McCain: Halting Defense Cuts One Of My Top Priorities

Jude Abeler Contributor
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WASHINGTON — Sequestration caps threaten the national security of the United States, and repealing the caps is one of John McCain’s top priorities for the next two years, the Arizona senator said Thursday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Sequestration has done lasting damage to the capabilities, readiness, modernness and morale of America’s armed forces,” said McCain, chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. “And each year since the Budget Control Act was passed, the world has become more dangerous, and the threats to our nation and our interests have grown. I do not believe this is a coincidence.”

In budget battles this week, fiscal conservatives concerned about the deficit are insisting that the GOP abide by sequestration or spending caps imposed four years ago by the Budget Control Act of 2011, which specified $917 billion of cuts over 10 years in exchange for an initial debt limit increase of $900 billion. McCain and others want to break the caps in order to provide more funding to the military to fund readiness preparations and defense research.

He said this fight against Republicans on defense spending is the toughest he has seen.

McCain attributed some of the disagreement to the fact that 60 percent of senators have served for six years or less, and are less experienced on defense issues — where the “learning curve is very steep,” he said.

“There’s not the appreciation to the challenges to our national security as you and I see it,” he said, answering a question from a former assistant Anthony Cordesman. “Honestly, I have to have a hearing and sit down and talk to these people and explain it to them face to face, and I’m not blaming them.”

To his deficit-cutting counterparts, he pointed out that even if they “made every cut that we wanted to, we’re still not going to make significant impact on the deficit because the majority of the deficit is now driven by entitlements.”

“That is just math,” he said.

He asserted that many Americans now see national security as their highest priority, but it cannot be sufficiently provided for at sequestration levels, especially when we are witnessing the “erosion of Americas defense technological advantage” in areas like “cyber and space control capabilities, directed energy weapons, unmanned combat aerial vehicles, and our future power projection capabilities, especially the future of the aircraft carrier and the carrier air wing.”

McCain said that he intends to be “a champion for these new kinds of technologies.”

“Republicans cannot talk tough on national security but be unwilling to pay for it,” he said.

As a result of the “self-inflicted wounds of sequestration,” he concluded, we are now “flirting with disaster.”