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Ms. AYOTTE. Mr. President, I rise to talk about an issue that is of deep concern to our country, one of the greatest national security threats facing our country right now; that is, what is called sequestration.
To bring that down to plain terms for the American people, our Department of Defense is facing an additional $500 billion across-the-board meat ax in cuts in addition to the already planned $487 billion in reduction over the next 10 years if we do not act as a Senate, as a Congress, and if the Commander in Chief does not act to come up with more responsible ways to cut spending.
We all know we have a nearly $16 trillion debt. We all know debt threatens our country not only as a national security threat but also as a threat to the quality of life of my children--I am the mother of a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old--and future generations in this country. However, what we did last August was a kick-the-can exercise, where we left it to a supercommittee to come up with $1.2 trillion in savings, rather than sitting down and coming up with the savings we should have at the time.
So where we are left is with a meat-ax, across-the-board approach, instead of prioritizing our spending, and we are putting at risk the most fundamental constitutional responsibility we have to the American people; that is, to keep them safe.
Daniel Webster, who was born in New Hampshire, served as a Senator from Massachusetts, was a great statesman, said in 1834: ``God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it.''
We know from our men and women in uniform that they have been there for us to guard and defend this great Nation--not only the current men and women who serve but generations of brave men and women have served our country. Where we are right now, we do a disservice to them not to resolve this sequestration, these across-the-board cuts, by coming up with alternative spending reductions, which we can do.
To put it in perspective, 1 year of sequestration is about $109 billion, and that also covers nondefense. If we could live within our means for 1 month with this government, we could come up with the spending reductions. We need to do that on behalf of our Department of Defense and for the American people.
Some of the things that have been said about the impact of these across-the-board cuts:
Our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said we will face the potential for increased conflict. He also said: ``We are living in the most dangerous times in my lifetime, right now''--meaning, right now. ``I think sequestration would be completely oblivious to that, and counterproductive.''
We also know every leader of our military from every branch has spoken to both the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee. What they have said is shocking and should be a wakeup call to Members of both sides of the aisle, that we owe it to our military and to the American people to address it.
Just some of the things that have been said about sequestration:
The Chief of Naval Operations has said: We will do ``irreversible damage'' to our Navy. ``It will hollow out the military, and we will be out of balance in manpower, both military and civilian, procurement and modernization.''
The Chief of Staff of the Army has said: It ``would be catastrophic to the military ..... '' and we will ``reduce our capability and capacity to assure our partners abroad, respond to crises, and deter our potential adversaries,'' while threatening our readiness.
The Air Force Chief of Staff has said:
We will be left with a military with aging equipment, extremely stressed human resources with less than adequate training and ultimately declining readiness and effectiveness.
As I said yesterday on this floor, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps has said that the Marine Corps will be unable to respond to one major conflict on behalf of this country.
There are many things we can predict. One of the things we know we can predict is what is going to happen with sequestration. We know that if we do not address our debt now, we will be facing the fate of Europe. But one thing we have been very bad at predicting is where the next conflict will come from for our country, where the next threat our country will face will come from. If our Marine Corps is unprepared to respond to one major contingency, our country is at risk. That is why we need to address this.
It is not only the impact on our men and women in uniform--from the Chief of Staff, from the Commandant of the Marine Corps, of all the branches that have spoken--but I had the chance to participate in a panel yesterday, to hear the concerns of our enlisted about this. I heard from the former head, the top enlisted person in the Marine Corps, Sergeant Major Kent. He expressed deep concern that we would be breaking faith with our troops. Our military leaders have expressed real concerns that we will not only undermine our national security, but we will fail to keep faith with those who have sacrificed so much for our country and to whom we owe everything.
In addition to the dire national security impacts of allowing this irresponsible across-the-board approach to occur in January, we also know there are nearly 1 million jobs at issue. In fact, yesterday, before the House Armed Services Committee, the CEOs of some of our major defense employers testified. In fact, the CEO of Lockheed Martin Bob Stevens said:
I have spent decades of my professional working life in the national security arena and I have never been as concerned over the risk to the health of our industry and our Government [as now].
The effects of sequestration are being felt, right now, throughout our industry. Every month that goes by without a solution is a month of additional uncertainty, deferred investment, lost talent and ultimately increased cost.
You see, it is not just our service men and women who keep our country safe, it is those who work to make sure we have the right equipment, that we have the best technology, that we have the best capability of gathering intelligence to prevent future attacks against our country.
Our defense industrial base is incredibly important--not to mention 1 million jobs at issue.
Yesterday, Dave Hess, president of Pratt & Whitney and chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association, said:
As an industry, we are already seeing the impact of potential sequestration budget cuts today. Companies are limiting hiring and halting investments--largely due to the uncertainty about how sequestration cuts would be applied.
A small business owner, Della Williams--it is not just our large employers, a lot of small businesses make parts for our weapons systems, for our equipment for our military. They cannot take this uncertainty we have created for them in Congress, and these cuts, and many of them will be forced to go out of business.
Della Williams said:
What is being billed as a stop-gap budget fix will have lasting effects on our defense capabilities for years to come. The switch will not just get flipped back on to reverse that trend.
Moreover, the deep personnel and program cuts will threaten our national security. Indeed, the United States could lose our technological and strategic advantage and never get it back.
This is why this is so important.
