It is always a pleasure to be with my many friends at The
Heritage Foundation, and it's an honor to give the first of the
series of speeches Heritage will sponsor as part of its Protect
I owe Heritage a great debt of gratitude. When I served as
governor, I drew extensively on the research and thinking of this
foundation. Your scholarship and counsel were invaluable as we
dealt with our budget crisis, with marriage and taxation, and
especially in the case of health care.
Our program to extend private health insurance to all citizens
of Massachusetts has resulted in 440,000 people who were uninsured
now having coverage. We proved that government doesn't have to get
in the health insurance business to get people insured. The
President and leadership of Congress haven't learned that lesson
yet, which is why we're going to need the influence of Heritage
more than ever in the great health care debate to come.
Extending the Frontiers of Freedom
It is an honor to be here at the United States Navy Memorial.
It's humbling to be reminded, in the words of "America the
Beautiful," of "heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than
self their country loved, and mercy more than life." Our liberty
and security have come at a great price. We can never repay those
who died for us, but we can honor their sacrifice by defending
freedom and extending its frontiers across the world.
More than 180,000 of our people in uniform are still deployed to
theaters of war, and any discussion of America's national security
has to begin with those wars and the absolute necessity of winning
them. The missions in Iraq and Afghanistan don't receive as much
attention as in years past. It wasn't long ago that most
politicians and pundits had pretty much decided Iraq was a lost
cause, but our former President was undeterred, and instead of
retreating he moved forward with a surge of operations.
The astonishing success of our soldiers has silenced the
critics, and most importantly, it has preserved freedom for
millions of people, denied Jihadists a base from which they could
finance and launch attacks, and eliminated the threat Iraq
represented to the region. Events have proven the critics wrong,
and the coming victory in Iraq will be to the lasting credit of the
American servicemen and women who have fought in the finest
tradition of the American military.
Just a few days from now, we will mark the 65th anniversary of
D-Day. I'm sure many of you have been to Normandy. I have. I saw
the beaches. I saw the acre upon acre of crosses and stars that
mark the resting place of those who gave the last full measure of
devotion to their country's cause. They were sent by an awakened
American nation to liberate a continent. In the shadow of World War
II's desolation, they resolutely shouldered the burden of defending
That burden did not end with that war. Since that time, American
soldiers have fought in remote places. America sacrificed the blood
of its sons and daughters and sent treasure abroad, helping to
nurture democracy and human rights all over the world. We sustained
a network of alliances and built military prowess that at first
contained and then defeated Soviet communism.
Because of what America did in the 20th century, there are
hundreds of millions of people around the world who now live in
freedom--who, but for the price paid by the United States, would
have lived in despair. I know of no other such example of national
selflessness in the history of mankind. That is why America is the
hope of the Earth.
A Time for Strength and Confidence
That is also why, with all due respect, I take issue with
President Obama's recent tour of apology. It's not because America
hasn't made mistakes--we have--but because America's mistakes are
overwhelmed by what America has meant to the hopes and aspirations
of people throughout the world.
The President also claimed on Arabic TV that America has
dictated to other nations. No, America has sacrificed to free other
nations from dictators. Britain's Guardian newspaper noted
that Mr. Obama has been more critical of his own country while on
foreign soil than any other President in American history. That
would be a most unfortunate distinction at any time, but it is
particularly so today: With all that is transpiring in the world in
Iran, North Korea, Georgia, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, and
Afghanistan, this is the time for strength and confidence, not for
apologizing to America's critics.
I do not believe that the cause of freedom ended with the close
of the last century, nor that America can afford complacency in its
defense. America is still the hope of the world. We must confront
clearly and courageously the threats to freedom, and we must
resolutely sustain the capabilities we need to protect our security
and sustain the cause of liberty.
Four Competing Strategies
There are four competing nations or groups of nations,
representing four different ways of life, that are vying to lead
the world before the end of this century.
