By Representatives Tom Price and Vicky Hartzler
President Barack Obama promised in 2009 that he would cut our federal deficit in half during his first term in office. Instead, the U.S. deficit has hit unprecedented record highs, exceeding $1 trillion each year he's been president.
Now, Obama and congressional Democrats want to pay for their reckless spending by compromising one of the few constitutionally mandated purposes of government: to "provide for the common defense."
House Republicans believe we must get our spending under control. However, the military, already experiencing deep budget cuts, will not be able to carry out its assigned missions with these slated new reductions. Already, $487 billion has been cut from the Defense Department. This has led House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) to conclude: "We're past cutting the fat and past the muscle. Now we're cutting into the bone."
Yet these reductions are not enough to fix the enormous budget shortfalls created by Washington's insatiable appetite for spending. Instead of considering a responsible reform to mandatory spending programs -- the largest driver of our deficit -- Obama and congressional Democrats have refused to consider legislation passed by the House to prevent such drastic across-the-board cuts to our national defense.
Though sequestration targets several federal departments and agencies, the Defense Department is scheduled to bear an inordinate burden of nearly half all cuts -- despite the fact that only 19 percent of our budget is allocated for its operations. If Congress doesn't act, sequestration would allow Obama, unilaterally, to slash $1 trillion in funding for our armed forces, which is terribly irresponsible.
These cuts would have devastating consequences. Sequestration would force layoffs of more than 200,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen. It would downsize our military to a level where we would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest Navy since 1915 and the smallest tactical fighter force in Air Force history.
Most important, sequestration poses serious national security risks. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta stated that the cuts "could very well threaten the programs critical to our nation's security." According to the House Committee on Armed Services, sequestration "would diminish America's technological advantage in a global era." We know that maintaining a strong military not only keeps us safe in times of war but also, through deterrence, secures peace.
Therefore, we must reorganize the coming sequestration process so that we secure budget savings while also maintaining our nation's security and sovereignty, providing for those in active duty or have previously served, preserving good jobs and retaining America's posture as a global superpower.
House Republicans have already passed a plan to "avert sequestration for one year by finding funding elsewhere within the federal budget." This would allow for additional good faith negotiations to find the long-term savings mandated by the Budget Control Act.
The proposal would be fully offset with sensible cuts, funded through "a government-wide reduction in the number of federal employees by 10 percent through attrition." This means that for every three individuals who leave the federal workforce, departments could hire one worker -- hardly a difficult challenge.
It's time to put aside partisan politics and work together for future generations of Americans. Our families deserve peace and security. Our troops deserve to be fully prepared and fully funded. Our veterans deserve our respect and care.
That does not mean sequestration. It means fulfilling our constitutional responsibility by providing for the common defense.
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) is chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. He is a member of the Ways and Means Committee and the Budget Committee. Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) is a member of the Armed Services Committee and the subcommittees on Tactical Air and Land Forces, Readiness and Military Personnel.