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Balancing the Federal Budget on Back of the Military Not the Answer


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As winter approaches, Members of Congress are working to determine how the nation's fiscal needs will be impacted if current law is not changed and sequestration is implemented and drastic budget cuts become a reality.

Fiscal responsibility tops the priority list in these difficult times, and I think we can all agree that tough decisions are ahead for all agencies. The stakes, however, couldn't be higher for our men and women in uniform as the Department of Defense (DoD) budget and sequestration stand in the crosshairs of legislative debate.

Without a change to current law, the trigger on sequestration will be pulled and across-the-board spending cuts will begin in January of 2013. With $450 billion in defense cuts already in the pipeline for the next ten years, that means defense cuts of nearly $1 trillion over a decade are in store for the Pentagon.

On a state-wide level, in Florida alone, officials predict a loss of 60,000 direct jobs and close to 180,000 additional indirect jobs under sequestration. A double dip recession and heavier debt would loom in the future.

Will Congress avert an almost certain hollowing out of our military and further economic decline by changing current law? That stark question sits on the table now.

My bottom line: Congress must have a deep and unwavering commitment to defending our nation. Any movement to turn back ten years of rebuilding our military, as sequestration would do, is a non-starter.

As a member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, my focus remains on common-sense legislative approaches to making strong budget choices. We don't have to forsake national security to achieve fiscal responsibility.

That's why I voted for the Sequestration Transparency Act (H.R. 5872). The bill, passed by the House and Senate, required the President to tell the military, their families, the defense industrial base, and American taxpayers how he would implement drastic defense cuts that would take place in January 2013 under current law.

Despite the fact that the President signed the Transparency Act into law in early August, no specific proposal on how to avert defense cuts and no plan on how to apply them exists.

It's also why I voted for the Down Payment to Protect National Security Act (H.R. 3662) -- legislation written by House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon that has been referred to committee. The bill would achieve the same savings in the first year of sequestration by allowing for attrition of the federal workforce by 10 percent over ten years.

Individuals, families, companies, communities are working hard to pay their bills, put food on the table, and meet a payroll. They understand that planning ahead is necessary and that tough economic times call for tough decisions.

Without the common-sense Down Payment to Protect National Security Act or another approach, sequestration will happen, bringing with it a bleak and dangerous picture unlike any our nation has faced.

The President's own Secretary of State has remarked sequestration "is like shooting yourself in the head." Military leaders agree, noting cutbacks beyond the $450 million already scheduled would undermine core capability and readiness, limit force projection, and create unnecessary risk to our national security.

Ground forces would be diminished to pre-World War II levels with 50,000 fewer soldiers and 15,000 fewer Marines. The Navy would be at its smallest level since 1915, and the tactical fighter force would be the smallest in Air Force history. Tearing away the resources needed to protect our nation is never the right move to make in my book.

With headlines about the national debt topping $16 trillion, nationwide unemployment hovering slightly above 8 percent in August and 8.8 percent in Florida, I agree Congress must take steps to keep its fiscal house in order.

Step-by-step, we are making real monumental fiscal achievements. Take the past year, for example: Congress cut domestic discretionary spending for two years in a row for the first time since World War II, reducing spending $95 billion from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2012.

Many believe that slashing defense spending is the sole answer to restoring America's fiscal health. But, with nearly a half trillion in defense cuts already scheduled, this sector is playing its part. As we move forward in our effort to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington, we must look to the entire federal budget.

Congress is in a position to ease a nation's financial woes and provide economic peace of mind to our children and grandchildren. But those must not be achieved on the backs of the military.

Osama bin Laden no longer walks this earth, but those who seek to destroy liberty remain at work, waging terror. The recent killings of our Ambassador and three other brave Americans at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya are stark reminders that others wish to harm our nation's citizens and property at home and around the globe.

Our servicemen and women deserve every possible tool as they put their lives on the line to defend liberty. Now is not the time for our nation to turn its back on them with ill-conceived budget policy.

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