Inhofe's sequester alternative: Let service chiefs do cutting

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R- Okla.) has offered an alternative approach to handling the defense portion of the estimated $1.2 trillion cuts in federal spending known as sequestration poised to take effect March 1 unless Congress comes up with something different.

The centerpiece of the plan is to move responsibility for choosing specific defense cuts into the hands of the leaders of the five services. Some say the idea is gaining traction among lawmakers, including Democrats.

???I drafted a bill after talking to all five of the services chiefs [of the armed forces],??? Inhofe, ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Human Events Thursday. He explained that in the event the sequestration cuts take effect next Friday, the service chiefs of the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force Marine and Coast Guards ???would make the adjustments with regard to the amounts that their particular branch of the armed forces is forced to make overall.???

Put another way, the amount of the cuts for each of the branches would remain what it is under sequestration but where the cuts would take place would be determined by the service chiefs.

With five major military sites in Oklahoma, Inhofe???s state is very likely to experience particularly strong cuts. A recent article by former Federal Aviation Administration head and present Aerospace Industries Association CEO Marion Blakey estimated sequestration would cost Oklahoma nearly 16,000 jobs. However, Inhofe told us ???with what it would do to the uniformed presence, the figure is probably much higher.???

The Sooner State senator said that in his conversations with each of the chiefs, ???I asked two questions: first: could they make the adjustments themselves and second, would they be willing to hit the ground running [when sequestration sets in].??? All of them, he said, responded ???yes??? to both questions.

Inhofe added that he first proposed the alternative of letting the service chiefs determine where the precise cuts take place to the Senate Republican Conference on February 1. For the ???Inhofe alternative??? to take effect, lawmakers would be required to pass legislation.

With the cuts that Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta calls ???devastating??? set to take effect in seven days, Senate sources told Human Events there was Democratic interest in the Inhofe alternative.