Tomorrow, the House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on implementing the mandated defense cuts known as sequestration. Instead of implementing the cuts, Congress should be doing everything it can to overturn them.
The committee has already projected the actual consequences of these across-the-board cuts, and the Secretary of Defense has called the cuts “disastrous,” but no one in the Administration has yet discussed the specific ways they will apply this budget mechanism that will cut $500 billion (or more) from defense funding.
Yet regardless of what the witnesses testify, the fact is that the cuts will hollow out the military. Congress should work to overturn the cuts—without raising taxes and growing the debt—to sustain national security in a responsible manner.
The title of this hearing includes the phrase “sequestration implementation options.” While the Pentagon and Administration have until now been silent on this issue, others have posited potential options in this regard, and they are bleak: the smallest Air Force in its history, the smallest Navy since before World War I, and a Marine Corps that will be unable to fulfill its requirement of operating two Marine Expeditionary Brigades.
Cracks in readiness are already showing. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates installed efficiencies measures that greatly reduce defense spending, and the Budget Control Act, even before sequestration, requires a nearly half-trillion defense cut over the next 10 years.
Moreover, military readiness is being stretched. The Air Force has fighter jets so old that pilots are flying them literally generations apart. The Navy deploys ships that are barely able to sail. Members of the Army have had to tape body armor to their SUVs because they are not properly protected. The effect on the National Guard is as yet undetermined, but it will be substantial. As the Administration and Congress debate the future of defense, they cannot ignore the Armed Services’ present readiness crisis.
Regardless of how these Administration officials explain sequestration’s implementation, it is clear that Congress should act to stop the cuts. Allowing this catastrophic budgetary measure to go into effect will harm every aspect of national security, from the active duty forces to the industry that supports them. The government’s primary constitutional responsibility is to provide for the common defense. Congress should uphold this duty by overturning these cuts.