- Last Updated: 2:20 PM, May 23, 2012
- Posted: 2:19 PM, May 23, 2012
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- President Obama told Air Force Academy cadets Wednesday America was stronger and more respected around the world than ever before despite impending cuts to the nation's armed forces.
The president delivered the commencement address to over 1,000 graduates at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"Around the world there is a new feeling about America," he told cadets. "There is a new confidence in our leadership.
"Today I think we can say with pride that America is stronger and safer and more respected in the world," Obama added.
He noted the class of 2012 would be the first to "graduate into a world where no Americans are fighting in Iraq and where Usama bin Laden is no longer a threat to our country."
He also said the US had "put al Qaeda on the path to defeat" and commended the country's Air Force for preventing a massacre in Libya in which the United States "led from the front."
In January, the president announced a new military strategy that includes plans to reduce the Pentagon's budget by $487 billion over 10 years following a decade in which defense spending rose dramatically to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As part of the cuts, the size of the US Army is expected to be reduced from a fighting strength of 570,000 to about 490,000 and the Marine Corps will also be scaled back. The military also faces the prospect of an additional $500 billion of cuts over 10 years beginning in January as mandated by last's summer's debt ceiling deal.
Obama told the graduating class, however, the return of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan would make the US military stronger.
"Yes, as our nation's wars end, our military will become leaner," he acknowledged, while insisting the nation's fighting forces would be "fast and flexible and versatile" and would continue to maintain military superiority in all areas.
The president's address came at the beginning of a two-day road trip that will also see him attend a fundraiser in Denver before traveling to California to raise more campaign cash and Iowa to promote clean energy.