NATIONAL SECURITY/MILITARY & VETERANS
America’s strength in the world is best expressed when we balance military strength, economic strength, diplomatic strength and strength of our moral example. We must use each of these levers as we deal with a complex and changing international scene.
The last decade saw a weakening of America’s diplomatic strength and a severe erosion of our moral example. We are regaining our position in these areas but much more needs to be done. As a general matter, my philosophy is that we should always protect our nation and core interests on our own without requiring assent or support from any other nation. But when it comes to promoting our values, we work best when we find partners for multilateral action. That need for partners in times of crisis demands ongoing diplomacy.
MILITARY & VETERANS
Engagements: When I visited Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006, I saw first hand the heroic performance of our troops under difficult circumstances in two lengthy ground wars. Combat operations in Iraq have ceased and we need to bring our troops home as soon as possible. The main mission in Afghanistan—destroying Al Qaeda—is nearly complete and we should bring our troops home as quickly as we can, consistent with the need to make sure that Afghanistan poses no danger in the broader region.
The experience of both wars demonstrates that Congressional leaders need to be thorough and tough in questioning any commitment of American troops abroad. Though the President’s rationale for our recent engagement in Libya was sound, I would have preferred more engagement with and input from the Congress. The war in Iraq was the product of poor civilian decision-making and Congress did not adequately perform its Constitutional oversight role. The war in Afghanistan had to be waged, but the initial lack of a clearly defined end goal and the diversion of manpower and key resources to the war in Iraq dramatically lengthened the period of time needed to accomplish the core mission of dismantling Al Qaeda. As a pro-defense Senator, I will not hesitate to use America’s military force to protect the safety of our nation and our critical interests. But I will always insist on getting a clear rationale and plan for success up front before putting our troops in harm’s way.
Defense Budget: Virginia is more connected to our military than any state in the country. Our veterans, active duty military, Guard and Reserve members, Department of Defense civilian employees, military contractors and military family members represent a huge portion of our population. We are home to the Pentagon and the largest center of naval power in the world. And our geography is a litany of sites hallowed by blood shed during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, as well as the horrific attack on 9/11.
In a time of economic challenge, we have to make important budget cuts but Virginia needs people at the table who care passionately about strong national defense and understand its impact upon the Commonwealth. As Governor, I worked with our Senators and Congressional delegation to oppose the transfer of an aircraft carrier from Norfolk Naval Base and thus far we have been successful in preventing this ill-advised move. As Senator, I will continue to fight this move because it is the wrong move at the wrong time in terms of national security and prudent fiscal management. Those who propose to deal with our deficit issues purely through cuts will hurt this nation’s security and the Commonwealth’s economy. As a Harry Truman Democrat, I will always support the right investments to keep our country strong and safe.
Veterans: Our commitment to our men and women in uniform cannot end when they return home. Because of wonderful advances in battlefield medicine, our soldiers are surviving serious injuries, but many face a long road to recovery from wounds seen and unseen. Over the last six years, Senator Jim Webb has been a champion for Veterans and his Post-9/11 GI Bill has given thousands of service members and their children the opportunity to pursue higher education. If I am sent to Washington, I will bring the same level of commitment to our veterans and work to ensure that our country’s care for them in a way that honors their commitment and sacrifice.
As Governor, I found ways to support our service members at the state level. I instituted enhanced protections for National Guard members so they cannot lose their jobs during tours of duty. I also helped secure funding for in-state college tuition for the children of military personnel who are stationed in Virginia. In 2008, I signed into law Virginia’s Wounded Warrior Initiative which coordinates the mental health and rehabilitative services available in Virginia for veterans and their families.
I am opposed to radical changes to military retirement. We need to ensure that any change to the current system does not negatively impact our current active-duty military families or weaken the military's ability to attract future recruits. And we need to ensure that future military retirees do not see their benefits contingent purely on a volatile stock market.