Paul Ryan said Thursday that if Congress fails to pass legislation averting $500 billion in automatic defense cuts set to take effect in January 2013, a potential Romney-Ryan administration would work to undo those cuts “retroactively.”

The statement, made by presumptive GOP vice-presidential nominee Ryan in a roundtable discussion at a defense-related nonprofit organization not far from Fort Bragg, marks the first time that the GOP White House ticket has floated the idea of trying to undo the looming across-the-board defense cuts after they are set to occur.

“I don't want to get too technical, but in January our intention is, if we don't fix it in the lame duck, is to fix it retroactively once a new session of Congress takes place,” Ryan said in response to a question from an attendee at the defense roundtable.

“Now, we believe that we have a procedural way in the Senate to advance that legislation very quickly and get it to the next president of the United States -- who I believe is going to be Mitt Romney -- to pass it into law and retroactively prevent that sequester from taking place in January,” Ryan continued.

Ryan was referring to legislation passed by the Republican-led House in May that would replace the defense cuts with reductions to food stamps and an array of other programs. The measure passed the House with the support of 218 Republicans and no Democrats.

The scenario sketched out by Ryan would appear to hinge on Republicans holding the House, winning the White House and re-taking the Senate.

It’s unclear how such a move to “retroactively” restore the defense funding might work. The across-the-board cuts are part of a $1.2 trillion trim to both defense and non-defense spending over the next decade set to take effect in early January if Congress doesn’t act. The cuts were set into motion by last summer’s debt-ceiling deal, which Ryan voted for.

If the GOP ticket wins in November, Romney and Ryan would not take office until Jan. 21, 2013, after the first round of cuts has been made.

“The Romney-Ryan ticket is dedicated to protecting America’s economy and national security from the impact of President Obama’s devastating defense cuts. If the President will not lead on this issue before January, we will,” Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement.