A study released last week by the National Association of Manufacturers indicates that across-the-board budget cuts to the Department of Defense scheduled to begin in January 2013 would cost approximately 1 million jobs at a time when the nation's unemployment has remained at or above 8 percent for 40 consecutive months. According to the NAM study, Illinois, with its 8.6 percent unemployment rate, is among the top 10 states to be impacted by job losses, with more than 35,400 jobs on the line in the next two years alone.
With the support of Congressman Bobby Schilling (IL-17) the House of Representatives in May passed H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, which would provide mandatory spending cuts to reduce the deficit and replace automatic cuts to discretionary spending in 2013 under the Budget Control Act. It also passed H.R. 4310, the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. To date, the Senate has passed neither.
This month House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Buck McKeon (CA-25) and Chairman of the HASC Subcommittee on Readiness, Congressman Randy Forbes (VA-04) joined Schilling in western and northern Illinois for discussions on the region's defense manufacturing capabilities and how local communities will be impacted by defense cuts if sequestration is not avoided. For more information on these discussions and the impact of massive cuts to defense on our region, see the Quad-City Times and the Rockford Register Star.
Schilling, a member of HASC, today released the following statement urging the United States Senate to take immediate action to preserve Illinois jobs and our national security:
"For 50 years in a row, the Congress has approved a defense authorization bill. But in recent years, passage of that bill has become further and further delayed. We in the House approved our bill before Memorial Day, yet as we approach the 4th of July the Senate has still not scheduled time for floor consideration of this vital legislation.
"Congressman Loebsack and I have succeeded in winning key provisions to help increase the Rock Island Arsenal's ability to grow its workload and ensure that the Department of Defense recognizes in its overarching national security strategy the critical manufacturing work done at facilities like the Rock Island Arsenal. The full Senate has yet to act.
"The military's manufacturing base plays a fundamental role in our national security. In Iraq in 2004, for example, the Rock Island Arsenal was able to respond to the enemy threat from Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) by up-armoring our HUMVEES in as little as one-third of the time it would have taken the private sector because the necessary design, modeling, and manufacturing expertise was already operating and integrated at the Arsenal. Countless lives were saved because our military could turn to the Rock Island Arsenal rather than wait for the private sector to design a solution.
"However, this critical manufacturing base is at risk not only because the Senate has not yet passed its NDAA but also because the Senate's inaction on sequestration threatens to further reduce meaningful defense programs that support the arsenal.
"The Budget Control Act charged a "Super Committee' with recommending $1.2 trillion in savings or risk mandatory, across-the-board cuts known as "sequestration.' The Super Committee could not agree on spending reductions, but since then the House of Representatives has passed another annual budget, as required by law, as well as an alternate plan to achieve the savings we need to avoid an even greater debt crisis. The Senate remains unwilling to act.
"The cost of this failure is well documented: $50,000 of debt per American and rising. With 10 kids and two grandkids, that's over half a million dollars in national debt just sitting at our dinner table every Sunday.
"Less documented is the cost of looming sequestration. Instead of working with the House on specific reductions and reforms to wasteful, outdated, or duplicative programs, the Senate is happy to risk slashing every program equally -- valuable or not. This will protect spending that is not in the national interest, and devastate critical programs that can't afford further cuts.
"Although national defense accounts for 20 percent of our spending, after sequestration it will have suffered more than 50 percent of the spending cuts. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says this is "their share of the burden,' but I disagree. Our military and their families have borne their fair share.
"Sequestration will mean fewer personnel and therefore longer and more frequent deployments; antiquated technology on the battlefield; and permanent loss of critical civilian expertise on our assembly lines, in our labs, and on our testing ranges at facilities like the Rock Island Arsenal, all of which pose a serious threat to our nation's defense.
"The House of Representatives has offered a plan to avoid these devastating cuts to our national defense. But the House cannot do it alone. It is time for the Senate -- especially the leadership of the Senate -- to step up.
"I remember how long it took President Reagan to rebuild our military after the post-Vietnam cuts. I urge those who care about the future of the Rock Island Arsenal, our region's remarkable defense manufacturing capabilities, and our national defense to speak up and make your voices heard. These cuts are avoidable, but only if our leaders put partisan politics aside, come together, and do the job they were elected to do for our community, our state, and the security of our great nation.
"Last year I voted for the Budget Control Act to change business as usual in Washington. After years of both parties increasing our debt limit with no plan and no cuts, we passed a bipartisan bill to avoid default, cut spending, and change business as usual. I hoped that after two and a half years of failing to do its job and pass a budget, the Senate would finally join the House, face reality, and do the tough work necessary to get our financial house in order, our economy back on track, and Americans back to work. Unbelievably, the Senate continues to be content to fail.
"The Senate has gone more than three years without a budget. They are sitting on more than 25 bipartisan House-passed jobs bills and have failed to advance a single appropriations bill this year. The Senate showed no willingness to make meaningful spending reductions during the Super Committee process. The Senate has yet to pass its version of this year's defense bill, and now, with the meat cleaver hanging over the Department of Defense and by extension the hard-working men and women at the RIA, the Senate is once again A.W.O.L. We need to get the Senate to work for the American people."