FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would stop "reckless defense cuts" from taking effect next year, his running mate, Paul Ryan, told a group of veterans and defense industry insiders in Fayetteville on Thursday.
Ryan and 2nd District Congresswoman Renee Ellmers held a roundtable discussion about defense spending at the Partnership for Defense Innovation.
So-called sequestration cuts are to occur Jan. 2 unless Congress and President Barack Obama can agree on a deficit-cutting budget before then. The cuts would include about $55 billion from defense and another $55 billion from domestic programs.
Similar cuts would then take effect annually over the next decade.
Both Ryan and Ellmers said the Republican-led U.S. House has passed a proposal to cut other federal spending so that defense spending can be spared from the sequestration. But the effort has gotten nowhere in the Senate, they said.
"The Senate has done nothing. The president has proposed no solution," Ryan said.
Romney believes that maintaining a strong defense is a top priority for the government and would work to get a balanced budget passed, Ryan said. Not doing so puts the military at risk, he said.
"The only way we maintain this exceptional nation – this American idea – is because our veterans have time and again, generation after generation, secured it for us," he said. "It's our duty to preserve this legacy, to support our voluntary (military) force of men and women ... and not let them be pawns in a political game."
Retired four-star Gen. Dan McNeill, who was part of the roundtable discussion, said the federal deficit needs to be reined in but not at the expense of harming the armed forces.
"Don't go so recklessly and so deep and in such an uncontrolled way that you do harm to an institution that has shown itself to be invaluable to America and does it with pennies on the dollar," McNeill said.
Ryan said mandatory defense cuts could cost 55,000 jobs in North Carolina.
"Our own neighbors, our own families will experience this because it will mean loss of jobs to our communities and devastation to our communities," Ellmers said. "We have got to make the right decisions for this country, and we need real leadership to do that."
Many in the invited crowd of about 100 said they backed Ryan's position on heading off the sequestration cuts.
"As a lifelong resident of Fayetteville, I know what this military community means to our community, and we've got to protect that," Hutch Hutchens said.
The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Ryan is seeking to build momentum for the Romney-Ryan ticket in the days before the Republican National Convention in Florida, where they'll accept the nomination for president and vice president.
North Carolina is considered a competitive state as President Barack Obama won the state's 15 electoral votes in 2008 and will accept his party nomination in Charlotte after Labor Day.