Ryan: Obama weak on defense in battleground Ohio

John Seewer

Lima, Ohio (AP) — President Barack Obama’s administration’s plan to halt production of tanks in Ohio for several years and a weak response to the crises in the Middle East are moves that can put more Americans at risk overseas, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan said Monday.

Ryan, kicking off the GOP ticket’s three-day tour of battleground Ohio, said Obama’s gutting of the military projects weakness abroad and emboldens enemies overseas. But he didn’t mention that he voted for the defense cuts he’s now criticizing on the campaign trail.

“We need peace through strength,” Ryan told supporters in Lima, home to the nation’s only tank manufacturing plant. “We need a strong military.”

The White House has proposed suspending tank production because the Pentagon says it will soon have enough tanks. Some members of Congress are attempting to restore funding for the tanks and other military weapons in a defense spending bill, a move the White House has threatened to veto.

The administration says adding more money to the budget will trigger deeper cuts because of an agreement made during a failed congressional attempt last year to reduce the deficit.

About 800 workers refurbish the Abrams tanks in Lima, about 80 miles south of Toledo. Republicans in the state have been highly critical of plans affecting the plant and say they won’t save the government money.

General Dynamics Corp.’s land systems unit, which operates the government-owned plant, estimates that the cost of shutting down the plant and then restarting it would be $1.6 billion while keeping it open with minimal production over four years would cost $1.4 billion. The Army puts the price of pausing production much lower — around $400 million.

“We’re not going to shut down the only tank plant we have in America,” Ryan said Monday.

Recent polls in Ohio show Obama with a slim lead over Romney.

Romney and Ryan both criticized the administration’s foreign policy on Monday, accusing Obama of minimizing the recent killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya. White House press secretary Jay Carney called the accusations “desperate and offensive,” an attempt by Romney and his allies to gain political advantage in the latter stages of a political campaign that seems to be trending the president’s way.

Ryan said in Ohio that Obama failed to take a strong stand against the attack that killed four Americans and the growing unrest overseas.

“That projects weakness,” he said. “It means our adversaries are much more likely to test us.”