Georgia’s two U.S. senators and U.S. Rep. John Barrow warned Monday that pending budget cuts at the Pentagon will create a “dire scenario” for the military and have a “huge impact” on the Augusta community.
The remarks were made to a small gathering of business and community leaders anxious for news on how the cuts would affect Fort Gordon and its massive economic footprint on Augusta.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican and member of the Senate’s Armed Forces Committee, gave several instances of how cuts in weapons development and purchasing could affect national security, but he said specifics of how each military community will be affected is “very difficult to tell.”
Instead, Chambliss, Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson and Barrow, a Democrat, provided an update on their efforts to fight cuts to military spending. All of them said spending cuts are necessary to reduce the deficit, but Isakson said it should be done on a “common sense” basis.
“You decide what you can and can’t let go of,” Isakson said. One thing that must stay is the “ability to defend ourselves against all enemies foreign and domestic.”
The automatic cuts, known as sequestration, are the result of last year’s efforts by a “supercommittee” to find ways to cut a growing U.S. debt. Under the Budget Control Act, passed as a compromise, $1.2 trillion will be automatically cut from discretionary budget spending over the next 10 years, beginning Jan. 2, barring intervention from Congress to reduce the deficit.
Of that, $492 billion will come from the Pentagon, starting in 2013 with a $56.7 billion cut from the Department of Defense budget.
All of the service branches are either shrinking or maintaining current numbers with the end of the war in Iraq and the coming withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Georgia legislators applauded the cost savings realized through this approach but said sequestration will hasten a gradual process.
“We will hollow out our military like we haven’t seen before,” Chambliss said.
He outlined what he said were three unacceptable options: allow sequestration to go forward; produce a short-term fix; or forget about making any cuts.
“We have to get our financial house in order,” said Chambliss, who suggested addressing larger issues such as the tax code and entitlement programs such as Medicaid.
Isakson echoed that opinion: “This is not about not wanting to cut $1.2 trillion; it’s about how you do it.”
Barrow emphasized the importance of Fort Gordon and its communications missions to national defense, along with the presence of National Security Agency-Georgia on the Army post.
“That’s the brains of our national defense,” he said.