By Representative Joe Wilson
President Ronald Reagan's approach to protecting our national security was to provide peace through strength. The United States military has successfully remained the most superior power in the world by practicing this theory. Due to the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 last July, the Department of Defense is expected to suffer an automatic across-the-board $500 billion budget cut. These cuts will not be used to reduce our growing national deficit, but instead will be shifted from defense to other departments and agencies. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned that such a drastic decrease will result in the smallest Navy since the beginning of World War I, smallest Army and Marine Corps since the beginning of World War II and the smallest Air Force since it was created. Not only will these cuts threaten our national security, military strength, and defense capabilities, it will also destroy approximately one million jobs across our country while sending a message to enemies we lack resolve to resist their attacks.
In terms of overall defense spending, South Carolina ranks eleventh nationally as it is 5.7 percent of our gross domestic product. Because of its large military presence, South Carolina's economy is heavily influenced by the defense industry. In 2013 alone, our State could lose up to $481 million in defense contracts and our military personnel may decrease by 7,500. If the sequestration budget cuts go into full affect, thousands of private sector jobs will be destroyed. Earlier this year, I held a Sequestration Roundtable Discussion in Columbia, and heard concerns from business people and community leaders across our State who are worried about the real threat sequestration will have on our economy. Companies such as Fluor and Lockheed Martin will be forced to lay off hardworking employees due to the loss of these contracts. Hotel owners, restaurateurs, and other tourism industry professionals will feel the burn as well because fewer military personnel will need their services. And the list goes on with bipartisan concern.
Our state is not alone. Last week, the National Association of Manufactures released a report stating that up to one million jobs, 750,000 within the private sector are at risk of being slashed by 2014 if these budget cuts are not prevented. Many employers within the defense industry are already planning to issue layoff notices if sequestration is not dealt with quickly. Lockheed Martin has publicly stated, "we will find it necessary to issue these [layoff] notices probably to the vast majority of our employee base." Studies show that these job losses could influence our nation's economy so much so that our unemployment rate may potentially increase by a full percentage point catastrophically affecting families. Servicemembers, military families, and veterans are under attack by this Administration.
Sequestration will have a devastating affect on South Carolina and our country as a whole. Many people wrongly assume that if you do not live close to a military base, your local economy will not be affected. Nothing could be further from the truth. In South Carolina, it is not the 2nd Congressional district, the area I am proud to represent, with Fort Jackson that will be affected most. No, it is the 4th Congressional district, which contains many businesses and industries that do a significant amount of work with the Department of Defense. The 4th Congressional district contains no military bases but the affects of sequestration will be devastating to the local economies of Greenville and Spartanburg.
The national unemployment rate has remained at or above eight percent for the last forty months. When the president lobbied Congress to pass his nearly trillion dollar-spending bill, he promised the American people that our unemployment rate would not exceed eight percent. His promise could not be further from the truth. Over the past three years, the president has contributed over five trillion dollars to our national debt, more than all previous presidents combined, by spending our hard-earned taxpayer dollars on unnecessary programs and increasing government involvement in our everyday lives. And now, the president is going to continue advancing his job destroying, out of control spending policies by refusing to prevent the sequester from occurring. This decision is absolutely irresponsible and reckless.
Maintaining a strong and secure national defense should be the most important focus of the federal government. Sadly, the president and the liberal-controlled Senate do not believe this to be true. House Republicans have passed bipartisan legislation preventing these sequestration cuts from occurring. In May, the House passed H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012 which protects the Department of Defense from experiencing such significant defense cuts from taking place by providing offsets from unnecessary government programs. However, this bill remains stalled in the Senate just like the dozens of bipartisan job-creations bills the House has passed over the past year and a half. It is my hope that the Senate and the President will act quickly and repeal the sequester, rather than idly stand by and allow it to occur.
Rep. Wilson (R-S.C.) is a member of the House Armed Services Committee.