U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) today delivered the following remarks at a press conference today regarding a bill, introduced by Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), to avert sequester:
"Today, I join Senators Ayotte and Graham, Senate Armed Services Ranking Member Inhofe, House Armed Service Committee Chairman McKeon and his HASC colleagues in reintroducing a bill that will protect our nation's security by taking immediate action to replace the billions in draconian, across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense accounts that are set to occur on March 1st. This bill will simply replace the roughly $85 billion in sequestration cuts for FY 2013 by reducing the size of the federal workforce by ten percent through attrition -- not layoffs. Let me remind you: this cost-saving proposal was recommended by the Simpson-Bowles Commission.
"In addition to introducing similar legislation last year to stop the FY 2013 sequester, Senators Ayotte, Graham and I have traveled the country warning of the disastrous impact of sequester. If we allow sequestration to happen, it will lead to significant cuts to every program in the Department of Defense and lead to significant job losses. This past weekend, President Obama's own Secretary of Defense said the budget cuts looming under sequestration will "weaken the United States' and "make it much more difficult for us to respond to crises in the world.' The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff agreed that "we will become less safe' if these cuts go through. The President promised last year that sequestration "will not happen,' but he remained silent for more than a year while the crisis loomed. I am glad that he has finally come to the table and will examine his proposal closely.
"Sequestration, if implemented, will cut every ship, aircraft, tank, and truck program; all research and development initiatives; and every post, camp, and station in the Department of Defense. Secretary of Defense Panetta has rightly called sequestration a "meat axe' approach with "catastrophic' results.
"These cuts would not only hamper our ability to defend against threats to our security, but also significantly impact our industrial capabilities at home. According to one economic analysis, additional automatic cuts to defense would cause the loss of 350,000 full-time, direct jobs and 650,000 indirect job losses -- pushing the unemployment rate back up to almost 9 percent. In Arizona alone, that means the potential loss of 35,000 jobs.
"As a result of the President's lack of leadership on this issue, the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated in a recent letter, "We are also now planning for the potential to furlough up to nearly 800,000 defense civilians who are essential to critical functions like maintenance, intelligence, logistics, contracting, and health care.' Under our bill, hundreds of thousands of federal employees will not need to be furloughed. Instead federal agencies would simply hire one person for every three who retire.
"Congress is already making significant cuts to the Department of Defense as part of a broader debt reduction strategy. I simply will not support weakening our defenses with another $500 billion in cuts because Congress and the Administration have failed to agree on long-term debt reduction.
"Secretary Panetta stated last month that, "the simple fact is that this fiscal uncertainty has become a very serious threat to our national security. And like any grave threat that we face, the American people expect and deserve action.' I can't agree more. With our economy struggling and unemployment still hovering around 8 percent, it is imperative that the President and Congress work together to enact a plan that will not further exacerbate our economic problems by raising taxes but find a solution that will stop the damaging impact of sequestration on our national security and provide more economic certainty. I believe our bill will do just that."