House instructs Obama to present defense cut replacement plan - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

House instructs Obama to present defense cut replacement plan

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The new year could see billions of dollars cut from defense and non-defense discretionary spending, and the U.S. House of Representatives has instructed President Barack Obama to submit a plan to replace those cuts by Oct. 15.

The cuts, or sequester, are a result of the Super Committee's failure to come up with trillions of dollars in spending cuts last year. Although every federally funded program will face across-the-board cuts in funding, it is cuts to defense spending that has Republicans worried. Cuts to defense programs would amount to nearly $500 million over the next 10 years under current law.

The House voted Sept. 13 to instruct Obama to submit a plan to replace all discretionary and mandatory defense spending cuts by Oct. 15. Reps. Shelley Moore Capito and David McKinley, both R-W.Va., voted in support of the legislation.

"If Congress can't work together to prevent across-the-board cuts that no one wants from taking effect early next year, our military will bear drastic consequences," Capito said in a statement following the vote. "Our national defense is not a bargaining chip in election year politics. That's why so many respected defense leaders, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have strongly objected to these devastating cuts."

The cuts would drastically reduce military strength, defense leaders warn. According to the legislation, the House Armed Services Committee has identified several ways in which defense cuts will impact the military. According to the committee, 200,000 soldiers and Marines will be separated from service, bringing the force down to pre-Sept. 11 levels; the ability to respond to contingencies in North Korea and Japan are in jeopardy; the smallest ground force since 1940; a fleet of fewer than 230 ships, the smallest level since 1915; the smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force; the nuclear triad that protects the U.S. and 30 allies will be in jeopardy; and a reduction of 20 percent in defense civilian personnel.

Panetta wrote to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to express some of his frustrations and worries.

"Facing such large reductions, we would have to reduce the size of the military sharply," Panetta wrote in the Nov. 14, 2011, letter. "Rough estimates suggest after 10 years of these cuts, we would have the smallest ground force since 1940, the smallest number of ships since 1915 and the smallest Air Force in its history."

Gen. Ray Odierno, chief of staff for the U.S. Army, said cuts to defense spending would be "catastrophic."

"My assessment is that the nation would incur an unacceptable level of strategic and operational risk," the legislation quotes him a saying.

In addition, a study released by the National Association of Manufacturers found that 1.1 million workers in the supply chain could be adversely affected by defense spending cuts, including 3.4 percent of workers in the aerospace industry, 3.3 percent of workers in the shipbuilding industry and 10 percent of workers in the search and navigation equipment industry.

But defense spending isn't the only thing that faces drastic cuts. According to the House Appropriations Committee, the sequester will also adversely affect non-defense discretionary programs. Sequestration would automatically reduce Head Start by $650 million, resulting in 75,000 fewer slots for children in the program; automatically reduce the National Institutes of Health by $2.4 billion, an amount equal to nearly half of the total NIH spending on cancer this year; and reduce the number of border patrol agents by about 1,870, or 9 percent of the total number of agents.

The bill, House Resolution 6365, passed the House 233-196 along party lines. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., voted against the legislation.

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