Monday, July 30, 2012

Defense Sequestration: Travelling The Country to "Defend our Defenders"

Congressman Randy Forbes

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Dear Friend,

America's all-volunteer military is the most well-trained, well-equipped fighting force the world has ever seen. But the impact of looming defense "sequestration" budget cuts would be catastrophic for our military, local communities and veterans if they are allowed to occur on January 1st. After President Obama has cut roughly $800 billion over the last three years, the military will be levied with another $492 billion in cuts to our National Defense over the next 10 years is sequestration goes into effect. Our military and our national security must not be saddled with this devastating outcome.

The magnitude of defense sequestration cuts are clear: The smallest ground force since 1940; the smallest Navy since 1915; the smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force; future military veterans and retirees could have their retirement pay significantly delayed and/or reduced; a weakened defense manufacturing base; 2.1 million jobs lost.

The post-sequestration picture looks dire for Virginia as well. According to a study conducted by a Professor from George Mason University. Virginia could lose over 207,000 jobs as a result of sequestration cuts. The Hampton Roads naval community would also suffer as these cuts trickle down to affect shipbuilding, operations, and maintenance. Indeed, the Navy has testified the fleet, already too small, could be reduced by an additional 50 ships. Our future Navy would also be held hostage as the shipbuilding budget, already too low to meet our current 30--year shipbuilding plans according to the Congressional Budget Office, could be reduced by some $15billion.

That is why I was pleased to see that U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) have launched a "Preserving America's Strength" series of town hall-style meetings that will bring them across the country to help highlight the devastation sequestration will have on our national security. This tour, which will take place on July 30-31, will come to the Half Moone Cruise Terminal in Norfolk, Virginia on Monday July 30 at 5:00 p.m.. It will also make stops in Florida, North Carolina, and New Hampshire. I applaud the Senator's efforts.

My friends in the Senate are right to get out of Washington D.C. to discuss the complicated process of sequestration and listen to local communities across the country about the impact it stands to have on them. For the same reasons, this past spring I launched a national listening tour of my own that I called Defending Our Defenders. We began our journey with Rep. Wittman and Rep. Rigell at the Chesapeake Conference Center in Chesapeake, Virginia in May. That evening we had thoughtful discussion with over 500 local citizens about defense spending and our national security, including an "open mic" session that allowed dozens of participants to share their stories, voice opinions, and ask how defense cuts will impact them and their families.

Defending our Defenders continued on to Pensacola, Florida on May 24 with Rep. Jeff Miller, where I toured Eglin Air Force Base and the home of the Air Force Special Operations Command before co-hosting a listening session at Northwest Florida State College. On June 4th I joined Rep. Bobby Schilling and Rep. Dave Loebsack in Moline, Illinois for a tour of the Rock Island Arsenal and a listening session at Western Illinois State University. We continued on June 13 to San Diego, California where Rep. Duncan Hunter and I toured the General Atomics facility and held a listening session at the University of San Diego. Finally, on June 16th I joined Rep. Denny Rehberg for a listening session at Montana State University in Great Falls, Montana. In August I plan to visit Fort Smith, Arkansas before completing the Defending our Defenders tour in Warrensburg, Missouri in September.

Traveling to some of our Nation's most important military communities I have learned a number of things. First, the $800 billion in defense cuts the Nation has already taken over the last two years have reduced our military capability to a level that is woefully inadequate. Further defense cuts made without any strategic rationale will only weaken our Nation further. And second, it is clear that the strength of our military rests not in its high-technology weapons but in the local communities that cultivate and support our service members and their families.

This past May, in an effort to avoid further cuts to our military, the House passed its own plan to avert sequestration cuts to defense. However, the Senate and the President have yet to offer their plan for stopping a budget cut that President Obama's Secretary of Defense has said would be the equivalent of "shooting ourselves in the head." Our military servic emembers, their families, and our national security deserve a swift resolution to this devastation budget axe.

Yours in service,


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