Remembering that Romney has long promised to raise core
military spending to 4 percent of gross domestic product,
CNNMoney set out to run the numbers. Or, more
precisely, they got Travis Sharp of the Center for a New
American Security, the think tank founded by Kurt Campbell,
current Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia, and
Michele Flournoy, until recently the Undersecretary of
Defense for Policy, to run the numbers. Using Pentagon
budget projections-which reduce defense spending from
today's 3.5 percent of GDP to 2.5 percent of GDP in
2022-and the Congressional Budget Office's projections of
economic growth--the CBO says the American economy will
expand from about $16 trillion to nearly $25 trillion per
year--Sharp proves the obvious, but undeniably true, facts.
As CNNMoney puts it: "The additional spending really piles
up in future years."
To the CNNMoney headline writers, it adds up to a $2.1
trillion "spike" in defense budgets. In fact, as Sharp
shows, if Romney immediately fulfilled his 4 percent pledge
upon taking office, the 10-year difference with Obama plans
would be $2.3 trillion.
But, alas, Sharp's numbers disprove the CNNMoney spin and
make two things clear. The first is that, even with
modest economic growth, the United States can afford to
spend what's needed on its military; 4 percent of a $25
trillion economy is a lot of money. Indeed, there's no
reason we couldn't afford more: The 50-year Cold War
average for defense spending-also an era of unprecedented
American prosperity-was 6.3 percent of GDP.
Sharp's numbers also make plain Obama's plan for American
military decline. As the president proclaimed in his
January defense guidance, he has walked away from the
traditional "two-war" standard of military strength, the
measure of U.S. capability throughout the 20th century.
Indeed, his principal "national security imperative" is
"deficit reduction through a lower level of defense
spending." This allows every other department of the Obama
administration to advance its imperative: increase the
deficit through higher levels of spending.
The Romney 4 percent Pentagon budget is no "spike"; it's
more like a return to normal, even very constrained
military spending given the global mission of America's
armed forces. It's Obama's levels of spending that are
abnormal, digging a deep hole that even now will take a
decade of reinvestment to repair. That's what is really
Of course, things could be worse. Obama could continue to
insist on pulling the sequestration trigger that would chop
another $500 billion-plus from military budgets.