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CNN "Erin Burnett Outfront" - Transcript

Interview

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BURNETT: This is deeply ironic since Speaker Boehner voted for the bill that said sequestration is what's going to happen if the super committee fails. Now anyone who's been watching this show knows that the super committee failure has been a great tragedy from our point of view but there's been one man who's been very up front about his vote. He wrote today in "The Washington Post" that quote, "If I am among those -- I am among those who voted for the Budget Control Act and I am obligated to resolve the crisis it created." Here is the man at the center of this entire debate Buck McKeon, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He is OUTFRONT tonight. Chairman, good to see you, appreciate your taking the time.

REP. HOWARD "BUCK" MCKEON (R), ARMED SERVICES CMTE. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Erin. Thanks for having me.

BURNETT: Let me just start with this issue of job cuts because I'm still very confused over what's really happening here. You know there's a number out from the aerospace industry saying there's going to be two million jobs lost next year in 2013 alone just in defense. Then there's a number out from the National Association of Manufacturers saying 1.2 million jobs by the end of 2014 in defense services all the way across the board. I get the sense nobody has any idea.

MCKEON: Well, they know it's going to be huge. They just don't know the exact number. We've seen studies from 1.1 million jobs to Secretary Panetta told me last week, 2.1 million jobs, and I don't know if they're looking at just the defense side or the other side of the issue, but they're talking the sequestration is $1.2 trillion of cuts that kick in January 2nd. Actually those cuts are already taking place right now. People are being laid off. People are not being offered jobs because of the uncertainty.

BURNETT: I'm wondering though on this sort of existential but it's at the heart of this entire debate. The question is you know look at -- we look at the OMB (ph) numbers for the budget for what this country spent in 2012, $902 billion in defense, $846 billion on health care, Medicare and Medicaid. How can you defend spending more money on defense than on health care when we have a debt crisis?

MCKEON: I'm not saying we shouldn't cut defense. I'm saying we've already cut almost half a trillion. That's already in the budget. We understand that. What I'm saying is the Joint Chiefs had a year to prepare for that.

BURNETT: But a lot of those cuts -- I'm sorry -- I don't mean to interrupt. But a lot of those cuts weren't really cuts, right? They were just -- we're just not going to get the increases that we thought we were going to get. I mean in an absolute value that cut was about only one percent.

MCKEON: If sequestration kicks in, there are real cuts, and if people could -- if I had the charts here I could show you how in real dollars they are major cuts.

BURNETT: So let me ask you a couple of questions in your op-ed today that I wanted to clarify.

MCKEON: Sure.

BURNETT: You said that in your frustration about the guidance on the layoffs that hundreds of thousands of Americans including those fighting our wars should find pink slips in their mailboxes only a few weeks before Election Day. I was very curious about that line. People actually fighting could get pink slips. We called the Defense Department and read them your sentence. They said that that's just pure speculation, but the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee can prevent it by stopping sequestration. Can you tell me where you got that because that was new and very damning that people who are actively serving in the military could be fired? MCKEON: There are -- in the government guidelines in the Warn Act it says you have to give 60 days' notice. That's for the defense contractors. And in some states it's 90 days. But if you work for the government, they call for 115 days' notice. That's why I'm talking it could be -- it's already happening in the military. I was visiting with troops and they told me, you know I've been 10 years in the military. I can't re-up. I've had people outside the military saying I'm trying to get in.

They won't take me. They are already cutting back, I guarantee it. The first half trillion dollar cuts are going to take a hundred and -- let's see -- it's going to take 80,000 out of the Army, 20,000 out of the Marines. The sequestration takes another 80,000 out of the Army and 20,000 out of the Marines. That's 200,000 people in the military, uniformed people that are going to lose their jobs. That's where I get it.

BURNETT: That's where you get it. And that means that would be people who are actively fighting our wars as you said, right?

MCKEON: Well, they'll have to determine that. You know, whether they're in Afghanistan, whether they're in Iraq, whether they're in Korea, they will determine -- they, being the chain of command -- who actually gets the pink slip or who -- they don't probably send pink slips. They just don't let them re-up and then they may have to riff (ph). It depends on how cuts -- how deep the cuts go.

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