Rep. Buck McKeon accuses President Obama of doing 'nothing' to stop automatic defense cuts

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is fit to be tied by President Barack Obama’s lack of leadership when it comes to the looming budget train wreck that threatens to disarm our military in time of war.   The chairman outlined his concerns regarding the national security train wreck in a conference call on May 1.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), the HASC chairman, is beside himself with worry about the “mindless way” the Obama administration is doing absolutely “nothing” to stop and/or prepare for sequestration, the mandated year-after-year automatic defense cuts that begin in seven months — January 2013.

The sequestration crisis is the product of two efforts.  The 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) created an automatic sequester process to force $1.2 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years.  Even though national defense is the first job of government the BCA specifies that half of those reductions, $492 billion, will come from defense.  But defense spending constituted 20 percent of federal spending in fiscal year 2011, yet it will bear 50 percent of spending reductions. 

McKeon points out the proposed sequestration cuts would come atop $487 billion in already agreed to reductions which together will “essentially freeze the Pentagon.”  It could cost at least 1.5 million jobs pushing unemployment back over 9 percent, McKeon said, and nullify all Pentagon contracts which will force the government into massive litigation. 

The second effort was the failure by last fall’s Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to find a fix to avert the budget train wreck.  That means sequester takes effect in January unless something dramatic happens, which in this political year is doubtful.

Unfortunately, President Obama said “I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts” and “the only way to get rid of those cuts is to get Congress to come together and work on a deal.”   The veto threat prompted House Republicans like McKeon to push for a $333 billion reconciliation bill to protect our defense from sequestration.  

Six House committees are now scrubbing legislation to find the $333 billion in savings needed to protect defense but this effort won’t happen unless the American people pressure their members of Congress, said Mr. McKeon.  Besides, the chairman said House Democrats “are not paying attention to sequestration.  They think this will get fixed in the lame duck session.”  And President Obama is on the campaign trail having already proposed a distasteful bait and switch budget deal.

The president’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal includes $400 billion of deficit reduction over 10 years that protects defense but it requires an unacceptable $1.5 trillion in new borrowing and a tax increase of $1.9 trillion.  Further, the president’s new budget increases other government agency budgets while only defense — the government’s highest priority — is forced to make do with less.

The HASC chairman said that if the House’s reconciliation bill fails and sequestration goes forward, the Obama administration has no plan to mitigate the draconian consequences.  In fact, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified “We have made no plans for a sequestration because it’s a nutty formula.”

Worse, Mr. McKeon said, Ash Carter, Obama’s deputy secretary of defense, also emphasized the administration is doing nothing to plan for sequestration.  Therefore, if sequestration happens, Carter said, the administration will chop big chunks out of every Pentagon program and suffer the consequences.

Mr. McKeon was especially galled when he heard from Admiral Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, that he was ordered not to plan for sequestration.  That is suicide and “mindless” McKeon said especially given the dangers America faces.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs, testified “In my personal military judgment, formed over 38 years, we are living in the most dangerous time in my lifetime … I think sequestration would be completely oblivious to that, and counterproductive.”   Dempsey further warned it will create a “hollow force” and “pose unacceptable risk.”

Former vice chief of staff of the army, General Jack Keane testified sequestration “would absolutely break the bank at the Defense Department.  We would be a mere shadow of our former selves and be unable to face our global responsibilities.”

The Pentagon brass understand the consequences of a $1 trillion cut over 10 years, but are politically helpless given Obama’s veto threat and radical agenda. 

If the cuts happen our military will loose another 100,000 troops, making ours the smallest ground force since 1940 even though we are at war in Afghanistan and elsewhere.  Our navy will have fewer than 230 ships, the smallest level since 1915 even though the threatening Chinese fleet outnumbers our blue water navy.  We will end up with the smallest tactical fighter force in history even though air power is already critically short.  And our all-volunteer military could become unsustainable due to cuts in benefits which could force America to return to the draft.

Our technology edge will be tossed out the window by cuts to the Joint Strike Fighter, termination of the new strategic bomber, delaying new submarines, shrinking America’s aircraft carrier fleet and terminating the littoral combat ship.

Even before sequestration kicks in, defense companies are making deep cuts to our industrial base.  But sequestration risks severe and permanent damage to our industrial base through massive layoffs, slashing research and development spending, and reducing the number of reliable providers of wartime goods.

The consequence of $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years is “We would no longer be a global power,” General Dempsey testified.  But that is the game of chicken President Obama is playing with our defense. 

Mr. McKeon calls for Americans concerned about our national security to contact their members of Congress to insist they support pending reconciliation legislation.  Mr. Obama must not be allowed to irresponsibly sacrifice our security to protect out of control entitlement spending and continue to drive-up our national debt.