While all Georgians most likely realize the critical role our nation’s military plays in our safety and security, what often goes unnoticed is the significant impact the military makes on the state’s economy. Our current installations and the businesses that support them have an annual impact of nearly $19 billion, including employment for thousands of Georgians.
For decades, leaders both here in Georgia and in Washington, D.C., have fought to protect and expand our military assets. The business community has been proud to support that effort. In turn, our state has been able to preserve one of the strongest military presences in the nation.
Unfortunately, as a result of the inability of Congress to reach agreement on the federal budget, that could all change dramatically. In fact, if a decision cannot be agreed to by the end of this year, the automatic cuts known as sequestration and included in the Budget Control Act of 2011 will go into effect. This includes a $500 billion cut in defense spending, taking total cuts to $1 trillion over ten years, the repercussions of which would undoubtedly be felt here in Georgia.
Once again, our leaders are working hard to protect us. Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson have been visiting Georgia’s military communities — joined by the Congressmen in those districts — to discuss what this could mean for Georgia and to pledge their commitment to finding an alternative solution. In particular, they emphasized the need to ensure that when cuts are made, they are done in a strategic manner that maintains readiness as our top priority and takes into consideration the “ripple effects” on employment, not only on the bases but in the businesses that currently provide support. At a time when we need to be creating jobs — not losing them — the estimated potential losses could be devastating.
Without question, our national leaders need to make some difficult decisions with regard to spending. Every budget area, including the military, will likely be affected no matter what compromise is reached or who wins the election in November. That said, cuts in spending must be balanced with changes to entitlement programs and reforms to tax policies that will get our economy growing again. Addressing our budget challenge comprehensively and definitively is the only way businesses will have the confidence they need to create jobs and make investments in our future.
While conventional wisdom is that Congress will not take up this critical issue until after the November election, time is of the essence. While sequestration would not go into effect until January, preparations to absorb expected cuts — including layoffs and reductions in force — will need to be made in the next few months. Unless we can be sure there will be a compromise, there will be no other option.
The Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee is committed to supporting Georgia’s military communities during this critical time and has urged leaders in Washington, D.C., to do the right thing and find a more reasonable solution — one that will keep our country safe and help our economy. We encourage all Georgians to do the same.
Maj. Gen. (ret.) David Bockel is the executive director of the Georgia Military Affairs Coordinating Committee.