By Representative Adam Smith
Republican leaders on the House and Senate Armed Services committees have been increasingly raising the alarm about the devastating impact that budget sequestration would have on the Defense Department. They are absolutely right to do so, but it's not just the Pentagon that would be devastated by sequestration.
Conveniently, the Republican leaders have also ignored both their own role in creating sequestration in the first place and the fact that their stubborn resistance to any increase in revenues is the biggest reason why sequestration is even a possibility.
I voted against the Budget Control Act that put us on the path to sequestration. While I agree we need a 10-year plan to get the deficit under control, I disagree with the BCA because it calls for no increase in revenue, just deep cuts to defense, transportation, infrastructure, housing, education and other spending important to our long-term economic well-being.
The majority of House and Senate Republicans voted for the BCA, including many of the members now complaining the most about the impact of sequestration. Why? Because as much as these Republicans like to claim they're deeply concerned about cuts to our defense budget, their votes for the BCA proved they care much more about blocking any increase in revenue, no matter how small or no matter the source.
In fact, during negotiations, the Democrats proposed revenue increases instead of automatic defense cuts in the event the special congressional supercommittee failed to find an additional $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction. The Republicans refused. They prioritized protecting even the most outlandish tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans and the biggest corporations over protecting our defense budget. And they continue to do so.
Even as their howls grow louder about the impact of sequestration on our defense budget, they refuse to consider increasing revenue as a way to prevent defense cuts.
Only now are we beginning to see a faint glimmer of promise from the Republican Party. Recently, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told ABC News, "We're so far in debt that if you don't give up some ideological ground, the country sinks."
"I'm willing to move my party -- or try to -- on the tax question," he said.
I applaud Sen. Graham for taking this step toward the middle at a time when many Republicans seem too entrenched to compromise.
Some Republicans have also suggested we can avoid sequestration of the defense spending by simply cutting even more from other important federal programs. This approach ignores the reality that there's more to protecting our nation's security than just spending money on tanks, warships and other defense procurements.
Our nation's infrastructure -- our roads, bridges, railroads, seaports, airports and energy grid -- are all in desperate need of repairs, upgrades and expansion. Devastating the infrastructure of our nation to shore up our defense is a shortsighted approach to national security.
There's one thing that I and my Republican colleagues on the Armed Services committees agree on: We must act to stop sequestration. In addition to the impact it would have on our infrastructure and long-term economic strength, it would clearly be devastating to our defense budget. Mindless, across-the-board cuts would not allow the Pentagon to make thoughtful choices about how to save money.
Congress must act to prevent this, and we must act as soon as possible.
Even though the cuts are not scheduled to begin kicking in until January, defense contractors are preparing for those cuts by laying off employees and hurting our economy right now. They cannot simply cross their fingers and hope sequestration does not happen.
With our national security and economic well-being at stake, it's my hope the Republican Party will begin to understand the solution to this problem is simple: Put revenue options on the table and find the $1.2 trillion in savings mandated by the BCA, rather than standing by and allowing the devastating cuts to take place.
I stand ready to work with my Republican colleagues to reach this result.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) is the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee.