Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., answered questions about the sequester enacted March 1.
Q: What caused the sequester? What is it?
A: A budget super committee wasn't able to come up with a spending reduction plan as a part of the Spending Control Act in 2011. When the Budget Control Act passed, it automatically cut $487 billion from the national defense over the next 10 years.
It set up this super committee to come up with 1.2 trillion in additional cuts. If they couldn't find that, sequestration would take place, which cuts an additional $500 billion from national defense as well as other areas of the government. So that makes a total of $1 trillion cut from our national defense.
The house has passed two bills to replace the sequestration cuts with more common sense reforms and cuts elsewhere that reduce government waste.
One example we agreed to cutting would be to quit sending states bonuses for turning in their food stamp paperwork on time. That's ridiculous. We found waste in areas like that and packaged it and said if we have to cut waste, let's cut it here. These are smarter cuts than to cut our national defense. However, the Senate refused to take up those two bills. Unfortunately, that's why our current plan did take effect and we're starting to see the negative impact of that.
Q: When will furloughs take place?
A: I saw a timeline this week that they anticipate by the end of April it will be in place and it would last for 22 weeks, when funding will hopefully be in place in the Fall.
Q: What are your biggest concerns about sequestration?
A: It will hurt the readiness of our national security because training hours will be cut back. Potentially this could mean delaying soldiers from coming home from Afghanistan. Because sequestration is reducing the our soldiers training, it could result in either delaying our soldiers to leave or to order the soldiers who are in Afghanistan to stay longer because of the lack of trained soldiers.
If this defense funding is not replaced, it could jeopardize our national security.
Q: What are you and other members to congress doing to prevent this from happening?
A: We helped find funding elsewhere and we passed bills in the house to stop it. Unfortunately, the Senate did not pass it and neither did the President. Which was very frustrating.
I have been a vocal advocate to find funding to replace this. I'm also on the house budget committee. Next week we are going to unveil our budget and we do restore funding in next year's budget for defense.
Q: How do you feel about the defense cuts as a member of the Armed Services community?
A: The Depart of Defense only comprises 18 percent of the entire budget, but it is receiving 50 percent of the cuts so far. I don't think it's a fair allocation of cuts.
I think we have wrong priorities here in Washington. There is only a few things our congress should be doing and one of them is to provide for the common defense. Clearly sequestration and these cuts to defense don't reflect the values of America. We need to change that to support our national defense and to ensure our men and uniform have what they need to keep us safe.
Q: What can civilians do to stop the sequester?
A: Make your voices heard to members of the Senate and the President about how this is going to impact you and your family. I certainly understand what a negative impact this can have but we need support from all areas of government.
Q: Fort Leonard Wood recently was approved for funding $160 million for new construction, including new training barracks, a new vehicle maintenance shop, and a dental clinic. How will sequestration impact this?
A: As far as we know at this point, we will still be going forward with this project and sequestration will not impact this project.