Romney talks troops, Afghanistan at National Guard conference

Scott Sady/AP

RENO, Nev. – Mitt Romney paid tribute to the work of U.S. troops and veterans Tuesday in a speech that honored those affected by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and focused on topics he was criticized for bypassing in his acceptance speech at the Republican convention.

The GOP nominee declined to directly attack President Obama, telling more than 4,000 people at a National Guard Association Conference that would be inappropriate on the 11th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil. 

“With less than two months to go before Election Day, I would normally speak to a gathering like this about the differences between my and my opponent’s plans for our military and for our national security,” Romney said. “There is a time and a place for that, but this day is not it.” 

Romney drew reproaches from Democrats and Republicans alike after he failed to mention either the troops or the ongoing war in Afghanistan during his convention speech.  After a week of fielding questions about that decision, he specifically nodded Tuesday to the 70,000 men and women still on the ground in Afghanistan and weighed in on their fate.

“Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014,” he said.  “We should evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders.” 

But, in an implied critique of Obama, Romney argued that the return of the troops should not be used as “an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts.”  He has been aggressively attacking Obama this week for his role in a bipartisan debt deal that required automatic defense cuts if Congress and the White House could not agree on other ways to reduce the national debt. Romney running mate Paul Ryan was among those who voted for the deal.

In a statement emailed to reporters, Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith wrote that when it comes to the automatic defense cuts, Obama and Romney are in agreement. 

“The president agrees that we should avoid the automatic defense cuts in the Budget Control Act,” Smith wrote.  “That’s why he has called on congressional Republicans to help prevent them by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.”

While Romney avoided mentioning Obama by name in his speech, he implied that the country and the military need a new commander in chief. “We can all agree that our men and women in the field deserve a clear mission,” Romney said, “that they deserve the resources and resolute leadership they need to complete that mission, and that they deserve a country that will provide for their needs when they come home.” 

Romney pointed to veterans’ health care as one area he would focus on as president, saying he’d work to eliminate a backlog of disability claims, try to shorten waits for mental health treatment, and treat the suicide rate among active-duty soldiers “like the emergency it is.”

“Veterans’ benefits are not a gift that is given, but a debt that is due,” he said to applause.

Romney also marked the 11th anniversary of  September 11th by remembering the victims who died in New YorkVirginia and Pennsylvania and cited the troops sent around the world as a result of the attacks. “We will not forget why they are fighting or who they are fighting for,” Romney said. “They are faithful to us and to our country; we must not break faith with them.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.