From The Boston Marathon to West, TX, The Cost of the Sequester Hits Home

national guard

With more than 780 troops still on state active duty in Massachusetts, the National Guard’s warning about the sequester cuts should serve as an impetus for Republicans to come to the negotiation table. If not Boston, how about the explosion in West, Texas.

The bombing in Massachusetts is exactly the kind of emergency that requires readiness from many agencies that faced random cuts, such as FEMA, the FBI, the National Guard, and more. The Massachusetts National Guard, which was deployed for the marathon itself, is remaining in active deployment status after the Boston Marathon bombings.

According to the Department of Defense, as of early Wednesday, more than 780 troops were still on state active duty, and earlier more than 1,000 Guard members were on duty continuing to assist local, state and federal authorities and provide support to the city of Boston. They have deployed helicopters, security, transportation, communications support and explosive ordnance support, according to the Situation Report at Foreign Policy.

On February 13, 2013, Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee about the devastating impact of the sequester on the National Guard’s readiness to protect the homeland.

Sequestration and a yearlong continuing resolution would significantly hinder the National Guard’s ability to protect and defend the homeland, Army Gen. Frank Grass told the Senate Armed Services Committee this morning.

“Sequestration will be devastating to the Department of Defense and the National Guard,” the chief of the National Guard Bureau said, joining other members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior defense officials before the committee.

During that same week, the White House’s state-by-state break down of the sequester cuts warned that education and the military would take the biggest hits in Massachusetts.

About 7,000 civilian Department of Defense employees would be furloughed, reducing gross pay by around $43.4 million.
Army base operation funding would be cut by about $8 million.
Funding for Air Force operations would be cut by about $5 million.

About $300,000 to support law enforcement, prosecution and courts, crime prevention and education, corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

FBI and other law enforcement
The FBI and other law enforcement entities would see a
reduction in capacity equivalent to more than 1,000 Federal agents. This loss of agents would significantly impact our ability to combat violent crime, pursue financial crimes, secure our borders, and protect national security.

Emergency responders
FEMA would need to reduce funding for State and local grants that support firefighter positions and State and local emergency management personnel hampering our ability to respond to natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy and other emergencies.

MassLive reported that the sequester cuts would impact the Massachusetts National Guard by cutting its budget by 10%, which amounts to about a $5 million a year loss from its $53 million annual budget.

Fortunately, the full impact of the cuts and furloughs won’t be felt just yet, as Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter noted Wednesday “the continuing resolution Congress passed in March to fund that period gives DOD some flexibility in operations and maintenance spending.”

In Texas, where the city of West is facing a chemical disaster from an explosion in a fertilizer plant that’s emitting toxic gas, the White House explained that the sequester cuts would make cuts to Public Health:

Texas will lose approximately $2,402,000 in funds to help upgrade its ability to
respond to public health threats including infectious diseases, natural disasters, and biological, chemical, nuclear, and radiological events.

Now that we are facing multiple homeland security crises — the bombing, an explosion in West, Texas Wednesday evening that left a reported 60-70 dead as of this writing and missing first responders, the poisoned letters sent to the President and at least one lawmaker, and the evacuation of Senate buildings Wednesday — it’s more than past time to review the absolute ignorance of the indiscriminate sequester cuts.

The sequestration is on the House Republicans. They loved it in theory. They never stopped talking it up, as if a first unrequited love, prior to its actual implementation. Paul Ryan giddily cheered getting the sequester cuts on Fox News, “We actually got discretionary caps in law. I’ve been fighting for these spending caps ever since the day I came to Congress. We couldn’t even get these kinds of spending caps in the Bush administration.”

That’s right. Republicans got exactly what they’ve been asking for. Guess what? It’s not going very well. It was unplanned and irresponsibly executed. It wasn’t meant to be an actual budget, but rather a threat so awful it would force compromise.

Republicans have told us that their beloved idea of sequestration wouldn’t hurt. Republicans scoffed that President Obama was exaggerating as he warned about the long-term impact of the cuts. Where are they now? Will Republicans tell the cities of Boston and West that these cuts won’t hurt?

The tragic events in Boston and West provides potent examples of why Republicans need to stop their petulant extremism and actually propose a sequester alternative this session that can pass in the Senate. And no, the alternative proposed last session that Speaker Boehner keeps referring to doesn’t count and he knows it. This session, please, Mr. Speaker. It’s way past time to stop playing games.

Given that the sequester cuts will force $1.2 trillion from defense and non-defense spending over the next 10 years, starting as we face a number of security threats, you’d think Republicans might have a rethink about their obstruction and refusal to compromise.

Meanwhile, our nation is under attack on multiple fronts and our resources have been drastically cut sans strategy, courtesy of Republican ideology gone wild.

“Strategery?” You don’t say.

Image: Massachusetts National Guard deployed

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