By Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen
Muslim nations are imploding against the looming backdrop of sequestration, the trillion-dollar budget cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act, passed by Congress last year. As of January 1, 2013, half of those cuts must come from defense, which amounts to about $600 billion over a period of ten years. American Thinker interviewed experts to get their opinions on how the Obama administration is gutting America's national security.
President Obama unveiled his sequestration plan, which calls for cutting discretionary defense appropriations by 9.4%, a $55-billion hit. Among the projected cuts: spending for weapons procurement and shipbuilding, money spent on the war in Afghanistan, a reduction of readiness for many non-deployed units, delays in investments for new equipment and facilities, and cutbacks in military research and equipment repairs.
On the one hand is President Obama embracing these defense cuts, and on the other hand is Mitt Romney, who stated, "We can always find places to end waste. But we cannot cancel program after program, we cannot jeopardize critical missions, and we cannot cut corners in the quality of the equipment and training we provide."
What these recent riots have shown is that this administration was unprepared, that the American overseas diplomatic institutions need to be made into fortresses, and that foreign governments cannot be depended on for security. President Obama deals with this obvious and costly problem through reducing the funding for embassy security, construction, and maintenance by 8.2% as part of his sequestration plan.
Former Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who is currently running for a Senate seat in Michigan, told American Thinker that he needs conservatives to donate so he can be a part of the fight to reinstate the defense budget. "In hindsight, I would hope that I would have voted no on sequestration. I would hope that I would have seen it for what it is: a new gimmick. Now they are stuck with an agreement that no one likes -- except the liberals who don't mind huge defense cuts. They love it. How can such a huge amount be cut out of defense when we live in this dangerous world? These riots occurring on 9/11 was not a coincidence. The president over the past three years has been about cutting defense."
Maybe a way to cut spending is to cut the aid to foreign nations such as Egypt, which receives approximately $2 billion a year. Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-CA) does not see how providing aid can be justified, since he truly believes that these Islamic extremists want "to destroy our values by waging a cultural war wrapped in a religious black flag. It's an attack against the 20th-century standards."
Considering that the brother of a top al-Qaeda leader was one of the instigators of the riot, and he had not seen the video, should aid be cut drastically? Hoekstra thinks that the aid to Egypt should be downgraded because the government was capable of stopping the attackers, who were chanting, "We are all Osama." He insists that "they could have stopped the attacks on the embassy if they wanted to since they have such a strong military and police force. They did not want to. On the other hand, I would not cut aid to Libya, since I don't think they have the capability or capacity to maintain order and security."
What are the consequences of these cuts to America's economy, which, some have argued, also make a national security issue? Governor Bob McDonnell (R-VA) approximates that the jobs lost in his state due to sequestration would be anywhere from 130,000 to 200,000 while Congressman Bilbray said the San Diego Military Advisory Council estimates that 300,000 jobs will be lost. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FLA) notes that Florida will be hit harshly, since the state has 175 military sites, including the U.S. Southern Command location; is the eighth-largest state to house active military personnel; and will have businesses impacted that provide services to the military infrastructure.
This can be seen with China, whose military is ascending, while under President Obama there is the appearance of America descending. China has a 100-million-person army, yet, under sequestration, America's active and reserve strength will be significantly reduced. China is improving its industrial base, while America is allowing its military dominance to erode. Sequestration would reduce America's military strength per the budget realities. As the chief of staff of the Air Force noted, "[i]t will be able to accomplish fewer tasks in fewer places in any given period of time." Sequestration is happening at a time when tensions are escalating between China and one of America's strongest allies, Japan, over control of the Senkaku Islands, and China's recent test of its first intercontinental ballistic missile.
Governor McDonnell told American Thinker, "Sequestration was never meant to be a policy; it was meant to be a hammer. But it has failed. The president has failed to lead, and Congress has failed to act. Because of this, we are heading toward having a major crisis for our military."
Under the WARN Act, companies with more than 100 employees must give 60 days' notice if there is to be a mass layoff. Yet President Obama's Labor Department issued a "guidance" that the WARN Act does not apply to the defense layoffs that could occur in January. In other words, the defense contractors should not send pink slips, which would occur days before the presidential election. Governor McDonnell and Congressman Bilbray were asked if they think the president is playing politics with the defense employees' paychecks. Both sent letters requesting that the problem be addressed sooner rather than later.
Governor McDonnell emphasized that the defense contractors he spoke with do not agree with the labor department's interpretation and went as far as to ask the president to change his policy. McDonnell also said that defense employees can sue defense contractors if a timely notice is not sent out. Congressman Bilbray pointed out that in California there is a law requiring a 90-day notice, so even if the White House waives the pink slip, employees will still be notified.
Congressman Bilbray told American Thinker that the House has tried to confront this issue but has been "stonewalled by Harry Reid. I don't know if anyone is awake in the House of Lords. They are doing this to gain a political advantage, blaming those who are doing the heavy lifting in the House. These cuts will cost us in dollars and cents and readiness, and they put a huge strain on defense employees. Look: every department, including defense, can be more productive, more efficient, and more effective."
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen wants Americans to understand that the House passed this only at the eleventh hour to prevent the government from defaulting on its loan -- that sequestration came about only because of President Obama's and the Democrats' overspending. She agrees with Congressman Bilbray: Americans should blame President Obama and his comrade in arms, Harry Reid, who is allowing the pro-growth bills passed by the House to gather dust on his desk.
Ros-Lehtinen is hoping to counter both Obama and Reid, as well as the "compliant liberal press that blames the House. All elected officials have to do a better job of communicating that these devastating military cuts will undermine our ability to meet national security objectives. We have to take to the House floor, do op-eds, communicate on radio shows, and hope that the ground forces show up as they did in 2010."
President Obama would rather play the blame game than assert leadership. At this point in America's history, the president should have found a way not to make extensive defense cuts that even his secretary of defense, Leon Panetta, has called "nutty, goofy, and insane."