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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, if the Senator will yield, first of all, I thank the Senator for his eloquent statement on behalf of those who have served and sacrificed.
Since we will all be spread around at different places over the Fourth of July and celebrating our independence, I think those are very appropriate and moving words.
I am reminded of the saying at the battlefield, written:
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent for a brief colloquy with the Senator from South Carolina.
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Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, we are also facing another crisis as far as the military is concerned; that is, the looming prospect of sequestration. The Secretary of Defense has stated that sequestration would have a ``devastating impact'' on our national security. We are talking about layoffs, and some estimates are of as many as 1 million workers in the defense industry. We are looking at unknown effects of the strategic thinking that goes on as we plan to defend our Nation's security--for example, our shift in emphasis from Europe to Asia Pacific, which requires significant air and naval assets amongst other things.
I would ask my colleague--I am not sure the American people are fully aware of the effects of something that is supposed to take effect, as I understand it, at the
beginning of the next fiscal year, which would be the beginning of October 2012. Is that a correct statement, I would ask my colleague?
Mr. GRAHAM. Yes, it is.
Mr. McCAIN. So we are asking the Defense Department to plan on what our force structure will be, what our mission will be, what our capabilities will be, beginning the first of October, and all I can see so far is total gridlock on this issue.
Now, if somebody wants to say it is our fault because we refused to ``raise revenues'' or because of the other side's insistence on that and a resistance to spending cuts, I say to my colleague, I do not think people understand we still live in a very dangerous world. The Senator just talked about those who have already sacrificed. Don't we owe it to them and their families to stop something that all of us agree would have a catastrophic impact on our ability to defend this Nation?
Isn't it true--would the Senator agree--that it is time we sat down and started having serious negotiations, because there is no greater responsibility the Congress and the people's representatives have than to defend the security of this Nation?
I know the Senator from South Carolina--before I ask him to answer--traveled around his State, which I intend to do, to the various military installations and talked about what would happen with this sequestration. We are talking about a very limited period of time. We are about to go out of session. We will be in during the month of July--most of the month of July--and probably the month of September. End of story.
Mr. KYL. Mr. President, might I ask my colleague to yield, if I could add one other question to his very important question for my colleague from South Carolina.
I have a recollection that during one of the hearings the Senator from South Carolina specifically asked the Secretary of Defense what the consequence would be, and I recall he had a very dramatic response. I wonder if the Senator might share that with us as well.
Mr. McCAIN. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that Senator Kyl be included in the colloquy.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. GRAHAM. Well, one, I hope my colleagues will stay around for a minute or two because this is an important topic to be talking about.
Let me put this in the perspective of what we are trying to do and what we are trying to avoid. We are about $16 trillion in debt. There is probably no stronger defense supporters in the Congress than Jon Kyl and John McCain.
The Senator just spoke of war. John McCain has seen his fair share of war. I think he understands as well as anybody in this body--probably better than most--what happens in war. People get hurt and people get killed and anybody who has been in the military is no fan of war. But the goal sometimes is to make sure those who are asked to fight a particular war can fight it quickly, overwhelmingly, win, and come home.
What we are doing is trying to get out of debt. The three of us are pretty big defense hawks, but we have all agreed the Pentagon has to reduce their spending too. I think all of us--particularly Senator McCain--believe there is a lot of waste in the Pentagon and that we could achieve $50 billion in savings over the next decade by reforming the way the Pentagon does business and, quite frankly, do more with less. So count us all in--the three of us--for reducing defense spending to help get us out of debt.
But here is what has us all upset. The supercommittee that was formed by the Budget Control Act had a mission of cutting $1.2 trillion over a decade to help get us out of debt. That is a pretty small number given what we are going to spend over the next 10 years. But the committee--Republicans and Democrats--could not find common ground as to how to cut $1.2 trillion over the next decade. There was a penalty provision in the law, and it said that in the event the supercommittee failed, we would cut $1.2 trillion over the next decade as follows: $600 billion out of the Defense Department, $600 billion out of the rest of the government.
