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Romney would boost Pentagon spending, cut civilian workers-advisers

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* Focus on building more ships a year

* Romney would work on new bomber, F-35

* Republican wants 4 pct of GDP for defense

By Andrea Shalal-Esa

WASHINGTON, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Republican Mitt Romney wouldaccelerate spending on new U.S. Navy warships, cut thePentagon's civilian workforce and speed up development of newweapons systems if he wins the 2012 presidential election, twoadvisers said on Thursday.

Dov Zakheim, who was Pentagon comptroller under PresidentGeorge W. Bush, and his son, Roger Zakheim, who is on leave asdeputy staff director of the House Armed Services Committee,sketched out Romney's priorities at a meeting with reporters.

They said he would fund 15 warships a year -- up from ninein the latest request from the Obama administration -- as earlyas 2015; focus on development of a new bomber, and continue workon the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Romney insisted during the first presidential debate withPresident Barack Obama that he would increase military spending,but big weapons makers like Lockheed, Boeing Co , andNorthrop Grumman Corp are anxiously awaiting details.

Defense stocks could get a short-term boost if Romney winsthe election, said Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha.But he said even a Republican president would have to deal withthe widening federal deficit and conservatives who are moreconcerned about cutting deficits than expanding defense.

"I don't know if I'd start a business model that starts tothink about industry growth just yet," Callan said.

ROMNEY PLEDGES 4 PCT OF GDP

Romney has vowed to halt $500 billion in defense budget cutsdue to start taking effect on Jan. 2, reductions that would comeon top of $487 billion in cuts to proposed spending that arealready slated to take effect over the next decade.

The White House also opposes the cuts, but says it is up toCongress to find other ways to cut the deficit.

The advisers said Romney would dedicate 4 percent of U.S.gross domestic product to the Pentagon's base budget.

They also challenged Democratic estimates that Romneyplanned a $2 trillion buildup in military spending. "We're notgoing to come with this massive supplemental," Dov Zakheim said,noting that current military spending was about 4.2 percent,including funding for the war in Afghanistan.

Dov Zakheim identified two of Romney's closest advisers ondefense as former Navy Secretary John Lehman and former MissouriSenator Jim Talent, both of whom have advocated for increasedmilitary spending. But he said Romney was someone who gathered alot of disparate opinions before making up his own mind.

"If you look at the debate, look at the speeches, this is aguy that you can't pin down," he said, noting that Romney wasnot closely identified with neo-conservatives who opposed modestdefense cuts proposed by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

He said the former governor of Massachusetts also interactedwith two of the biggest U.S. defense contractors, Raytheon Co, which is based in Waltham, and BAE Systems ,which employs many Massachusetts residents at its Nashua, NewHampshire plant, Zakheim said.

Both advisers said Romney would bring his business expertiseto running the Pentagon, increasing competition, acceleratingdevelopment efforts that often drag on for a decade or more, andusing larger orders to lower unit costs.

For instance, they said, he plans to fund threeVirginia-class submarines a year instead of two, a move thatwould be welcomed by shipbuilders General Dynamics Corpand Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc .

They said a growing economy would help fund the extraspending, and said Romney would also shift money out of"entitlement" programs in favor of defense.

At the same time, they said Romney would give companies more"predictability" by halting cuts in defense programs, cuttingthe Pentagon's expanding civilian workforce and what he hasdescribed as its "bloated bureaucracy," while also tacklingrising military health care costs.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

((andrea.shalal-esa@thomsonreuters.com)(202-321-7839))

Keywords: USA CAMPAIGN/ROMNEY DEFENSE