WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Automatic spending cuts set to take effect this week "are wrong," President Barack Obama said today during a visit to a shipbuilding company in Virginia.
"They're not smart. They're not fair. They're a self-inflicted wound that doesn't have to happen," the president told workers at Newport News Shipbuilding.
The cuts, due to take effect March 1, would carve $47 billion from Defense Department spending over the rest of the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Virginia's Tidewater region is one of the areas where the cuts would be keenly felt.
Thousands of specialists will be out of work in the region if sequestration happens, the president said, and the layoffs will have a ripple effect throughout the country.
"The impact of this policy won't be felt overnight, but it will be real," Obama said. "The sequester will weaken America's economic recovery. It will weaken our military readiness. And it will weaken the basic services that the American people depend on every single day."
The military services are already taking steps in response to the threat of sequestration. The Navy delayed sending the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman to the Persian Gulf, and delayed refueling the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln.
"Because of these automatic cuts, about 90,000 Virginians who work for the Department of Defense would be forced to take unpaid leave from their jobs," the president said. "That's money out of their pockets, money out of their paychecks. And then that means there's going to be a ripple effect on thousands of other jobs and businesses and services throughout the commonwealth, because if they don't have money in their pockets or less money in their pockets, that means they're less able to afford to buy goods and services from other businesses."
Multiply this across the country and across the government, and the numbers get horrifying pretty quickly, the president said.
"Across the country, these cuts will force federal prosecutors to close cases and potentially let criminals go," Obama said. "Air traffic controllers and airport security will see cutbacks, and that could cause delays at airports across the country. Tens of thousands of parents will have to scramble to find child care for their kids. Hundreds of thousands of Americans will lose access to primary care and preventive care like flu vaccinations and cancer screenings."
The government needs to be concerned about the national debt, but sequestration is not the way to go, Obama said, noting that households prioritize spending decisions, but sequestration does not allow government leaders to do this with the budget.
Obama called on Congress to resolve the dilemma by stopping the cuts and replacing them with smart savings and tax reform. "And the second I get that bill on my desk, I will sign it into law," he said. "But I've got to get Congress to pass it."
Obama said the American people want a long-term solution.
"You've worked too hard for too long rebuilding and digging our way out of the financial crisis back in 2007 and 2008 just to see Congress cause another one," he said. "The greatest nation on Earth can't keep on conducting its business drifting from one crisis to the next."