Leaders talk sequestration at roundtable discussion - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Leaders talk sequestration at roundtable discussion

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Leaders gathered in Huntsville on Monday for a defense roundtable. Leaders gathered in Huntsville on Monday for a defense roundtable.
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Cutbacks and furloughs are likely to continue for the U.S. military, and for installations like Redstone Arsenal, according to one of Congress' leading players on national defense.

Representative Buck McKeon, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, joined Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks to meet privately with Huntsville community and business leaders on Monday for a defense roundtable.

In public comments, McKeon warned that the across-the-board automatic budget cuts known as "sequestration" have already damaged American military readiness. "You can't  just take a pilot out of a plane, leave the plain sitting on the tarmac and a couple of months later say 'oh we need you to go out and fly that plane,'" he said. "Planes, when they sit, deteriorate.  Pilots, when they don't fly, their ability to fly deteriorates."

McKeon promised to continue efforts to restore defense funding cut by sequestration and pointed out that the House has already approved more funding for defense, but also predicted the U.S. Senate would not pass a budget. Instead, he said Congress will probably end up passing a continuing resolution which would keep funding going at current levels, which would mean continuing the sequestration cutbacks.

"There's such a philosophical divide," he said, "between the Democrats who want to have more taxes and the Republicans who want to have some spending cuts out of the mandatory side," such as social spending and entitlements. "It becomes very difficult to try to meld the two together and make it work."

While the current round of furloughs now affecting some 15,000 Redstone workers is scheduled to last only until the end of the fiscal year this fall, McKeon said the pain is likely to continue.   In fact, he said some agencies may need to move to more permanent measures, such as laying off some of their workers altogether instead of furloughing all of them.

"We've dug this hole over the last several years," said McKeon, "and we're not going to turn it around overnight."  

McKeon said a longer term solution to the government's budget squeeze would be economic growth which would bring more tax revenue in but he doesn't foresee that.

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