Since announcing that he was a candidate for president, Governor Romney has continually criticized the Obama administration for what he claims are the president's severe and unnecessary reductions in defense spending. According to Romney, Obama would make massive cuts in defense spending that could decimate the U.S. military by returning the armed forces to their pre-World War II levels. Romney's doomsday scenarios have been echoed by conservative commentators like Robert Kagan, Dov Zakheim, Mackenzie Eaglen, Tom Donnelly, and Arthur Herman.
But close analysis reveals not only that these claims are overblown, but that if anyone is responsible for the defense budget failing to keep pace with the increases of the past decade, it is Romney's own running mate, Paul Ryan.
To see why, it is necessary to go back to early 2008, the last year of the George W. Bush administration. In February 2008, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates presented an FY 2009 budget request which projected that the defense budget would reach $544 billion in FY 2012. Three years later, in February 2011, President Obama requested $553 billion in defense spending, an increase of $9 billion over what the outgoing Bush administration had said was necessary to provide for the common defense.
While Congress was considering Obama's request for FY 2012, however, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, led by Congressman Ryan, refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Obama agreed to the Budget Control Act (BCA). Among other things, this act mandated that President Obama could request "only" $6 trillion in defense spending over the FY 2013-2022 period, $487 billion less than he had projected a year before. Thus, for FY 2013, Obama requested $551 billion for the base defense budget, $3 billion less than he had requested the year before.