U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) said today that automatic "sequestration" cuts to the nation's military budget slated to start in January would devastate New Hampshire's defense suppliers - and deny America's servicemen and women the tools and technology they need to protect the nation. She highlighted the irreplaceable value of the state's defense industrial base during stops today at Nanocomp in Merrimack and Cobham in Exeter - noting a recent study that predicts 3,600 New Hampshire defense jobs could be lost if the pending defense cuts aren't stopped.
"Workers at New Hampshire defense companies play an invaluable role in keeping our country safe. If across the board military cuts aren't stopped, their expertise will be lost," said Senator Ayotte, a member of the Armed Services Committee. "We can't allow political gridlock in Washington to harm our military readiness. Savings can and should be found at the Pentagon, but a meat ax approach is the wrong way to do it. With our national security at stake, I'm working with both sides of the aisle to find a compromise. We can't wait until after the elections to resolve this situation."
Triggered by the failure of the so-called "Super Committee" to agree on $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction last fall, spending on national defense is set to be automatically reduced by about $500 billion starting in just five months. These sequestration reductions would be in addition to $487 billion in already-planned Pentagon cuts - for a total of nearly $1 trillion out of the defense budget over the next 9 years. A study released last month by Dr. Stephen Fuller of George Mason University predicts over 1 million defense jobs will be lost if defense sequestration cuts take effect - including 3,600 jobs in the Granite State.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said these reductions would "inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations," estimating that the U.S. would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915, and the smallest Air Force in its history.
Military spending accounts for about 19 percent of the budget but comes in for 50 percent of the sequestration cuts. The United States is currently spending less on defense as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product than the historical average - 4.7 percent in 2011, when compared to an average of 7 percent between 1946 and 2000. Defense spending as a portion of federal outlays has declined over the past 50 years (1963 to 2013) - from 48 percent to 19 percent. At the same time, federal spending on entitlement programs has increased from 26 percent to 60 percent.
Ayotte has worked diligently to find savings at the Defense Department. In addition to pushing for an audit of the Pentagon and contracting reform, she successfully passed legislation that helped save over $1 billion by allowing the Air Force to retire aircraft it doesn't need - cutting funding for a wasteful weapon system our troops will never use.
Ayotte earlier this year helped introduce the "Down Payment to Protect National Security Act," legislation that would prevent automatic defense and non-defense cuts by finding more responsible budget savings in other areas of the federal government.