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Romney Misstates Timing of Obama Defense Spending Cuts on F-22 and Ships

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney misspoke when he said the Obama administration already was reducing defense programs as part of the first installment of deficit reduction cuts, according to a review of the record.

The former Massachusetts governor, in the Nov. 22 Republican debate, listed the Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) F-22 fighter, a Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. aircraft carrier, a next-generation CG(X) Navy cruiser and a new Air Force long- range bomber as being cut or delayed.

“Let’s just talk about what they’re cutting with the first $350 billion, not the next 600 which is coming down the road,” Romney said in a reference to a combined almost $1 trillion in potential defense budget cuts over 10 years, the result of the failure of Congress’s supercommittee to draft an alternative deficit-reduction plan.

“The first $350 billion, what do they cut? They stopped the F-22. They delayed aircraft carriers. They stopped the Navy cruiser system. They said long-range Air Force bombers aren’t going to be built. The list goes on,” he said at the debate in Washington sponsored by CNN, the Heritage Foundation and American Enterprise Institute.

“They’re cutting programs that are cutting the capacity of America to defend itself,” Romney said.

While correct about the F-22, cruiser and bomber decisions, they predate the Budget Control Act, which was signed in August. No decision has been announced on delaying production of additional aircraft carriers.

Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul didn’t return an e-mail seeking comment.

No Decisions Yet

The Pentagon hasn’t yet completed a review of how to meet what it says is $450 billion in initial cuts -- not $350 billion as Romney said -- due to the Budget Control Act. The Office of Management and Budget is using the lower number as its baseline for initial “national security” cuts, with about $330 billion for the Pentagon.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates in April 2009 truncated to 187 jets the F-22 program. He canceled the long-range bomber only to allow the Air Force to resurrect it as a “family of long-range systems.” The Pentagon has requested $2 billion for fiscal 2012 and $18 billion through 2021 for the strike family.

Gates in April 2009 also delayed action on the “next generation cruiser.” The Navy, citing “affordability considerations,” canceled it in the fiscal 2011 budget. The money was reallocated for buying as many as 33 additional upgraded DDG-51 destroyers through 2031, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The actions Romney cited “are not related to the Budget Control Act in any way,” said Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst for the nonpartisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

“These things have already been done and the savings have already been reinvested in defense,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Capaccio in Washington at acapaccio@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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