Roby Column - December 9, 2011

December 9, 2011
Representative Roby's Weekly Column

We live in a country protected by a highly trained and proficient military force, capable of safeguarding our nation and her citizens against immeasurable odds. The military men and women defending our nation guard us against the dangers that may undermine the security and peace of our country.

In representing the Second Congressional District -- a District housing several integral military installations -- and serving as a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am a strong advocate for our service men and women and their families. I am proud to serve on behalf of their interests and their needs.

Unfortunately, due to a provision included in the Budget Control Act (legislation Congress passed this summer raising the debt limit to evade default) a crippling level of defense cuts looms.

In exchange for raising the limit, the Budget Control Act established a 12-member commission, The Joint Select Committee, tasked with identifying at least $1.5 trillion in additional deficit reduction through discretionary cuts, entitlement reforms, or revenue raisers. If the Joint Select Committee failed to produce the necessary spending cuts, the Pentagon would be faced with billions more in cuts through a process of automatic spending reductions, otherwise known as “sequestration”.

Days before Thanksgiving, the Joint Select Committee announced that it would not meet the Budget Control Act’s deadline to approve legislation to achieve necessary budget savings.

Foreseeing this unacceptable outcome, I strongly opposed the final version of the Budget Control Act and voted against it in August. I knew it was unwise to use funding for national defense -- one of the few government functions enumerated in the U.S. Constitution -- as an insurance policy against the risk of committee failure.

The Committee’s announced failure now raises the likelihood that the automatic spending reductions will take effect, beginning in FY2013.

Further complicating the matter, the Defense Department does not operate on a year-to-year spending basis. Instead, it functions on long-term budgets. Even though FY2013 may seem like a few years away, the funding cuts will begin immediately to meet spending reduction targets.

According to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, reductions will be applied equally to each “program, project, and activity” within the Defense Department. Sec. Panetta also said, “Reductions at this level would lead to the smallest ground force since 1940” as well as the smallest civilian workforce in the history of the Department.

The U.S. military has already sustained deep spending cuts. In the past two years, Congress reduced future defense budgets by $460 billion.

Defense operations cannot undergo further reductions. There are other areas of the federal bureaucracy -- such as the Environmental Protection Agency -- more deserving of cuts.

While we should not back away from much-needed reductions in government spending, Congress must ensure that the automatic trigger does not jeopardize our military's ability to defend and protect America. Our service men and women must have the resources necessary to sustain the military defense that we inherently enjoy today. Congress must continue to work to ensure that our Armed Forces remain a fearless fighting force for America.

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