WASHINGTON — Oklahoma lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin spoke out Wednesday against the automatic federal budget cuts set to take effect in January, while major defense contractors said they would have to give their workers advance notice about possible layoffs because of the uncertainty.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Congress and the administration can't wait until after the November elections to deal with the situation.
“The damage will be done by then and we will have put Americans out of work, wasted millions of dollars, further damaged our economy and put our national security in jeopardy,” said Inhofe, R-Tulsa.
The House approved a bill Wednesday calling on the Obama administration to explain how it will approach the budget reductions that will be triggered in January if Congress doesn't do something to delay or alter them.
The automatic cuts were a component of the deal struck by lawmakers and President Barack Obama last summer to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
That deal required more than $2 trillion in budget reductions over 10 years. About half have been put into effect in the form of new spending caps.
Another $1.2 trillion — spread out over a decade — are set to trigger on Jan. 2. The Department of Defense, which has already taken nearly $500 billion in cuts over 10 years, would bear another $500 billion over the decade if the automatic cuts aren't delayed or softened; the rest of the cuts would be spread out over other domestic programs.
Leaders from some of the nation's largest defense contractors warned a House committee on Wednesday that the cuts would lead to layoffs and delays in major weapons systems.
Robert J. Stevens, chairman and CEO of the Lockheed Martin Corporation said “the near-term horizon is completely obscured by a fog of uncertainty … How many dedicated employees are going to lose their jobs? How many family lives are going to be disrupted?”
According to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, about 3,200 Oklahomans work for defense contractors in the state. Those contractors include Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Pratt and Whitney, Raytheon and others.