Obama and Romney on defense spending

Sunday, October 28, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 12:13 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This article is one of 12 that examine where President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stand on some of the issues that are important to voters.

Defense spending

Barack Obama

Obama proposes cutting $487 billion in defense spending over the next 10 years, largely by cutting manpower and creating a more flexible military. 

“And what I did was work with our Joint Chiefs of Staff to think about what are we going to need in the future to make sure that we are safe,” Obama said during the last presidential debate, adding that the nature of the military has changed. “And that's the budget that we've put forward.”

Obama criticizes Romney for proposing an additional $2 trillion in defense spending that the U.S. Department of Defense has not sought.

Mitt Romney

Romney proposes setting core defense spending at a floor of 4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. He says he would increase the nation’s shipbuilding rate from nine per year to about 15, including three submarines. 

“This, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the president of the United States, which is to maintain the safety of the American people,” Romney said. “And I will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is the combination of the budget cuts that the president has as well as the sequestration cuts. That, in my view, is making our future less certain and less secure. I won't do it.”

A sequester is a mandatory cut to a federal program.


Joshua Gordon, policy director of The Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that educates the public about federal budget issues, said Romney is not being realistic when he promises to cut taxes, increase defense spending and not reduce Social Security or Medicare benefits over the next 10 years. He confirmed that defense spending at 4 percent of GDP would amount to an increase of $2 trillion over the next 10 years. 

Gordon said that Obama’s overall budget plan still will result in fairly large deficits even if he cuts defense spending by about $500 billion over the next 10 years.

The bottom line, Gordon said, is that the military will function well under either scenario. The difference in the Romney and Obama plans amounts to about 1 percent of GDP over the next 10 years. If that makes the difference in whether the United States can defend itself, that would mean its military is unworkable.

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