President Obama and most Democrats want to replace looming sequestration cuts with a combination of tax hikes and spending cuts, while most Republicans don’t like the parameters of the cuts but think they should proceed anyway.
South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson is a member of the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees and doesn’t like either approach. He says the cuts set to take effect on Friday will be too damaging to national security and need to be assigned elsewhere.
“This is really an assault on the military and so I believe the cuts for the military should not go into effect because we’re in a time of war,” said Wilson. “This will have a big impact because 50 percent of the cuts, which is around $60 billion, is being applied to defense, which is only 15.1 percent of the federal budget.”
Wilson says officials from each service branch told the House Armed Services that the cuts could have an impact on personnel and may even lead to service members being involuntarily removed from the military.
“It was (former Defense) Secretary Leon Panetta who said that sequestration could hollow out the military. It would take away people who are very skilled and experienced fighting the asymmetric, illegal enemy combatants that we’re fighting and place these people out of military service who have skills that we need,” said Wilson.
The congressman says one sequestration-related decision by President Obama, as reported by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, already demonstrates how the cuts damage our readiness.
“(Woodward) indicated thatthe president’s decision not to deploy an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf in the name of fiscal responsibility is really putting our allies, but particularly putting our troops who are overseas, at risk. We need the air cover,” said Wilson. “It’s really startling what’s being done, but it’s not in the interest of America’s national security. It’s also putting our allies, particularly such as Israel, at risk.”
With just hours to go before the sequestration kicks in, Wilson holds out hope that cuts to the military can be spared.
“I truly hope that responsible action can be taken. There are ways to address the reduction in spending by doing away with government waste. Reduce the duplication. We’ve got circumstances where we should be requiring food stamp eligibility instead of the lax requirements that we have today,” said Wilson.
One example Wilson cited to illustrate what he considers misplaced priorities is the “free” cell phone program. He says the effort actually costs $2.2 billion and believes the money would be much better spent paying down the deficit or funding our troops. He also scolded the Obama administration for potentially endangering U.S. citizens by releasing hundreds of detained illegal immigrants as part of an alleged cost-cutting plan.
Wilson also spoke out on the political drama surrounding the nomination of former Sen. Hagel to be the next defense secretary. Hagel was confirmed this week after Senate Republicans briefly filibustered his nomination in order to demand more disclosure on his income and speeches and to insist on more administration transparency about what happened during the terrorist attacks in Benghazi. Wilson applauded GOP senators for their persistent demands on Benghazi. He was far less complimentary in his appraisal of Hagel as the new boss at the Pentagon.
“I’m very concerned. I’m very concerned about his resolve in truly promoting peace through strength,” said Wilson. “I do not see that the defense secretary has exhibited his resolve, truly supporting, by way of providing the equipment, the training, the attention to our military, military families and veterans,” said Wilson.