Chris Christie is back in New Hampshire today and will be seeking to carve out some space where he can define his position in the primary field. According to excerpts from a speech he’ll give this evening, Christie will position himself as a strong foreign policy hawk, calling for expanded military spending and increased intelligence resources. Time Magazine has the text of his speech, released by his PAC.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will call for an expanded military and defend American intelligence programs Monday in a speech laying out his foreign policy vision in New Hampshire…
Christie will also propose an expansion of federal defense spending, including a repeal of the mandatory budgetary caps known as sequestration.
“The Army and Marines should not be reduced below their pre-9/11 strength, and our active duty forces should be at 500,000 Army soldiers and 185,000 Marines,” he will say, drumming the call of the nation’s defense hawks. “Our Navy should have more ships,” adding the Navy needs at least 350 vessels. The Air Force, Christie will say, should have 2,000 combat aircraft and a total strength of 6,000 aircraft.
Obviously Christie is not the only one blowing that particular horn. Time notes that Rand Paul is also calling for military expansion, running counter to his perceived image as an isolationist dove.
In addition to beefing up the defense budget, Christie will defend the NSA and call for more robust intelligence gathering resources.
“They want you to think that there’s a government spook listening in every time you pick up the phone or Skype with your grandkids,” Christie will say. “They want you to think of our intelligence community as the bad guys, straight out of the Bourne Identity or a Hollywood thriller. And they want you to think that if we weakened our capabilities, the rest of the world would love us more.”
“Let me be clear: all these fears are baloney,” Christie will add. “When it comes to fighting terrorism, our government is not the enemy. And we shouldn’t listen to people like Edward Snowden, a criminal who hurt our country and now enjoys the hospitality of President Putin—while sending us messages about the dangers of authoritarian government.”
Listening to the requests from Joint Chiefs over the last couple of years I’m still not sure how the military would prefer to allocate resources. There are areas which need expansion, particularly in the Navy, but other areas were the base realignment and closure program can come up with some savings which might balance those costs. The continued push into automation and new technology, both in terms of weapons platforms and surveillance, is costing some serious coin and that clearly has to be one of the top priorities. Until Christie fleshes out the details of how he wants to allocate funding it’s tough to say how solid his plan will be.
In terms of the intelligence community, I would hope that this one is a no-brainer for all the candidates. While we never get to hear about most of the details taking place under the covers there is pretty much no such thing as too much covert intelligence gathering these days. There was talk starting right after 9/11 of investing heavily in local resources and native language speakers to pick up on what our enemies are doing in far flung nations. It’s horribly dangerous work, but military might against enemies like ISIS and al Qaeda is crippled without the kind of intelligence you can only get by being up close and personal. If Christie is expressing support for expanding those resources I’m right there with him.
Since he’s bothering to give a speech like this in the second half of May, it would appear that Christie is still at least seriously considering pulling the trigger on a run. But he retains the option of bowing out, and there’s still all the time in the world for that. As I’ve written here before, I just can’t see Christie starting an official presidential campaign unless he’s confident that he’s at least in the running for a top tier position. He just seems like the kind of guy who would find it intolerable to put himself out there only to face near total rejection and be forced to head back to Jersey with his tail between his legs. The polls certainly don’t show him gaining any traction, so unless he knows something we don’t he may keep on working the local circuits in New Hampshire until later this month and then bail out. In fact, I’d almost bet on it at this point.