By the way, yesterday the CEO of Lockheed Martin had to issue--believed he had to issue a memo to his employees. In that memo his employees will receive, he said:
We believe sequestration is the single greatest challenge facing our company and our industry. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said sequestration will have catastrophic consequences for our nation's defense. ..... With little guidance from the government on the specifics of sequestration, it is difficult to determine the impact ..... on our employees.
He said: We do know that we have a responsibility to tell you that you could potentially be laid off and that we have a duty to issue what are called Warn Act notices now.
Under Federal law, these defense employers are going to have to, 60 days before January 1, issue potential layoff notices to their employees. Of course, that will also create lots of uncertainty and consternation in many American families, which is unnecessary if we would come to the table right now and address this issue.
We can find spending reductions that do not threaten our national security. Just to put a couple of numbers in perspective, some States just had in job losses on this: Virginia, according to AIA--there was a new report issued this week done by George Mason University--Virginia: 136,000 defense industrial base jobs; Florida, 41,000; Pennsylvania, 39,000; my home State of New Hampshire, just on the defense end, 3,600 jobs.
We owe it to the American people to act now. This is too important to be used as a bargaining chip in December because people want to use it to put our national security at risk because of other issues they want addressed. We have always treated national security as a bipartisan issue in this Chamber. I hope we will not use our Department of Defense and put our men and women in uniform in this uncertain position. We need to let them know we have their back. As Members of Congress, we should be together right now, sitting at the table, resolving this, coming up with alternative spending reductions.
I also call on the President as Commander in Chief of this country to lead that effort, to stop sitting on the sidelines. This is too important to the security of the United States of America.
I see my colleague from South Dakota here today, John Thune, who is a leader in our conference, someone who I know has been very focused on this issue.
I ask Senator Thune, yesterday the House was focusing on this issue. We know there were hearings before the House Armed Services Committee. In fact, we should point out that the House, through reconciliation, has already passed a bill to address sequestration, to make sure our national security is protected. They have done that. It has not been taken up in the Senate yet, unfortunately. I call on the majority leader of the Senate to act now because the House has passed something.
Yesterday, they also held a hearing. The House passed another measure by 414 to 2 that is called the Sequestration Transparency Act. It is a companion bill to one Senator Thune introduced in this Chamber. I know how focused he has been on this issue. The Senate passed a similar amendment to the farm bill.
One of the issues we saw from the CEOs who testified yesterday, from our defense industrial bases, the Department of Defense, OMB--they have gotten no guidance on where these cuts will be implemented. Therefore, I know that yesterday the House actually passed this act to address that piece of it.
I ask, does the Senator from South Dakota agree that the Senate should immediately pass the legislation he introduced, this bipartisan House bill that is coming over, a version, so that we, the American people, can know right away--have the agencies tell them specifically what the impacts of sequestration are? Of course, most important, we need to address this before the elections because we should not play political football with this.
With that, I ask the Senator from South Dakota what he thinks we should do here in the Senate right now.
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Ms. AYOTTE. I would say my colleague from South Dakota is absolutely right. If we had done a budget for this country and the Senate Budget Committee functioned in the way it was intended to function, then we would not be in this situation in the first place. If we did regular budgeting and if we did the responsible thing for our country--as every business does, as every family does; on an annual basis we are supposed to do it as opposed to it being over 3 years since we have had a budget--then we would not be in this situation right now where our Department of Defense is at risk. I know the Senator from South Dakota voted for a budget the House passed, and I did as well. Had that budget passed, then the House did its job. Had we done that, we wouldn't be here with sequestration today. We are doing what we owe to the American people. If we can't do a budget for this country, how are we going to get the trillion dollar deficit in check?
Unfortunately, we know why we don't have a budget. The majority leader of the Senate has not shown the leadership he should because he said it would be foolish for us to pass a budget and has not allowed the Senate Budget Committee--the Senator is right, I am not sure why we have that committee. I have been on there for a year and half. We have not marked up a budget. We have not done it, and that is because the majority leader of the Senate has said it would be foolish for us to do a budget. Why? Because when we do a budget, we do have to make choices, as families and businesses do, and prioritize where we are going to spend the money and the taxpayer dollars that are sent to Washington by our constituents, the American people. Where we are today is unfortunate. Had we done that, then I don't think we would be in the position we are with sequestration.
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Ms. AYOTTE. I thank my colleague from South Dakota for his leadership on this issue, and I too hope we will get that passed immediately in the Senate, and that we have clarity from our Department of Defense as well as the nondefense agencies so the American people can know what the real impact is; also, so we can act immediately. I can't emphasize enough that this needs to be done before the elections. We need to do it before the elections because we have already--I talked about some of the testimony from the CEOs from our defense industrial base, and there will be, unfortunately, layoff notices which will have to be issued because of responsibilities they have under Federal law. Let's face it, we should not have this cloud of uncertainty for our men and women in uniform, many of whom have served multiple tours for us and defended our country so admirably and so courageously. That is why I think this is an issue that deserves action now and should not be used as a bargaining chip for other issues. This is an area we have always, on a bipartisan basis, been able to do. For example, I serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee. We voted out the Defense authorization bill unanimously. Well, this is an issue I hope we would be unanimous on and that we are not going to break faith with our men and women in uniform, we are not going to put our country in jeopardy, and I am hopeful we will also see leadership.
I call upon the President again to be a leader here, to be the Commander in Chief of this country and to call us to action to resolve this before the election.
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