Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

Mitt Romney warns U.S. military is becoming archaic

A U.S. Army recruiting poster from 1917. Is the Navy in danger of falling back to its 1917 capabilities due to a decline in the number of ships? We check a Mitt Romney claim.
A U.S. Army recruiting poster from 1917. Is the Navy in danger of falling back to its 1917 capabilities due to a decline in the number of ships? We check a Mitt Romney claim.

During the Jan. 16, 2012, Republican presidential debate in Myrtle Beach, S.C., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney took aim at President Barack Obama’s support for the U.S. military.

"The most extraordinary thing that's happened with this military authorization is the president is planning on cutting $1 trillion out of military spending," Romney said. "Our Navy is smaller than it's been since 1917. Our Air Force is smaller and older than any time since 1947. We are cutting our number of troops. We are not giving the veterans the care they deserve. We simply cannot continue to cut our Department of Defense budget if we are going to remain the hope of the Earth. And I will fight to make sure America retains military superiority."

This comment includes a lot of separate claims, but after a number of readers contacted us, we decided to focus one two of them: "Our Navy is smaller than it's been since 1917," and, "Our Air Force is smaller and older than any time since 1947."

His underlying point: The U.S. military has been seriously weakened compared to what it was many decades ago.

We concluded that this was a great example of a politician using more or less accurate statistics to make a meaningless claim.

A wide range of experts told us it’s wrong to assume that a decline in the number of ships or aircraft automatically means a weaker military. Quite the contrary: The United States is the world’s unquestioned military leader today, not just because of the number of ships and aircraft in its arsenal but also because each is stocked with top-of-the-line technology and highly trained personnel.

Today’s military and political leaders face real challenges in determining the right mix of assets to deal with current and future threats, but Romney’s glib suggestion that today’s fighting forces have slipped to the levels of 1917 or 1947 is ridiculous. It earns a Pants on Fire.