To The Daily Sun,
In October, we witnessed a 16-day federal government shutdown with extensive ripple effects. Thousands of federal workers were furloughed, not knowing if they would be paid for their forced time off, left to cover their household bills any way they could. This unnecessary drama that hurt the economy and impacted real people finally ended when the president and the Congress came to a short term budget deal to reopen the government and extend the debt ceiling limit.
This short-term deal continued Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 spending levels until January 15, 2014 and also created a conference committee comprised of members of both parties from each chamber of Congress. By December 13, this committee aims to set funding for FY2014 and also craft a longer-term budget plan to replace the across the board "sequestration" spending cuts. Our own senator, Kelly Ayotte, is on this committee.
Many assume that much of the conference committee debate will once again be about taxes and earned benefits, or so-called entitlement programs like Social
Security and Medicare. The fundamental differences between the parties on these issues could mean a stalemate yet again. There is one place to look for significant cost savings while providing funds for vital programs, and avoiding the recurring debate about taxes and entitlements. This is also the one area where the rate of spending has risen heedless of austerity imposed elsewhere. This is where well over half of the discretionary budget annually appropriated by Congress is: the Pentagon budget.
The Pentagon, like other departments and programs, is currently subject to sequestration cuts imposed by the 2011 Budget Control Act. While the "meat ax"
approach of sequestration is not the best method to make cuts in any federal agency or program, strategic cuts are needed for sustainable and effective defense and security planning and budgeting. Outdated, wasteful, and unnecessary large weapons programs all need scrutiny and fiscal discipline. The Pentagon needs to be reshaped and strengthened for 21st century realities.
As a former state representative, I understand the challenges and complications in writing a budget, but I also know to be guided by the needs of my constituents. We need clean air and water, education, job training and health care, not weapons systems like a $1.5 trillion F-35 fighter jet that hasn't proven to be remotely useful. We need funds to support veterans and military families, not more dollars poured
into Cold War –era nuclear weapons programs.
I hope Senator Ayotte will work to ensure that a budget deal includes strategic cuts to the Pentagon. If Congress proves once again that it cannot compromise, the repercussions for our community, and for the country, could be disastrous. We need a common sense approach that addresses misplaced spending and prioritizes the needs of our constituents.
Kate Miller, Chair
Belknap County Democrats