Few Americans fully understand sequestration, but in March, the Top of Utah might experience how bad sequestration could be.
This idea of mandatory spending cuts, first proposed by President Obama's chief budget negotiator, was to be so severe that a special bicameral, bipartisan committee would be forced to find an alternative. I voted against forming this committee because the consequence of failure was too dangerous. Since then I have twice supported successful bipartisan House bills to prevent sequestration, but both have yet to be voted in the Senate. Even the president promised in a presidential debate that sequestration "will not happen," but now it appears that the spending cuts, postponed only until March, will be an unfolding disaster for our economy, jobs, and especially national defense.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly warned that cuts fall disproportionately on defense and would in effect "hollow-out" the military. Sequestration cuts are not the first military reductions. These cuts would be in addition to the over $1.4 trillion in defense cuts that have already occurred over the past four years under the Obama administration.
Let there be no mistake. If sequestration occurs, there will be impacts to Utah's economy. Thousands who depend on jobs at Hill AFB or other defense installations would be at risk of furloughs for weeks with no paychecks. Depot maintenance work will be deferred or cancelled. Suppliers who are essential to our industrial base would be lost, perhaps irretrievably. The ripple effect will be felt by everyone.
This is not just about jobs in Utah. It is a constitutional responsibility of Congress to "provide for the common defense." Top commanders have warned that this additional military reduction would "incur an unacceptable level of strategic and operational risk." Our national defense readiness is at historic lows. We have the smallest Navy since 1917, the smallest Army since before WWII, and the smallest Air Force ever, with the oldest average age of aircraft. We have postponed needed modernization of weapons systems, including nuclear defense. Cuts are killing research and development which has kept the U.S. on the leading edge of technological military strength.
President Obama insisted on raising taxes as the price necessary to postpone the sequester cuts only until March. He got his way and, despite my vote against it, taxes were raised. However, at the same time, he broke his promise to continue any serious discussion of even the most modest of reforms necessary to keep Social Security and Medicare solvent and halt defense sequester cuts. This is disappointing.
Defense sequester cuts should not be inevitable. They are entirely avoidable. Reasonable reforms would result in savings that would keep entitlements solvent and avoid defense sequestration cuts. I pledge to continue to fight sequestration but the president needs to show leadership on this issue. To do nothing would create needless suffering for many Utahns and hurt our national defense.
Bishop represents Utah's First Congressional District.