Former SEAL Team Six commander Ryan Zinke is blasting President Barack Obama’s apparent willingness to cut defense spending, saying the U.S. Navy “deserves more than the president’s dismissive rhetoric.”
Zinke, a Republican state senator from Montana, tells Newsmax that the prospect of a diminished Navy is “deeply troubling.”
On Tuesday, the Romney campaign released a new TV ad highlighting the differences between the two presidential candidates on defense.
In the ad, the GOP presidential nominee pledges: “I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars . . . That, in my view, is making our future less certain and less secure.”
Romney has called the size of the U.S. Navy, currently at 285 ships, “unacceptable.” During Monday’s foreign-policy debate, Obama said the size of the naval fleet reflects changing military needs and technology.
“Well, governor,” Obama remarked, “we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed … The question is not a game of Battleship where we’ve counting ships. It’s what are our capabilities.”
Zinke’s reaction: “His condescending remarks, suggesting that a reduction in our fleet can be compared to having fewer ‘horses and bayonets,’ demonstrates an unprecedented failure by the Commander-in-Chief to understand even the most basic roles and missions of our great Navy.”
Zinke served 23 years with the SEALs and won two bronze stars. He recently founded the Special Operations for America PAC in part to promote a strong U.S. military.
“Fewer ships to support the difficult mission of expeditionary warfare means greater risk of failure and loss of life,” he tells Newsmax. “As the president so carefully pointed out that ‘we have carriers that have airplanes,’ he also failed to mention that our Russian ‘friends’ are busy selling radar systems capable of detecting even our newest stealth aircraft.
“When you add other core missions such as antisubmarine warfare, missile defense, and supply, it is reckless to suggest that our Navy can defend our freedom with fewer ships,” he adds. “Gov. Romney was correct in that diminishing our fleet strength to WWI levels will have serious strategic consequences and our Navy deserves more than the President's dismissive rhetoric.”
On Tuesday, retired Major Gen. Bob Scales told Fox News that the U.S. military is experiencing a “sense of unease” over what lies ahead as the nation winds down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I watched the Army and the Marine Corps almost break after 9/11, when too few soldiers and marines were applied to too many missions,” said Scales.
“We have to be very, very careful as we move into the future that when we reduce the defense budget, we don’t break the back of our services and force our young men and women to go to war unprepared, without sufficient numbers to win in the future.”
Republicans believe Romney’s support for the military could help him in swing states such as Virginia. Defense contractors are prevalent in Northern Virginia, and the commonwealth’s Tidewater region is home to Naval Station Norfolk, which supports the entire U.S. Atlantic fleet.
“President Obama’s comment about ‘horses and bayonets’ was an insult to every sailor who has put his or her life on the line for our country,” Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell tweeted on debate night.
Fred Fleitz, the longtime U.S. intelligence officer and the managing editor of Lignet.com, Newsmax Media’s global forecasting and intelligence website, called the Obama remark about bayonets “very insulting.”
“I think that comment is going to cost [Obama] an enormous number of votes in Virginia, where there’s a shipbuilding industry that’s in trouble,” said Fleitz. “I don’t know what motivated him to say that. It was just a silly comment.”
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