By ANDY LYONS (WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) – Looming budget cuts that threaten the jobs of more than 30,000 Missouri military personnel and the impact of such cuts were the topic of a public forum hosted by two Congressional representatives Tuesday night.
The cuts, due to take effect Jan. 2, 2013, are part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and could include cutting about 2,500 jobs from Whiteman Air Force Base.
The forum, called “Defending our Defenders: A Listening Session,” is part of an initiative by U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, of Virginia. Harrisonville native Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Rep. Joe Wilson, of South Carolina, hosted the meeting at Hendricks Hall at the University of Central Missouri.
The focus was to raise awareness and gather public input on $109 billion in automatic cuts, including $54.7 billion from the Department of Defense, which are part of the sequestration deal passed last year as part of the Budget Control Act.
Hartzler explained that the Budget Control Act created a super committee to identify cuts to the national deficit, including a clause that would bring about sequestration, or automatic budget cuts across all federal agencies. Because of the sequestration, there would be $487 billion in cuts over 10 years to the national defense budget.
Speakers from the Warrensburg area included Tammy Long of the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce, Sedalia Mayor Elaine Horn and Knob Noster School District Superintendent Dr. Jaret Tomlinson. Each spoke on the impact the cuts would have on businesses, friendships, families and children.
“My district teaches around 900 military dependants,” Tomlinson said. “We can potentially lose $400,000 to $500,000 a year from Impact Aid. That would mean losing eight to 10 teachers in the district.”
The cuts include laying off some 13 percent of active duty service members, which is the equivalent of the entire Marine Corps. The proposed cuts include taking some 60 Navy ships and 250 tactical Air Force planes out of service.
Nine speakers were invited to give testimony to the effects the cuts would have on Missouri’s economy. The speakers were members of the Leonard Wood Institute, which assists with training-related research, technology transfer, and business development initiatives; and members of other Missouri companies and corporations involved in research and development, contracting, and support for the military across the state.
“Bad policies affect the economy and the national defense posture,” said Leonard Wood Institute Executive Director Joe Driskill of the sequestration.
“According to a study done by George Mason University, Missouri would lose 33,611 jobs,” Hartzler said. “The Missouri Service Disabled Veteran Owned Businesses organization would lose $27 million.”
She said the Department of Defense spent more than $9 billion with Missouri corporations and businesses in 2011.
Hartzler said Congress passed a bill in May to extend the Budget Control Act another year but the Senate refuses to vote on the matter.
Wilson detailed more of the budget cuts, including that the projected 1.53 million job losses equate to 76 percent of all job losses in manufacturing during the recession.
The microphones were then turned to members of the audience, whose names were drawn from a basket. Many of the speakers were local retired military members with questions ranging from the impact on retired military benefits to how did Congress decide on the sequestration.
When asked what the military planned to do if the sequestration goes through, Rep. Hartzler said it would be up to the Committee on Armed Services.
“There are no details currently from the president to properly plan (for the sequestration),” Hartzler said.
More information is available at www.defendingourdefenders.com.