"I want to make sure we do not shrink the military budget," the GOP presidential contender told a crowd of about 70 military veterans and campaign supporters gathered in a naval museum in this suburb of Charleston.
On the eve of what he has described as a major foreign policy address, Romney attacked President Obama's proposed cuts in the defense budget. "We're still involved in armed conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said. "Wish the president would remind us of that more often."
Romney suggested that there is plenty of waste in the Pentagon bureaucracy, noting that the number of people involved in naval purchasing has jumped from 1,000 during World War II to 24,000 today. But he argued that any savings wrung from cutting administrative costs should be plowed back into the military budget, both for armaments and veterans' needs.
Meanwhile, one of Romney's competitors for the GOP nomination, ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, accused the frontrunner of flip-flopping on Afghanistan. Huntsman fired back at Romney adviser Richard Williamson, who described Huntsman and fellow GOP presidential contender Rick Perry as being "to the left of President Obama" because of their calls for pulling troops out of Afghanistan.
In a statement issued by his campaign, Huntsman pulled out a Romney quote from a June debate in which the ex-Massachusetts governor said, "It's time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can-as soon as our generals think it's okay."
Lindsey Boerma contributed to this report.