Mitt Romney gave a foreign policy speech at The Citadel last week, advocating for a much more activist foreign policy. Aside from the buzzwords the Romney speech was woefully short of details. But maybe foreign policy can be discussed in another post. Lets talk about the financial ramifications of what Romney is saying.
Romney identifies areas of criticism of current policies, and generally calls for policies that would require large expansions of budgetary outlays for the Department of Defense. From the National Journal:
In his speech, Romney spoke ambitiously of having the Navy purchase 15 vessels per year, instead of the current nine, and maintaining the current number of Naval carrier groups, an enormously powerful – and enormously expensive – element of American sea power. Missing from the speech, however, was any sense of how to pay for all of that.
Romney also calls for additional areas of large increases in spending, based on his assessment of our Defense needs that correspond to a “Romney” foreign policy. As I said earlier lets leave the critique of Romney’s vapid foreign policy suggestions for another post. How does Romney propose to pay for these increases. Romney’s White Paper at least notes the issue:
This will not be a cost-free process. We cannot rebuild our military strength without paying for it. Romney will begin by reversing Obama-era defense cuts and return to the budget baseline
established by Secretary Robert Gates in 2010, with the goal of setting core defense spending —meaning funds devoted to the fundamental military components of personnel, operations and
maintenance, procurement, and research and development — at a floor of 4 percent of GDP.
So Governor Romney tips his hat to the notion of “paying for” what he claims we need. Then he immediately begins the disassembling.
Romney will also find efficiencies throughout the Department of Defense budget that can
be reinvested into the force. The Department’s bureaucracy is bloated to the point of dysfunction
and is ripe for being pared.
So Romney is going to fund the massive increases he is calling for by identifying “waste and abuse” and getting rid of the bureaucracy. No need to ask anybody to pay, and no need to worry about the explosive deficits facing our country. Romney is a smart man, and he full well knows this is hokum, but asking the country to pay for what he identifies as a “vital need” will not be tolerated.
Romney will absolutely appeal to the defense hawks, neo-cons, and other assorted interventionists that still have a lot of sway in the Republican Party. These folks could care less about deficits. But ultimately it is my belief that the Republicans really don’t want to pay for anything, including Defense. If the fiscal situation worsens and the choice is between really paying or operating with a smaller footprint, I say that Republicans will opt for a smaller footprint. Is that analysis wrong? The Romney White Paper is here.