- One is the world's democracies, led by America. Our strategy is
based on two principles: free enterprise and individual liberty.
These have led us to become the most powerful nation in the history
of the world.
- China represents a different strategy. Theirs is also based on
two principles: Free enterprise is one of them. They witnessed the
bankruptcy of communism firsthand and have adopted free enterprise
like it was their own. As a result, hundreds of millions of their
poor have been lifted from poverty. But their second strategic
dimension is not freedom; it is authoritarianism.
- Another competitor is Russia. Like China, their strategy is
also based on authoritarianism, but unlike China, their economic
might is derived not from industry, but from energy. They seek to
control the energy of the world, filling their treasury and
emptying everyone else's as we pay for what they have in
- The fourth strategy is that of the Jihadists. By means of
escalating violence, they intend to cause the collapse of the other
three competing visions, dragging the entire world back into a
medieval dictatorship ruled by mullahs and ayatollahs.
Of these four competing strategies, notice that only one
includes freedom. Only if America succeeds will freedom endure. Do
not imagine for a single moment that China, Russia, and the
Jihadists have no intention of surpassing America and leading the
world. Each is entirely convinced that it can do so.
North Korea and Missile Defense
Freedom is threatened not just by those who aspire to world
leadership, but also by the rogue and malevolent. North Korea has
made it abundantly clear that they are not only intent on
perfecting nuclear weapons, but they are contemptuous of the
concerns of the United States and the world at large. It was no
accident that they launched their missile while the President was
addressing nuclear non-proliferation and executed their nuclear
test to coincide with Memorial Day.
The message is clear: The on-again, off-again talks and
diplomacy and agreements have been nothing but stalling maneuvers.
While diplomats celebrate yet another agreement, convinced that all
their work has made the world safer, North Korea continues down the
nuclear path Kim Jong-Il has long pursued.
Arrogant, delusional tyrants cannot be stopped by earnest words
and furrowed brows. Action--strong, bold action coming from a
position of strength and determination--is the only effective
It is time to apply comprehensive, regime-crippling sanctions to
North Korea. Assets should be seized and international financial
capabilities terminated. North Korea should be recategorized as a
state sponsor of terrorism. And, most importantly, the President
should immediately reverse his recent decisions and strongly
support completing our ballistic missile defense system.
Missile defense is a non-nuclear, entirely defensive system
designed to protect not just America, but the world from a
catastrophic attack. Yet the President plans to cut the missile
defense budget by 15 percent, cut funding for missile defense sites
in Europe by 80 percent, and reduce the number of planned
interceptors in Alaska. That is a grave miscalculation, given the
provocations from North Korea, Iran's near-nuclear status,
Pakistan's instability, and the complete failure of the
Rarely in history has any development carried such awful
possibilities as a nuclear-armed missile in the hands of evil men,
and rarely in history has any program had the promise to do more
good or spare more suffering than a system of missile defense. I
know the liberals have opposed missile defense ever since Ronald
Reagan proposed it, but this is too big an issue for ideology or
politics to prevail over national security. I repeat: It is
essential that Congress fully fund and deploy a multilayered
missile defense shield that alone can protect our people from the
terrible threat that is gathering around us.
Shortchanging the Military
In light of both the long-term challenges to our leadership and
the immediate threats to our security, I am also deeply concerned
about the President's broader plans for our military. At the most
fundamental level, our military might depends on the long-term
strength of our economy. The President's planned budgets and
multitrillion-dollar deficits, financed by a level of borrowing
never before attempted by any nation, put our whole economy in
jeopardy. He may take us past the tipping point and create a crisis
of confidence in the dollar that would burden us for years.
The President should instead rein in his plans for massive new
spending and reform entitlements. But I fear instead that he will
look to the military budget to find the biggest cuts and finance
his domestic priorities. In real terms, President Obama is planning
to shrink the defense budget every year over the next decade; from
3.8 percent of our economy today, he would take it to 3
Liberals have long complained that we spend too much on defense.
