‘Defending Our Defenders': Forbes Kicks Off Tour in Chesapeake, Virginia

Owen Graham /

Representatives Randy Forbes (R–VA) and Scott Rigell (R–VA) will be hosting a listening session in Chesapeake, Virginia, on Monday, May 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the Chesapeake Conference Center.

This event, part of a larger House Armed Services Committee effort spearheaded by Forbes entitled “Defending Our Defenders,” is an initiative aimed to raising awareness about the impact of existing and impending defense cuts to national defense and the U.S. military. This event is the first in a series of at least 12 town halls around the country designed to engage local citizens, veterans, and representatives from defense and industrial communities and chambers of commerce.

The goal is to start a conversation with citizens and stakeholders about how defense cuts will affect them and their communities as well as the nation at large. Of particular focus will be the looming cut from the defense “sequestration.”

“Sequestration” is a little-known term outside Washington and became law as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, part of the compromise to raise the U.S. debt ceiling. The law created a Congressional “super committee” that was charged with finding $1.2 trillion dollars in deficit reduction. The super committee failed and now the law mandates that $550 billion or more be cut from the defense budget starting in January 2013. While the sequestration goes into effect in January, it is already having a chilling effect on defense planning, business, and industry.

There is bipartisan recognition that defense sequestration would be a disaster. Even the current Secretary of Defense stated that sequestration would be “catastrophic,” while General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the U.S. will “no longer be a global power” if the sequestration hammer falls. Both the size of the cut and the way it will cut indiscriminately across each defense account is irresponsible and harmful to national security.

According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, sequestration would render most of our ship and construction projects unexecutable. It would also eliminate next-generation programs such as the Joint Strike Fighter and the next-generation bomber and deliver a heavy blow to U.S. missile defenses.

In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Chief of Staff General Raymond T. Odierno said that the U.S. “will no longer modernize.… We will no longer be able to respond to a variety of threats.… We will go to a size where we will lose our credibility to deter.” In fact, all the top service chiefs painted a bleak picture that day. They spoke in unison that sequestration damage could be irreversible.

What makes sequestration particularly pernicious is that it comes on top of multiple rounds of defense cuts since 2009. Despite popular perception, the Department of Defense has seen nearly a trillion dollars cut from its budgets from deficit reduction efforts. Now, unless Congress and the President act, another $550 billion will be slashed, bringing total cuts to nearly $1.5 trillion. A cut of this magnitude threatens to “hollow out” the military. This is particularly concerning, given the current international environment—the rise of China, a resurgent Russia, a nuclear-aspiring Iran—and the current state of the U.S. military.

There are readiness problems across every branch of our military. After 10 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan and wear and tear on equipment, the need to invest in and modernize the force couldn’t be more urgent. Defense budget increases after 9/11 were largely consumed by wartime operations and not on modernizing and recapitalizing the military—building new planes, ships, weapon systems, and equipment. According to our top military officials, the looming sequestration will make this modernization impossible. It will also place our country at risk in an increasingly dangerous world.

Sitting on the House Armed Services Committee and conducting oversight on our nation’s military, Forbes and Rigell have observed these warning signs and tracked the state of our military very closely. They are hoping to sit down with interested and concerned citizens to help find ways to raise awareness about this issue and discuss solutions to avert the coming train wreck.

Please sign up to attend the event here. And help spread the word!

JOIN CONGRESSMAN RANDY FORBES and CONGRESSMAN SCOTT RIGELL

ON MONDAY

MAY 14

6:30 p.m. (doors open at 5:30 p.m.)

CHESAPEAKE CONFERENCE CENTER

This town-hall-style forum will include brief information from a congressional delegation. A moderated “open mic” will allow participants to

• SHARE YOUR STORIES

• VOICE YOUR OPINIONS

• ASK HOW DEFENSE CUTS WILL IMPACT YOU

Concerned citizens, military retirees, veterans, small business owners, defense contractors, and local chambers of commerce are invited to attend.

Download the invitation here.

The Defending Our Defenders LISTENING SESSION seeks to allow citizen input about the danger defense budget cuts present to national security, our men and women in uniform, and local economies nationwide. More information is available at

www.forbes.house.gov