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Ms. AYOTTE. Mr. President, I wish to thank Senator Sessions. I appreciate his leadership as the ranking member on the Budget Committee and also as a senior member of the Armed Services Committee.
This is so troubling, where we are right now with respect to our Department of Defense, our military--the most important constitutional function we have as a government to make sure the American people are safe.
Essentially, where we are is the Budget Control Act, as described, initially has cut $487 billion from our military over the next 10 years. But on top of that, there are across-the-board cuts coming in January. I think the No. 1 lesson we learned from the Budget Control Act is when we kick the can down the road and we don't make the decisions right away or when we delegate it to some other committee to make the decisions, when we don't do a budget in 3 years, here is where we are. So we owe it to the American people to make the decisions that need to be made now.
It is irresponsible to put our Department of Defense and our military--our men and women who have fought so bravely for this country--at risk because somehow there are Members who think it is important to play roulette and to play chicken with our national security.
This isn't just from the Senator from New Hampshire. Just listen to our own Secretary of Defense. He describes what is coming with these across-the-board cuts in January as:
Devastating. Catastrophic. Would lead to a hollow force incapable of sustaining the missions of the Department of Defense.
He has compared sequestration or these across-the-board cuts to ``shooting ourselves in the head, inflicting severe damage to our national security.''
To the point the Senator from Alabama made as well as the Senator from South Dakota, which is the President who is the Commander in Chief of this country, I would call upon him: Mr. President, lead an effort to resolve this. We can come up with alternative spending reductions. Yes, we need to cut spending, and I will be the first to stand in line to say we need to make sure we make those spending cuts. But let's not do it at the sake of our military.
If the Presiding Officer doesn't want to listen to me, the Senator from New Hampshire, please listen to your own Secretary of Defense and make sure we do not undermine our national security.
I serve as the ranking Republican on the Readiness Subcommittee. I asked the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps: What is the impact on the Marine Corps from these across-the-board meat axe cuts that are coming in January to our military?
Already the Marine Corps, under the initial reductions, is going to be reduced 20,000. If this goes forward, this irresponsible way of treating our military and our Department of Defense, the Marine Corps will take another 18,000 reduction. The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps said: The most shocking thing to me is actually something that keeps me up at night; that is, he said, the Marine Corps will be incapable of responding to one single major contingency.
Think about it. Think about it in terms of protecting our country. That is why it is so important that we resolve this now. It is my hope Members from the other side of the aisle will come to the table now.
To put it in perspective, we could resolve and find spending reductions to deal with not only the defense but the nondefense part of these across-the-board cuts by living within our means for 1 month within this government. It is $109 billion. We need to do this for the American people.
Our men and women in our forces of every branch of this service are so astounding in their courage. Just one example. There was a sergeant in the Marine Corps who lost his leg in Afghanistan and he took 1 year to recover. With a prosthetic leg, he reenlisted. He actually redeployed in the Marine Corps. Those are the types of men and women to whom we owe that they don't just get pink slips because we aren't showing the courage that needs to be shown right here in the Senate to come up with the spending reductions that don't put our country at risk.
Our Commander in Chief should be leading that effort. Unfortunately, all we have seen so far from the President is punting this issue. I would call upon him and Members of both sides of the aisle to come together to resolve this.
We should resolve this before the election. If we wait until after the election, then our Department of Defense is going to be under this cloud of uncertainty. Our men and women in uniform need to know we will not break faith with them, that we will stand with them, that we are not going to use them as a political football for other issues because, on a bipartisan basis, we should stand with them, with our national security.
In addition, one of the reasons we should resolve this before the elections is it is not just about the safety of our country, which should come first and foremost, but we are also talking about nearly 1 million jobs in the private sector in our defense industrial base, based on a report from AIA and George Mason University--just looking at defense, 1 million jobs.
Those jobs are the manufacturers, both large and small, that build the equipment, the protection, the weapons systems our men and women in uniform need to fight the wars we ask them to do to keep them safe and protected. If we lose that capacity, not only do we lose the jobs that are good jobs in this country, but we also lose capacity, which is very much a part of the defense of this Nation. Under Federal law, these companies will be required to issue, under the Warren Act, notices of layoff, potential layoff 60 days before it happens, which brings us to November.
That is why we need to address this issue before the election as well. We should not put all those Americans who work for those companies and those companies at risk.
Yesterday, AIA also issued a report looking at the nondefense implications of sequestration. If we put it all together, it is over 2 million jobs in this country that are at issue.
We should get to the table right now, resolve this, cut the spending in a responsible way that doesn't add a national security crisis to our fiscal crisis. We can do it, but we aren't going to do it if we continue to put off the difficult decisions, if we kick this can down the road again, if we use this as roulette or chicken or in some other debate in December.
This needs to be resolved right now for our men and women in uniform who have shown the courage, the tenacity, and the love of country. They have done so much for us and they deserve better from us than to use them as a political football in some other debate.
I urge my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to come to the table now. I urge the President to come and lead this effort so we can resolve this issue on behalf of the American people.
I yield my time to the Senator from Alabama.
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