.


 Share Your Thoughts: What do you think of the candidates' answers?  



 Q. 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?


President Barack Obama  



Gov. Mitt Romney  


 A. As commander in chief, I have a profound responsibility to every servicemember who puts their life on the line for America. We owe them a strategy with well-defined goals; to only send them into harm’s way when it’s absolutely necessary; to give them the equipment and the support they need to get the job done; and to care for them and their families when they come home.
As we turn the page on a decade of war, our nation is at a moment of transition. Three years ago, we had almost 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have cut that number in half. And as the transition in Afghanistan continues, our troops will continue to come home.
We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes that were made in the past — after World War II, after Vietnam — when our military was left ill-prepared for the future. As commander in chief, I will not let that happen again. That’s why I called on our military leaders to develop a comprehensive defense review, released this year, to guide our priorities and spending over the coming decade. The force levels in that strategy were set with the full support of our senior military leadership.
As we end today’s wars, we will focus on a broader range of challenges and opportunities, including the security and prosperity of the Asia Pacific. We will invest in capabilities to combat the full-range of threats. Our military will be leaner, but the U.S. will maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible, and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats.

 A. 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.



Q. 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? 

President Barack Obama  



 Gov. Mitt Romney  


 A. Our men and women in uniform have made incredible sacrifices, and as commander in chief, it is my duty to ensure that we provide those who have served with the benefits they have earned — unique benefits that our military men and women deserve.
For years, veterans have been asking for advance funding for VA health care programs, to ensure that those who have served their country can count on dependable and quality care. My administration fought for it, and we made it happen. I pushed for this because our veterans deserve to know their health care won’t be held hostage by the political gridlock of Washington. And because more than 40 percent of veterans in the VA health care system live in rural areas, we are expanding transportation and telemedicine services so that rural veterans get their health care and benefits faster.
But I am not only committed to tackling the wounds of war that we can see. That’s why I have made mental health care for servicemembers and veterans a top priority. My administration has increased the number of programs aimed at combating PTSD and traumatic brain injury to meet the unique health care needs of military and veteran communities. In 2010, I announced new rules making it much easier for combat veterans to file PTSD-related claims and get the help they need by simplifying the process and reducing paperwork requirements. Additionally, the VA has hired more than 3,500 mental health professionals since 2009, with plans to hire 1,600 more.
 A. 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.









Q. 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?


President Barack Obama  



 Gov. Mitt Romney  


 A. As president, I have made historic investments in our armed forces. And as long as I’m commander in chief, we’re going to remain the strongest military in the world. We will stay the best-trained, best-led, and best-equipped military in history.
Bipartisan majorities of Congress voted for the sequestration mechanism. And we all know that, if the sequester goes into effect, it will mean across-the-board cuts in programs that affect a lot of people. The sequester was designed to force Congress to take action — which is why, to avoid these cuts, Congress needs to get back to work and agree to a balanced approach to reduce the deficit and keep our military strong.
To lead in this effort, I have put forward a balanced plan to get our fiscal house in order over the long run, one that reduces our deficit by more than $4 trillion over 10 years while replacing the sequester. It is a balanced plan that includes $2.50 in spending reductions for every $1 in additional revenue, but it would keep annual defense spending at the levels agreed to with Congress last year that would be in place in the absence of sequestration. Yet Republicans refuse to ask the wealthiest to pay a single penny more, putting defense spending at risk. That is the only obstacle to preventing this sequester and achieving real deficit reduction. It’s time for Congress to stop playing politics with our military.
  A. 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.


Q. 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?


President Barack Obama  



 Gov. Mitt Romney  


 A. Over the past decade, the National Guard and Reserve have consistently demonstrated their readiness and ability to make sustained contributions to our national security. The challenges facing the U.S. today and in the future will require that we continue to employ and support our National Guard and Reserve forces.
During my first year in office, I directed the secretary of defense to conduct the 11th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation (QRMC), which assessed the effectiveness of military pay and benefits. In these times of unprecedented expectations and demands, our attention must be on the well-being of our personnel in uniform. The QRMC’s review of reserve component benefits found that, in general, these benefits are comparable to reserve utilization, and in a large number of cases are the same as benefits afforded to active component members. It did, however, identify several cases in health care and education benefits where adjustments could be made to improve the current benefit structure. The Department of Defense is studying these recommendations for potential implementation and, if needed, will send selected proposals to Congress as proposed legislation.
  A. 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.


Q. 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?


President Barack Obama  



 Gov. Mitt Romney  


 A. One of my highest priorities as commander in chief is to uphold our sacred trust with all our veterans and our men and women in uniform — not just today, but in the decades to come. This means making sure they have good job opportunities, high-quality health care, and disability and education benefits. And because we ended
the war in Iraq and are drawing down in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of troops are coming home. As we wind down these wars, our commitment to our veterans will endure — even in the face of budget constraints.
That’s why I ensured that more than 800,000 veterans or their family members were able to pursue an education on the Post-9/11 GI Bill. That’s why I worked with Congress to sign tax credits into law for businesses that hire unemployed veterans and wounded warriors — which are putting vets back to work today. We’ve also made historic investments in the VA to improve veterans’ health care and benefits. And we’ve cracked down on mortgage lenders who were breaking the law and forcing servicemembers and veterans out of their homes.
But we still have more work to do. The wait on disability and medical claims is still too long for too many. Over the last two years, the VA has processed more than a million claims a year — more than it ever has before. And at the same time, we’ve opened up eligibility for those suffering from agent orange-related illnesses, illnesses associated with the Gulf War, and all combat veterans with verifiable PTSD. These actions have both dramatically expanded access to VA medical care and further stressed what has been an inefficient and paper-based system. Today the VA is aggressively working to break the backlog with more staff dedicated to handling claims, better processes, and better technology. My administration has set a goal and has a plan in place to eliminate the backlog completely in my second term. I know that we’re not there yet. But as long as I am president, I can guarantee that we will work every day to make our systems better able to serve our veterans.
  A. 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 the full weight of that expertise onto the VA.


