Republican presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry vowed to be "honest" with the American people about the "dire financial challenges" facing Social Security.

"The first step to fixing a problem is honestly admitting there is a problem. America's goal must be to fix Social Security by making it more financially sound and sustainable for the long term," Perry wrote in an op-ed for "USA Today" published Monday.

"We must have a frank, honest national conversation about fixing Social Security to protect benefits for those at or near retirement while keeping faith with younger generations, who are being asked to pay," said Perry.

"For too long, politicians have been afraid to speak honestly about Social Security. We must have the guts to talk about its financial condition if we are to fix Social Security," he added.

Perry's op-ed comes as his Republican rivals look to gain traction from his controversial statements on the program.

In his anti-Washington book “Fed Up!” published this year, Perry had harsh criticisms for Social Security and has repeated those attacks while campaigning.

At a campaign stop in Iowa in late August Perry called Social Security a "monstrous lie."

“It is a Ponzi scheme for these young people,” Perry said. “The idea that they’re working and paying into Social Security today, that the current program is going to be there for them, is a lie. It is a monstrous lie on this generation, and we can’t do that to them.”

His opponents in the GOP presidential field see Perry's views on the program as an opening for them to close the gap with the field’s new front-runner.

Rep. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannBachmann won't run for Franken's Senate seat because she did not hear a 'call from God' Billboard from ‘God’ tells Michele Bachmann not to run for Senate Pawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota MORE (R-Minn.) said Saturday that while the program is "in trouble" the government must keep its commitment to senior citizens and focus on "positive solutions."