Rubio makes argument for robust military

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRepublicans wary of US action on Iran California poll: Biden, Sanders lead Democratic field; Harris takes fifth The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Fla.) called Wednesday for the United States to return to a Reagan-era U.S. military by greatly increasing its spending at the Pentagon.

Rubio said that the U.S. spends more than double on Social Security and Medicare benefits than it does on defense, and called for lawmakers to address those spending issues so that more money can be funneled to the nation’s defense.

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The possible 2016 White House contender sharply criticized President Obama’s defense and foreign affairs policies, noting that defense spending has fallen 21 percent since 2010 when adjusted for inflation, and 12 percent if the troop drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan are considered.

Drawing from recommendations by the National Defense Panel, Rubio called for the U.S. to up the Navy’s current 289 ships to 323, support the Air Force's F-35 program, reverse the plan reducing the Army and Marine Corps to pre-9/11 levels, rebuild intelligence capabilities and tackle veteran health care, personnel recruitment and military pension reform.

“The world needs American strength just as much as our people and our economy do,” Rubio said in a Washington address. “No other nation can deter global conflict by its presence alone.

“We must be prepared for threats wherever they arise, because our nation is never isolated from the world,” added Rubio, who in a Washington Post op-ed last week argued the “isolationism” of Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, another possible 2016 contender, put American lives at risk.

“Waiting for our adversaries to unclench their fists so we can shake their hands has not proven a responsible or effective strategy,” said Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence panels.

The event was hosted by the John Hay Initiative along with Concerned Veterans for America and the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute's Project for the Common Defense.

The increased focus on danger posed by fighters with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as the dynamics of the upcoming 2016 presidential elections, offer good political timing for Rubio's speech, said former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), a member of the defense project.

Aside from maybe Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRepublicans wary of US action on Iran EXCLUSIVE: Swing-state voters oppose 'surprise' medical bill legislation, Trump pollster warns Rand Paul: Almost every mass shooter 'is sending off signals' MORE (R-Ky.) who has talked about foreign policy for a long time, Rubio, if he decided to run, leads the pack of 2016 Republican contenders in terms of foreign policy, Talent told The Hill.