Last week, after more than a year of procrastination and seemingly boundless political posturing, the Administration finally acknowledged what House Republicans have been saying for over a year: the threat of sequestration to our military is real and must be addressed. Sequestration, the automatic across-the-board spending cuts, would levy $492 billion in defense cuts on our military over the next ten years. These cuts would be added to the $487 billion in defense cuts that are already being implemented. These additional sequestration cuts to our military would severely weaken our armed forces and threaten our national security by reducing our nation's military to its lowest levels since 1940.
The defense cuts imposed by sequestration would also pose a serious threat to our economy, and states like Florida, with a large military presence, would feel the brunt of the blow. Cuts to spending on weapons maintenance and acquisition would lead to the loss of over one million jobs and put off much needed weapons modernization. These one million job losses would be added to more than 350,000 lost jobs from cuts to active-duty and DoD civilian personnel.
With so much at stake, you would think that the Administration would lay out a plan as far in advance to deal with defense sequestration. My Colleagues and I on the House Armed Services Committee have held more than 20 hearings on sequestration dating back to September 2011. In December 2011, Congressman Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced legislation, which I proudly cosponsored, to avert the impact of sequestration. In May 2012, the House of Representatives passed the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, introduced by Congressman Paul Ryan, to replace the harmful cuts in the sequester with commonsense budget reductions that would not threaten our national security or harm our economy, and I was proud to support.
Unfortunately, while House Republicans were working to protect the American people from sequestration, the President continued to ignore the situation entirely. Like a college student waiting until the last minute to begin a final term paper, the President's inaction was irresponsible and unacceptable. Last Wednesday, with less than one month until sequestration begins, the President has finally instructed DoD to begin planning to deal with sequestration. Until the President gave the green light, DoD was expressly forbidden to use any time planning on the sequester. Astoundingly, Pentagon press secretary George Little remarked that the President's instructions to DoD meant that our defense leaders were only in a stage of "initial planning to define the parameters of what may need to happen on January 2." The Administration's flippant attitude towards sequestration is simply another example of a negligent lack of leadership when it comes to solving the serious fiscal issues facing our nation.
The impact of sequestration will also be felt by our nation's veterans community. Despite the fact that VA funding is exempt from sequestration, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki remarked last week that he was concerned that sequestration cuts in DoD would "have a serious impact in terms of those coming home, the programs that support them." Cuts to transition assistance and servicemember retraining programs would make it more difficult for our returning warriors to transition back to civilian life. We must act to ensure that sequestration cuts do not undermine the efforts we have made to help returning servicemembers and veterans find jobs in the civilian world. Each and every one of us, up to and including the President, has made a solemn vow to our servicemembers and veterans. We have a duty to ensure that their courage and sacrifice are never forgotten and that, when they return home, we repay them for the commitment and service to our nation. The American people cannot and should not accept anything less from their government. Now that the President has reversed course and finally acknowledged the threat of sequestration, he must join House Republicans to find a solution.