The federal government is broke and borrows 43 cents out of every dollar it spends. The Obama era of bailouts, buyouts and handouts has left our nation with a hangover of a staggering $14 trillion debt, with still more requests for massive additional spending. Obama's spending policies to date have failed to create jobs and get the economy moving.
Under the recent debt ceiling compromise, the administration and Congress agreed to raise the debt ceiling in exchange for a serious effort at cutting federal expenditures, through a "Super Committee."
To help meet this target, some congressional members on the far political left are calling for additional massive cuts in defense spending. I, along with many others, remain deeply concerned about the federal government's constitutional mandate to provide for the common defense. The Department of Defense (DOD) was already directed by the administration, prior to the creation of the super committee, to absorb $500 billion in cuts. Even that is too much, but Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned publicly that cuts beyond this $500 billion would be "disastrous."
While the specifics of future cuts to the defense budget remain unclear, cuts in defense are inevitable. The real questions remain on the specifics of how much, which programs, and how those may impact both our national defense readiness, and local Utah defense jobs.
The intense budget pressures have caused all branches of the military, including the Air Force, to re-examine how to achieve budget efficiencies. It is extremely likely that personnel reductions within the Air Force will occur in the future, however, where and by how many remains to be seen.
Some of us in Congress have asked the Air Force, and specifically the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), to provide details about its plans to reduce and reorganize its military and civilian workforce in the wake of the projected defense cuts. I remain very disappointed that we continue to be told by political appointees that they are unable to provide detailed information.
Plans for reorganization and cuts within the Air Force and AFMC are therefore apparently coming together behind closed doors without detailed Congressional review or oversight, which totally contradicts President Obama's pledge that transparency would be the touchstone of his administration.
I join with my colleagues in Congress who are concerned that the administration is using the pretext of budget cuts as a way to institute radical changes within the Air Force command structure. While I hope this is not the case, those management changes could result in, over time, a temporary loss of hundreds of jobs--jobs that would have to be reinstated later at a higher cost to the taxpayer.
While much uncertainly about potential cuts remains, I continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that the safety and security of our country is not jeopardized for a political agenda.
Bishop is Utah's 1st Congressional District representative in the U.S. Congress.