We face a severe crisis that could jeopardize both our national security and those who serve in our armed forces.
Our military men and women will be hit with a $1.2 trillion cut unless Washington finds the spending reductions mandated by last year's agreement to raise the debt ceiling. These automatic cuts, known as sequestration, were triggered when the Supercommittee failed to reach an agreement on a long-term deficit reduction package.
I ultimately voted against the bill that raised the debt limit and set up the failed Supercommittee because my constituents and I felt that it was bad policy and didn't do enough to cut spending -- a view that seems to have been proven accurate. That being said, I absolutely believe that finding a solution to prevent sequestration is critical to the future of our nation.
There is bipartisan agreement that these deep cuts would deal a devastating blow to our nation's security. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has stated that these cuts threaten "the programs critical to our nation's security," and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey called sequestration "the definition of a hollow force."
Preventing sequestration is not about exempting the military from spending cuts. There is no doubt that to get our nation's fiscal house in order all departments will need to shoulder their fair share of spending reductions.
But defense already has.
To date, Congress has acted to make responsible cuts at the Pentagon. In fact, our troops have already absorbed over 50 percent of deficit reduction efforts despite accounting for less than 20 percent of federal spending. Once again, our servicemen and women have shown that they are willing to step-up and sacrifice for the good of our nation.
Sequestration would shrink our armed forces to below pre-9/11 levels even as we are still at war in Afghanistan, as well as facing increased threats from Iran and North Korea and unrest in the Middle East. America would have the smallest ground force since before World War II, the smallest number of ships since before World War I, and the smallest Air Force in the service's history. This would force our troops to do an ever increasingly difficult job with even less resources.
It won't just be the troops who will have to do more with less. We'll feel the impact right here in Tennessee. A recent report issued by a task force led by former New York Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch and former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, found that sequestration would mean that state and local governments would have to absorb more than $60 billion in cuts. That is almost twice the size of combined tax increases that states enacted from 2008 through 2011.
House Republicans have offered several solutions to stave off the threat of sequestration, including passing a bill in April to replace these irresponsible defense cuts with long-term spending reductions that address the real drivers of deficits and debt -- unsustainable entitlement spending.
Unfortunately, President Obama and Senate Democrats have rejected these solutions despite repeated statements from senior defense officials about sequestration's disastrous impact. So far, the president has devoted little attention to this issue aside from issuing a veto threat against proposals to prevent these cuts. Senate Majority Harry Reid has even pledged to oppose all Republican efforts to stop sequestration from coming to fruition.
We cannot allow our military to be handicapped to the point where they lack adequate resources to defend themselves and the United States. The preamble of our constitution is clear: one of the most fundamental jobs of the federal government is to provide for the defense of this nation.
Where the Supercommittee failed, Congress and the president must succeed. The House has put forth a credible plan to avoid this dangerous scenario. It is now time for President Obama and Senate Democrats to either offer a plan to avert sequestration or take up the House-passed bill.