August 27, 2012
Credit: Credit: Office of Senator Inhofe
Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.) is in line to become the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Republicans convene this week in Tampa, Fla., for their national convention. The 77-year-old Inhofe, the Senate's only commercial pilot, recently spoke with Aviation Week Congressional Editor Jen DiMascio in his Senate office.
AW&ST: Your colleagues are talking about finding a way to delay the automatic “sequestration” budget cuts due to take effect next January. Will you join the fight?
Inhofe: I believe that Barack Obama will go down as the greatest anti-defense president in history. Here's a president who has increased the deficit by $5.3 trillion and yet he's drying up our defense system. With every budget, he disarms us more. In the first budget, he took away our only fifth-generation fighter, our C-17 lift capacity, the Future Combat Systems and the ground-based interceptor in Poland. That was just the first year, and then it got worse. The effect over 10 years would be that he has taken half a trillion dollars out of the defense system. If you add the Obama sequestration, it will be another half-trillion. Even his own secretary of defense, [Leon] Panetta, says that would be devastating to America.
Do you support slowing sequestration?
I think we have to slow it down. We have to do something about the portion that affects the military. We also want to start eliminating the stuff that he has been spending money on.
How likely is it that sequestration can be slowed?
It's our job. Mitt Romney, who was not my first choice in the primary, is catching on, along with the American people. The polling is showing that [voters] know what [Obama is] doing to the military. And I think they're definitely on our side. Do you want to do away with Obamacare, or do you want to do away with our strike vehicles? The choice will be pretty easy. [Republicans] are going to have to do it with the control of the White House and the House and Senate. I don't have any doubt in my mind that the Senate is going to go Republican. Winning the White House will be tougher.
If Republicans were to take control of Congress, would they be able to stop some of the defense cuts you were talking about?
If [Obama] wins the White House and we win the other two? Yeah. I think we could do it. Now the problem would be that we wouldn't have a veto-proof majority, so we couldn't do a lot of the things we could do otherwise. You have to take it piece by piece. We could stop quite a bit of [Obama's] climate-agenda spending. I would be the chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee.