Today Rep. Jim Cooper offered an amendment to FY14 NDAA to give the Department of Defense flexibility with spending cuts from sequestration. Although it received support from Democrats and Republicans, the amendment failed to pass the full committee 16-45. His full remarks are below.
CHAIRMAN: The Chair now recognizes the gentleman from Tennessee for the purpose of offering and explaining his amendment.
MR. COOPER: If sequestration has been imposed on us by a foreign power, we would view it as an act of war.
Now, our first choice should be to lift the cuts. We have the ability to do that in this Congress if we had the guts.
But failing that, we should at least give the DOD and Pentagon flexibility. Every witness we have heard from this year has told us we are facing a hollow force. The General Shelton of Space Command said he was already facing chaos, and he was not exaggerating.
Secretary of Defense Panetta, all of the SecDefs have warned us about this. And what have we done?
Sixteen hours into this markup, we are finally facing the real issue before this committee. It's not just up to me to come up with a response. There's got to be positive action taken by this committee to at least give our troops, our men and women in uniform, some flexibility.
What I am proposing in this amendment could not be a simpler amendment; it's really just one sentence. It gives the SecDef discretion in the national interests to cumulatively move $20 billion.
The effect of sequestration in one year is $40 billion. This would allow him to alleviate half of that arbitrary stupidity.
Because, as many of you know, each Navy ship is a program, project and activity. How do you cut each ship eight to twelve percent? This is insanity, and so far, this Committee has not done anything about it.
I'm not saying this is a perfect solution, but it is a start. It could not be more completely bipartisan.
If this Committee does not stand up for the Armed Services, who is going to do it?
If others can suggest a better means, please let me know. In the meantime, this is all you're going to be allowed to vote on in this whole markup of sixteen hours to save our troops.
As you know, due to sequential referral rules, amendments have to be crafted in a wily way so that you can get it accepted procedurally in this Committee. And we will have to work with others in Congress in both houses to get this job done.
But let's begin that job tonight. Let's not swallow sequestration whole. Let's not accept a hollow force.
America deserves better than that. I've been complaining about this in hearings since February.
This is our chance. This is our only chance. If not us, who? If not now, when?
And I am sorry it is 1:30 in the morning before we faced the elephant in the room -- the serious question that this Committee faces.
How are you going to answer the reporters' question when they ask you, sometime over the next year or two? Sequestration, unless we stop it, is a nine year deal?
How are you doing to answer that question -- what did you do to protect our military from sequestration?
This is your answer. Please vote for this amendment.