On January 25, I assumed a new responsibility as the Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.
As we wind down the war in Afghanistan and face the challenge of our deficit, we will pursue a strategy to reduce waste and find real savings in our military spending. This Subcommittee will focus on protecting our nation with a military that remains the most powerful, ready, and capable force in the world. We will make preparing our nation to respond to 21st century threats one of our chief priorities. And as has always been the case, the needs of all our servicemembers – active duty and reserve; overseas or here at home – will be our first concern.
At home in Illinois, I’ll continue to work to maintain our state’s leadership in protecting our national defense and to ensure Illinois servicemembers and their families have the support they need.
The Impact of Sequestration on Illinois and Our Nation
This will be especially important as we approach a budgetary storm of our own creation: a series of spending cuts known as “sequestration” which would impose mindless, across-the-board cuts on almost every account in the Defense Department.
On Monday, I visited Scott Air Force Base, which would be forced to furlough 4,500 civilian personnel if the sequester were to go into effect—shrinking take-home pay by 20 percent and resulting in a $28 million hit to the local economy.
In the Quad Cities, the Rock Island Arsenal’s critical manufacturing hub could lose $197 million.
Across the state, the sequester means that 15,000 civilian personnel could be furloughed—resulting in $52 million coming out of the pockets of working families in Illinois at a time when we are recovering from the worst recession in decades. Approximately 1,500 of these civilian furloughs are Guard technicians—the backbone of our National Guard, with critical maintenance and training responsibilities.
Sequestration won’t just impact our defense and military families.
It will also mean that 2,700 preschoolers in Illinois will lose access to critical early education through Head Start. Health and nutrition services would be drastically reduced, meaning that 5,576 fewer Illinois children will receive life-saving vaccinations and the state will lose $764,000 in funding to provide seniors with meals on wheels.
Illinois will lose $6.2 million to fund community health centers, like Chicago’s Erie Community Health Center. When these cuts go into effect, Erie will do its best to protect clinical care, which would force them to reduce the wrap-around services that make Erie a great provider of comprehensive care, like health education, case management, and care coordination. And at our world-class research universities, a loss of $38 million in funding through the National Institute of Health would impact 727 jobs across the state.
Addressing the potentially devastating impact of sequestration on Illinois' leading research universities and hospitals
There was a solution considered in the Senate to avoid these cuts: a balanced mix of smarter spending cuts and increased revenues from closing loopholes that benefit wealthy individuals and big corporations could replace sequestration, avoid the damaging cuts, and achieve deficit reduction. This proposal also included smarter cuts to our defense programs that won’t jeopardize our national security, jobs or our economic recovery. This measure received a majority vote of 52 Senators but was defeated by a Republican filibuster.
This choice should be an easy one for every Senator and every American. In January, Democrats and Republicans agreed to use a balanced mix of spending cuts and new revenues to delay sequestration for two months. Now is the time Congress to follow through on that promise and pass a balanced deficit reduction package that protects our national security and the investments in education, infrastructure, and innovation that make our country strong.
Illinois Servicemembers Protecting America Abroad
Last week, I traveled on a week-long trip to the Middle East and Africa to meet with our men and women in uniform. It was inspiring to see the sacrifice they are making personally for the safety and security of the United States. At each of my three stops – Uganda, Djibouti and Bahrain – I met servicemembers and diplomats from Illinois serving in some of the most difficult places on the earth. These soldiers, airman and sailors did so with a sense of purpose and pride and were a reminder of what makes this nation great.