Read next week's Legislative Update for the following question and answer from the candidates. 


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  • Romeny did not answer the questions. All he did was criticize his opponent. I want to know what he stands FOR, not what he is AGAINST.

    BTW, SERBS started in the 1990s, as a result of the first George Bush's "new world order". It is not a new thing.

  • I spent 10 years active duty in USNR, 7 years navy reserve, 3 years MSNG. I have been retired since 1994. I am 78 years old. I lived WWII as a child and watched the Korea fiasco as a teenager, and Viet Nam from a distance. I was a Naval Aviator during the "Cold War" years. We won WWII in 5 years, though unprepared in the beginning. We have not WON a war since! What happened? In WWII we were united, and the military ran the war. Since then wars have been run by politicians, and have run on for 10 years or more, and accomplished very little. They get us into wars for political reasons, micro-manage them with "rules of engagement" that tie the hands of our military. Korea was called a draw, after all those years, because Gen. McArthur was fired for wanting to actually fight it like a war. Viet Nam was a total loss, when our politicians cut and ran, after all those lives lost. As to the current crop of politicians, Obama has proven himself a loser, for the last 4 years, after promising to end both our political wars, and instead just laid on more "rules of engagement" and let them drag on. He has finished what Bush started, as far as destroying our economy! Romney, at least, is an unknown, so a better choice than the proven loser. The response to 911 was abosolutely necessary, but should have been over in months, if not weeks, had we just carpet bombed the whole area of Afghanistan, where Osama was known to be hiding. Instead we got into political "nation building", our troops are being killed by our "friends", and within 6 months of our leaving the Taliban will be back in power. Politics is not the answer!

  • Congress is supposed to enact laws that allow actions to be taken. Obama has over-reached his authority again and again and circumvented Congress. He told his DOJ not to support the DOMA in court. He told the DOJ that they would support any contractor who does not give his emplyees 90 days notice of a firing. He then instructed the contractors not to tell their employees they will be fired in Jan 2013 when the funding dries up. To be clear, he didn't want those notices to go our BEFORE THE NOV ELECTION. Also, the Obama DREAM act he couldn't pass in Congress, he just wrote his own, buying as many Latino votes as possible. The college vote? Obamacare gave the fed control over college loans and now he is pushing to change those rates and repayments to buy the student vote. ROMNEY/RYAN 2012

  • Some commenters are saying some variation of "go see 2016" and I'm afraid they're serious. As if a movie critical of the President released a couple of months before an election could be anything but a propaganda tool. many of the Presidents critics vileness and disrespect demeans them.
    When you go on a serious discussion forum like this and address the President as scum, Muslim (meant derogatorily), etc. and state explicitly that he is a sympathizer to America's enemies then you are embarrassing yourself I'm front of everyone else that reads this discussion. Those views are all based on lies and as such have to place in civilized discussion.

  • I chose retirement over SERB thanks to Obama's poor handling of the economy and jobs. then I spent a year unemployed in the worst job situation since the Great Depression. Obama's last budget proposed a 350% increase in retiree Tricare costs. It was so bad, not a single Congressman supported it. He passed the DADT repeal over the objections of his entire Joint Chiefs and 70% of the military polled. He failed to lead the super committee to a resolution, holding the military hostage, so in Jan, we'll see destruction of our military by committee if Obama is still in office. In the debates, he kept saying Romney wants to give the military money they didn't ask for while not pointing out that his policies and failures have led us to the January event. My brother is a VP with the biggest DoD contractor. He says it is a DARK, UGLY future if the January cuts take place and Obama is allowed to spend another four years dismantling our forces. I hope, for the sake of our country, people are paying attention to the US credit rating going from AAA to AA to AA- and not worrying about Big Bird and Romney's dog.

  • Obama - Believe what he does, not what he says

  • Compare the number of words used by the president to the number of words used by his opponent.
    Mr. Obama cannot respond to a question with a specific answer: he rambles on and on. Mr. Romney
    is able to make a specific intelligent response. Nuff said.

  • It amazes me how a request to comment an the answers to the questions can turn into comments so totally unrelated to the question. Very few of the comments related to the answers given. The comments also indicate a lack of understanding on how government operates. Congress enacts laws that allow action to be taken. A lack of action falls on the shoulders of Congress. The President's answers indicated that he gave some thought to the question before he answered and had asked for some action in most of the cases. Candidate Romney's answers appeared to be a quick look at the question then some campaign rhetoric toward why he should be elected.

  • I don't believe President Obama answered the questions; whereas Gov Romney gave more explicit answers. Two points: One force reductions Obama said he convened the defense review. I believe that occurs automatically at least every 5 years. He didn't say whether he supported the numbers of the draw down. Romney said he disagreed and felt it was too large. So there we have a difference. Regarding the new retirement system being proposed, Obama ventured off on the VA. Romney was honest and said the retirement system is too costly and we need to control it. So in my analysis the President was vague and political in trying to appeal to all without taking a stand. Romney was more forthright and honest.

  • President Obama has been a disaster for the United States. He and his administration have seriously degraded the economy and that directly affects the military services, their families and the retirees. I will gladly vote for Romney/Ryan on Nov. 6.

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