During the final presidential debate, President Obama and Mitt Romney sparred over the cost of protecting America. Unless Congress acts to stop mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration, the Department of Defense will receive less money. Neither candidate wants to see that happen. But as Erin Billups explains, they disagree over whether increased military spending is needed.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- "I supported his action there," Mitt Romney said.
"I'm glad that you agree," President Obama said.
One of the only topics where President Obama and Mitt Romney clearly disagreed was on the defense budget.
Romney said, "I will not cut our military budget."
Romney proposes rolling back the ten percent cut to defense spending agreed upon in the 2011 Budget Control Act, paying for it through a series of spending cuts in non-defense programs, but mainly by repealing Obamacare.
"Governor Romney's plan doesn't do it. We've got to do it in a responsible way by cutting out spending we don't need, but also by asking the wealthiest to pay a little bit more," Obama said.
Under Obama, the military is shifting focus, in part to cut costs, less resources in the Middle East, pivoting to more of a presence in the Asia Pacific, meaning the military will only have the ability to engage in one war at a time rather than two.
Romney said, "I don't see our influence growing around the world. I see our influence receding."
Defense policy expert Stephen Biddle says the solution is likely a combination of both men's strategies.
Biddle said, "Accept significant deficits now, reduce the deficit in the out years, that I think is the right recipe for long term economic growth and a quicker recovery. Defense could afford in the out years to take its share of the cuts."
But a compromise solution like Biddle's is unlikely. Why? Because of the partisan gridlock on the Hill that, so far, has prevented a deal that would stop the looming $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts, known as the sequester, set to take effect in January.
"The whole purpose of sequestration is to create something so awful, so terrible, that people who couldn't agree would be forced to agree so as not to have that happen," Biddle said.
Obama said, "It will not happen."
But whether the sequester happens and the military sees another 10 percent reduction in spending, depends less on the president's words during the debate.
"In part, this will depend on who wins in November, as to whether or not a lame duck Congress has incentive as to whether or not to make a deal to avert sequestration," Biddle said.