New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte says the more than $500 billion in automatic Defense cuts — set to go into effect in 2013 as result of the super committee’s failure — is perhaps the greatest threat to America that most Americans haven’t heard of.
“I actually call sequestration one of the great threats to our national security that you haven’t heard of,” Ayotte told The Daily Caller during an extensive interview in her Washington office.
“It would be like shooting ourselves in the head, is what the secretary of defense has said.”
The Budget Control Act of 2011, which allowed the president to raise the debt limit, created a debt super committee of Democrats and Republicans to find a way to reduce the projected deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. As an incentive for the committee to act, the bill provided $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to go into effect if the super committee failed to come to an agreement and pass it through Congress. The cuts were to be split evenly between security and non-security spending.
Since the super committee failed to come to an agreement, the Department of Defense now faces the specter of between $500-600 billion in cuts over the next 10 years, starting in 2013. These cuts are in addition to the nearly $500 billion in Defense Department cuts already planned for over the next 10 years. Ayotte, who is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on readiness and military support, said she has heard from top military officials that this would be catastrophic to America’s national security.
“The Marine Corps assistant commandant has said that the Marine Corps would be unable to respond fully to one major contingency,” Ayotte told TheDC. “Can you imagine? And so that’s why I’m so worried about it … we’re taking disproportionate cuts to our defense. You know why? Because we won’t take on the big picture fiscal issues.”
Asked to respond to critics who say that the U.S. already spends as much or more on defense as every country in the world combined, and that it could therefore afford to reduce the defense budget by $100 billion a year, Ayotte said that view neglects to consider the threats America currently faces.
“Ronald Reagan would be appalled because this country, when we are strong, the world is safe,” she said.
“And we deal with the bullies around the world. The risks to our country have not been diminished. We’re still in a war in Afghanistan. We have Iran trying to acquire the capability of a nuclear weapon … We’ve got North Korea with nuclear weapons. And China is investing more in its navy. So let’s talk about the risks to our country in making sure that we’re safe.”
Ayotte detailed what the effects of cutting $100 billion dollars a year from the defense budget would mean: ”We will have the smallest Navy since 1915, the smallest ground forces since 1940 pre-World War II, and we will have the smallest Air Force in the history of our country.”
Check out the full interview on defense sequestration. Also see previous segments of TheDC’s interview with Ayotte in which she discusses Syria, Iran and the recent spat of national security leaks, as well as her vice-presidential prospects.