ROCK HILL — The automatic cuts put in place during the nations debt ceiling negotiations last year will destroy the finest military in the world and devastate South Carolina if Congress doesnt act to avoid them, said U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham at Winthrop University on Thursday.
The cuts would destroy the military footprint in South Carolina beyond anything I could imagine since Ive been in Congress, said Graham, a Seneca Republican serving his second Senate term.
With the cuts, there would be military aircraft that wouldnt be replaced or weapons modernized, he said.
Fort Jackson in Columbia would be a shell of its former self because youd reduce the Army by 180,000, so you dont need to train very many people, he said.
Parris Island, South Carolinas Marine Corps recruit depot, would no longer be needed, he said.
Graham spoke with the media before attending an event in honor of retiring Winthrop University President Anthony DiGiorgio.
In January, $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts over the next decade will begin to take effect, half in defense. The cuts are set to start with $110 billion next year split between defense and domestic spending. Thats on top of $487 billion in cuts over 10 years that Congress already agreed to, Graham said.
Im for reforming the Pentagon, not destroying it, he said. Blindly applied, the cuts would lead to the smallest Navy since 1915, the smallest Army since 1940, and the smallest Air Force in the history of the country, he said.
The automatic cuts were put in place during Congress negotiations over whether to raise the debt ceiling. A supercommittee of Senate and House leaders was charged with finding $1.2 trillion in cuts. When the committee failed, the clock started on the automatic cuts, called sequestration.
Graham said he hopes were responsible in a bipartisan manner to not destroy the finest military in the world at a time when we need it the most.
He doesnt support raising taxes, but supports closing loopholes by eliminating all deductions except interest on your home and charitable giving, he said.
Any solution is unlikely until after the Nov. 6 general election. President Barack Obama has said he would veto any plan that doesnt include eliminating tax breaks for the nations highest earners.
Libya reports unreliable
Ahead of the final presidential debate between Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney on foreign policy Monday, Graham has been accusing the Obama administration of deliberately withholding military intelligence that the Sept. 11 attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans was a calculated terrorist attack and not a protest over an anti-Islam video, a prominent narrative in days after the attack.
Graham said he doesnt believe accounts from reporters that witnesses and participants expressed anger about an anti-Islam video.
Riots dont involve eight hours of mortars, RPGs, heavy weapons, he said. This was never a riot spawned by a video, and we knew that early on.
He also said theres a video of the compound before the attack and nobody is there.
Its hard to have a mob if nobodys at the consulate, he said.
The Obama administration was saying otherwise, Graham said, because if the attack was actually an al-Qaida-inspired attack that had been weeks or days in planning, then that shows that al-Qaida has not been dismantled and that Libya had become unstable.
Jamie Self 803-329-4062