Mitt Romney’s pledge to massively increase military spending — close to a $2 trillion increase over the next ten years and boosting the Pentagon’s base budget to 4 percent of GDP — combined with his promises to cuts taxes and reduce the national debt is leaving many national security and defense experts scratching their heads, particularly because the presumptive GOP presidential nominee has not said how he’d pay for it.
A poll of defense budget experts conducted by Defense News finds that Romney’s pledge to grow the defense budget “appears politically impossible, if technically doable.”
Todd Harrison, a senior fellow for defense budget studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said about Romney’s plan:
If you put all of the promises together, it doesn’t all add up. The administration may change, but the math remains the same. Harrison said. If you want to increase spending on defense over the next decade and reduce the deficit, then that necessarily means sharp reductions in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid or sharp increases in taxes, or some combination of the two.
Indeed, previous increases in defense costs, specifically those incurred by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, were largely paid for by increasing the deficit instead of through reductions in domestic spending or raising taxes. That decision, said Defense Leon Panetta last week, was a “mistake.” “Frankly all of us bear the responsibility to bear those costs if we’re willing to engage in war,” said Panetta. But that commitment to balance defense spending against budget cuts and/or tax hikes is nowhere to be seen in Romney’s proposals to grow military spending.
“I think with any discussion of major increases to any aspect of federal spending at this point, you have to say what the offset is,” Michèle Flournoy, who until recently served as President Obama’s undersecretary of defense for policy, told DefenseNews. “You have to say what you are cutting instead. Are you increasing revenues to do that?”
Peter Singer of the Brookings Institution said last month that Romney’s military spending plan doesn’t “reflect fiscal reality.” Indeed, Romney, who has committed to cutting taxes, has already effectively ruled out the possibility of raising taxes to pay for military spending. That leaves unpopular reductions in Medicare and other domestic spending to balance the budget in a Romney presidency. But “they don’t want to specify those, because they don’t want to lose the senior citizen vote,” said Gordon Adams, who oversaw defense budgeting at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration.