There has been a lot of talk in Washington lately about that dreaded S-word - sequestration - and its potential impact on our military personnel, defense industry and, by extension, our national security.
On Tuesday, that discussion shifted to Merrimack, where U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and John McCain of Arizona sounded the alarm for several hundred defense workers at BAE Systems.
If the first wave of $500 billion in automatic defense cuts goes into effect next year, the GOP senators warned, New Hampshire could lose more than 3,600 defense jobs, the Army could have 100,000 fewer soldiers and the nation's security could be at risk.
"We all believe we have to cut spending," said Ayotte, who with McCain serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "But to create a national security crisis, on top of our fiscal crisis, is the wrong thing for America."
Now, you can count us among those not thrilled with the prospect of a "national security crisis," assuming that's what would happen if sequestration were to go forward unabated. Nor are we enamored of New Hampshire possibly losing 3,600 jobs - defense or otherwise.
But before we go too far down this road, let's pause for a moment to remember how we got here.
And we got here because House Republicans - with support from the likes of Ayotte and McCain in the Senate - made the perfunctory raising of the nation's debt ceiling into a knock-down-drag-out fight over spending last summer, bringing the nation to the brink of default in the process.
While the raising of the debt limit was to cover previous spending obligations agreed to by House Speaker John Boehner et al, Republicans banded together to demand major spending cuts in return, some calling for $1 in cuts for every $1 hike in the debt ceiling.
Ultimately, with the Aug. 2 debt-limit deadline looming, Republican leaders and the White House agreed to a compromise that called for $917 billion in cuts over a 10-year period.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 also called for at least $1.2 trillion in additional cuts to be hashed out by what would mistakenly become known as the "supercommittee" - six Democrats and six Republicans with a combined 190 years of Washington experience - by the end of November. If they couldn't reach a deal, and they didn't, $1.2 trillion in cuts split evenly between defense and other discretionary spending would begin in 2013.
And that's where we are today.
Predictably, many of these same Republican lawmakers who supported this deal - including McCain but not Ayotte - now want to renege on it, even though it passed with overwhelming bipartisan support last summer in the House (269-161) and Senate (74-26).
Many are also trying to divert blame to President Barack Obama, rather than take responsibility for their own actions that led to this situation.
In fact, in a joint statement issued Monday by Ayotte, McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham before embarking on their two-day "Preserving America's Strength" tour, they said the president "shares direct responsibility for the potential loss of over 1 million jobs if defense sequestration takes effect."
If anyone is responsible for that potential loss of jobs, it's those Republicans who intentionally manufactured the debt-ceiling debacle that led to sequestration in the first place.
Read the Nashua Telegraph editorial here.