Obama Faces Backlash on Military Budget Cuts and Sequestration Issue
The Romney campaign launched a new ad campaign Tuesday touting the GOP candidateâs pledge to protect defense spending â an apparent effort to woo swing-state voters who could be hit hard by the massive defense cuts that are looming as part of the budget sequestration process.
The ad contrasts the concerns former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney voiced in Mondayâs debate over the dwindling ship count of the U.S. Navy, with President Barack Obamaâs assurance that the nation âis stronger now than when I came into office.â
In the ad Romney promises: âI will not cut our military budget by a trillion dollars . . . That, in my view, is making our future less certain and less secure.â
Republicans are hoping to use the military-budget issue in the closing weeks of the campaign, mounting a special appeal to swing-state voters whose livelihoods are linked to military spending. The administration has been trying to quell concerns about the scheduled cuts, which are part of the âfiscal cliffâ that will take effect in January if Congress fails to act. Congressional Republicans passed a budget bill that would avert the cuts, but it has stalled in the Senate.
On Tuesday, retired Major Gen. Bob Scales told Fox News that the military is experiencing a âsense of uneaseâ over what lies ahead as the nation winds down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
âI watched the Army and the Marine Corps almost break after 9/11, when too few soldiers and marines were applied to too many missions,â said Scales. âWe have to be very, very careful as we move into the future that when we reduce the defense budget we donât break the back of our services and force our young men and women to go to war unprepared, without sufficient numbers to win in the future.â
Former two-time Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Fox News following the debate that defense spending has dropped from 10 percent to 4 percent of GNP since the 1950s and 60s.
âThe idea that the trillions of dollars that this administration has imposed on future generations is a result of defense spending is simply false, it is not the case,â said Rumsfeld. âThe growth of expenditures is clearly in entitlements, thereâs no question about that, and Gov. Romney was correct.â
The president made several remarks about the military during the debate that have received widespread attention. Republicans believe the remarks could impact the political dynamics in military-dependent swing states such as Virginia. The commonwealthâs Tidewater region is home to Naval Station Norfolk, which supports the entire U.S. Atlantic fleet.
Obama appeared to dismiss Romneyâs statement that the dwindling size of the U.S. Navy was âunacceptable.â Obama said the size of the naval fleet reflects changing technology and military needs, remarking: âWell, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our militaryâs changed.â
Those familiar with the importance of military expenditures to the economy in the Old Dominion immediately pounced.
âPresident Obamaâs comment about âhorses and bayonetsâ was an insult to every sailor who has put his or her life on the line for our country,â tweeted Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Fred Fleitz, the longtime U.S. intelligence officer and the managing editor of Lignet.com, Newsmax Mediaâs global forecasting and intelligence website, said Monday: âI thought it was very insulting, because we do still use bayonets. And we have to have a robust navy to defend our security.â
Added Fleitz: âI think that comment is going to cost him an enormous number of votes in Virginia, where thereâs a shipbuilding industry thatâs in trouble. I donât know what motivated him to say that. It was just a silly comment.â
So widespread is the reach of U.S. defense spending that even swing states not generally associated with the industry figure to be affected. The pro-defense Center for Security Policy think tank, for example, has estimated that sequestration could cost swing-state Iowa some $406 million in economic activity â and nearly 5,000 jobs.
One indication the administration is sensitive on the sequestration issue: It has promised to cover the severance costs incurred by defense contractors, as long as they do not send out the ordinary notice of potential layoffs to their employees. The notices are due to be distributed Nov. 2 just four days before the election.
Since 1988, the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act has required companies by federal law to give employees at least 60 days of notice prior to potential plant closings or layoffs, or be liable for financial penalties.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said he believes the administrationâs effort to incentivize contractors not to issue the notice of possible layoffs is âpatently illegalâ and âreeks of politics.â Democrats have said issuing the notices could needlessly alarm employees, as no one can say whether Congress will act to head off the defense budget cuts that are scheduled to take effect in January.
President Obama added to the turmoil surrounding the sequestration cuts during Mondayâs debate, when he declared: âThe sequester . . . will not happen.â
That statement appeared to catch members of Congress by complete surprise. Republicans say they have been trying for months to engage the president on averting the cuts.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., reacted by stating the president is ânot a dictator yet.â
Newsmax, October 24, 2012