To the extent that there is a difference in foreign policy between the two Presidential candidates at this point, it’s that Mitt Romney wants to implement the same exact policies as Barack Obama, but just spend $2 trillion more on defense contracting to carry it out.

The $2 trillion number derives from Romney’s vow, listed right on his website, to never let defense spending fall below 4% of GDP. If you do the math, and compare that to the Obama Administration’s 10-year projection of the military budget, you get a difference of $2 trillion. The military’s own budget requests match the President’s projection, so Romney is really a $2 trillion outlier.

The real question becomes, since Romney and Obama have now shown themselves to carry the same strategy on foreign affairs, what would we spend the extra $2 trillion on? And the answer is that there’s no real answer.

Romney’s not said exactly what he wants to do with it. He wants to add 100,000 soldiers and accelerate shipbuilding, but that doesn’t come to $2 trillion. So aside from more money on defense, it’s a bit hard to say what his vision for the military is. “The plan proceeds from a strategic worldview that more is better,” says Heather Hurlburt, director of the National Security Network. “But if you want to get more detailed about what they’d do with those troops, they just haven’t really said. You can’t say they subscribe to doctrine X that was elucidated by admiral Y in 1952. There’s nothing like that.”

Romney elaborated in the debate last night that he would change military readiness strategy to enable the United States to fight two wars at once. No word yet on whom. And I guess if you stockpile enough expensive weapons and hire enough contractors, you could reach the $2 trillion threshold without much trouble. This is great news for contractors, but considering that it’s just a cost overrun, when you consider that the same strategy could be had for $2 trillion less, it’s bad news for pretty much anyone who pays taxes.

To the extent that there is a difference in foreign policy between the two Presidential candidates at this point, it’s that Mitt Romney wants to implement the same exact policies as Barack Obama, but just spend $2 trillion more on defense contracting to carry it out.

The $2 trillion number derives from Romney’s vow, listed right on his website, to never let defense spending fall below 4% of GDP. If you do the math, and compare that to the Obama Administration’s 10-year projection of the military budget, you get a difference of $2 trillion. The military’s own budget requests match the President’s projection, so Romney is really a $2 trillion outlier.

The real question becomes, since Romney and Obama have now shown themselves to carry the same strategy on foreign affairs, what would we spend the extra $2 trillion on? And the answer is that there’s no real answer.

Romney’s not said exactly what he wants to do with it. He wants to add 100,000 soldiers and accelerate shipbuilding, but that doesn’t come to $2 trillion. So aside from more money on defense, it’s a bit hard to say what his vision for the military is. “The plan proceeds from a strategic worldview that more is better,” says Heather Hurlburt, director of the National Security Network. “But if you want to get more detailed about what they’d do with those troops, they just haven’t really said. You can’t say they subscribe to doctrine X that was elucidated by admiral Y in 1952. There’s nothing like that.”

Romney elaborated in the debate last night that he would change military readiness strategy to enable the United States to fight two wars at once. No word yet on whom. And I guess if you stockpile enough expensive weapons and hire enough contractors, you could reach the $2 trillion threshold without much trouble. This is great news for contractors, but considering that it’s just a cost overrun, when you consider that the same strategy could be had for $2 trillion less, it’s bad news for pretty much anyone who pays taxes.

In recent days, Romney advisors have cast the 4% of GDP floor on military spending as an aspirational goal, which is what they do every time they want to fudge the specifics. But they haven’t let go of the goal itself, which would of course be welcomed on Capitol Hill by members of Congress with defense contractors and factories in their districts, in other words all of them.

Mitt Romney would return the US to a situation where we spend more on our military than every other country in the world combined. In his view we cannot get away with spending slightly less on our military than every other country in the world combined.

Incidentally, my sense is that eventually, when you spend that much money on fancy hardware, you use it, if only to justify the expense.

David Dayen

David Dayen