NORFOLK-Former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig is supporting President Barack Obama's re-election and says the Navy has gotten larger, not smaller, under his leadership.
Speaking at a campaign office in Norfolk, ahead of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's rally in Virginia Beach, Danzig recited the numbers. He said there were 311 ships in the fleet when he left office in 2001; there were 282 naval vessels when Obama took office in 2009 and it stands at 288 ships today.
The issue came up during a debate when Romney stated that the Navy is at its smallest point since 1916.
'I think measuring the Navy by the number of ships is not a very sensible way and the president, I think, underscored that,' Danzig stated.
Danzig argued that the Navy's decline to 282 ships under George Bush 'really is a marker of how Republicans have, I think, and the people around Governor Romney, embraced the rhetoric but ignore the reality.'
Danzig, who served as Navy Secretary under President Bill Clinton, disputed Republican claims that President Obama had insulted the military during the debate. In replying to Romney's assertion that the Navy was smaller, the president replied '.. We also have fewer horses and bayonets.'
It's Governor Romney who demonstrates a sort of remarkable disparaging without actually saying so, that the Navy is in some respect weaker than it was in 1917,' Danzig stated.
On the issue of sequestration and the possibility of a half- trillion dollars in defense cuts, Danzig again said the GOP is ignoring reality when they claim President Obama is at fault for not exerting enough leadership or proposing alternatives.
He says sequestration was voted for by Congressman Paul Ryan, Governor Romney's running mate and House Republicans. He blames the GOP for not compromising on a budgetary mechanism, thereby creating a 'doomsday machine.'
'The Republican complaints about this remind me of the story of the man who kills his parents and then begs for mercy on the grounds that he's an orphan. They created this,' he stated.
Danzig praised the president's support of military veterans and pointed out that Obama has increased the budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs from $100 million to $140 million.
Romney's campaign spokesman Curt Cashour told 13News via satellite that Mitt Romney is the one who'll build up the Navy, not Obama.
'Well, let's look at the track record of the president. He has a well documented history of cutting the military. He has proposed $487 billion in additional cuts, that's on top of the sequester. And Governor Romney is pledging to rebuild, revitalize and increase the size and capability of our military,' Cashour said.
'With respect to the Navy,' Cashour continued, ' Governor Romney is pledging to increase ship production from nine to 15 ships a year. We're not hearing anything like that out of the Obama administration.'
Cashour took exception with Danzig's comments on sequestration.
'Governor Romney has pledged to reverse those cuts. Paul Ryan passed the plan through the House to avert those cuts. President Obama has provided absolutely zero leadership on this issue,' he said.
As for veterans, Cashour said that by simply increasing funding to the V.A., the president has not done anything to improve case backlogs or patient service.
'I think that approach is typical of the Obama administration, throw money at the problem and hope it goes away,' Cashour said.
'Even though President Obama may have increased funding for the V.A., the fact is he hasn't gotten any results. The problems at the V.A. have gotten worse under his tenure, and that's because there's been an overall lack of leadership over there. What we need is leadership, and that's what Mitt Romney will provide.'