NBC News   |  October 22, 2012

'Horses and bayonets'? A squabble on military spending

The president and Mitt Romney debate the best strategy for keeping the military strong.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> talk about military spending , and that's it.

>> 30 seconds.

>> our navy is older -- excuse me, our navy is smaller now since 1917 . the navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. we're now down to 285. we're headed down to the low 200s if we go through with sequestration. that's unacceptable to me. i want to make sure that we have the ships that are required by our navy. our air force is older and smaller than any time since it was founded in 1947 . we've changed for the first time since fdr, since fdr, we've always had the strategy of saying we could fight in two conflicts at once. now we're changing to one conflict. look, this, in my view, is the highest responsibility of the president of the united states , which is to maintain the safety of the american people . and i will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars, which is the combination of the budget cuts that the president has as well as the sequestration cuts. that, in my view, is making our future less certain and less secure.

>> bob, i just need to comment on this. first of all, the sequester is not something i proposed. it's something congress has proposed. it will not happen. the budget that we're talking about is not reducing our military spending . it's maintaining it. but i think governor romney maybe hasn't spent enough time looking at how our military works. you mentioned the navy and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916 . governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonnets because it's changed. we have aircraft carriers where planes land on them. we have ships that go under water, nuclear submarines. and so the question is not a game of battleship where we're counting ships, it's what are our capabilities? and so when i sit down with the secretary of the navy and the joint chiefs of staff , we determine how are we going to be best able to meet all of our defense needs in a way that also keeps faith with our troops, that also makes sure that our veterans have the kind of support that they need when they come home. and that is not reflected in the kind of budget that you're putting forward because it just doesn't work.