Romney to VFW: Defense cuts would be devastating

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at Central High School, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, in Grand Junction, Colo.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

(CBS News) On the heels of President Obama's speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, Mitt Romney will address the group Tuesday in Reno, Nev., and call for a thorough investigation into Obama administration leaks of national security information as well as criticize upcoming defense cuts .

"Today, we are just months away from an arbitrary, across-the-board budget reduction that would saddle the military with a trillion dollars in cuts, severely shrink our force structure, and impair our ability to meet and deter threats," Romney will say, according to prepared remarks released by his campaign.

"Don't bother trying to find a serious military rationale behind any of this, unless that rationale is wishful thinking. Strategy is not driving President Obama's massive defense cuts. In fact, his own Secretary of Defense warned that these reductions would be 'devastating.' And he is right."

"That devastation starts at home. These cuts would only weaken an already stretched VA system and our solemn commitment that every veteran receives care second to none. I will not allow that to happen."

(Obama addresses the VFW convention on Tuesday.)

On Monday, President Obama said Congress needs to figure out how to avoid the "fiscal cliff" at the end of the year, when the Bush-era tax cuts will expire and spending cuts will be implemented. If Congress can't come up with a deal, military and other domestic programs face billions of dollars in cuts in 2013. Mr. Obama blames Republicans' insistence on extending all of the Bush tax cuts - as opposed to letting the tax cuts for the wealthy expire, as Democrats want - as putting the military in jeopardy.

"If the choice is between tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don't need and funding our troops that they definitely need to keep our country strong, I will stand with our troops every single time."

"[P]eople in Congress ought to be able to come together and agree on a plan, a balanced approach that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong," Mr. Obama added. "It should be done."

Romney will also use the opportunity about his foreign policy views - and criticize the president's - as he prepares for asix-day overseas trip.

He'll go after Mr. Obama's biggest foreign policy achievement, the killing of Osama bin Laden, by referencing an anecdote from New York Times reporter David Sanger's book, "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power." Sanger reported that Defense Secretary Bob Gates told members of Mr. Obama's team to "shut the f--- up" regarding leaks and what he considered bragging after the bin Laden raid, to prevent further backlash from Pakistanis, some of whom were upset at the U.S. effort.

"Lives of American servicemen were at stake. But astonishingly, the administration failed to change its ways. More top-secret operations were leaked, even some involving covert action in Iran," Romney will say.

He'll go on to call for a thorough investigation into administration leaks saying, "Whoever provided classified information to the media, seeking political advantage for the administration, must be exposed, dismissed, and punished. The time for stonewalling is over."

"And let me be clear: These events make the decision we face in November all the more important," he'll add.

"What kind of White House would reveal classified material for political gain? I'll tell you right now: Mine won't."

  • Steve Chaggaris

    Steve Chaggaris is CBS News' senior political editor.