Jim Talent, a former Republican senator from Missouri, is a "distinguished fellow" at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, where his portfolio includes "military readiness and welfare reform issues." He supported Mitt Romney in both his 2008 and 2012 campaigns for president, and served as a foreign policy adviser to the former Massachusetts governor's 2012 bid.
"One of Talent's objectives at Heritage," states his Heritage biography, "is to raise awareness—within Congress and throughout the country—of the importance of assuring stable, robust funding of America's military, in peace as well as war." A longtime advocate of boosting defense spending, Talent has been a supporter of the Heritage Foundation's "4 Percent for Freedom" initiative, which advocates keeping U.S. military spending at or above 4 percent of GDP.
Talent served as a Romney surrogate on defense-spending issues during the 2012 campaign. In response to the Obama administration's proposed defense budget for 2013, which slowed the growth of defense spending and advocated a "leaner and meaner" military, Talent told Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy, "One of the amazing things about it is that it's explicitly a budget-driven decision, in other words there's no pretense that this is a change based on strategic analysis. … [I]t encourages other countries to believe that they can provoke and challenge us, and it will end up costing us more money. It's so much an explicit confession of bankruptcy in terms of defense policy, I almost don't know how to respond to it."
In February 2012, Talent and fellow Romney adviser John Lehman issued a joint press release for the Romney campaign accusing President Barack Obama of "placing our Navy—and our national security—in a precarious position" and calling for substantial new investments in navy shipbuilding and weaponry.
In December 2010, Talent penned an op-ed for the neoconservative Weekly Standard criticizing outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates for what Talent considered the secretary's shortcomings on a host of security issues. "A review of Gates's record on issues other than Afghanistan and Iraq," wrote Talent, "shows he has made some key mistakes that have worsened the trend" of declining American power. Talent criticized Gates for "using 'resource constraints' as an excuse for cutting defense programs," for "fail[ing] to stand up for missile defense," and for neglecting naval upgrades and other programs "to ensure the United States will be able to contain Russia, Iran, and especially the growing power of China."
As the vice chair of the WMD Terrorism Research Center, Talent has invoked the specter of "rogue states" to argue for increased U.S. spending on bioterrorism readiness. Talent, reported the St. Louis Beacon in October 2011, "warned about the possibility that 'a nation-state would empower one of those [terrorist] groups to launch an attack' using biological weapons. 'And if you cannot attribute' such an attack, 'deterrents don't work. So there is a huge need' for better science to be able to trace a germ warfare attack."
Talent is also hawkish on Iran, using statements by anti-Iranian regimes in the Gulf as evidence of "universal" distrust of Iran's nuclear program and regime. "One of the few good things to come from the despicable WikiLeaks of U.S. diplomatic cables," he wrote in a December 2010 op-ed for the right-wing Washington Times, "is that they demonstrate that Muslim leaders who are closest to the Iranian regime—and who know it best—are emphatic that Iran is an aggressive and ongoing state sponsor of terrorism, that it must not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons capability and that it cannot be trusted." The "Muslim leaders" Talent was referring to were the monarchs of the conservative Sunni regimes in the Gulf, who have long had a simmering rivalry with the Shiite and anti-monarchical Iran.
Talent was a loyal ally of the George W. Bush administration during his tenure in the Senate. During his 2006 reelection race, which he narrowly lost to Democrat Claire McCaskill, Talent called McCaskill's opposition to the Bush administration's detainee treatment and warrantless wiretapping programs "weak." And though he hadn't yet entered the Senate when the body voted to authorize President Bush to strike Iraq, Talent said during the 2006 campaign that he would have authorized the war even knowing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, since "it was the only possible strategic choice."