If that penalty kicks in, then we will have cut $1 trillion out of the Defense Department over the next decade, blindly, across the board. Every account gets affected.
What did Secretary Panetta say? He said: Sign me up for $450 billion. I think we can get there. We will lose some capability, but we will be OK as a nation. We could fight Iran and win if we had to.
Then I asked him: What if we did $1 trillion over the next decade--if we overdoubled what you are trying to cut? He said: We would be shooting ourselves in the head as a nation. We would not have the ability to go in and take out the nuclear program in Iran because the weapons we need we could not maintain and afford.
When it comes to personnel costs, we are reducing the Army by 80,000 people under the $450 billion plan. If we do sequestration on top of that, I say to Senator McCain, we are taking another 100,000 people out of the Army. Under sequestration, the Navy would be down to a little over 200 ships. We would have the smallest Navy since 1915, the smallest Air Force in the history of the country, and the Army would go back to 1940 levels.
To my colleagues, do you believe the world has gotten that much safer that we do not need a Navy bigger than in 1915, given the threats we are facing from Iran, China, North Korea? Do you think now is a good time for the country to basically disarm, given the threats we face from radical terrorism throughout the whole globe?
So here is what we are going to do, and our congressional leaders need to be on notice. About 1 million people would lose their jobs if we put these cuts in place, and we would destroy the defense industrial base that provides good jobs to the economy and keeps us free and safe by giving our people technology better than the enemy has.
Three National Guardsmen were killed in June in Afghanistan. We have improved the National Guard. But when we first started this war, National Guard units were leaving to go to the fight with inferior equipment. They did not have armor. So if we do sequestration on top of what we are already trying to cut in the Defense Department, we will destroy the finest military in the history of the world at a time we need it the most.
This is a body known for doing some pretty dumb things. This would be the prize. So what Senators McCain, Kyl, and myself are trying to do is avoid sequestration before the first of the year so our defense people can plan. If we do not set this aside before the election, that is political malpractice. I thank Senator McCain and Senator Kyl for their leadership.
Mr. McCAIN. I wish to add--I note the presence of the Senator from New Hampshire who has also played a very key leadership role, including working with the mayors of every city in America, who have issued a resolution about their concern about this issue.
I wish also to state to my friends and colleagues that I know the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, whom I have had the opportunity of working with for 25 years, the Senator from Michigan, also shares our concern.
I hope we could at least get some of us together who have been involved with these issues of national security for so many years on both sides of the aisle, that we could reach some kind of an agreement. We know additional sacrifices have to be made when we are facing a $16 trillion deficit. But to take the overwhelming majority--well over 50 percent of these reductions--out of what is about, I believe, 12 percent of our spending is obviously not appropriate.
One other point. If the President of the United States shares the concern that the Secretary of Defense shares--catastrophic, impossible to plan on, so draconian that it would cripple our ability to defend this Nation; all of those are statements which the Secretary of Defense has made--I would argue that it would be appropriate, and I would sincerely ask that perhaps the President of the United States also be involved and members of his administration or charter members of the administration to sit down with us to see how we could resolve this.
So far the executive branch has not been involved in these efforts, with the exception of the Secretary of Defense, who has told us in the most graphic terms the devastating consequences. Again, I want to point out to my colleagues: You have to plan, especially in national defense, what weapons you are going to procure, the number of people you are going to maintain in the military, what those missions are going to be.
All of those right now, if held in abeyance in the Pentagon as far as planning is concerned, cannot have a great deal of validity if we are staring at sequestration and these draconian reductions.
Mr. GRAHAM. Would the Senator yield?
Mr. McCAIN. Yes. And I know our most eloquent member has arrived on the floor, not to mention other attributes we are lacking.
Mr. GRAHAM. I would like all three Senators to comment on this proposition. You have just challenged the President, who is the Commander in Chief, by the way, to fix the problem that your Secretary of Defense has said would be most devastating to our ability to defend ourselves. He said it would be catastrophic, it would be draconian, there is no way to plan for it, we would be shooting ourselves in the head. Mr. President, you are the Commander in Chief. When your Secretary of Defense and every general under your command is telling you and the Congress, you need to fix this before it gets out of hand, why are you not asking us, as Republicans and Democrats, to answer the call of the Secretary of Defense? You are the Commander in Chief, my friend. It is your job to make sure our military has what it needs to go fight wars that we send them to fight and protect our Nation.
