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Under pressure from Romney, Obama says military sequester won't happen

President Obama said flatly that sequestration "will not happen” as he defended against attacks from Mitt Romney over defense cuts at Monday’s debate.

Romney accused Obama of allowing the military to be cut to historically low levels through $1 trillion in cuts set to occur over the next decade because of last year’s Budget Control Act and sequestration.

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“Our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1916,” Romney said. “The Navy said it needed 313 ships, now it’s down to 285, and it’s headed down to the low 200s if we go through sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me.”

Obama responded by saying that sequestration happened because of Congress, not through his administration, and that it would not happen.

"First of all, the sequester is not something that I've proposed. It is something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen," Obama said. 

Obama also counter-punched against Romney’s criticism over the number of ships and planes with a zinger about increases in military capabilities.

"We also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines," Obama said. 

"The question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting slips," the president added, referring to the famous board game.

Obama and Republicans have sparred over who is to blame for sequestration throughout the campaign. Republicans have called them “Obama’s defense cuts” and say that he’s willing to cut the military to win tax increases. Obama argues that congressional Republicans are to blame by protecting tax cuts for the wealthy.

Neither Republicans nor Democrats want sequestration, which includes $500 billion in defense cuts and $500 billion in domestic cuts, set to take effect starting in 2013. But the parties are deadlocked in a dispute over taxes that has prevented them from reaching a deal to avoid the mandatory cuts.

While Obama stated the cuts will not happen, the cuts are the law and will take effect Jan. 2 unless Congress passes a new law. Obama himself has threatened to veto any law that doesn’t replace sequestration with alternate deficit reduction.

Romney said that as president he would not cut the military. He said that to pay for increase in military spending, which he has proposed setting at 4 percent of GDP, he would cut the rest of the discretionary budget by 5 percent.

Obama criticized Romney for increasing the military budget by $2 trillion that he says the “generals do not want,” saying that Romney will not be able to pay for the increases and hasn’t laid out where the additional spending would go.

Of course, it was Obama as president who nominated the generals running the Pentagon.