Though the current policy of the United States and its allies rests on a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for Iran to suspend its activities related to reprocessing uranium, Iran has produced uranium enriched to 20 percent. Enrichment up to 90 percent is considered weapons grade. Most of the enrichment has been up to 6 percent, usable as fuel in electric power reactors.
What solution is required by each candidate for this situation? Do they believe any deal with Tehran requires Israeli approval?
Another, more immediate issue is what to do about U.S. defense spending. It will have to be dealt with in Congress’s lame-duck session no matter who wins the election.
If Congress can’t produce a $1.2 trillion package of budget cuts, revenue increases or both, a provision of the 2011 Budget Control Act will force “sequestration” — across-the-board reductions that will involve about $500 billion in planned Defense Department growth in spending over the next 10 years. It would require about a 9 percent cut in the fiscal 2013 defense budget before Congress.
Obama and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta have called for a balanced package of cuts and revenue increases to avoid sequestration. If reelected, Obama will have the upper hand, because the Bush tax cuts also end on Dec. 31. That’s leverage to bring the GOP to the table.
If Romney wins, chances are that Congress will find a way to put off sequestration and the tax issue until next year. Romney will face the problem of fulfilling his campaign promises to raise defense spending while cutting taxes.
Obama’s defense budget increases by roughly $10 billion a year over the next 10 years, going from $525 billion next year to $634 billion in 2022. Romney’s promised defense budget equaling 4 percent of GDP rises faster, according to a study done for CNN: from $555 billion to $989 billion by 2022, or a total of $2 trillion higher than Obama’s over the 10-year period.
Another question: Does Romney hold to his promise to boost Army and Marine forces by 100,000, raise Navy shipbuilding from nine vessels a year to 15, and buy more Air Force aircraft, including more F-22 stealth fighters and the F-35 joint strike fighter?
Of course, if I were asking the questions I would ask both candidates if they plan to cut the $320 million the Defense Department is set to spend next year on military bands.
For previous Fine Print columns, go to washingtonpost.com/fedpage.