Mar 29 2012

Across-the-Board Cuts Disarm Nation

By Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), John McCain (R-AZ), and John Cornyn (R-TX)

We joined earlier this year to introduce a bill that replaces the across-the-board cuts imposed by the Budget Control Act – cuts to both defense and nondefense programs – with more responsible savings.


While these across-the-board cuts won’t take full effect for another nine months, our national security and military already have been undermined.


This is far more than some far-off problem, to be confronted later. As a top defense official recently suggested, the cuts are making the military’s difficult task of defense planning even more complicated by preventing the Pentagon from knowing exactly what resources will be available.


Indeed, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said such cuts would lead to, “the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915 and the smallest air force in … [U.S.] history.” Panetta also correctly characterized the cuts as a “meat ax” approach, because they’re not just deep – they also slice indiscriminately across the board, and it’s not as though the military can simply purchase 5/6 of a ship or a submarine.


We all agree that the Defense Department must eliminate wasteful programs and continue to find efficiencies; however, our defense policy is becoming less about military strategy and more about fiscal strategy. Officials are forced to align resources to reflect arbitrary budget numbers rather than actual threats confronting the United States.


Moreover, preserving American freedom depends on our ability to protect economic and security interests around the globe. Yet some of our most fundamental missions and critical alliances are now threatened. Our enemies – who welcome a weakened U.S. with a smaller military, aging equipment and uncertain capabilities – are growing emboldened, sensing our diminished ability to respond effectively.


When we meet with visiting allies, many officials now despair that the looming cuts have encouraged our adversaries. In particular, they often cite Iran, which has moved rapidly ahead in pursuit of nuclear weapons.


U.S. servicemen and women are our nation’s finest, and we can’t maintain our global military edge without them. This edge is also sustained by a robust U.S. defense industrial base, which leads the world in technology and innovation. These looming cuts are a “huge disruption,” according to industry leaders, that are “already having a chilling effect” – forcing defense companies to make difficult choices. Businesses are becoming increasingly unable to hire workers, train employees or invest in research and development. And with these cuts scheduled to take effect three months into the fiscal year, companies will be forced to break many current contracts – something that is both costly and highly inefficient.


We need predictability to reverse this trend and defend our national security – another reason it is so critical to undo these harmful cuts.


It doesn’t have to be this way. Our proposed legislation charts a specific course to mitigate the devastating consequences of these reckless cuts in 2013. It does so with responsible savings – through attrition in the federal workforce and a temporary continuation of the Obama administration’s federal employee pay freeze.


We recognize that our proposal represents but one option to negate what the defense secretary labeled a national security “doomsday” scenario. In fact, Panetta could not be more clear when he says that the cuts will “decimate our defense” and that allowing such mindless cuts would be the equivalent of “shooting ourselves in the head.” There are other pathways, of course. For example, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction identified tens of billions in potential offsets – many of which would surely garner bipartisan support today.


We remain open to exploring these and other prospective savings with congressional colleagues from both parties.


The essential point is this: At a minimum, we have to prevent the across-the-board cuts from taking full effect in 2013.


We call on our colleagues to work with us to find an attainable solution so our military can continue to effectively defend U.S. freedom and liberty – as the Constitution requires.


Each day that we dither, our national security grows more tenuous. We cannot wait any longer.


The time to act is now.


This oped appeared in the March 29, 2012 issue of Politico.