Yesterday, President Obama signed the Sequestration Transparency Act into law. It requires the Administration to detail how the mandated defense cuts of sequestration will be implemented.
More transparency regarding this issue is good for Congress and for the American people, who deserve to know how the commander in chief seeks to implement the law. Sequestration, however, remains a bad policy. Instead of implementing it, Congress should be doing everything it can to overturn it.
Sequestration, a process established under the Budget Control Act of 2011, would impose draconian cuts on defense. This would be on the top of roughly $400 billion over the next nine years already imposed on defense by spending caps established in the law. Defense would share as much as 43 percent of total sequestration cuts even though it makes up only about 11 percent of total federal outlays. Meanwhile, entitlements—the real cause of the country’s fiscal troubles—bear not even 15 percent of the sequestration cost.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said the cuts would be “disastrous.” Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s second-in-command, recently told the House that “sequestration would have devastating effects on [the Defense Department] and its personnel.” For his part, President Obama has insisted on vetoing any effort to get rid of automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending.
Sequestration would have a hollowing effect on U.S. forces. Fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, after the “peace dividend” of the 1990s, has taken its toll, and readiness issues are already apparent. On average, B-52 bombers are nearly 50 years old, long-range bombers are nearly 35 years old, midair refueling tankers are 49 years old, and fighter aircraft are 22 years old. Air Force fighter jets are generations apart from the pilots flying them. 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.
This is incomprehensible. Men and women making sure that the U.S. and its allies are safe deserve better. Congress should work to overturn the cuts—without raising taxes and growing the debt—to sustain national security in a responsible manner.