October 1, 2012  

Fiscal foolishness

To Mitt Romney for trotting out that hoary canard: a goal of setting a floor of 4 percent of GDP for defense.

A serious approach to national defense is based upon analysis of national security interests and the military forces needed to respond. Of necessity, defense spending must be weighed in consideration with other national priorities, and indeed, with the nation’s fiscal health. But the share ultimately delivered to the Pentagon and other agencies of national security should be divorced from arbitrary measures like gross domestic product.

During the campaign, Romney has hammered President Obama for running up deficits; the Obama campaign in turn says Romney’s debt-reduction proposals fail because of their vagueness. In fairness, and as Defense News has noted, the current GOP candidate is not offering particularly fewer details on defense than did candidate Obama in 2008.

But there are few endeavors in the world more complex than setting the U.S. defense budget. To seek to index it to GDP says much the same thing as — in Jerry Seinfeld’s words — wearing sweat pants around town: “I give up.”