Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called on Democratic leadership Friday to join House Republicans in averting the military budget's impending cuts, which he referred to as a "national disgrace."
He blasted the proposed cuts in an acceptance speech for an award from the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), a defense industry lobbying group.
"This is the most dangerous time" in recent memory, McKeon cautioned, quoting an unnamed senior military official. He said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Barack Obama failed "to show the leadership we need to keep America’s military strong."
McKeon's comments are yet another indication that Republican leaders are ramping up their rhetoric over the defense component of "sequestration"-- the across-the-board, automatic spending cuts that could take effect as a result of last year's debt ceiling negotiations. "My friends, tonight I will speak more directly about sequestration than I have before," McKeon said. "The time for guarded language has passed."
The remarks come at a time when military contractors are nervous about what sequestration will do to their bottom lines. Unless Congress acts before Jan. 2, 2013, $500 billion will be cut from the Pentagon's budget.
McKeon received the "Eisenhower Award," which the NDIA gives annually to recognize leaders who contribute to "a strong national security and robust defense industrial base." He spoke of Eisenhower in his speech to the conference, attended largely by those who work with the military, indicating that the former president was an avid supporter of a strong national defense.
"All of you in this room are making plans now to prepare for sequestration," McKeon said. "You are looking at payrolls, plants, and benefits -- and finding places to cut."
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed from October 2011, McKeon warned that there would be dire national security and economic consequences to massive military cutbacks. He said that the spending cuts would result in a loss of "upwards of 800,000 active-duty, civilian and industrial American jobs" and could even "inflate our unemployment rate by a full percentage point."
McKeon also referenced in his speech the plans by House Republicans to "avert sequestration," including Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) proposal to "pay down the first year of sequestration for defense and non-defense by making needed reforms to entitlement programs."
McKeon said his own proposal involves "reducing the federal workforce by 10 percent over 10 years through attrition."