Briefing

Obama vs. Romney 101: 5 ways they differ on military issues

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has not been expansive regarding his views of the war in Afghanistan – perhaps because both he and President Obama do not have significantly different plans. But here are five areas where the candidates differ on military issues.

By , Staff writer

3. Defense budgets

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    Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin listens to questions during a campaign event at Partnership for Defense Innovation in Fayetteville, N.C., on Aug. 23.
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Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan created a stir when he took on the nation’s top military officer, Gen. Martin Dempsey, over budget matters.

“We don’t think the generals are giving us their true advice. We don’t think the generals believe that their budget is really the right budget,” he said at a conference in March. “I think there’s a lot of budget smoke and mirrors in the Pentagon’s budget.”

General Dempsey stood by his budget testimony. “There’s a difference between having someone say they don’t believe what you said versus ... calling us, collectively, liars,” he later responded.

As opposed to his running mate, who has in the past pushed for greater defense cuts, Mr. Romney vows to spend at least 4 percent of the nation’s gross-domestic product on the Pentagon’s base budget, which doesn’t include war costs. Congressman Ryan, too, has said that he wants to increase the military’s budget above the rate of inflation.

“Ryan’s basic argument is that the Pentagon’s budget should remain near historic highs in real, inflation-adjusted terms,” explains Christopher Preble, vice president for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at the libertarian CATO Institute in Washington. “That would mean spending more than we did during much of the Cold War, and much more than we did in the 1990s.”

The Obama administration for its part has called for some $400 billion in cuts during the next 10 years to come from the base defense budget, in an effort to reduce the deficit. Defense analysts point out that even the deepest proposed budget cut of $1 trillion over 10 years slated to happen under sequestration would bring Pentagon spending back to 2007 levels, during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 

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