Critics accuse Sen. Saxby Chambliss of 'fear-mongering' on defense cuts

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comAugust 23, 2012 

Four critics of U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ call to make the nation’s defense budget sacrosanct in budget cut discussions accused the senator of “fear-mongering” in a series of town hall meetings around the state.

Chambliss has been calling on fellow members of Congress to pass deficit reduction legislation to avoid so-called “sequestration,” which would trigger automatic severe budget cuts across the board, should Congress fail to act on the budget deficit.

“We will hollow out our military like we haven’t seen before,” Chambliss said during a recent speech in Augusta.

During a half-hour conference call with media from around the state, Larry Korb, a deputy defense secretary under President Ronald Reagan, said defense spending has practically doubled since 9-11 and pointed out that, even with proposed defense cuts, the U.S. would still be spending as much on defense as the rest of the world combined.

“Even if you have sequestration and you cut the defense budget by $55 billion, in real terms, controlling for inflation, would bring it back to where we were in 2006,” Korb said. “That was the middle of second Bush administration, and I don’t remember anybody talking about how bad the defense was at that time.”

State Sen. Nan Grogan Orrock, D-Atlanta, said the predicted effects of defense cuts have been exaggerated.

“We have repeatedly increased (defense) spending while other areas of the budget have been cut, and we do it arguing that it’s a jobs program,” Orrock said. “In fact, we’ve got a study out of the University of Massachusetts that says that the same dollars invested in education, health services, infrastructure and middle-class tax cuts would do more to stimulate the economy and create jobs.”

Retired Master Sgt. Bob Farquhar, a 24-year Air Force veteran and nuclear policy scholar, said significant cuts could be made to the nation’s nuclear weapons programs without weakening the national defense.

“The Cold War is over now for 20 years,” Farquar said. “There’s no rational reason I can see or that anyone’s been able to provide to me as to why we need to maintain such a large nuclear force. Nuclear weapons are one way we can save a considerable amounts of money, but not at the cost of a viable defense of the United States.”

Finally, Heather Hurlburt, National Security Network executive director, said “scare-mongering” by members of Congress, such as Chambliss’ town hall meetings, is counterproductive.

“What in fact military national security leaders are asking members of Congress to do is to stop going around the country scaring one sector and go back to Washington and really focus on a comprehensive solution that will secure our military, but will also secure the economy, infrastructure and education that are the foundations of our military strength,” Hurlburt said.

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