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Budget Cuts Could Weaken Our National Defense


Location: Washington, DC

During a recent ceremony in Warren County to commemorate the bicentennial of the start of the War of 1812, I read a congressional proclamation that recognized the role Ohioans played in major battles and skirmishes throughout the state.

Two hundred years ago, a declaration of war was voted on by Congress, and President James Madison signed it on June 18, 1812.

Americans commonly observe the Fourth of July, when we commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and reflect upon the heroism of our Founding Fathers in the Revolutionary War. But the War of 1812 was our second battle for independence.

In 1814, the White House and our Capitol building were burned by an invading army, President Madison and his family fled Washington, and it appeared that the nation was about to be wiped off the newly drawn maps just 30 years after it had won independence from Great Britain.

We would not again experience such an assault on our capital for 187 years, when terrorists attacked the Pentagon with an airliner filled with jet fuel and innocent civilians.

Fortunately, our young nation could rely upon men such as Major General William Henry Harrison of Hamilton County, who commanded all U.S. forces in Ohio and the surrounding territories against British troops and their Indian allies. After being recognized as a national hero, Harrison would become the first Ohioan elected president.

The bicentennial of the War of 1812 is worth noting, and the lessons learned in the 12th Congress are worth remembering now, in the 112th Congress. In that war, we learned (the hard way) about the need for a strong national defense -- we had a dozen warships, while Great Britain had hundreds -- and about the importance of being prepared before the fight begins.

The Budget Control Act of 2011, enacted in August of last year, requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to make across-the-board spending reductions of approximately $110 billion per year beginning on January 2, 2013. These cuts, along with cuts already put in place, mean we will be spending $1 trillion less on our nation's defense over the next 10 years.

Such cuts could be devastating to our national defense. According to the House Armed Services Committee, $1 trillion in defense cuts would lead to the loss of 100,000 more military personnel, giving us the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest naval fleet level since 1915, and the smallest tactical fighter force in the Air Force's history. The committee also estimates that these cuts would erode our technological advantage, cause severe damage to our defense industrial base, and lead to the loss of more than 1 million private-sector jobs.

On May 10, the House acted on a bill that would avert the coming cuts. That bill wouldn't just stop the cuts, it would reduce the deficit by four times as much as what will be achieved under the Budget Control Act. Unfortunately, the Senate has refused to act on that measure. So this week, the House will consider the Sequestration Transparency Act, which will require OMB to tell Congress what the consequences of the looming defense cuts will be.

We need to be mindful that there will always be armed conflict, and that winning isn't just a matter of being willing to fight but also of being prepared to go into battle. We need to make sure that the coming spending cuts don't damage our ability to protect the nation. This bill will make sure we have that information before budget cuts go into effect.

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