Here is the sixth issue of Capital Brief, from July 17, analyzing Mitt Romney's (still vague) defense policy proposals and their consequences.
Click below to read the Brief.
Capital Brief, n°6 – July 17, 2012
Romney on Defense
· Romney’s defense positions remain largely vague, but for a few major axes:
o Cap total federal spending, but increase defense spending floor to 4% of GDP (no timetable specified), more than the 3.7% under George W. Bush– this corresponds to Heritage Foundation’s “Four Percent for Freedom” project and could equal total increase of $2.3 trillion over 10 years.
o Increase naval capacity by producing 15 new ships each year (up from 9), costing as estimated $40 billion. No explanation of how to finance this.
o Reduce Defense Department’s civilian staff; selectively grow other branches (esp. Air Force) and add 100,000 ground troops.
o Supports anti-ballistic missile defense housed in Europe.
o Tough on Russia (America’s “number one geopolitical foe”) and opposes new START treaty. And on China, Romney called them “cheaters,” leaving open possibility of trade war (far from Obama’s cooperative framework).
o On Iran, suggests military action possible; wants 2 aircraft carriers nearby.
o Calls to double size of Guantanamo, suggests terrorism trials occur there (“where they don’t get the access to lawyers”), and calls waterboarding acceptable (cites Cofer Black, top GW Bush counterterrorism advisor).
· Some key Romney defense/security advisors:
o John Lehman (Reagan Navy Secretary)
o Gen. Michael Hayden (fmr. CIA and NSA director, G.W. Bush)
o John Bolton (fmr. UN Ambassador, G.W. Bush)
o Michael Chertoff (fmr. Homeland Security Secretary, G.W. Bush)
o Dan Senor (Foreign Policy Institute, prominent Iraq invasion supporter)
· Romney’s hawkish proposals meant to draw electoral contrast with Obama, to paint him as weak and willing to gut armed forces with budget cuts plus sequestration (additional $500B automatic cuts failing budget deal). But Obama’s reductions are supported by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and he too has demonstrated hawkishness (Bin Laden operation, drone strikes, targeted killings).
· Romney policy orientations crafted to reassure:
o Defense industry, now forced to adapt to Obama budget cuts. Big Defense has been slow to support Romney, with whom it has no historical ties.
o Swing state voters and districts dependent on defense industry in places like Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, Florida.
o Conservative voter base – even if hawks are not in line with most voters, unfavorable to bigger defense without preponderant external threat.
· Fuzzy math for 4% target:
o Revenue source ambiguous – Romney cites hypothetical future job creation and economic growth to generate funds for defense, BUT…
o Experts* say he would need to gut domestic entitlement programs (social security, Medicaid,…) because he has excluded raising taxes to pay for this –this would be widely unpopular with suffering middle class voters.
*cf. Recent reports from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and the Brookings Institution, among others.