U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) made the following statement during an oversight hearing on the impacts of sequestration and/or a full-year continuing resolution on the Department of Defense.
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I thank our distinguished witnesses for joining us this morning--and for their many years of service to our nation.
"There are 16 days remaining between today and March 1st. Sixteen days that will define our military's strength for the coming decades. Just last week, the Secretary of Defense abruptly announced that he has indefinitely delayed the deployment of the Truman Carrier Strike Group to the Middle East, denying the two carrier force presence our Commander in the region urgently requires. This is the real impact of sequestration. These aren't just numbers on a piece of paper. Sequestration will have real and dangerous consequences for our nation's security. Delaying the deployment of the Truman Carrier Strike Group is just the tip of the iceberg. And don't think that adversaries in the region like Iran, or North Korea who just this morning conducted a nuclear test, are not emboldened by these decisions.
"Admiral Winnefeld, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, recently stated that "I know of no other time in history when we have come potentially down this far, this fast, in the defense budget. There could be, for the first time in my career, instances where we may be asked to respond to a crisis and we will have to say that we cannot." (unquote) I hope my colleagues in this room and throughout the Capitol will think long and hard about the significance of this statement.
"The Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs testified last week about the tragic events in Benghazi and stated that the United States military did not have the assets necessary to deter or ultimately respond to the terrorist attack that killed our Ambassador and three other Americans in one of the most volatile regions of the world. This is a stark and sobering admission about the ability of the United States military to protect United States citizens abroad, and sequestration only further undermines our ability to respond to similar crises in the future. Our men and women in uniform, the American people, and our friends around the world deserve better than sequestration and it is our shared responsibility -- both the President and the Congress -- to ensure that it does not take place.
"The Department of Defense has absorbed almost $600 billion in defense cuts under President Obama, with an additional $500 billion under sequestration -- totaling over $1 trillion in total cuts to our military. For more than 14 months we have repeatedly requested the Administration provide us with a detailed assessment of the impact of sequestration on our national defense. We have been met with delays, gag orders, generalities and authoritative promises by the President that sequestration "will not happen." But now, we are 16 days away from more cancelled deployments, thousands of jobs lost, furloughs, and the imminent threat of a hollow military force unable to respond to contingencies around an increasingly dangerous and deadly world.
" Mr. Chairman, this hearing is absolutely critical to allow the Joint Chiefs to provide their frank and honest assessments about the impact to their Services, the loss of capabilities and readiness, and the mismatch between resources and strategy. We must work together to ensure that the American people understand the stakes of sequestration and substantial risk to the Armed forces that will be felt for years to come.
"The purpose of this hearing is to translate the impact of the cuts imposed by sequestration into something tangible. If sequester is allowed to take place and the continuing resolution is not fixed, the Department of Defense stands to waste billions of dollars through the canceling of contracts, the termination of multi-year procurements, and the reduction in force readiness, resulting in a less capable military at an increased and equally unacceptable cost.
"Last week, led by Senator Ayotte, Senator McCain, Senator Graham, and I introduced a bill to mitigate the impact of sequester through the end of the fiscal year and provide the Department the flexibility it desperately needs to operate under the continuing resolution. It is not the perfect solution, as it only averts sequestration until October, but it does provide much needed time for the President and his Administration to finally work with Congress to achieve the savings necessary for a long-term fix which achieves additional savings and does not increase risk to military personnel or the readiness and capabilities of our Armed Forces.
"There is a growing concern that the President will not seriously negotiate with Congress on a compromise to sequestration until after it takes place on March 1, 2013 and each Member of Congress hears of the pain affecting their constituents. But the real pain will be felt by the men and women serving our country who will see resources they need to defend the nation arbitrarily cut.
"They will be asked immediately to do more with less and accept greater risk in a world that is becoming more dangerous by the day. This is an unconscionable position and a dereliction of duty.
"We can fix this, and we can do so without revisiting the same old political rhetoric. We are not in this mess because we are taxed too little, and we are not going to get out of this mess by taxing more. Tax policy has already been addressed and made permanent; that debate is over.
"We can, and must work this out and the bill my colleagues and I introduced last week, can give us the time to find a permanent fix. But to get there, the President must lead. The President must be pragmatic. And the President must set aside political posturing and finally get serious about working with Congress to find a lasting solution to sequestration. The men and women in uniform deserve nothing less."