Fort Stewart and Hinesville stand to lose 7,000 defense-related jobs if sequestration takes effect Jan. 2, 2013, warned Georgia’s senior U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss on Monday during a visit to the MidCoast Regional Airport.
“Let’s make no mistake about it,” Chambliss, a Republican originally from Darien, told community leaders before explaining the difference between discretionary spending and mandatory spending. “Our country is in real fiscal trouble. We spend too much money at the Defense Department, just as we spend too much money at the Agricultural Department and every other department. (But) the consequences (of sequestration) on (military) communities will have just as significant an impact as it will have on the military.”
The sequester is a $1.2 trillion package of defense and entitlement cuts that will kick in if Congress doesn’t develop a debt reduction package of its own.
Liberty County Chamber of Commerce CEO Leah Poole welcomed guests then turned the program over to retired Maj. Gen. David Bockel, executive director of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee.
Bockel, a Vietnam veteran, said he remembered watching the “hollowing out” of the military after that war and warned against letting that happen again. He then introduced Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas, who also is a Vietnam veteran.
Thomas called Chambliss a statesman, a term he said he doesn’t use loosely, noting that the senator had worked with other members of Congress to find bipartisan solutions to the nation’s budget problems.
Chambliss explained that more than one-third — $492 billion — of the mandatory sequestration cuts would be made to defense spending. These cuts would come on top of $487 billion in cuts already proposed in the president’s budget, he said.
He quoted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, who described the effects of sequestration on national defense as “devastating.” In addition to the 80,000 fewer soldiers and 20,000 fewer Marines already proposed, sequestration would reduce ground forces to levels not seen since 1940, Panetta said in a November 2011 letter to Congress.
“Georgia is fifth in the nation in military population,” Chambliss said. “The impact of sequestration on Fort Stewart and Hinesville would be a loss of 7,000 jobs.”
Read more in the Aug. 22 edition of the News.