Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told Pentagon reporters Thursday that Congress has provided funds through March 2013 at essentially the fiscal 2012 level, but he doesn’t know what the new Congress will give him for the rest of next year.
But Panetta’s team may be working under two possibly false assumptions. One is that President Obama wins the election. The other — that before Dec. 31 the lame-duck Congress approves legislation, which the president signs, that gets rid of the additional forced $55 billion reductions in the Pentagon’s fiscal 2013 budget. That’s the “sequester” that would begin Jan. 2 under the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Panetta is probably right that the sequester cuts for 2013 will go away. As he put it, “with the president’s comments and my comments and everybody else’s comments [especially Romney’s], the hope is that sequester won’t happen.”
A Romney win would require major changes. Such would be the case if a newly elected Romney tries to implement some of his defense campaign promises in the first 100 days.
The reality is that the Obama plan, developed in response to the U.S. deficit problem, is already in effect. Take the first reduction of $487 billion in previously planned spending over the next 10 years. That cap was worked out in a bipartisan agreement a year ago and made part of the 2011 Budget Control Act. The first $45 billion of that reduction is part of the fiscal 2013 defense budget, which was approved by the Republican-controlled House.
In a talk Oct. 6, 2011, aboard the retired aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, now a floating museum in the harbor at Charleston, S.C., Romney said he would “add 100,000 active-duty troops” to the Army so it would not need to turn to the National Guard for additional forces.
The next day, in a major speech at The Citadel, Romney promised, “As president, on Day One, I will . . . reverse President Obama’s massive defense cuts,” a pledge he has often repeated. He also said in his first 100 days he would “announce an initiative to increase the shipbuilding rate from nine per year to 15. I will begin reversing Obama-era cuts to national missile defense and prioritize the full deployment of a multilayered national ballistic missile defense system.”
How will he do it? It’s a question of not only where the funds will come from but also what strategy he will be following, other than just handing more money to the Pentagon for more ships and planes and to add more forces.
Romney has said wants to do more than just reduce Obama’s 100,000-person troop reduction (planned over the next five years as part of the Budget Control Act): He wants to return to troop levels of the Cold War or even further.
In his 2010 book “No Apology,” Romney said part of his agenda was to “add at least 100,000 troops to our ground forces.” He wrote that well before the Obama reduction plan.