When I was on the campaign trail, one of the frequent sights at
gatherings was a billboard trailer that claimed defense spending
was more than half of the total federal budget. They knew better,
of course. The official budget doesn't include our entitlement
spending. When that's added in, defense is about 20 percent of the
The argument is also made that our defense spending is grossly
disproportionate to that of either China or Russia. In 2007,
China's defense budget was reported to be $45 billion, about
one-tenth our own. But we need to look more closely at the numbers.
China, for instance, doesn't include in its budget the cost of
strategic defense, research and development, or procurement from
other countries. When those are added in, you get a budget in the
range of $100 billion to $140 billion, and if those figures are
adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity, the amount continues to
But even then we're not finished. Think about it: A soldier
costs China a fraction of what it costs us. China spends about $25
billion for troops, while we spend $129 billion for ours, and yet
they have one-third more soldiers than we do. That kind of
disparity also holds true for the cost of building submarines,
artillery pieces, tanks, and other military platforms. Taking into
account the difference in costs, our advantage over the Russians
and Chinese is not 10 to one; it's more like two to one. They are
closer to half our level than they are to one-tenth.
And then consider all the things we expect from our military
that they do not expect from theirs. We respond to humanitarian
crises, protect world shipping and energy lanes, deter terrorism,
prevent genocide, and lead peace-keeping missions. And most
significantly, our military is required to maintain a global
presence; theirs is not. It is a far more demanding task to keep
worldwide commitments than simply to build a force that can
accomplish regional objectives.
China in particular is bent on acquiring the capability to
exclude American naval and air assets from the Strait of Taiwan.
China has bought carrier killer missiles from Russia and is
developing its own variant. It has acquired fighter aircraft
capable of challenging air superiority even against our F-22. It
has built a large nuclear submarine base on the island of Hainan
and has commissioned 30 new submarines, bringing its fleet to 62,
only nine fewer than the United States. It has the most active
ballistic missile program in the world, adding 150 new missiles
We needn't consider China to be an eventual enemy of the United
States. In fact, I hope China can be a true partner for peace and
prosperity. But that's the whole point: The stronger China becomes
relative to the United States, the more tempted China will be to
achieve its national ambitions through aggressive tactics. It is
strength, not weakness, that preserves the peace. As Ronald Reagan
was fond of saying, "of the four wars that have occurred in my
lifetime, none happened because America was too strong."
Supporting America's Defense
The right way to scale America's defense budget is to add up the
requirements for each of our missions, beginning with strategic
defense. America's nuclear arsenal needs to be modernized. While
others have been testing and updating their strategic capabilities,
we have done little to maintain our deterrent power.
Russia is also insistent that nuclear reduction talks encompass
only strategic nuclear weapons but not theatre weapons. Of course
that's what they want--they have many times the number of theatre
nuclear weapons that we have. You can count on the Russians to
bargain in their own interest, just as you can count on some
liberals and politicians to sign any agreement that looks good on
the surface, even if it puts us at a severe disadvantage. The
President must not fall into that trap.
A second defense mission is to be prepared to fight and win land
wars and counterinsurgencies, including the wars we are now
fighting. Those who shout "no more Iraqs" should remember that we
are still in a counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan. And it was not
so long ago that 500,000 troops were needed to fight in Desert
Storm. It is not hard to imagine future scenarios that would
require America to put boots on the ground, particularly given the
developments in Pakistan, or even Russia's apparent designs on its
We have a great deal of work to do to prepare for this mission.
Much of our military equipment has been destroyed or damaged. It
should be replaced as soon as possible. The Army also needs to
upgrade all of its tracked vehicles and many of its tanks. And our
ground forces have been seriously depleted. In the Clinton years,
the Army was reduced from 18 divisions to 10. As a consequence, the
Army, as well as the Marine Corps, has been stretched to the
breaking point in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Our Reserves have had to
bear a heavy and unanticipated burden.
