Elected representatives are required occasionally to make decisions that seem to place national security concerns ahead of their constituents' more narrow interests. Such difficult decisions are the essence of a representational democracy.
This choice was not required in the case of the $492 billion of additional cuts to defense spending that will start to take effect this November as the part of last year's budget deal known as "sequestration." Protecting the interests of Virginia's 11th Congressional District and America's national security should have been one and the same for local lawmakers.
Northern Virginia will be second only to the state's Eastern Shore in terms of the hardest-hit regions in America when the congressionally approved defense cuts take effect. Conservative estimates suggest that Northern Virginia will lose tens of thousands of jobs in both the private and public sectors and billions in revenue. In addition, the trickle-down effect will be felt in the real estate market, food industry and throughout the various service-oriented small businesses that make up the local economy in Fairfax and Prince William counties. Our rising unemployment rate will soar as area industrial giants and small businesses close their doors.
The damage inflicted by sequestration is not isolated to local economic ruin. Sequestration, paired with the $487 billion in additional defense cuts authorized by Congress last year, will reduce America's military capability to the lowest levels in several generations. More than 100,000 servicemen and women, many of them returning home from multiple deployments, will be handed pink slips and directed to the unemployment line. Many in Congress have turned a deaf ear to the secretary of defense's warning that sequestration will have a disastrous effect on our ability to meet the country's national security objectives -- the primary purpose of the federal government.
While defense spending makes up a fifth of all government spending, it will absorb a disproportionate cut in funding under the rules of sequestration that will amount to approximately a 10 percent cut to the military. Government entitlement programs, which make up nearly half of our annual budget in 2013, will be trimmed by a mere 1 percent.
Yet here we are, facing an imminent "perfect storm." We still have a stalled economy with rising unemployment shrouded in a fog of uncertainty. Significant tax increases will rain down on both small businesses and individual taxpayers under Obamacare. Then comes the devastating lightning bolt of sequestration.
Why? Because there really are but two alternatives. We can raise taxes as Virginia's Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly and others have suggested, but that almost certainly will have a counterproductive effect on our already struggling local economy. Or, as I believe, we can make reasonable reforms to government programs that will enable us to keep our promise to those 55 years of age or older. We can create a sustainable entitlement system for future generations while making cuts to spending that would not compromise our local economy and ability to protect ourselves.
Sequestration should never have been an option for our lawmakers. It revealed a void of leadership that put both our nation and our local economy at great risk.
Chris Perkins, a retired Army colonel, is the Republican congressional candidate for Virginia's 11th Congressional District.