Romney’s Plan for the Military May Be Indefensible
Here’s an issue that hasn’t been debated much in the presidential campaign but ought to be: How much should we spend on defense?
President Obama has proposed keeping the Pentagon budget essentially flat for the next 10 years. Mitt Romney, by contrast, wants to increase defense spending massively — by more than 50% over current levels, according to one estimate. That could mean almost $2 trillion in additional military spending over 10 years.
Romney hasn’t actually proposed a defense budget or offered any specific numbers for his military strategy. But he says he wants core defense spending to reach at least 4% of the nation’s gross domestic product — a big increase over the current level of about 3.2%. And he says the country needs about 100,000 more active-duty military personnel than the current 1.4 million, even though U.S. forces have left Iraq and have begun to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Romney’s argument is that only increasedU.S. militarypower can guarantee peace in the world. “A strong America is the best deterrent to war that has ever been invented,” he told veterans in San Diego last month. He said his goal was “to preserve America as the strongest military in the world, second to none, with no comparable power anywhere in the world.”
Of course, the United States already fields the strongest military in the world; U.S. core defense spending — that is, the amount we spend on our military excluding the cost of major wars — is already greater than that of the next 10 countries combined. The real questions are: How much is enough? How much can we afford? And in a time of shrinking federal budgets, how would we pay for it?