Why the automatic defense cuts must be stopped

Rep. Duncan Hunter Member of Congress
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In the 10 years since 9/11, the U.S. military has won in Iraq and decimated al Qaida in Afghanistan. But American security is still threatened on multiple fronts: the epicenter of the global terrorist threat is shifting; Iran’s taunts are growing louder as its pursuit of nuclear technology continues; Russia is showing signs of reverting back to its old ways; and China is undertaking a major military buildup, with a heavy focus on conventional air and naval assets.

The danger posed by each of these threats is very real and underscores how necessary it is for the U.S. to keep its position as the world’s dominant military power — a position that it could soon lose if the $1 trillion in planned cuts to the national security budget are made.

Defense cuts totaling $450 billion are already required by law, mandated under the Budget Control Act. Far more devastating, another $500 billion in cuts will soon go into effect, brought on by the failure of the congressional super committee.

The U.S. is not accustomed to this type of threat, but it’s very serious indeed. And what’s ironic is that it’s a threat being created by the Obama administration and Congress.

The primary role of government is to provide for the common defense of the American people. Anyone in public office has just as much of an obligation to uphold this commitment as do the men and women in our military. Allowing the automatic defense cuts to go into effect would be a clear abandonment of this duty.

If these cuts happen, the Navy will shrink to its smallest size since 1915, our ground forces will be smaller than they’ve been since 1940 and our tactical fighter force will be the smallest in Air Force history.

Even so, with sequestration just around the corner, the president has publicly stated that he’ll oppose any attempt to restore funding for national defense.

Such resistance reminds me of when then-Senator Obama actively opposed the troop surge in Iraq that turned out to be the catalyst for victory. Even later, with victory in sight, he was still looking for a way out.

Thankfully, the president was wrong on Iraq. And he’s wrong if he thinks sequestering the defense budget is in the national interest.

In the House, legislation was recently introduced by Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon to hold off these cuts while finding budget savings elsewhere. A parallel effort has been launched in the Senate. Now the race begins to prevent one of the biggest self-imposed threats to global security — and every day, the clock ticks.

Trimming the federal budget is absolutely necessary and defense should not be exempt from the cuts, as evidenced by the $450 billion of defense cuts in the pipeline. But considering the serious emerging threats facing America, any defense cuts beyond those $450 billion could very well mark the beginning of America’s decline and therefore must be avoided.

Congressman Duncan Hunter, a Republican from California, is a former United States Marine and a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.