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Public Statements

Executive Session

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. AYOTTE. I thank Senator McCain for his leadership as the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. No one knows these issues better in the Senate than John McCain. So it is an honor be here with him, and also my colleague Senator Thune, with whom I serve on the Budget Committee. Senator Thune has been very concerned about the impacts of sequestration on our national security. I call sequestration the biggest national security threat you have never heard of. The American people need to know this threat to their national security, to the protection of our country, which is our fundamental responsibility under the Constitution.

I fully support the amendment Senator McCain has brought forward on the farm bill that he championed, along with Senator Levin, on the Defense authorization, because we can't afford to keep hiding the details of what will happen to our Department of Defense and our military if sequestration goes forward.

To be clear, as Senator Thune has already identified, the Department of Defense is taking significant reductions. In the proposed 2013 budget from the President, the Department will take approximately $487 billion in reductions over the next 9 years. That already means a reduction of approximately 72,000 of our Army and a reduction of 20,000 of our Marine Corps. But what we are here talking about today is an additional $500 billion to $600 billion in reductions coming in January of 2013 that the American people need to know about, and our Department of Defense should clearly identify what is going to happen with those reductions.

But here is what we do know. As Senator McCain and Senator Thune have already talked about, our Secretary of Defense has warned that these cuts will be devastating; that they will be catastrophic; that we will be shooting ourselves in the head if we did this for our national security; that we would be undermining our national security for generations.

This is what it means, and what our service chiefs have told us so far about the preliminary assessments of sequestration:

For our Army, what they have said is an additional 100,000 reduction in our Army, 50 percent coming from the Guard and Reserve, on top of the 72,000 coming in the proposed 2013 budget. That would result in our ground forces being reduced to the smallest size since before World War II.

For the Navy, our current fleet is 285 and the Navy has said previously that we need 313 ships. If sequestration goes forward the Navy has said that our fleet will have to shrink to between 230 to 235 ships and submarines. At a time when China is investing more and more in their navy, where we have increased our defense focus in our national security strategy on the Asian Pacific region, it would make that increased focus a mockery, truthfully, if we allowed sequestration to go forward.

We have heard the same from our Marine Corps. What the Marine Corps has said about sequestration every Member of Congress should be concerned about. The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps has said if sequestration goes forward, it is an additional 18,000 reduction in our Marine Corps, and that the Marines would be incapable of conducting a single major contingency operation. Think about it: The Marine Corps of the United States of America incapable of responding to a single major contingency operation. This is at a time when the threats to our country have not diminished. This is at a time when we

still have men and women, as we sit here today, who are serving us admirably in Afghanistan.

And, by the way, OMB has already said that the OCO--or war funding--will not be exempt from sequestration.

We owe it to our men and women who are in the field right now to make sure they have the support they need and deserve from this Congress.

When we look at where we are, this is not just about our national defense. But you would think that being about our national defense, our foremost responsibility in Congress, would be enough to bring everyone to the table right now to resolve this, regardless of whatever your party affiliation is. But this is also an issue about jobs, because the estimates are, in terms of the job impact in this country, George Mason University estimates that over 1 million jobs will be lost in this country over 1 year due to sequestration. And that is just looking at research and development and procurement.

Well, let's talk about some of the States that will be impacted, because every one of my colleagues represents a State in this Chamber that will be impacted by the jobs at issue.

We look at where our economy is right now, and yet we continue not to address this fundamental issue of sequestration when 1 million jobs are at stake.

For Virginia, the estimate is 123,000 jobs; Florida, 39,000 jobs; Ohio, 18,000 jobs; North Carolina, 11,000 jobs; Connecticut, 34,000 jobs; Pennsylvania, 36,000 jobs. In my small State of New Hampshire, it is projected that we will lose approximately 3,300 jobs.

So not only is this a national security issue, but we are also talking about our defense industrial base. And once we lose much of the talent in that industrial base, it doesn't necessarily come back. We have many small employers who can't sustain these cuts, who will go bankrupt, and won't be able to come back. And once they are gone, we lose their expertise and the U.S. military becomes more reliant on foreign suppliers.

In fact, the CEO of Lockheed Martin has said recently:

The very prospect of sequestration is already having a chilling effect on the industry. We're not going to hire. We're not going to make speculative investments. We're not going to invest in incremental training, because the uncertainty associated with 53 billion of reductions in the first fiscal quarter of next year is a huge disruption to our business.

To my colleagues who think we can kick this can down the road until after the elections, please understand that when it comes to jobs, these defense employers have a responsibility under Federal law, what is called the WARN Act, to notify their employees if they are going to be laid off at least 60 days before a layoff will occur.

What that means is there could be hundreds of thousands of WARN Act notices going out, likely before the election in November, letting people across this country know that they may lose their job because Congress has not come forward and addressed this fundamental issue to our national security right now.

In conclusion--and I know Senator Thune is supportive of this. I am the cosponsor of a bill along with Senator McCain and others that comes up with savings to deal with the first year of sequestration, and I would ask every Member of this Chamber: Let's sit down and resolve this. We do need to cut spending, and we should find these savings. It is important to deal with our debt. But let's make sure we find savings that don't devastate our national security or undermine our national security for generations or hollow out our force, as our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said about sequestration. I would urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, let's sit down now and resolve this issue on behalf of our most important responsibility, which is to protect the American people from the threats that still remain around the world and are very real. We have seen it with Iran trying to acquire the capability of a nuclear weapon. It still remains a very challenging time, and we need to protect our country from the threats we face.

I thank my colleague Senator Thune, and I turn it back to him.

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Ms. AYOTTE. I would say to my colleague from South Dakota, you are absolutely right. It is outrageous that it has been over 1,100 days that we have not had a budget in the Senate. In the Budget Committee that we both serve on, the Senator and I are anxious to resolve the big fiscal issues facing our country.

I agree with the Senator from South Dakota, if we did that function of budgeting, we wouldn't be in this position where we have put our national security at risk because we are not taking on the big-picture fiscal issue to get our fiscal house in order in Washington and make sure we reform mandatory spending so those programs are sustainable and available for future generations. So here we are.

Not only do I serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, but I am the wife of a veteran. It is astounding to me that we would put our national security at risk rather than doing our jobs, putting together a budget that is
responsible and proportional. That is one of the underlying reasons why we find ourselves in the position we are right now.
I ask my colleague from South Dakota, as Commander in Chief, the President has a responsibility on this very important issue. It is such an important and weighty responsibility as President of the United States to be Commander in Chief. Where is the President on these issues?

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Ms. AYOTTE. I ask Senator Thune, is this not so important when we think about the impact on our national security that now we hear from the President that Members on both sides of the aisle should sit down instead of kicking this can beyond the elections?

What I have heard from our employers is that they will have to make decisions now that could impact our defense industrial base. We are talking about shipbuilders, we are talking about experts, small businesses that work in this area. Once those jobs go away in terms of a small business, such as a sole supplier on one of our major procurement programs, which happens quite often, that expertise goes away. We don't immediately pull that back. So we are talking about an estimate of 1 million jobs, and the private sector can't wait for us to resolve this until after the election. They need us to resolve this now. In my view, our military can't wait until after the election, nor should our military be put in that position. They should know that we are going to resolve this because we want to keep faith with them. We do not want to hollow out our force. We do not want to put them at risk. So, on a bipartisan basis, this is a critical issue to resolve before the election. I wondered what my colleague's view was on that.

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