Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan says that he can't figure out what President Barack Obama meant when he mocked Mitt Romney's complaint about the Navy's smaller fleet of ships by saying "we also have fewer horses and bayonets."

During the third 2012 presidential debate, Romney had criticized Obama because "our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission, we’re not down to 285. We’re headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration. That’s unacceptable to me."

In response, Obama promised that military spending would not be cut, adding, "I think Gov. Romney maybe hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works. You mentioned the Navy, for example. And that we have fewer ships that we had in 1916. Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed."

"We have these things called aircraft carriers where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines. And so, the question is not a game of Battleship where we’re counting ships, it’s what are our capabilities?"

Appearing on CBS the next morning, Ryan told host Norah O'Donnell that he couldn't make sense out of the "horses and bayonets" line.

"To compare modern American battleships with bayonets, I just don't understand that comparison," the Wisconsin Republican said. "Look, we have to have a strong Navy to keep peace and prosperity."

"If all these defense cuts go through, our Navy will be small than it was before World War I," Ryan continued. "That's not acceptable. And, yes, the ocean hasn't shrunk."

In an interview on ABC, Vice President Joe Biden explained to host George Stephanopoulos that the president had told "the truth, that one aircraft carrier is probably more powerful than the entire United States Navy was back then."

"Our Navy is superior to every other navy in the world combined," the vice president pointed out. "In one aircraft carrier, we have more air power than almost every nation in the world has in their air force."

Biden said that he "felt a little badly" for Romney because he showed "it's clear he is not ready to be the commander in chief of the United States military. He demonstrated a lack of sophistication about what is going on in the world."

Watch this video from CBS' The Early Show, broadcast Oct. 23, 2012.