Senator Ayotte unveiled legislation on Thursday that would prevent draconian, across the board defense cuts by finding more responsible budget savings in other areas of the federal government. Under the “Down Payment to Protect National Security Act,” of which Ayotte is an original co-sponsor, arbitrary military spending reductions set for next year would be avoided by freezing pay for civilian federal workers – including members of Congress – and reducing the federal civilian workforce through attrition.
The Budget Control Act, which Ayotte voted against last August, raised the debt limit and mandated $1.2 trillion in automatic “sequestration” cuts over ten years – half from defense and half from non-defense areas of the federal budget – unless a joint Congressional committee found alternative savings. With the super committee having failed to reach an agreement last fall, the Pentagon’s budget would be reduced by approximately $600 billion during the next decade (in addition to $487 billion in separate, pending military cuts) starting in 2013.
“We have a fundamental duty to the American people as set forth in our Constitution to keep them safe. National defense is the most important constitutional duty that we have,” said Senator Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Defense Secretary Panetta has been very clear about the impact sequestration cuts would have on our military. He said just last week that it ‘would inflict severe damage to our national defense for generations.'”
She continued: “Defense sequestration cuts would harm our military in a way that our enemies have not been able to.While we all agree that targeted savings must be found at the Pentagon, allowing across the board defense sequestration to move forward would be one of the most dangerous and irresponsible political decisions that we’ve seen in Washington in a long time. I’m calling on the president as commander in chief of this country to listen to his commanders and his Secretary of Defense to make sure we don’t allow our national defense to be undermined. We must keep faith with the American people and our troops by not allowing these cuts to happen.”
The bill specifically extends the federal employee pay freeze – first implemented by President Barack Obama – though June 2014, and restricts federal hiring to only two employees for every three leaving, until the size of the federal government workforce is reduced by five percent. According to a January 30 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, federal employees are compensated on average 16 percent higher than their private sector counterparts.