COLUMBIA — Several leading South Carolina Republicans warned Wednesday that across-the-board federal spending cuts will devastate the state’s military bases and threaten the nation’s security.
Standing with Maj. Gen. Bob Livingston, commander of the South Carolina’s National Guard, Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday the cuts would mean a loss of 14,000 jobs in South Carolina and mean $800 million in lost earnings here.
“We always have to have the backs of our men and women in uniform,” Haley said. Her husband, Michael, is a Guard member and is set to begin a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan in January.
The Budget Control Act calls for $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts in domestic and military spending over the next 10 years, with some $110 billion in cuts set to kick in Jan. 2. The cuts are referred to as “sequestration.” They’re due to start in January because a special panel couldn’t reach a deficit reduction deal last summer.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said the military cuts would make the United States vulnerable to enemy attacks.
“It is the death blow to our ability to defend ourselves,” the Republican senator said.
Graham, who has been traveling the country to discuss the cuts, warned earlier this year that a prime target would be the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is supposed to be based at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort and Shaw Air Force Base outside Sumter.
On Wednesday, Graham reiterated that warning, saying he has been working with a small group of senators to work out an alternative plan to avoid the massive cuts but also stressing that he doubts compromise is possible and calling on President Barack Obama to participate in the discussions.
On Tuesday, Obama signed a bill requiring the White House to report to Congress within 30 days on how it will implement the sequester cuts to defense and domestic programs. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told Congress last week that the Pentagon would try to protect the accounts for the war in Afghanistan as much as possible, but training could be affected. Some managers would be forced to buy fewer weapons, such as four fewer F-35 aircraft and 12 fewer Stryker vehicles, while ship programs might be delayed, Carter said.
“He is AWOL at a time when we need him the most,” Graham said. “With presidential leadership, we could fix this in a matter of days.”