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McKeon vows to fight automatic defense budget cuts

Posted: November 21, 2011 6:43 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2011 6:43 p.m.

Across-the-board cuts in military spending triggered by a congressional committee's failure to craft an alternative spending plan would devastate the U.S. military, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, said Monday, vowing to fight the cuts with legislation.

"I will be introducing legislation in the coming days to prevent cuts that will do catastrophic damage to our men and women in uniform and our national security," the the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said.

"The Constitution says Congress provides for the common defense. We have the responsibility for doing that."

McKeon, who was in the Santa Clarita Valley on Monday touring sites and visiting with constituents, said he and Armed Services Committee members began work several weeks ago on plans to head off Congress' emergency backup budget-cutting plan that would cut another $500 billion from the defense budget over the next 10 years.

President Barack Obama's plans already shave $500 billion from defense spending over the next 10 years, so the failure of the deficit-cutting supercommittee to hammer out another spending plan would mean $100 billion in defense cuts, McKeon said.

"We would take about 200,000 of our uniformed - mostly the Marines and Army - and put them in unemployment lines," he said in an interview Monday.

The cuts would likely mean two aircraft-carrying task forces getting mothballed, the Air Force reducing to the smallest it's ever been, and the Navy reducing to pre-World War I levels, McKeon said.

While improvements in technology can offset reductions in numbers to some extent, at some point it becomes impossible for the first to balance out the second, he said.

In addition, recent congressional hearings indicate the cuts would mean 200,000-300,000 civilian workers out of jobs, plus cuts in individuals employed by defense contractors, McKeon said. All total, the move could increase the number of unemployed by 1.5 million.

McKeon said he couldn't offer any details about legislation to thwart the automatic cuts, saying he plans to work with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who also condemned the cuts, and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, as well as his committee.

"This is not a one-man show," he said. "I've had the committee working on it now for several weeks."
The exact nature of alternative legislation will depend on input from others, as well as a determination for the best timing, he said.

Sens. John McCain of Arizona, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the panel, have also said they are working on legislation that would undo the automatic defense reductions, instead imposing a 5 percent across-the-board reduction in government spending combined with a 10 percent cut in pay for members of Congress.




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