Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire, took to the Senate floor—along with Senators John McCain and John Thune—to warn against looming Department of Defense cuts.

Ayotte, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, states that spending cuts mandated under current law would dramatically undermine U.S. security. That is because, after previously implementing three rounds of defense cuts, President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget proposal slashes $487 billion from Pentagon spending over the next decade—and that’s without incorporating current law, which mandates an additional $500 billion in military cuts under the so-called “sequester.” As Senator Ayotte notes, this represents “the biggest national security threat you have never heard of.”

The senator’s comments echo the warnings of civilian and military leaders. Earlier this month, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stated that sequestration defense cuts would be “disastrous for our national defense.” Similarly, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey has stated that if sequestration is implemented, “We would not any longer be a global power,” forcing the military toreduce the overall size and capabilities of each military branch:

For the Navy, our current fleet is 285 and the Navy has said previously that we need 313 ships. If sequestration goes forward the Navy has said that our fleet will have to shrink to between 230 to 235 ships and submarines. At a time when China is investing more and more in their navy, where we have increased our defense focus in our national security strategy on the Asian Pacific region, it would make that increased focus a mockery, truthfully, if we allowed sequestration to go forward.

The prospects of American military decline come at a time when the military capabilities of rising powers, most notably China, are increasing. Beijing’s military budget is expected to expand by 11.2 percent over last year. From 2000 to 2011, China’s official military budget grew at an average rate of 11.8 percent, although military experts believe official numbers are grossly understated.

America’s long-term spending problems must be dealt with, but as Ayotte states, it should not come at the expense of national defense:

Let's sit down and resolve this. We do need to cut spending, and we should find these savings. It is important to deal with our debt. But let's make sure we find savings that don't devastate our national security or undermine our national security for generations or hollow out our force, as our Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has said about sequestration.

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