Despite warnings of the dire consequences, America is teetering at the edge of a fiscal cliff, with January 1st, 2013 as the tipping point. On that date, unless Congress and the White House can reach agreement on how to cut the federal deficit, all taxpayers will be hit with higher taxes and deep cuts - called "sequestration" - will occur in almost all government spending, disrupting our already weak economy and putting our national security at risk.
According to the House Armed Services Committee, if sequestration goes into effect, it would put us on course for more than $1 trillion in defense cuts over the next 10 years. What would that mean? A huge hit to our military personnel and their families; devastating cuts in funding for critical military equipment and supplies for our soldiers; and a potentially catastrophic blow to our national defense and security capabilities in a time of increasing violence and danger.
All Americans feel a debt of gratitude to our men and women who serve in uniform. But Texas in particular has a culture that not only reveres the commitment and sacrifice they make to protect our freedom, we send a disproportionate number of our sons and daughters to serve.
The burden is not borne solely by those who continue to answer the call of duty, but by their families as well, as they endure separation and the anxiety of a loved one going off to war. These Americans have made tremendous sacrifices. They deserve better than to face threats to their financial security and increased risks to their loved ones in uniform, purely for political gamesmanship.
Sequestration would also place an additional burden on our economy. In the industries that support national defense, as many as 1 million skilled workers could be laid off. With 43 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent, it is beyond comprehension to add a virtual army to the 23 million Americans who are already out of work or under-employed. Government and private economic forecasters warn that sequestration will push the country back into recession next year.
The recent murder of our Ambassador to Libya and members of his staff, attacks on US embassies and consulates and continued riots across the Middle East and North Africa are stark reminders that great portions of the world remain volatile and hostile to the US. We have the mantle of responsibility that being the world's lone super-power brings. In the absence of U.S. military leadership, upheaval in the Middle East would be worse. As any student of history can attest, instability does not confine itself to national borders. Strife that starts in one country can spread like wildfire across a region.
Sequestration's cuts would reduce an additional 100,000 airmen, Marines, sailors and soldiers. That would leave us with the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest naval fleet since 1915 and the smallest tactical fighter force in the Air Force's history. With the destabilization in the Middle East and other areas tenuous, we would be left with a crippled military, a diminished stature internationally and a loss of technological research, development and advantage - just as actors across the globe are increasing their capabilities.
Sequestration can still be avoided. But that will require leadership from the President that has thus far been missing. Congress and the White House must reach a long-term agreement to reduce $1 trillion annual budget deficits, without the harsh tax increases that could stall economic growth and punish working families.