Chambliss warns of impact of automatic spending cuts

WARNER ROBINS -- “Sequestration” is a Washington buzzword people often don’t understand, so U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss and other members of Georgia’s congressional delegation arrived Tuesday to put it in simpler terms.

Those included “a dark cloud,” “a train coming down the tracks,” “a fiscal cliff we are headed over” and “D-Day.”

At issue is $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts over a 10-year period slated to kick in Jan. 2 unless Congress reaches an alternative agreement. Of those cuts, $492 billion would come from the military.

“When defense spending is impacted in a way that is projected with sequestration, that’s not just going to trickle down to the local community. It’s going to fall down,” Chambliss said.

He made the comments to about 150 people at Middle Georgia Technical College in a talk arranged by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Committee. Chambliss was joined by Sen. Johnny Isakson, 8th District Rep. Austin Scott, as well as the only Democrat on the panel, 2nd District U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop.

All were in agreement that sequestration needs to be avoided and that an agreement won’t happen until after the November elections.

After the talk, retired Maj. Gen. Robert McMahon, former Warner Robins Air Logistics Center commander, said sequestration almost certainly will mean significant job cuts at Robins, particularly in the maintenance area. That, he said, is because the cuts would mean a reduction in aircraft and flying hours, resulting in a reduction in maintenance. McMahon is the incoming president of the 21st Century Partnership, which works to protect jobs at Robins.

Chambliss has been making similar presentations at military communities across the state, often joined by Isakson and members of the local congressional delegation, to help people understand the potential impact of sequestration.

“If that does kick in, every military expert I’ve talked to has said we will hollow out our military like we have never seen before in the history of our country,” Chambliss said.

Sequestration came about as a result of the Budget Control Act approved a year ago. It set up a committee of Democrats and Republicans to come up with $1.2 trillion in cuts, or those cuts would automatically kick in across the board.

“We are not here to say we don’t need to cut,” said Isakson. “We are hear to say we do need to cut spending, but we need to do it in a responsible way.”

Bishop said sequestration is estimated to mean the loss of 1 million defense contractor jobs, including 28,700 in Georgia. He said it also would impact veterans and military families.

“These cuts are unacceptable,” Bishop said. “We cannot accept cuts that would significantly harm our national security and the military’s ability to handle any contingency now and in the future.”

Bishop said sequestration was meant to force Republicans and Democrats to agree on cuts in order to avoid an outcome both would find unacceptable, but the committee could not come to an agreement.

Scott noted that he voted against the legislation that put sequestration in place and said it’s a bad way to achieve cuts.

“What we have done is unfair to the American public, and it needs to be undone,” he said.

One way to achieve military cuts, he said, is to ask other countries to spend more on defense.

“We can’t afford as taxpayers of this country to provide the majority of security around the world,” he said. “Our allies around the world are going to have to step up to protect freedom and democracy.”

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.