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Congressman Tom Cole

Representing the 4th District of Oklahoma

Time Running Out to Stop the Sequester

October 22, 2012
Weekly Columns

In less than 90 days, the military will face devastating spending cuts accompanied by massive lay-offs to the defense industry unless President Obama and Senate Democrats work with House Republicans to stop the sequester.  Everyone in Washington agrees that the $492 billion in automatic, arbitrary military spending cuts known as sequestration would be disastrous for both our defense capabilities and our economy.  It is absolutely unacceptable that the president and Senate have allowed the process to advance this far without offering solutions.

House Republicans have voted no fewer than five times to prevent the sequester before the first $55 billion in military cuts takes effect January 1.  In May, we passed the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act, which would avert the reckless, random reductions in favor of targeted spending cuts spread more proportionately throughout the budget.   This balanced, responsible approach is what Congress intended when we passed the Budget Control Act in August 2011.  An unprecedented victory for fiscal sanity, the Budget Control Act required for the first time that an increase in the debt ceiling be paired with an equal amount of spending cuts.  The Supercommittee's failure to find common ground on the necessary $1.2 trillion in spending cuts is no excuse for allowing the cuts to be enacted blindly or to cut 40 percent from a military budget that represents just one-fifth of total spending. 

Adding an additional $492 billion in sequester cuts to the $487 billion funding reduction already scheduled would do real damage to our defense capabilities.  Layoffs of more than 200,000 soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen would reduce our military to its smallest ground force since 1940, smallest Navy since 1915 and smallest tactical fighter force in Air Force history.

The economic consequences of the sequester would also be severe.  Oklahoma's economy alone stands to lose up to 16,000 jobs and $630 million. The trade group Aerospace Industries Association estimates a worst-case scenario of 1 million jobs lost nationwide. 

While President Obama has offered no leadership or solutions of his own and even threatened to veto the House-passed legislation, his Office of Management and Budget (OMB) did find the time to attempt some political damage control -- at the expense of those who could lose their jobs if sequestration is implemented.  On September 28, OMB issued directives advising government contractors not to issue lay-off notices to workers likely to be affected by sequester.  Not only is this action irresponsible and extremely unfair to workers who deserve to know their employment status, it may also be illegal.  Under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, employers are required to provide 60 days notice to employees expected to be impacted by foreseeable lay-offs and plant closings.  Not to worry, says OMB; any companies sued for violating the law can expect the government to cover their legal expenses with taxpayer money.  With defense contractors like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin already announcing lay-offs and signaling their intent to give notice of additional job cuts, the OMB announcement is a blatant attempt to prevent politically inconvenient lay-off announcements.

The White House should spend less time contriving to prevent lay-off notifications and more time working to prevent the actual lay-offs. The president has less than 90 days to accept the sensible House Republican plan to stop the sequester.