Issue Position: National Security
A Strong Military in a Dangerous World
In a dangerous world, protecting America's national security requires a strong military. Today, America has the most capable, best-trained and best-led military force in the world. But much needs to be done to maintain our military leadership, retain our technological advantage, and ensure that America has a modern, agile military force able to meet the diverse security challenges of the 21st century.
John McCain is committed to ensuring that the men and women of our military remain the best, most capable fighting force on Earth - and that our nation honors its promises to them for their service.
The global war on terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and the rise of potential strategic competitors like China and Russia mean that America requires a larger and more capable military to protect our country's vital interests and deter challenges to our security. America confronts a range of serious security challenges: Protecting our homeland in an age of global terrorism and Islamist extremism; working with friends and partners overseas, from Africa to Southeast Asia, to help them combat terrorism and violent insurgencies in their own countries; defending against missile and nuclear attack; maintaining the credibility of our defense commitments to our allies; and waging difficult counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
John McCain understands national security and the threats facing our nation. He recognizes the dangers posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, violent Islamist extremists and their terrorist tactics, and the ever present threat of regional conflict that can spill into broader wars that endanger allies and destabilize areas of the world vital to American security. He knows that to protect our homeland, our interests, and our values - and to keep the peace - America must have the best-manned, best-equipped, and best-supported military in the world.
John McCain has been a tireless advocate of our military and ensuring that our forces are properly postured, funded, and ready to meet the nation's obligations both at home and abroad. He has fought to modernize our forces, to ensure that America maintains and expands its technological edge against any potential adversary, and to see that our forces are capable and ready to undertake the variety of missions necessary to meet national security objectives.
As President, John McCain will strengthen the military, shore up our alliances, and ensure that the nation is capable of protecting the homeland, deterring potential military challenges, responding to any crisis that endangers American security, and prevailing in any conflict we are forced to fight.
Fighting Against Violent Islamic Extremists and Terrorist Tactics
The attacks on September 11th represented more than a failure of intelligence. The tragedy highlighted a failure of national policy to respond to the development of a global terror network hostile to the American people and our values. The 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the 2000 bombing of the USS COLE indicated a growing global terrorist threat before the attacks on New York and Washington. On the morning of September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden's declaration of war against the United States hit home with unmistakable clarity.
America faces a dedicated, focused, and intelligent foe in the war on terrorism. This enemy will probe to find America's weaknesses and strike against them. The United States cannot afford to be complacent about the threat, naive about terrorist intentions, unrealistic about their capabilities, or ignorant to our national vulnerabilities.
In the aftermath of 9/11 John McCain fought for the creation of an independent 9/11 Commission to identify how to best address the terrorist threat and decrease our domestic vulnerability. He fought for the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the creation of the U.S. Northern Command with the specific responsibility of protecting the U.S. homeland.
As President, John McCain will ensure that America has the quality intelligence necessary to uncover plots before they take root, the resources to protect critical infrastructure and our borders against attack, and the capability to respond and recover from a terrorist incident swiftly.
He will ensure that the war against terrorists is fought intelligently, with patience and resolve, using all instruments of national power. Moreover, he will lead this fight with the understanding that to impinge on the rights of our own citizens or restrict the freedoms for which our nation stands would be to give terrorists the victory they seek.
John McCain believes that just as America must be prepared to meet and prevail against any adversary on the field of battle, we must engage and prevail against them on the battleground of ideas. In so doing, we can and must deprive terrorists of the converts they seek and counter their teaching of the doctrine of hatred and despair.
As President, John McCain will take it as his most sacred responsibility to keep America free, safe, and strong - an abiding beacon of freedom and hope to the world.
Effective Missile Defense
John McCain strongly supports the development and deployment of theater and national missile defenses. Effective missile defenses are critical to protect America from rogue regimes like North Korea that possess the capability to target America with intercontinental ballistic missiles, from outlaw states like Iran that threaten American forces and American allies with ballistic missiles, and to hedge against potential threats from possible strategic competitors like Russia and China. Effective missile defenses are also necessary to allow American military forces to operate overseas without being deterred by the threat of missile attack from a regional adversary.
John McCain is committed to deploying effective missile defenses to reduce the possibility of strategic blackmail by rogue regimes and to secure our homeland from the very real prospect of missile attack by present or future adversaries. America should never again have to live in the shadow of missile and nuclear attack. As President, John McCain will not trust in the "balance of terror" to protect America, but will work to deploy effective missile defenses to safeguard our people and our homeland.
Increasing the Size of the American Military
The most important weapons in the U.S. arsenal are the men and women of American armed forces. John McCain believes we must enlarge the size of our armed forces to meet new challenges to our security. For too long, we have asked too much of too few - with the result that many service personnel are on their second, third and even fourth tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. There can be no higher defense priority than the proper compensation, training, and equipping of our troops.
