News 12 at First at Five / Monday, Aug. 20, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Two United States senators and one U.S. congressman traveled to Augusta Monday morning to talk about oncoming defense cuts.
"There is no question that providing for the common defense is the most mandatory function of government but to treat that as just as expendable as everything else we're doing -- lobster institutes in Maine -- that's crazy," exclaimed Congressman John Barrow, D-Ga.
Huge cuts loom over the Department of Defense, and they'll likely be felt here at Fort Gordon.
"Any reduction in military spending is going to have its impact," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
But the three lawmakers who spoke Monday want to stop the bleeding. Chambliss, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Barrow gathered at the Augusta Museum of History to explain their mission to a room full of soldiers and community leaders.
"We need to make sure that the Pentagon pays its fair share with spending reductions," said Sen. Chambliss, explaining that there is fraud and abusive, wasteful spending to cut from the DOD.
He explained those particular cuts will have to happen. After debt ceiling negotiations last year, the DOD will face $487 billion in cuts.
But a process called sequestration in that agreement could more than double that amount if Congress fails to act and reduce spending by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. Sequestration would trigger automatic cuts across the board. Chambliss says the DOD would face an additional $492 billion cut because of sequestration.
"We realized how painful [sequestration] was going to be. That was intended to make Congress do its job. But as usual, Congress ain't doing its job, and so it looks like what they set up as a discipline tool is going to be a disaster for our military," explained Congressman Barrow.
The lawmakers said it would mean the U.S. military would transform to the smallest ground force since 1940. Chambliss estimates that about 160,000 Army soldiers will be laid off if sequestration happens. He says many possibly would be fired at Fort Gordon. Undoubtedly, he says the impact on Fort Gordon and the surrounding community's economy would be "huge."
Military contractors will likely downsize, too. Chambliss says Lockheed Martin has already indicated it will lay off thousands if sequestration happens.
One report estimates the loss of 2 million jobs overall, and it's all because Congress has yet to come up with $1.2 trillion in cuts.
They have until Jan. 2, 2013, to do so.
"This problem hasn't gone away. It's looming right down the road," Barrow said.
Chambliss says there are four solutions to the approaching disaster. He says Congress can let sequestration take its course, which he says some congressional Democrats desire. He says Congress can officiate the cuts. He says another option is a short-term fix, but he says that doesn't solve a problem that will continue to come up. He recommends what he calls a "grand bargain." He says the grand bargain will include cutting spending and reforming entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security, while reforming the tax code as well.
Chambliss says military health care programs and programs for wounded warriors will not be touched by sequestration if it does occur.