CHARLESTON, S.C. — Republican Fred Thompson is taking his call for expanding the military, spending more money on defense and taking better care of current and former service members before a receptive audience at a military college in a Southern state with an early presidential primary he is counting on to give his campaign a boost.
Thompson, a former Tennessee senator and actor, also will call for more modern battle equipment on the ground, in the air and on the water during his speech Tuesday morning at The Citadel.
"The investments we make today provide the means to defend our nation tomorrow. They will make our military personnel more effective and safer," Thompson will say, according to prepared remarks his campaign made available to The Associated Press.
In his remarks, Thompson says the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan show the armed forces are too small. He proposes building a "million-member" ground force of 775,000 soldiers and 225,000 Marines - substantially higher than what the Pentagon has called for.
"Too many commitments today leave our Armed Forces capable of meeting too few contingencies tomorrow," he says.
The Pentagon has recommended the Army be increased by about 65,000 soldiers, to a total of 547,000, and the Marines be increased by 27,000, to 202,000.
Thompson also compares the amount spent on the military to the Gross Domestic Product, and says the equivalent of 4.1 percent of the GDP is now spent on defense, including the cost of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He will call for spending to increase to 4.5 percent of GDP, not including the ongoing conflicts. Gross domestic product is the value of all goods and services produced within the United States.
Regarding care for current and former service members, Thompson advocates implementing many of the recommendations of a presidential commission on improving the treatment of wounded veterans. He also says service members need better pay and benefits "including a modern GI Bill with educational assistance that will help us recruit and keep our nation's finest in uniform."
Thompson also mentions the need to build a "robust missile defense system to defend our homeland, our troops and our allies from ballistic missiles," but does not go into greater detail.
The Republican presidential primary in South Carolina is scheduled for Jan. 19.
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