GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney told about 3,700 members of the National Guard Association of the United States here today that now is not the time to weaken the nation’s military.
On the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Romney said the return of the country’s troops from Iraq and the impending return of troops from Afghanistan in 2014 cannot be used as an excuse to impose devastating cuts on the Defense Department.
“It is true that our Armed Forces have been stretched to the brink, and that’s all the more reason to repair and rebuild,” Romney said. “We can always find places to end waste, but we cannot cancel program after program. We cannot jeopardize critical missions. And we cannot cut corners in the quality of the equipment and training we provide to our men and women in uniform.”
Mitt Romney speaks to the National Guard Association in Reno today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.
Romney was referring to impending military cuts that could come due as a result of a stop-gap deal reached in Congress earlier this year. The agreement will require significant cuts in both military and domestic spending if a budget reduction deal cannot be reached.
The military starting next year would see funding cuts of $492 billion over 10 years, with an equal size cut coming to domestic programs. Romney criticized President Obama for these cuts, called sequestration, in remarks to attendees of the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention here in Reno in July but did not levy a similar attack today.
He also defended the benefits received by veterans, especially given the high rate of suicide among the military.
“The unconscionable waits for mental health treatment need to be dramatically shortened, and the suicide rate among active duty soldiers and veterans must be treated like the emergency it is,” Romney said. “Veterans benefits are not a gift that is given, but a debt that is due.”
Romney, who spoke for about 16 minutes, also recalled where he was when the terrorist attacks occurred at the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon 11 years ago. Romney said he had planned to be at Battery Park in New York, but found himself instead in Washington, DC, to discuss security for the upcoming Salt Lake City Winter Olympics.
Romney said he left Washington and was driving toward Alexandria when he passed close by the Pentagon.
“I could smell burning fuel and concrete and steel,” he said. “It was a smell of war. Something I never imagined I would smell in America.”
Romney said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks show why a strong military must be maintained.
“As you know too well, our world is a dangerous place, and the attack on our homeland and citizens on Sept. 11, 2001, reminds us that the mission of the guard is ever more critical, and ever more deserving of our support and honor,” he said.
Both Romney and President Obama addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars at the Reno-Sparks Convention Authority in July.
Obama has another political event set for tomorrow at the Cashman Center in Las Vegas, having visited both Reno and Las Vegas at campaign events in August.
The visits, including a political rally held this past Friday in Sparks with GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, point out how important both parties view Nevada in the upcoming Nov. 6 general election.
The four-day association conference has brought Army and Air Guard officers, their spouses, defense officials and industry representatives to Reno from all 50 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia.