By Representative Phil Gingrey
The national security implications and economic impact of sequestration -- automatic spending cuts slated to occur over the next 10 years because Congress failed to cut $1.2 trillion as called for in the Budget Control Act in exchange for raising the debt ceiling -- on Georgia and the United States as a whole would be devastating.
"Providing for the common defense" is the federal government's most important responsibility as prescribed by the Constitution. It is the cornerstone of our freedom upon which all other liberties and guarantees rely. Our nation's ability to protect its people must remain the foremost priority for the president and Congress.
A strong national defense not only allows the U.S. to react to acts of war quickly and effectively, but it also serves as a deterrent toward those attacks from hostile nations or groups. This requires providing the Department of Defense with the necessary resources to do so. That said, to responsibly address our nation's record debt, DOD's budget must be scrutinized and cut where possible, just as with all other federal agencies.
However, it would be hard to argue that President Barack Obama's approach to defense spending has been responsible.
Since taking office, he has taken $350 billion from various weapons programs, and put in motion a plan to take $487 billion out of defense budgets between 2013 and 2021.
On top of these cuts, slashing an additional $600 billion -- as would result from the pending sequestration, which disproportionally affects the DOD -- will drastically reduce our nation's defense capabilities at the same time that potential adversaries are ramping up their defense budgets. This would obviously exacerbate the effects of the substantial defense cuts already in the pipeline in a negative and profound way.
To combat this, House Republicans passed the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, HR 5652, earlier this year. This legislation would cut $7.7 billion in federal food-stamp spending in the first year, require federal workers to contribute more to retirement plans, end grants for health insurance exchanges, put limits on Medicaid payments, implement other entitlement reforms and trim federal spending.
While halting the first year of crippling sequestration cuts from taking effect, the bill also would save $243 billion over 10 years.
Unfortunately, the president and Sen. Harry Reid continue to oppose this plan while refusing to produce their own.
Democrats claim sequestration hits defense and other programs equally by splitting the $1.2 trillion in required cuts down the middle, but that's not the case. In fact, only 14.8 percent of sequestration cuts would come from entitlement programs. This would be a reduction of less than 1 percent of all entitlement spending.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said sequestration will have dire consequences for our nation's defense because it was developed without consideration for national security strategy, force structure, technology needs or operational reality.
Across-the-board, arbitrary sequestration cuts would shrink our ground forces to the smallest size since World War II, the Navy to the lowest level since World War I. Contrary to the Pentagon's past guarantees, the Defense Department now concedes that funding for training programs and benefits for our servicemen and women would be jeopardized.
These draconian cuts will not only leave us with a weakened national defense, but also with an even weaker economy. Sequestration stands to further devastate our manufacturing sector. Lockheed Martin announced it must send layoff warnings as soon as October to most of its 123,000 workers.
In fact, a recent study reported that Georgia stands to lose more than 54,000 jobs and $5.5 billion statewide. Because of this, Georgia is counted among the 10 states most negatively impacted by these cuts.
Nationally, this could result in a loss of more than 1 million jobs by 2014. With an unemployment rate about 8 percent for 41 consecutive months, not only can the DOD not withstand sequestration, but Americans simply cannot afford it.