Democratic presidential contender John Kerry has outlined his plans to modernize the U.S. military. At the same time, the Massachusetts Senator criticized the Bush administration for not doing enough to adapt the armed forces to the new challenges posed by the war on terrorism.
Senator Kerry spoke at the Harry Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri.
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said the Bush administration went into Iraq with too few troops to prevent looting and crime. Senator Kerry also said the force was too small to secure millions of tons of conventional weapons now being used against coalition troops.
He also criticized the administration for instituting what he called a "backdoor" military draft by requiring thousands of soldiers to stay in the service if their units are ordered to Iraq or Afghanistan.
As part of his plan to bolster the U.S. military, Senator Kerry said he would add 40,000 soldiers to active duty and would double the number of Special Forces troops who have been so valuable in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The rhetoric of toughness is not enough to make us safe," he said. "We need tough decisions to strengthen the American military, so we can find and get the terrorists before they get us. As president, I will build a highly trained military with more ground forces and Special Forces not just to win a war, but to win the peace."
As part of his national security plan, Senator Kerry said he would also build strong alliances abroad, free the United States from its dependence on Middle East oil and modernize the U.S. military with the latest in technology and training.
Bush campaign officials responded to the Kerry critique on the military by pointing out that he voted against last year's $87 billion request from the president to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. They also noted other votes during his Senate career opposing various weapons systems requested by the Defense Department.
President Bush has also spoken of the need to strengthen the U.S. military in some of his recent speeches, including one Wednesday at the U.S. Air Force Academy.
"This is no time for impatience and self-defeating pessimism. These times demand the kind of courage and confidence that Americans have shown before. Our enemy can only succeed if we lose our will and faith in our own values," he said.
Both candidates have made national security and foreign policy a major focus of their campaigns in recent weeks, amid public opinion polls that show Iraq and the war on terrorism among the top voter concerns for the November election.