Veteran groups are mixed on whether a Romney-Ryan administration would be good for the nation’s current and former service members.
Some praised the ticket’s fiscal positions, arguing that the two Republicans would get the country out of debt and keep America safe. Others accuse them of largely ignoring veterans and the war in Afghanistan.
The Special Operations for America PAC, recently launched by ex-Navy SEAL-turned-Montana state senator Ryan Zinke, endorsed Romney’s choice for vice president.
“We believe Paul Ryan has the fiscal skills that will turn our economy around — America’s weak economic situation is a threat to our national security,” said Special Operations for America PAC spokesman Scott Hommel. “We are confident that a Romney-Ryan administration will ensure America’s military is not gutted recklessly for political expediency and will remain the world’s pre-eminent power. If cuts need to be made, they will be made in a calculated and strategically planned process; not just throwing a huge figure on the wall, [as] is the case of sequestration.”
Sequestration refers to $500 billion in automatic, across-the-board restrictions in defense budget growth set to take effect Jan. 2, a consequence of last year’s failure by Congress to agree on how to reduce the long-term U.S. deficit. Ryan voted for the legislation that created it, but now says he opposes the cuts, which seems to have satisfied some vets groups.
Bob Wallace, executive director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he’s “never heard of [Ryan] to be anything but supportive of veterans and military personnel.”
“The Ryan budget protected veterans and he stated publicly that the first obligation of the federal government is our national security and that we must take care of those who step up and protect America,” he said.
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who serves on the Armed Services Committee, said he believes Romney and Ryan would save the defense budget from the threatened massive cuts.
“U.S. national security is facing an uncertain future because of big budget cuts in the pipeline that can be averted with the right leadership. Paul Ryan has not only shown that he’s committed to protecting U.S. security, but he’s actually put an idea on the table and hasn’t skirted the issue,” Hunter told Politico. “That’s worth its weight in gold to the defense and veterans community. And far more than we’ve seen from this administration.”
But other veterans criticized Romney and Ryan — neither of whom served in the military — for largely ignoring veterans.
“In his first presidential-level decision, Mitt Romney picks a guy who would slash veterans care by tens of billions and whose budget didn’t even use the word ‘veteran?’ Paul Ryan sees veterans as numbers, not as people,” said Jon Soltz, a two-tour Iraq vet who heads VoteVets.org.
Last fall, Romney suggested government should privatize veterans’ health care, angering many vets.
“When you work in the private sector and you have a competitor, you know, ‘If I don’t treat this customer right, they’re going to leave me and go somewhere else, so I’d better treat them right,’” Romney said at the time. “Whereas if you’re the government, they know there’s nowhere else you guys can go. You’re stuck.”
And Ryan got into hot water with the Pentagon in March after he accused top generals fighting the war in Afghanistan of being less than candid about their budget needs. He also voted against the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which wound up proceeding anyway almost without incident, officials have said.
Former Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Penn.), the country’s first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress, said President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden have supported the nation’s military and veterans in their first term and have made the country safer.
Murphy pointed to Obama’s decision to raid Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan last year, end the war in Iraq and oversee “the largest increase in veterans’ benefits in the history of our country. Compare and contrast that to Romney’s budget, which doesn’t even mention veterans.”
“America hasn’t been at war. The military has been at war — a war put on the nation’s credit card. And now they’re complaining about deficits when the No. 1 reason [for those deficits] was unfunded, unnecessary wars,” Murphy said.