Paul D. Ryan insisted in the vice presidential debate that defense spending would not increase under a Mitt Romney administration. Rather, he said, their budget would prevent President Obama’s proposed $478-billion defense cut over the decade, as well as the additional $500-billion cuts coming in January as a result of the 2011 debt-reduction deal with Congress.
“We’re just not going to cut the defense budget,” Ryan said.
In this case, Ryan may have been airing a slightly different approach than his running mate.
Ryan’s own proposed budget would indeed halt the defense cuts, but Romney reiterated his plan in a foreign policy address on Monday to establish a budgetary floor for defense spending -- no less than 4% of gross domestic product.
Defense spending slipped below 4% of GDP in 2000, before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but rose with the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
Obama is set to reduce the Pentagon’s budget by $478 billion over the decade, as he seeks to push the rate back down to the pre-2001 era.
Excluding war costs, the base defense budget is set to hit 3.5% of GDP this fiscal year, according to a study conducted by the Center for a New American Security for CNN Money.
That study said Romney’s promise of a 4% floor would add as much as $2.1 trillion to the Pentagon budget over the decade.
Both Republicans and Democrats are trying to figure out a way around the defense cuts coming in January, as part of a decade-long debt reduction package triggered by the failure last year of a congressional “supercommittee” to develop a more tailored package of tax hikes and spending cuts.