But that is not enough. It is also our job as Members of Congress to take care of those who serve. So to our Republican and Democratic leader: Why do you not convene a group of Senators? And to our leaders in the House: Why do you not get a group of House Members, and ask us to come up with a plan to do at least one thing, avoid the consequence of sequestration for 1 year in 2013, to take the monkey off their back?
I am willing to meet our Democratic friends in the middle to find a way to offset the $110 billion in defense and nondefense spending. But to our leaders and to the President, if you think the rest of us are going to sit on the sideline and let this matter be taken up in lameduck when it becomes a nightmare for the country, you can forget it. So we are challenging our leaders and the President to get a group together to fix this.
I ask Senator McCain, do you think that is a good idea?
Mr. McCAIN. I know it is the only way we are going to solve this. I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from New Hampshire be included. I know the Senator from Tennessee, our friend Senator Corker, is waiting. But I think my friend from South Carolina, as usual, has stated the problem and a solution here. The problem is, we face a devastating impact on our national security. The solution is for our leaders and the President--if possible--to convene a group of Senators, whether it includes us or not is immaterial, on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol, to sit down and work this out so we can avoid the sequester.
I will take responsibility for sequester if that is what is necessary. But I also say that without concrete, significant, and meaningful action to cause this sequester to be prevented, we are risking the lives of our young men and women who are serving in the military. I do not know of a greater responsibility that we have.
I ask the Senator from New Hampshire if she agrees.
The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Blumenthal.) The Senator from New Hampshire is recognized.
Ms. AYOTTE. I join with my colleagues over the concern, deep concern that keeps me up at night about sequestration, because we cannot do this to our national security. Both sides of the aisle have to come together. We need leadership from our Commander in Chief on this issue.
To put it in perspective, I asked the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps what the impact of sequestration would be on the Marines. Do you know what he told me? That the Marine Corps of the United States of America would be unable to respond to one major contingency. Talk about putting our country at risk and putting ourselves in a situation where unfortunately there are still so many risks around the world that our country needs to be protected from. To think that our Marine Corps would not be able to respond to one major contingency. It is outrageous. It cries for bipartisan leadership on this issue, particularly leadership from our Commander in Chief.
To put it in perspective, it is not just an issue of our national security. You would think that would be enough to
bring people to the table. But we are talking about jobs across this country. The National Association of Manufacturers has estimated it would be nearly 1 million jobs; George Mason University, the same.
To my colleagues, looking around here, polling some States in terms of the estimate of job losses: 24,000 for Alabama. When we look at a State like Missouri, 31,000, when we look at a State, for example, like Florida, 39,000 for Florida. This is an issue that will hit every State in this Nation.
But, most importantly, what I am concerned about is it is going to hit our military in a way that we break faith with our troops. In fact, General Odienero of our Army has said he would have to cut an additional 100,000 troops from our Army on top of the reductions we are making right now, approximately 72,000, and 50 percent of it would have to come from the Guard and Reserve.
You think about the important function not only of protecting our country, we could not have fought in Afghanistan or Iraq without our Guard and Reserve. I am the proud wife of someone who served in the Iraq war. I can tell you, it is not only the function that our Guard and Reserve play in terms of protecting us overseas, but they also perform a very important homeland function. Every Governor in this country will be deeply concerned if we are going to diminish our Guard and Reserve. So this is an issue that cries out for leadership from both sides of the aisle. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this now. It cannot wait until a lameduck session. We cannot put our national security in the balance, and nearly 1 million jobs at issue, to a lameduck session. This is something we should resolve right now.
I appreciate that my colleagues have come to the floor to talk about this issue today. We must get this done on behalf of the American people and our men and women in uniform.
I yield the floor.
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