The Gazette: A call for transparency when dealing with sequestration

July 18, 2012
In The News


At a time when our nation faces unprecedented annual deficits and a crushing debt burden, it is clear we have tough spending choices to make. What should be equally clear is that those cuts must not jeopardize our national security. Next January, at the president’s insistence, we will be forced to make arbitrary and reckless cuts to our nation’s defense.

Over the next few months, you may hear a great deal of talk about sequestration. It all goes back to the Budget Control Act of a year ago, which I opposed because I saw much of this coming. Sequestration would arbitrarily cut the defense budget by an additional $55 billion in 2013. It would set in motion an additional $492 billion in cuts on top of the $487 billion already scheduled over the next 10 years.

Earlier this year, the House passed a bill to avert these reckless cuts. The Budget Reconciliation Act would have replaced arbitrary defense cuts with common sense spending reforms that eliminate waste, fraud and abuse. The Senate failed to even debate the proposal, and the president threatened to veto it.

As things stand now, in less than six months our military will be forced to slash spending by 10 percent - without any guidance from the administration on what to cut and what to keep. Congress has repeatedly asked President Obama to put forward a clear plan for how these cuts will impact our veterans, military families, our bases, the defense industry and our national security.

Unfortunately, the administration has persistently refused to provide basic details about the arbitrary cuts required by the sequester. As a result, Congress will take up a bill forcing the administration to put a plan in place to give the American people and our military troops answers about what’s coming in January. The Sequestration Transparency Act would require the president to submit a report to Congress that includes an estimate of the sequestration percentages and amounts necessary to achieve the mandatory reduction. It also makes important information available to the public.

However, we do know that these automatic, across-the-board defense cuts would reduce funding to programs next year with little or no regard to their strategic importance. Any consideration of a prudent prioritization of our defense requirements based on a threat-based strategy would be gone. Senior civilian and military defense officials use terms such as "unpalatable option," "catastrophic damage," to describe defense sequestration. Regardless of one’s personal views on the priorities of government spending and the federal deficit, very few could argue that sequestration is sound policy.

The 2012 defense budget reductions combined with deeper cuts triggered by sequester will have indirect effects which we are only beginning to understand. Defense companies and their suppliers, faced with decreased or delayed defense purchases, will have to consider whether continued defense work is still a viable pursuit. Many will have no choice but to abandon the defense sector for more stable work. Companies will close. Thousands of jobs will be lost.

The CEO of Lockheed Martin has warned that the across-the-board cuts dictated by sequestration could actually cost the government more than the purported savings. This is because Lockheed will potentially be unable to fulfill contracts with its 40,000 suppliers, who will each have a claim for damages that the federal government ultimately has to pay.

The aerospace and defense industries, which generate $215 billion in revenue and tens of billions in exports, and which employ millions of Americans, will face an uncertain future. A sequester would not only weaken our nation, but would derail any hope of an economic recovery.

Though Congress is divided, we must overcome our differences to protect our national defense. We must agree on sensible ways to reduce spending and encourage economic growth while not compromising our national security in the process.

At the very least, if cuts are to be made, they must be done with the full knowledge of the American people. My colleagues and I in the House are simply asking President Obama to put forward a plan that will give the American people answers and certainty about looming defense cuts.

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