Three years ago today at the United States Navy Memorial former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney delivered his first extended speech setting forth his vision on national security policy, what might be the first hints of the Romney Doctrine:

We must confront clearly and courageously the threats to freedom, and we must resolutely sustain the capabilities we need to protect our security and sustain the cause of liberty….Our strategy is based on two principles: free enterprise and individual liberty.

Romney described how a president should meet this challenge. The first step lies in properly ascertaining our defense needs. Rather than starting out with a dollar amount to spend on national security and then figuring out what resources — personnel, equipment, bases, etc. – could be purchased with it, Romney argued for a far superior approach.  “The right way to scaleAmerica’s defense budget,” he argued, “is to add up the requirements for each of our missions” and only then fashion a budget designed to meet those missions.

He described five specific missions and one overarching one. The overarching one concerns missile defense. “Rarely in history,” he said, “has any development carried such awful possibilities as a nuclear-armed missile in the hands of evil men. And rarely in history has any program had the promise to do more good or spare more suffering than a system of missile defense.”

Romney then set forth five specific national security missions:

  • Modernize our nuclear arsenal;
  • Be prepared to fight and win land wars and counter-insurgencies;
  • Control the commons – i.e., guarantee that our military can “move freely on the seas, in the air, and in space” in order to “protect trade, respond to humanitarian crises, provide essential support to our ground forces, as well as project our power to restrain the ambitions of tyrants and enhance our credibility as an ally.”
  • Provide counter-insurgency support for nations under threat from Jihadists; and
  • Increase our investment “to defend against…disruptions in communications and other technologies that our forces depend on.”

“When I add up the demands of all these defense missions,” he concluded, “I do not come up with budget cuts.” Romney’s bottom line assessment of our defense needs three years and several rounds of budget cuts ago was that “we cannot fulfill our military missions without an increase of $50 billion per year in the modernization budget.”

The gap between fulfilling these military missions and the budgetary resources available to the Pentagon has grown markedly since Romney delivered this speech. Whether we do so promises to be one of the most important issues debated during this presidential election year.