Kerry Unveils Plan To Overhaul Military


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Kerry Unveils Plan To Overhaul Military
United Press International
March 18, 2004,

WASHINGTON - Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts returned to Washington Wednesday to present a sweeping plan to overhaul the U.S. military, his first major policy initiative after securing the Democratic presidential nomination in the Illinois primary.

In a speech at the George Washington University, Kerry outlined his plan to strengthen, expand and restructure the military, while also codifying the rights of military families and establishing a "Civilian Stability Corps" of volunteers to work in post-conflict environments around the world.

"This president has had his chance, and this president has not delivered," Kerry told his audience. "So let me say here today to every soldier and to every soldier's family, this time help is on the way, and it won't be coming from George Bush."

Kerry's speech was strong on anti-Bush rhetoric, criticizing the president for leaving American troops vulnerable to Iraqi attacks without the resources they need and for what he called "failed, unilateral policies that drive potential, significant, important, long-standing allies away from us." "If I am president of the United States, we will do whatever it takes to ensure that the 21st century American military is the strongest in the world," he said. "I will not hesitate to use force when it is needed to wage and to win the war on terror. But at the heart of that force must be a fully prepared, fully equipped, fully staffed, state of the art military, ready to face any adversary anywhere in the world."

Kerry said that one of the first things he would do is call on the secretary of defense to conduct a "rapid, long-range review of the nation's military force structure." He said he would not appoint a base closure commission pending the results of that review.

Kerry also asserted his plan would not cost American taxpayers more money, despite such components as a temporary 40,000-troop call-up for the Army to take the pressure off reservists serving repeated deployments. Although he was short on specifics in the plan, Kerry said such costs would be mitigated by restructuring and reprioritizing the defense budget.

"We have to be smarter about what we spend, by shifting priorities within the defense budget and scaling back some programs that do more for defense contractors than they do for the national defense of our country," he said.

Kerry's plan allows him to strike out at several of Bush's vulnerabilities -- his unilateral foreign policy, questions about faulty intelligence in the lead-up to the war in Iraq, treatment of veterans returning from war, the developing record budget deficit, and questions about the president's status in the Texas Air Force Reserve during the Vietnam War.

Kerry's campaign has worked hard to focus on the senator's status as a combat veteran of the Vietnam War. Fellow veterans and sometimes crewmates from the boat Kerry commanded in Vietnam often appear alongside him at campaign events, such as a town hall meeting in West Virginia Tuesday in which Kerry struck out at Bush for the treatment veterans receive upon returning to the United States.

However, Republicans have taken a different tack on the defense issue, honing in on Kerry's legislative record. Bush and his supporters charge the United States would be less safe under Kerry, who has voted several times to cut defense and intelligence spending. The issue was central in a negative television ad titled "Troops" that the Bush re-election campaign rolled out Tuesday in West Virginia, where Kerry was campaigning. The ad said, "Though John Kerry voted in October of 2002 for military action in Iraq, he later voted against funding our soldiers."

Kerry's campaign responded almost immediately to what they said was the Bush campaign's "latest misleading attack ad." "The American people understand that John Kerry knows how to defend our nation, and certainly won't take a lecture from George Bush about protecting our troops," campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said in a statement.

Kerry also said that Bush is losing support among military families, many of whom are forced to pay for body armor out of pocket since the military does not have sufficient supplies. His Military Families Bill of Rights would right these wrongs, Kerry said Wednesday.

"Our military families have the right to expect real leadership of the armed forces from the commander in chief, and they have a right to competitive pay and quality housing, decent healthcare and dental care, quality education for their children, first-rate training, the best possible weaponry and state-of-the-art equipment," he said.

"They have a right to timely deployment information, and they have a right to know that in the event of tragedy, help will be there to care and provide for their families and for them."

Kerry said his plan would provide one year of pay to military dependents of soldiers killed in action, allow them to remain in military housing for up to one year after the soldier's death and make permanent the increases in separation allowances and guarantees of reservist access to military healthcare.

His Civilian Stability Corps would also aid the overburdened military by taking advantage of the "vast, untapped reserve of citizens who are capable and, I believe, willing to make their contribution to the national security." It would "marshal their skills and experience and service to America and to the world," Kerry said, enlisting them in a reserve organization of volunteers who, like military reservists, would have peacetime jobs but could be called on in times of national need to "restore roads, renovate schools, open hospitals, repair power systems, draft a constitution, build a police force.

"A Civilian Stability Corps can bring the best of America to the worst of the world and simultaneously reduce the pressure on our military today," he said.

But despite the rhetorical value of his plan, much of the excitement has leached from the race following Kerry's sweeping win in the Illinois primary. Kerry won with an overwhelming 72 percent of the vote, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday. Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., who dropped out of the race two weeks ago, came in second with 10.9 percent of the vote. Kerry's win gave him the majority of Illinois' 156 delegates and pushed him over the threshold of 2,162 delegates needed to secure the Democratic nomination. Kerry's speech Wednesday capitalized on the excitement coming out of Tuesday's results, but more than seven months remain until Americans head to the ballots to pick the next president, leaving Kerry seven months to plan out just such events to keep the public interested.

Man this guys flip flops on all the issues
"They have a right to timely deployment information

"So, a war with Iran .. hmm .. a year from today sound okay? Okay, great, we'll pencil it in .. have the papers run all of the deployment information!"

Blah, blah blah, more rhetoric from Kerry. If I wasn't so concerned that people might actuallyvote for this dip, I'd find him grand entertainment. Maybe when he loses the election, we can get him a show on Comedy Central. "America's Talking Monkey"