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Luetkemeyer Column - Impact of Sequestration


Location: Washington, DC

While it may be several months away, I wanted to make you aware that our country is headed toward a fiscal cliff that could have a devastating impact on our men and women in uniform, our economy and ultimately the security of our nation. You may have heard it referred to as sequestration in the media, and quite honestly, there is a lot at stake if Washington fails to act.

The bottom line: if Washington fails to enact savings mandated by last year's debt ceiling agreement, our fighting folks in uniform will see their funding cut by an additional $500 billion. That would come on top of $487 billion in cuts already in law bringing the total cut to our military to $1 trillion over the next ten years.

This would have a severe impact on the people of central and eastern Missouri. When we consider all the hard-working military families at bases like Fort Leonard Wood and the communities and businesses that serve them in the surrounding region, combined with the many small manufacturing firms and larger contactors like Boeing that supply the military, these cuts could have a devastating impact on Missouri's economy and stunt our ability to recover. At a time when our state and our nation are struggling through tough economic times, cutting critical military spending is just bad policy.

Beyond the economic hardships these cuts would have, we would be doing serious damage to our fighting force's ability to defend our people and our nation's interests anywhere on the globe. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said sequestration would be like "shooting ourselves in the head." Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey called sequestration "the definition of a hollow force."

Our force would shrink below pre-9/11 levels even as we are still at war in Afghanistan, facing increased threats from Iran and North Korea, unrest in the Middle East, and a rising China. More than 200,000 soldiers and Marines would be separated from service, sent from the front line to the unemployment line. America would have its smallest ground force since before World War II, the smallest number of ships since before World War I, and the smallest Air Force in the service's history.

My colleagues in the House have offered multiple solutions including passing a bill in April to replace these irresponsible defense cuts in 2013. Six committees, including Financial Services which I serve on, came up with the spending cuts in this bill in order to replace the 2013 defense cuts. The cuts in this bill included items like medical lawsuit reform to reduce health care costs, defunding parts of Obamacare, and requiring people to provide their Social Security number to claim the refundable child tax credit in order to prevent illegal immigrants from getting it. These are all reforms that are surely better to make than cutting our military and they'd also help our economy grow at the same time.

We recognize the urgent need to seriously address the real drivers of deficits and debt -- the incredible growth of entitlement spending. In fact, even if all military spending were to be completely eliminated, it wouldn't balance our budget. Unfortunately, President Obama and Senate Democrats have rejected all of the solutions we have proposed to protect our military but offered none of their own. The president, despite the warnings of his own Pentagon, has devoted little attention to the issue apart from issuing a veto threat against attempts to stave off this disaster.

My friend, our nation is suffering from a crisis of confidence brought on by an absence of leadership and that must end -- now. Our military and their families cannot wait for the November elections to have this issue resolved and we cannot hold the military hostage to domestic political squabbles. We owe it to the men and women who are called upon to respond in times of crisis to liberate our defense planning from gridlocked politics.

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