By Todd Akin, special to the St. Louis Beacon
Posted 7:00 am Wed., 11.9.11
This summer, after much hemming and hawing, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Budget Control Act, which gave the President $2.4 trillion in additional borrowing power. I voted against this bill because I do not believe it addresses the fundamental problem of reckless deficit spending. Unfortunately, this bill included a mechanism which could put our nation’s military at risk and will have significant consequences in Missouri.
The looming cuts from the Budget Control Act will hurt our military and weaken our national security. According to a recent analysis by the House Armed Services Committee, on which I serve, if this next round of defense cuts is enacted, the Defense Department will be immediately cut by approximately 18 percent. This will bring defense spending as a share of total federal spending to the lowest it has been since before World War II. Nearly 200,000 soldiers and Marines would be fired, at a time when our national unemployment rate is 9 percent, and unemployment for young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is 22 percent.
The cuts will hit every branch of our military. The Marine Corps would face cuts so severe that its ability to do its mission comes into question. The Navy would likely lose another 50 ships, down from about 290 ships today. (In 1990, the Navy had 546 ships.) The Air Force would probably be forced to cut about 25 percent of its fighter aircraft, 25 percent of its bomber aircraft and 25 percent of its airlift aircraft. The Army would probably have to cut 30-40 percent of its maneuver battalions.
This is not trimming the fat, this is cutting the fundamental capabilities of our military. As Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently said, if these cuts happen, “we’d be shooting ourselves in the head.”
While Missourians have always been at the front of keeping our nation safe and secure, many people do not realize just how involved our state is in defending our nation. We have bombers flying from Whiteman Air Force Base to drop bombs in places like Libya and Afghanistan. We have soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood leading the fight in Afghanistan to keep IEDs from hurting our troops. We have thousands of people at the NGA in St. Louis producing geospatial intelligence for our troops worldwide. And Missouri’s defense industry has ranked as high as fifth in the country in recent years in terms of total defense dollars spent in our state.
If these cuts from the Budget Control Act go into effect, Missouri will be hit hard. In 2008, the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center released a study of the economic impact of national defense in Missouri. Using their research and the analysis from the Armed Services Committee, we arrive at scary numbers. Missouri alone could lose almost 30,000 private sector jobs in the defense industry. An additional 4,600 jobs could be lost from cuts to active duty military personnel and Defense Department civilians in Missouri. These cuts would likely result in about $2.2 billion in lost defense contracts for Missouri businesses, and over $1 billion in lost wages for Missouri families.
While our nation faces a massive budget crisis, cutting defense is not the solution. We have already cut defense by $465 billion; and even if we zeroed out the defense budget, we would only be half way to a balanced budget for this year alone.
In 2010, the revenue of the federal government was $2.2 trillion, and we spent $2.2 trillion on our auto-pilot spending programs alone (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, interest on our debt and more). That means that every dollar spent on things like the departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, Education and Energy or the National Park Service, the White House or the Capitol — all of these things were paid for with borrowed money.
While we should always be looking for wasteful spending, the defense budget has already been cut and even getting rid of the Defense Department completely would not solve the problem.
The cuts to the defense budget that may be enacted by the Budget Control Act will weaken our national security and hit home painfully in Missouri. Our nation is facing a debt crisis, but gutting the defense budget will not fix the problem, and will instead put our nation at risk. I will continue to fight for common sense budget reforms that can be done without putting our nation’s security at risk.
Todd Akin, R-Wildwood, represents Missouri’s 2nd congressional district. To reach Voices authors, contact Beacon features and commentary editor Donna Korando.