HUNTSVILLE, Alabama — The Congressional compromise forged this summer during debate over raising the debt ceiling poses an “illegitimate” threat to the Department of Defense, said U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions this morning.
If the dozen members of the bipartisan “super committee” in Congress are not able to agree by November 23 on a plan to cut about $1.5 trillion over the next decade, the agreement calls for big, automatic, across-the-board reductions in spending. Sessions said the cuts are disproportionately focused on military programs.
He said about 20 percent of the defense budget could be lost over 10 years under that worst-case scenario, which would lead to major layoffs in personnel, rapid reductions in troop strength, reductions in veterans’ benefits, and other ills.
“Everything’s got to be on the table, but no other area of the government is being looked at for something close to a 20 percent cut,” Sessions said after a “Washington Update” breakfast speech presented by the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce. “Very valuable programs would suffer unwise cuts. And certainly missile defense would be at risk.”
It was no surprise there was another packed house for the annual event at the Von Braun Center, despite the early hour: Roughly half the local economy depends on defense, space and other federal spending, said Rose Allen, the chamber’s vice chair of Governmental Affairs.
Sessions said that Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that if the committee doesn’t reach an agreement the cuts could cause the military to “break faith” with the force that has fought two wars, would inhibit development of equipment for the future and could “hollow us out.”
“They’re going to have to tighten their belt, but we can’t hollow it out, we can’t break it,” Sessions said to applause. “We can’t break faith with the people who served and put their lives on the line year after year, multiple deployments, in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. We can’t do it.”
The senator, who is now in his third term, said there were a number of myths about defense spending that make it an attractive target for those looking to make big budget reductions without working to find cuts in food stamps, the Department of Education or other programs.
While it’s true defense spending has increased because of the War on Terror, Sessions said, it remains at an average of about 4 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, well below the historic norm of 7 percent.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not caused our deficit problems, he also said. They have been expensive, he said, but this year’s deficit alone is equal to the entire cost of those wars over the last decade, about $1.3 or $1.4 trillion.
Sessions said that even if the super committee achieves its announced goal, the savings will fall far short of the $4 trillion in deficit reduction most experts say is needed. What the country needs is a real, comprehensive fiscal plan, he said.
“The president needs to look the people in the eye and tell them that this debt problem we have is not just something that’s going to improve when the economy comes back,” Sessions said. “The economy being down is a big factor in it. But the numbers are clear. As the economy grows it still will not pull us out of this.”
Other things Sessions suggested are making the tax system simpler and a “growth-enhancer,” creation of a lawful system of immigration that serves our national interests, and producing more nuclear, shale gas, offshore oil and other energy at home in the United States.
“We want to create some jobs? Let’s build a nuclear plant – pollution-free energy for 60 years at a competitive cost,” he said.
Article source: http://blog.al.com/breaking/2011/09/sen_jeff_sessions.html