U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Bill Enyart (D-IL-12) today met with leaders at Scott Air Force Base to discuss the base's long-term strength and security. Durbin, who was recently named Chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and Enyart were briefed on Scott's priorities, the future needs and the support necessary for the base to sustain its long-term health by Base Commander Colonel David Almand, General Paul Silva, the head of the Air Mobility Command, and Gen. Bill Fraser, head of the U.S. Transportation Command.
"As I take the reins of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I am visiting military bases in the U.S. and abroad to hear firsthand about the challenges facing our military in the short and long term, including the impact on servicemembers, families and communities," Durbin said. "Scott is a crucial transportation hub for our nation's Armed Forces, and today's meeting allowed me to hear firsthand the challenges and opportunities facing this important base. As we prepare to examine our country's long-term financial heath, I intend to make sure Scott's missions are protected and our men and women on base have the resources and support they need to do their jobs well while experiencing a good quality of life."
"During my 35 years in the military, I tackled problems at their root," Enyart said. "Washington's artificial deadline set by sequestration over a year ago is not leadership. Our community in Southern Illinois cannot afford to pay the price of these political games, but we can show Washington the importance of the values we share as neighbors and the power of cooperation. I will be taking back the concerns from Scott Air Force Base and our local employers so Washington can hear the real implications of Congress' dysfunction."
Durbin's Defense Appropriations Subcommittee oversees funding for the military and intelligence community, the nation's national security requirements and the daily needs of over two million active duty and reserve servicemembers. The Subcommittee also oversees funding for Overseas Contingency Operations, including the war in Afghanistan and other military operations worldwide. All told, the Subcommittee controls nearly half of the nation's annual discretionary budget.
The meetings on base also covered the impact of sequestration, which will take effect March 1 unless Congress acts to avoid it and would force nearly ten percent reductions to most Air Force programs. Scott has already begun to curtail non-essential activities to prepare for the possibility of sequestration. Should the cuts happen, the base, which is the St. Louis area's third-largest employer, would be forced to institute 22-day furloughs for the 4,500 civilians who work there. Those employees would see their take-home pay shrink by 20%, resulting in an estimated $28 million loss to the region's economy.
"Sequestration is an economic challenge as much as a military one, and it will punish most the people who can least withstand it," Durbin said. "Few of my colleagues in either party want to see sequestration go through, and Senate Democrats have developed a plan to avoid it. We'll be voting on that plan in a matter of days. I intend to do everything I can to keep these cuts from happening, and to give our Armed Forces the support they need to keep functioning at the highest level."
This week, the Senate will vote on the American Family Economic Protection Act, which will eliminate sequestration cuts through 2014. The bill replaces those sequestration cuts with $55 billion in targeted spending reductions coupled with an equal amount of new revenue gained by adopting the Buffet Rule -- which ensures millionaires cannot pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than middle-class families -- and eliminating an oil industry tax loophole and deductions for companies that ship jobs overseas. With these provisions, the Act would not add to the federal government's long-term deficit.
Today's meeting follows a week-long trip Durbin took to the Middle East and Africa to meet with U.S. military leaders about a variety of ongoing operations, including intelligence, military training, counter-terrorism, counter-piracy, and humanitarian missions. The trip included stops in Bahrain, Djibouti and Uganda.