By Representative Allen West
Our nation has a defining choice to make, and time is short. The Pentagon is bracing for devastating cuts through sequestration. For the sake of national security, jobs and the next generation, we must stop this in its tracks. There is still time to fix it -- if we show leadership and make tough choices.
The House has presented alternative plans to replace sequestration with thoughtful spending cuts. President Barack Obama has already missed his deadline, and failed to offer Congress even the most meager outline to prevent these cuts. This deep bite could have far-reaching consequences to military planning and the struggling economy.
The House Small Business Committee is set to hold a hearing Thursday to examine how these cuts will affect many small firms. The threatened haphazard slashing of programs already has contractors scrambling, with more jobs at risk. Economic progress is still far too weak and our nation's security too important to sustain new job losses in military manufacturing, supply, research, development, testing and more.
Small businesses need a measure of certainty to survive and create the jobs our economy needs. "Small companies like mine," Perry Casto of Allied Associates International, already told the committee, "however, do not have the fiscal resources to stay in business while the government sorts out the issues surrounding sequestration."
The damage will likely be exacerbated because of the sequester's arbitrary design. Cuts are not based on logic or military tactics. What calls for a scalpel will instead be subject to a cleaver, smiting even the most essential programs.
Americans unapologetically value a strong defense. Our nation exists because some had the courage to take up arms and defend their homes and their neighbors. History, along with events around the globe, justifies the need for a powerful force to ensure peace and prosperity. Americans will be rightly incensed as they learn more about this so-called "plan" to gut the military.
Washington politicians work for "we the people," and the people do not support chaotically downsizing our armed forces. It's our duty to prevent this radical step. We must ensure that future threats cannot match our military's ingenuity, mobility, firepower and communications. The defenders of our country must have the best training, equipment, protection and leadership we can provide. That's a priority.
It also creates jobs in the private sector -- where innovation helps keep our military a step ahead of the world's bad actors.
Massive defense cuts will not be enough to gloss over the president's deficit problem. The constitutional role to "provide for the common defense" still takes precedence. Strategy should drive this decision -- not political calculations about the deficit.
Our nation has a nasty spending addiction and debt hangover. So I don't argue that the military budget can never be changed. It changes every year. We should find waste and look for ways to be wiser with money. We know there will be consequences of the federal government's tendency to spend first, budget later (or never).
Look no further than the Senate, which has not produced a budget in three years and allows Obama's deficit spending folly to continue unrestrained.
But this is no benign adjustment of spending priorities. It amounts to a one-sided divestment of some of our best defense assets. That's extreme. If these cuts are necessary, where are the similar severe across-the-board cuts to the rest of the budget? This plan disproportionately affects defense, and exempts programs that are the biggest drivers of our debt.
After a decade of sacrifice overseas, our military is asked to make this new sacrifice -- along with the employees and owners of many small businesses that support them. Other federal programs, meanwhile, contribute nothing.
Let's be clear. There is waste everywhere in government. A thoughtful, balanced plan would focus on the waste and inefficiencies in all programs and protect priorities.
The Budget Control Act supercommittee failed to solve this problem. They dithered. I had hoped that they could come together to find savings -- but I guess my freshman optimism was naive.
We owe it to the American people and our military to come together to find a better solution. I credit the House for voting for bills that would avert this crisis. But Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Democrats have ducked this responsibility too long.
If they didn't want to lead or make tough decisions they should have stayed home.
Let's stand up for the men and women who stand up for our freedom. Let's stand up for the jobs that provide our troops with what they need to succeed -- and come home.