The bipartisan Super Committee is working on cutting at least $1.2 trillion from the federal budget. By law, if the Super Committee does not complete its work by Thanksgiving, an automatic, across-the-board cut called ‘sequestration’ will be triggered in January 2012.
If sequestration occurs, our national security and defense capacity will be at risk. Cuts will be so severe that in one year, the Pentagon budget will be reduced by $105 billion or 18 percent. Over nine years, those cuts will total $1.1 trillion.
What will this mean for the structure of our Armed Forces?
Troop levels will be reduced by at least 200,000 war fighters, which will be to pre-9/11 levels. Our Navy will have fifty fewer ships in its fleet and the Air Force will have nearly 400 fewer fighter jets. This all comes while we have ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, we continue to face significant national security threats here at home, and countries like China are increasing their investment in defense.
Sequestration will hurt jobs in Fort Worth. The V-22 and F-35 programs will inevitably feel the pinch as all service branches are expected to receive a matching cut.
Defense cuts will create a dubious employment environment for our men and women returning from war. The current unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan now stands at 22 percent. For wounded veterans that number is 44 percent. The economy is already too frail to absorb the hundreds of thousands of returning service members. We shouldn’t throw even more veterans into an already-bad job market.
This all should be an incentive for the bipartisan Super Committee to put politics aside and look for cuts to our national budget that won’t jeopardize our national security. While we are all forced to work with smaller budget numbers, national security demands have not decreased. The consequences of sequestration could have a serious impact not only on our military but on our economy.