House Republicans again will try to avert deep military spending cuts, Oklahoma lawmakers say
Reps. James Lankford and Tom Cole say Republicans are willing to restructure the $1 trillion automatic cuts set to take place early next month but that they won't reduce the amount. They note that the House passed legislation twice last year to reduce the impact on the military.
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The $1 trillion in cuts — known as the sequester — are the result of the deal made in 2011 to raise the debt ceiling. The cuts are spread out over 10 years, with the military bearing about half and the rest hitting other government departments and agencies.
If they go into effect March 2 as scheduled, the military and other departments will have to make immediate and deep cuts. Lankford said the military would have to cut 8 percent out of its budget over just a few months.
An analysis prepared for Sen. Jim Inhofe last week warned that the cuts could lead to widespread furloughs at Oklahoma's three Air Force bases, its Army post and Army ammunition depot. Moreover, according to the Republican staff analysis, maintenance at Tinker's massive repair center would be dramatically scaled back, and training at all of the other bases would be curtailed.
Pentagon officials have made similar warnings, saying some civilians could be subject to 22 furlough days between March and Oct. 1.
Lankford said the Pentagon was planning for the worst but that the military has “unobligated” money in accounts that it can draw from to lessen the pain.
“At the end of the day, they're not going to furlough at those levels,” he said.
Inhofe, R-Tulsa, who is working to prevent the deep cuts to the military, also has authored legislation to help the Pentagon if the cuts do occur. His bill would allow Pentagon leaders to shift money among their many accounts so they can better manage the reductions.
Cole said, “I agree with Senator Inhofe. I think his approach in giving more flexibility to the military will find favor with House Republicans.”
Cole said most of the focus has been on the military but that other agencies important to Oklahoma also will be hit, including the National Weather Service, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Indian Health Service.
“I would prefer this not to happen,” he said. “But we have to get serious about deficit reduction.”
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