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Opinion | Lawmakers should recognize negative impacts of the sequester on Department of Defense

By Michael Woeste
On March 18, 2013

When President Eisenhower was leaving office, he warned of the growth of the military industrial complex. This advice to the American people came from a man who was a master of military strategy and bureaucratic management. Eisenhower was correct in his prediction about the expansion of our military, but not to the point where our country finds itself today. He did not predict a military with a budget size that would one day be held ransom by lawmakers.

It is no secret that our nation's spending problem has put our country in a place that it did not think it could go to. Every American is reminded of this anytime there is another artificial crisis of a government shutdown. The American people are currently experiencing one of these artificial crises, automatic cuts being seen across the board, primarily to the Department of Defense.

The White House saw the sequester as the catalyst for changing other aspects of the fiscal issues within government.

A hard reality is that those changes never happened, the country went over the fiscal cliff, the Obama administration got their tax hikes and we still have reached the sequester. Cuts to smaller programs and entitlement reform were never touched throughout this process. We saw the greatest consequence from the inability of the White House and Congress to create a grand bargain to the financial crisis was across the board cuts to the largest defense program in the world. While I agree that cuts need to happen, the wrong cuts were made.

While defense makes up roughly 20 percent of the budget, consider what is involved in those $682 billion (2011 projection), and more so what is considered in the $45 billion being cut with the enactment of the sequester.

It is almost baffling that the White House would consider putting issues such as the sequester on the table, when it is our nation's security that is at risk. It is understandable some cuts should be made to the Department of Defense considering the fact that engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan are dwindling, and it is cyclical for such downsizing to occur when wars end. The sequester has gone far beyond the small downsizing that should happen. To threaten members of the FAA, TSA, FBP and many others that do have an impact on how this nation remains secure.

If cuts to those programs alone were not enough, the federal government decided to cut benefits to military personnel as part of this plan. To hurt the benefits of those who stand and defend this country everyday should make any lawmaker in Washington stop and give pause to what is actually happening with this deal. It should only make them realize who is really getting hurt by the sequester.

Unlike the other fiscal incidents that this country has seen over the past few years, the sequester was met without the countdown clocks, the constant following of congressional leadership or the late night meetings between the legislative and executive branches. Such an easy transition from the status quo, the sequester could bring upon two explanations. The first could be that neither Congress nor the White House is willing to work with one another, or that the sequester is not what it has been created to be. Perhaps in the grand scheme of things, these $1.2 trillion in cuts are only a small piece of something much larger. While it is a possibility, the threats to cut programs such as the purchasing of aircraft, FEMA relief and border security are not.

Since the sequester has been put into affect, no meetings have been struck, no acts of Congress have been put on the table and the wheels of the Department of Defense have not stopped. In fact, the government has moved on to the next issue of the House, Senate and White House budgets, and attempts to pass another continuing resolution.

The issue of the sequester has passed to the dark side of the moon in budget politics, and its future is still in question. The sequester has met the demise of so many other issues that were once at the forefront of political discussions.

Issues that have substance and can shape the future of the safety of the American people fall to the backburner of politics and are forgotten. Leadership puts the idea aside, and moves on to its next kabuki theater of Washington politics.

What message is the White House sending when it decides to create a budget solution that cuts into the greatest military and defense apparatus in the world? How are they fulfilling a constitutional obligation to provide for our common defense through sweeping cuts to a department whose sole task is to keep our country safe?

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