When our armed forces are short-staffed, the inevitable results
are higher casualties, more long-term health impacts, greater risk
to our security, and more adventurism by tyrants. These human and
national costs are simply too high to bear. In the defense of
liberty, there is no substitute for the brave men and women of the
United States military--and we should start taking better care of
A third mission is to continue to control the commons. Our
military is able to move freely on the seas, in the air, and in
space. That allows us to protect trade, respond to humanitarian
crises, and provide essential support to our ground forces, as well
as project our power to restrain the ambitions of tyrants and
enhance our credibility as an ally.
Here again, much of the military's vital equipment is old and
technologically out of date. The Air Force's main bomber--the
B-52--is 50 years old. Much of the Air Force's tanker and cargo
inventory is almost as old. The Navy has a stated minimum
requirement of 313 ships. It now has only 280. Unless the
shipbuilding budget is substantially increased, the fleet will
continue to decline. We are headed to a Navy of 210 to 240 vessels,
a fleet size that no one believes is consistent with America's
security or global responsibilities.
A fourth mission is to provide counterinsurgency support for
nations under threat from Jihadists. Our experience in the
Philippines has shown the effectiveness of teams composed of
intelligence personnel and Special Forces. This is a capability we
should greatly expand and rapidly deploy.
Let me note one more priority. We must invest far more resources
to defend against military discontinuities--that is, disruptions in
communications and other technologies that our forces depend on.
China, for instance, is committed to cyberwarfare and space
warfare. It has invaded our most secure networks, pirating designs
for our advanced weaponry. Even more disruptive technologies are
all too real, including electromagnetic pulse attack.
While some of these measures may seem unthinkable, they simply
are not. It would be a serious error to become so focused on
equipping ourselves for the war we are now fighting that we
underinvest in our capability to prevent or prevail in wars of the
4 Percent for Defense
When I add up the demands of all these defense missions, I do
not come up with budget cuts. As a simple matter of budget
mathematics, we cannot fulfill our military missions without an
increase of $50 billion per year in the modernization budget.
Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has repeatedly
said that such an increase is necessary.
That is why I support defense budgets, excluding the cost of
Iraq and Afghanistan, that are at least 4 percent of GDP, not 3
percent. It's not that 4 percent is a magic number. It's that I can
see no reasonable scenario by which America can spend less and
still provide our servicemen and women with the modern equipment
and resources they need to defend us. The Administration is intent
on spending less, but I urge pro-defense Members of
Congress--Democrats and Republicans alike--to hold firm and to make
the case for a military that is second to none.
The current leadership in Washington is hardly in a position to
complain about the cost of the defense budget. Over the last few
months, it has passed measures that will add almost $4 trillion to
the national debt in the short term and then over $3 trillion over
the next 10 years. None of that money was spent on increasing the
defense modernization budget--a failure that history will never
understand or excuse. For a fraction of the money that was spent on
various domestic and social programs, Washington could have given
our servicemen and women the tools they need to defend us for a
After all, the first and highest duty of government is to
provide for the common defense. Backing away from missile defense
and depleting the defense budget to fund new social programs,
particularly in the face of global turmoil, would put America and
Americans at risk.
We cannot allow the economic crisis to conceal the very real
threats to our nation's security. We cannot ignore the intentions
of competitors who would replace America's leadership with their
own and set back the cause of freedom. Providence has blessed us
and trusted us to safeguard liberty; in a time of confusion at home
and challenge abroad, let ours be the voice of clarity and good
sense--confident in our cause and faithful in the care of
The Honorable Mitt Romney, former
governor of Massachusetts, business executive, and leader of the
2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics, currently serves as honorary
chairman of the Free and Strong America PAC. These remarks were
delivered at a ceremony held at the U.S. Navy Memorial in