(CNSNews.com) - "The military is not a social experiment. The purpose of the military is kill people and break things," former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee Governor said Thursday night at the first Republican debate in Cleveland.
One of the moderators asked Huckabee how he would handle the Defense Department's stated intention to welcome trangender people to serve openly.
Huckabee was applauded for rejected social experimentation in the ranks.
The purpose of the military, he said "is not to transform the culture by trying out some ideas that some people think would make us a different country and more diverse. The purpose is to protect America. I'm not sure how paying for transgender surgery for soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines makes our country safer.
"We've reduced the military by 25 percent under President Obama. The disaster is that we've forgotten why we have a military. The purpose of it is to make sure that we protect every American, wherever that American is, and if an American is calling out for help, whether it's in Benghazi or at the border, then we ought to be able to answer it.
"We've not done that because we've decimated our military. We're flying B-52s. The most recent one that was put in service was November of 1962. A lot of the B-52s we're flying, we've only got 44 that are in service combat ready, and the fact is, most of them are older than me. And that's pretty scary."
On July 13, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter issued a statement on the Pentagon's transgender policy. He described the Defense Department as a "learning organization" with "outdated" regulations that are hurting transgender service members.
Carter announced the formation of a working group that "will start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified."
And he repeated his belief that everyone who's able and willing to serve will have the full and equal opportunity to do so -- "and we must treat all our people with the dignity and respect they deserve."
At Thursday's debate, only two other candidates discussed the nation's military strength, one of them very briefly.
"The first thing we need to do to make America stronger is to strengthen our military," former Arkansas Gov. Chris Christie said, pointing to the "really specific plan" he advocates: "No less than 500,000 active duty soldiers in the Army. No less than 185,000 active duty marines in the Marine Corps. Bring us to a 350 ship Navy again, and modernize the Ohio class of submarines, and bring our Air Force back to 2,600 aircraft that are ready to go.
"Those are the kind of things that are going to send a clear message around the world," Christie said. "Those are the things that we need to start working on immediately to make our country stronger and make it better. Those are the things that we need to be able to be doing."
Donald Trump issued a general call for a stronger military: "We can't do anything right. Our military has to be strengthened. Our vets have to be taken care of," he said in his closing statement.