As the father of four sons currently serving in the military and a 31-year veteran of the South Carolina Army National Guard, I have always been an enthusiastic and ardent supporter of our brave men and women in uniform. As Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel and a member of the House Committee on Armed Services, I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work on the national security challenges our nation faces.
After our country was attacked on September 11, 2001, we woke up in a new era of conflict where our soldiers are now working throughout the world to prevent additional acts of terrorism against the American people and our country's interests. U.S. troops risk their lives daily, in Afghanistan and beyond, as they face terrorists abroad so that we do not have to face them on the streets of America.
Due to the passage of the Budget Control Act of 2011 last July, the Department of Defense is expected to suffer an automatic across-the-board $500 billion budget cut, also known as Sequestration. These cuts will not be used to reduce our growing national deficit, but instead will be shifted from defense to other departments and agencies. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned that such a drastic decrease will result in the smallest Navy since the beginning of World War I, smallest Army and Marine Corps since the beginning of World War II and the smallest Air Force since it was created. Not only will these cuts threaten our national security, military strength, and defense capabilities, it will also destroy approximately one million jobs across our country while sending a message to enemies we lack resolve to resist their attacks.
In terms of overall defense spending, South Carolina ranks eleventh nationally as it is 5.7 percent of our gross domestic product. Because of its large military presence, South Carolina’s economy is heavily influenced by the defense industry. In 2013 alone, our State could lose up to $481 million in defense contracts and our military personnel may decrease by 7,500. If the sequestration budget cuts go into full affect, thousands of private sector jobs will be destroyed.
Many Members of Congress with different backgrounds and different constituencies may disagree about the best way to protect our Nation. However, it is Congress' Constitutional responsibility to ensure our troops receive the best resources available to keep them safe at home and abroad. We must ensure that there is no interruption or restriction of funding for American troops in combat zones. Throughout the past year, I have made my opposition to Sequestration very clear. We MUST replace the impending cuts to our defense by cutting other unnecessary, government over-reaching programs that are not in place to protect our national security. Earlier this year, I held a Sequestration Roundtable Discussion in Columbia, and heard concerns from business people, community leaders, and military officials across our State who are worried about the real threat sequestration will have on our economy and national defense. In May 2012, I was proud to support H.R. 5652, the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, which replaces the defense budget cuts with common-sense reforms, while sending a clear message to the Administration: We will not put our national security at risk by allowing the President to shift money away from the Department of Defense in order to advance his liberal agenda. Unfortunately, this bill remains stalled in the liberal-controlled Senate awaiting action.
The United States military has successfully remained the most superior power in the world by practicing President Ronald Reagan’s national security approach of providing peace through strength. It is no accident America has not been attacked in more than 11 years. No matter the legislation before me, I will always fight to make sure our soldiers have the equipment and funding they need to do the job we have asked of them, which is to keep the American people safe from foreign threats.