It’s Democrats’ worst election nightmare: a million more workers about to be unemployed coupled with a U.S. military unable to meet its national security commitments worldwide.
Just before Americans head to the polls in November, nearly 1 million additional U.S. workers could be notified that they will lose their jobs. This massive round of layoffs could be a reality thanks to the $500 billion planned cuts to defense spending under sequestration.
Unfortunately, this reality means that the sequestration that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said would cause “catastrophic damage to our military” will also have political implications.
When 23 million Americans are already unemployed or underemployed, our nation cannot afford to have another million added to the unemployment line.
Under the federal WARN Act, employers must give employees 60 days’ notice of layoffs. That means employees must be notified of sequestration cuts by Nov. 2, 2012 — just days before this year’s election. In some cases, state law requires 90 days’ notice, meaning that some will get the news on Oct. 2.
Lockheed Martin recently made the above scenario a reality. The company, in compliance with the WARN Act, said it plans to notify 120,000 of its employees this fall that their jobs could be lost as a result of sequestration.
According to independent analysis, swing states like Virginia, Florida and Pennsylvania would be hit hard with potential private sector job losses. Ohio, one of President Obama’s favorite destinations, could lose more than 18,000 private sector jobs. North Carolina, the host of the Democrats’ convention this year, could see more than 11,000 private sector jobs lost. Across swing states alone, these cuts could cost nearly 300,000 jobs.
The ripple effect of these losses to the defense industry will be felt far and wide across our economy.
Adding to this are the national security concerns.
Cutting the $500 billion required by sequestration would be difficult on its own. However, these cuts are coupled with the last few years’ worth of military cuts under Obama, creating a devastating situation.
In an increasingly dangerous world, the Pentagon is already planning on cutting spending over the next 10 years, which will further degrade readiness and delay or cancel desperately needed modernization.
The Pentagon will be forced to drastically cut personnel, the number of brigade combat teams, carrier battle groups, tactical fighters and airlift aircraft, as well as cut or postpone programs such as the F-35, the littoral combat ship, the next-generation ballistic missile submarine and the ground combat vehicle.
Under sequestration, we would have the smallest ground forces since 1940, the smallest fleet of ships since 1915 and the smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force.
The end result: a power vacuum will be created around the globe.
As terrorism spreads from the Middle East through Africa and around the globe, and countries like Iran and North Korea continue to threaten their neighbors and destabilize regional and global security, the United States will be hollowing out its military.
The United States will no longer be able to maintain the leadership position that has maintained our security for the past 70 years. America would have no choice but to formulate yet another new national security strategy that accepts far too much risk.
While our current economic situation and out-of-control federal spending needs to be addressed, forcing our men and women in uniform to shoulder the brunt of those cuts is wrong.
Congress must begin the work of making difficult spending decisions that reverse the course that has given us a debt of nearly $16 trillion. That is what leadership requires.
In this pre-election political climate, Congress reaching a long-term solution is not likely. That is why we need to make the decision now to delay spending cuts until the start of the next fiscal year, in September 2013. Between the House and Senate, several possible offsets exist to pay for such an extension.
When multiple warnings are coming from the service chiefs, allowing the indiscriminate slash-and-burn cuts under sequestration is both unacceptable for our nation’s security and irresponsible for Congress. Buying more time will remove Congress’s decision-making on precise spending cuts from the current political cycle.
With national security, economic and political ramifications, it is past time for Congress to act to avoid the destructive sequestration cuts.
Inhofe is a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.