EXCLUSIVE: Mr. President, Don’t Gut Our Military
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We are at a unique point in our nation’s history and must stand ready to defend against those who threaten our security. The Al-Qaeda network continues spreading through North Africa and the Middle East, Russia is threatening former Soviet territories, China continues clashing with Japan and Taiwan over the South China Sea, and North Korea and Iran continue to illicit nuclear programs in violation of international agreements. The world is an increasingly dangerous place, but our brave men and women in uniform stand ready to meet these challenges. Unfortunately, the President and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel are refusing to stand with them by not providing our military with the support it needs to accomplish its mission.
It is unacceptable that the President refuses to cut wasteful domestic spending while demanding that our military do more with less. As the President threatens to shrink the Army to the smallest level since World War II, close crucial military bases, and reduce military pay raises and benefits, we face a very real threat that our armed services will be left without the resources they need to carry out large-scale military actions. Because the President is abdicating his responsibility to ensure America’s Armed Forces are ready to meet any challenge, Congress must act. This year’s bipartisan budget agreement granted temporary sequestration relief for 2015 and 2016, but it did not negate the Budget Control Act’s bottom line of $487 billion in defense cuts over ten years.
This massive hit to national security will have an enormous effect on California and the Eighth Congressional District. It could cost the Army roughly $615 million in California alone. Up to $60 million of those cuts could come from Fort Irwin, while the Marine Corps estimates a $126 million dollar hit to Twentynine Palms and a $16 million loss by the Marine Corps Logistics Base at Barstow. This will impair research and development, personnel accounts, and modernization accounts. Additionally, Secretary Hagel’s threat of carrying out a new round of base closures, would put all of our local bases at risk.
In order for America’s Armed Forces to remain the premier fighting force in the world, we must recognize that even small budgetary reductions can have a huge impact on capabilities. General Raymond Odierno, the Army’s Chief of Staff, has stated that the active component of the Army adequately cannot respond to threats around the world if its end-strength is cut below 450,000 soldiers. The Navy is facing an early decommissioning of the USS George Washington just as naval tensions are rising in the Persian Gulf and the Western Pacific due to budgetary pressure from the White House. Secretary Hagel’s proposed reductions in military pay and benefits could also lead to a loss of mid-level officers. This would leave our military with less experienced leaders, significantly increasing the risk to our men and women serving abroad.
I will continue pushing Congress to oppose the President’s hollowing out of our military. I will continue the fight in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act to guarantee that when our sons and daughters commit to fight for their country, they know their country is fighting for them.
Col. Paul Cook (Ret.)
Member of Congress
Col. Paul Cook (Ret.) represents California’s 8th Congressional District and currently serves on the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Veteran’s Affairs committees. He served in the United States Marine Corps for 26 years, earning two Purple Hearts and the Bronze Star Medal with a V for Valor.