Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will push for an increase in military spending, setting up a contrast with two other likely Republican presidential contenders who have criticized the defense budget.
In remarks at the American Action Forum, Jindal will call on Congress to support an increase in the Pentagon budget, building off a policy white paper he released last year.
"[We] cannot afford to not increase defense spending," Jindal will say according to prepared remarks. "It’s literally the most crucial spending decision for our country. It’s not optional. It shouldn't really even be up for discussion."
The focus on defense spending could be read as a veiled swing at Sen. Rand Paul, who has been sharply critical of the rise in defense spending over the last 15 years, and at Sen. Ted Cruz, who has criticized pork in the defense budget. It also turns up the heat on an internally divided GOP-controlled Congress to pass a budget.
"The smart position for anyone who is concerned about the long-term health of our country," Jindal will say about defense spending.
In a nod to fiscal hawks, Jindal will call for "corresponding cuts" to non-defense areas of the budget, while declaring President Obama's new free community college plan and the Affordable Care Act unaffordable.
"This point goes back to Gov. Jindal making the case that if someone wants to run for President, be on that debate stage, and be in that office, they need to think through what they will do as President," a Jindal advisor told TIME.
Jindal is languishing in national and early-state polls, but he hopes that his policy focus will help him stand out in a crowded presidential field. He joins former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in pressuring Republicans in Congress to use their majority to push GOP priorities.
"Republicans need to start showing that we can govern and lead," Bush said in New Hampshire Friday, calling on lawmakers to produce a budget that adequately funds border security.
Excerpts of Jindal's prepared remarks are below:
Congress is debating the first budget since we took over both houses and it is essential that the leaders of our Party come together behind one clear priority: national defense.
I’m calling on all Republicans in Congress and any Republican thinking about running for President to support an increase in defense spending in this budget, and corresponding cuts in non-defense spending.
This is where we need to be as a country. This is the smart position for anyone who is concerned about the long term health of our country. It takes time to build ships and planes by the way.
Obama has hollowed out our military, I wrote a paper with Jim Talent on this that I would encourage everyone to read – it calls for significantly increasing the amount we spend on defense.
I realize that there are some in our ranks who do not believe that we should increase defense spending, and do not think we can afford it.
The truth is that President Obama has doubled our national debt from 10.6 trillion to 18.1 trillion. So, strictly speaking, we cannot afford ANYTHING at all.
We cannot afford to provide free community college, free phones, a new massive government entitlement called Obamacare, we cannot afford this President.
But we also cannot afford to NOT increase defense spending. It’s literally the most crucial spending decision for our country. It’s not optional. It shouldn’t really even be up for discussion.