Our existing force is overstretched by the combination of military operations in the broader Middle East and the need to maintain our security commitments in Europe and Asia. Recruitment and retention suffer from extended overseas deployments that keep service personnel away from their homes and families for long periods of time.
John McCain believes that the answer to these challenges is not to roll back our overseas commitments. The size and composition of our armed forces must be matched to our nation's defense requirements. As requirements expand in the global war on terrorism so must our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard be reconfigured to meet these new challenges. John McCain thinks it is especially important to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps to defend against the threats we face today.
John McCain knows that the most difficult and solemn decision a president must make is sending young Americans into harm's way. Having experienced firsthand the brutality of war, as president, John McCain would never make the decision to use force lightly, only when the cause is just, and our nation's values and interests absolutely demand it.
Modernizing the Armed Services
Modernizing American armed forces involves procuring advanced weapons systems that will help rapidly and decisively defeat any adversary and protect American lives. It also requires addressing force protection needs to make sure that America's combat personnel have the best safety and survivability equipment available.
Modernizing the armed forces also means adapting our doctrine, training, and tactics for the kind of conflicts we are most likely to face. Today, American forces are engaged in dangerous operations throughout the world. From Iraq and Afghanistan to Somalia and the Philippines, American forces are fighting the battles of the 21st century against terrorists and insurgents. These asymmetric conflicts require a very different force structure than the one we used to fight and win the Cold War.
The missions of the 21st century will not center on traditional territorial defense or mass armor engagements. Instead, the men and women of the U.S. armed forces will be engaged in, among other things, counter insurgency, counter terrorism, missile defense, counter proliferation and information warfare. This calls not just for a larger and more capable military, but for a new mix of military forces, including civil affairs, special operations, and highly mobile forces capable of fighting and prevailing in the conflicts America faces.
Smarter Defense Spending
John McCain has worked aggressively to reform the defense budgeting process to ensure that America enjoys the best military at the best cost. This includes reforming defense procurement to ensure the faithful and efficient expenditure of taxpayer dollars that are made available for defense acquisition. Too often, parochial interests - rather than the national interest - have guided our spending decisions. John McCain supports significant reform in our defense acquisition process to ensure that dollars spent actually contribute to U.S. security.
John McCain also feels strongly that our nation's military spending, except in time of genuine emergency, must be funded by the regular appropriations process, not by "emergency" supplementals that allow defense to be funded outside the normal budget cycle. This process gives Congressional committees less ability to closely scrutinize defense budget requests to ensure military funding is being budgeted wisely. It makes possible Congressional pork-barrel spending that diverts scarce defense resources to parochial home-state interests. And it allows the administration to add spending above that set by budget caps, bloating the federal deficit. Budgeting annually through emergency supplemental appropriation bills encourages pork barrel spending. The American taxpayer has a right to expect us to get the most out of each and every defense dollar, especially at a time when those dollars are so critical. Throughout his career, John McCain has fought pork-barrel defense spending that diverts scarce defense resources to parochial, home-state projects rather than addressing the needs of service personnel. He believes that unauthorized earmarks drain our precious defense resources and adversely affect our national security. John McCain will continue to fight pork-barrel spending to ensure that military funds are spent where they are needed most - in support of our military personnel and our national defense.
Taking Care of Our Military Personnel and their Families
Our military personnel and their families deserve the nation's unfailing gratitude, respect, and support. As a former naval officer with a distinguished record of military service, John McCain understands the profound sacrifices made by our men and women who serve in the uniform of our country and their families.
He believes one of America's most solemn obligations is to treat our military personnel with the same sense of devotion and duty as they demonstrate in rendering their service to the nation. John McCain has fought for improved military pay and benefits, and an improved quality of life for military families.
America's deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan rely heavily on Reserve and National Guard forces. John McCain has worked hard to ensure that benefits for deployed Reservists and National Guardsmen are brought in line with our active-duty military forces.
As president, he will make sure that just as we are always proud of our military personnel for what they do for the country, the country can be proud of what we do for them.
Honoring our Nation's Commitments to Veterans and Military Retirees
John McCain has worked tirelessly to protect increased benefits for America's veterans. He understands that our country has a duty to care for veterans who have honorably served. John McCain will continue to look out for the men and women who have answered our nation's call.
America must never leave its military retirees in any doubt that it will keep its commitments to them for their many years of faithful service. John McCain has been a champion of military retirees in the Senate and believes that it is especially important to ensure retired service personnel enjoy full health care and benefits comparable to that received by retired federal employees. John McCain understands that a key to recruiting and retaining a new generation of American military personnel is demonstrating that our government keeps its promises to retired service members. He will remain an unwavering champion for the rights of military retirees and their families.