“Sequestration,” a four-syllable word for mindless spending cuts, threatens to put 1 million more Americans out of work, close down defense production lines and handicap our military for decades.
Does that make any sense in these perilous times?
While international competitors in aerospace and related fields are leaping forward and rogue countries and terrorist networks conspire against us, Congress last year stampeded our nation’s finances toward sequestration, a dangerous scheme of across-the-board reductions that experts say would decimate our economy at home and our military might abroad. Unless a smarter way of addressing our federal budget deficit is found, sequestration will cut another half-trillion dollars from the Defense Department, which already is working to absorb $487 billion in cuts over the next decade.
According to the department, sequestration will shut down virtually every major modernization program – from stealth fighters to intelligence satellites to ships the Navy has been waiting on for years. These cuts will leave our aerial and naval fleets smaller and older than any we’ve fielded since World War II, and our military dependent on aircraft designed and in some cases built three, four, even five decades ago. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the cuts would generate “unacceptable risk” to our combat troops; his deputy called it “assisted suicide” for our military.
Equally troubling, according to a study by economist Stephen Fuller, sequestration would destroy more than 350,000 aerospace jobs, with an additional loss of 654,000 jobs that our industry supports in communities and towns across the nation.
Even worse, cuts to research and development programs in aerospace and defense would hamstring one of the most effective ways the federal government stimulates the creation of new jobs.
At just 5 percent of the defense budget, defense investments are part of our nation’s heritage of world-leading technological research. The digital computer, for example, was first invented to solve artillery firing solutions in the 1940s. GPS and even the microwave oven are inventions paid for by the Defense Department. This short list offers a glimpse of the enormous economic reach of each defense dollar.
Today’s technological markets have an appetite that our competitors will fill if we cede ground. Both China and Russia are pouring money into new fifth-generation stealth fighters that could rival our F-22s, F-35s and F-18s. Russia reportedly is investing $650 billion in 600 new planes, 100 ships and 1,000 helicopters. Iran reportedly is trying to reverse engineer our drone technology. And North Korea’s nuclear missile program shows no signs of slowing down.
No one disputes that America must deal with its budget problems, and there are savings to be had even in defense. But defense investments are little more than 1 percent of our gross domestic product, and as such they cannot be the solution to any meaningful long-term debt reduction.
Sequestration is the easy way out, not the smart way forward. Let’s keep investing in the war-fighting technologies that will protect our nation and the jobs of Americans who manufacture them.