Sen. Ted Cruz on Tuesday proposed the largest military build up of any of the Republicans vying to be president. The plan features growth in numbers of troops, airplanes and ships.
The Texas Republican talked about how he would build a military with "more tooth, less tail" if elected as the next commander in chief. The plan also far exceeds the administration's request for fiscal 2017.
Cruz would build up the active duty Army to 525,000 soldiers. The Army's troop level in 2016 was about 475,000 soldiers, but is planning to draw down in fiscal 2017 to 460,000 and an eventual goal of 450,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal 2018.
Cruz said the Army must be built up to give the U.S. military a capability that can not be duplicated by special operators.
"The president must stop his recent rush to mass produce special operations forces. The president is doing this in order to send smaller teams of warfighters to conduct critical operations so he can claim there are no conventional boots on the ground," Cruz wrote in his strategy. "Our special forces are the finest fighting units in the world, but they cannot be mass produced and they are not an answer to our lack of conventional capacity."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush both recommended an active-duty Army made up of 490,000 soldiers, which would reverse the 40,000 in cuts planned to be in full effect by the end of fiscal 2018.
Cruz would also grow the total active-duty strength of the military to 1.4 million. The administration in its fiscal 2017 budget request asked to cut the total active strength by about 19,000 troops to 1.28 million.
In addition to growing the number of personnel, Cruz would also grow the number of platforms available to the military. He said the Air Force needs 6,000 total airplanes, up from about 5,472 planned for fiscal 2017.
He would also grow the Navy to "at least" 350 ships. The Navy has 280 ships and is on track to grow to 287 ships in fiscal 2017. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus has spent his entire tenure as leader of the Navy pushing the service to surpass 300 ships by 2020, a goal he said the service will meet.
Rubio would build up to 323 ships, the lower end recommended by a bipartisan panel in 2014 that said the Navy needs 323-346 ships to meet its mission.
Cruz and Rubio would both add a carrier strike group to the Navy's capability, going from 11 to 12.