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Wallis: Sequestration Bad for Security and Economy

Some Americans are about to receive big news from major defense, aerospace and IT firms — not about landing new contracts but from layoffs and closings that are lurking around the corner.

At a time when our defense strategy is shifting to the vast Asia-Pacific theater, as recommended by the president’s January 2012 Strategic Guidance, and the U.S. economy is still having trouble creating and holding jobs, the consequences of sequestration, triggered by the failure of the super committee last fall, are already materializing in job losses.

The threat of inaction and impending consequences grows greater as each day passes with no viable solution found by Congress.

With the Defense Department already trimming $487 billion from its projected spending over the next decade in the fiscal 2013 budget request, an additional $400 billion to $500 billion triggered by sequestration over the same period would have long-term repercussions. Everyone needs to understand the consequences of inaction.

Since World War II, naval supremacy in the Pacific has been a key national security objective. The new Asia-Pacific defense strategy, with 60 percent of our ships in the Pacific, including six aircraft carriers, and 40 percent of our ships in the Atlantic, requires a strong and modern Navy to ensure security and stability in the Pacific Ocean.

A key component of this strategy requires the Navy to have forward projection capabilities that utilize current and future naval platforms. The Navy identified that a 300-ship fleet is needed to fulfill the new strategy and ensure American security. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert said that if sequestration kicks in, we would be on course to have our 285-ship fleet of today reduced to a 223-ship fleet, well below the amount needed to ensure our national security.  

The effect of such severe cuts would be felt not only in the maritime security of the United States, but by those around the world who depend on the security and stability our Navy provides. It is well-known by Members of Congress, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and other top military officials how disastrous sequestration would be for national security, how it would limit our ability to traverse the oceans and how it would affect training and operational responses. However, their words do not seem to have hastened a solution or resonated with the media or general public a warning of impending disaster.

How are we to expect our Navy to fulfill our new strategy in the Pacific Ocean if we do not give them the ships they need to fulfill this mission?

This leads to the next question: What should be done with all the remaining service members after we cut their budget and send some home?

Reducing the benefits and compensation that our service members and veterans have earned is not the morally correct solution. Nor is recklessly reducing the number of military personnel as we try to push across the finish line in Afghanistan.

While we dock our ships and send our sailors and other service members home jobless, those providing much-needed modernization, manufacturing and research for our military will also be given orders to find new work.  

With an already dull jobs market, putting our most inventive cutting-edge, and, arguably, critical manufacturers and laboratories in the defense industry out of work is a bad idea.  

The National Association of Manufacturers recently sent a letter to the House Armed Services Committee expressing concern about sequestration. The companies represented in that association employ many high-skilled and highly educated workers and keep the American military the best in the world. Any extended period in which we have fewer engineers, scientists and manufacturers working, the more we lose our technological advantage in the world.  

In this era of deficits, any money spent needs to be money well-spent, and nothing can be more important than ensuring we have the right amount of equipment to ensure our national security and provide the earned benefits and compensation for our current and former men and women in uniform.  

Risking hundreds of thousands of jobs, livelihoods and our overall national security through mechanisms such as sequestration is neither fair nor right when there are many other wrongs that need to be corrected.

Anthony A. Wallis is director of legislation and government affairs for the Association of the United States Navy.

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