OTR Interviews

Rep. West: We can't continue to look to the military as a billpayer for nation's financial woes

Rep. Allen West sounds off on Defense Secretary Panetta's pleas for no more defense cuts


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," February 29, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warning Congress don't cut the defense budget or our national security will be at risk. Secretary Panetta insisting Congress stop the automatic defense cuts trigger by the super committee's failure.


LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: You're going to hurt this country's security not only by cutting defense but very frankly by cutting discretionary spending that deals with the quality of life in this country.


VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman Allen West is on the House Armed Services Committee. He joins us. Good evening, sir.

REP. ALLEN WEST, R-FLA., HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Good evening, how are you doing, Greta?

VAN SUSTEREN: Very well. Well, nobody wants to be cut. Everybody said we should be cut but nobody wants to be cut.

WEST: I have to tell you we did not protect the Department of Defense as a sacred cow. Right now you'll see $487 billion of cuts over the next 10 years. One of the things that disturbs me is we cannot continue to look at the military as bill payer for our fiscal irresponsibility. The Obama administration says they will not cut healthcare benefits to retirees and raise the rates by triple. So I think until we have leadership that's willing to tackle the other side, the mandatory spending side with the Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, net interest on the debt, you can take the military defense budget and zero it out but you will still have close to $1 trillion deficit.

VAN SUSTEREN: What distresses me about all of it, and Secretary of Defense Panetta said one way he thought of handling was raising taxes and cutting entitlements. That's what he said. But this whole business, why don't we go after waste and fraud? There is a lot of talk but there a tremendous amount of waste and fraud. But it's never about waste and fraud.

WEST: And that is a great start. A year ago there was report by the GAO that about $200 billion to $300 billion. You and I have tackled that. We've done the programs. When you come to Washington, D.C. right now, you notice a lot of construction cranes. That means the government is growing and people have less money in their pockets.

VAN SUSTEREN: First time I met you was you were here about 30 to 45 days, and you got a unanimous vote and you got actually the department of defense.

WEST: We found three ways for programs in the Department of Defense and in passed 393 to zero. So as we talked about, what if each and every member took that scrutiny and went to their jurisdiction committees and they start to look at those budgets, one or two things. That is only about $30 million over the next five years, but if every single 435 members would do that, House and Senate.

VAN SUSTEREN: I think it would inspire the American taxpayers to show you were least trying to pay attention what you are doing with the dollars. It may be if we recover then we have to do something else, but at least send us a message that you care.

WEST: That is why I tell people it's not about raising revenues by raising taxes. Until we can show we're going to be fiscally responsible up in Washington, D.C. and do the hard work that the American people sent us up there, why should we ask for more resources to the American people?

VAN SUSTEREN: The whole irony is that the reason this trigger is happening is no one could agree on the debt ceiling last August so they cut a deal with the budget so there would be a super committee that would solve our problems by Thanksgiving, and if that didn't happen we would go into this automatic trig. That didn't happen. They couldn't agree along party lines in Thanksgiving. So we go to this automatic trigger with the huge cuts, but they were set up to occur after the election so no politician will be hit in November. So it was rigged against the taxpayer.

WEST: One of the things we're going to do, as a matter of fact the Chairman McKeon has already brought legislation up that says we can find that $127 billion in that first year so we don't have to do it to defense. When you talk to the chairman of budget committee, Paul Ryan, we can find $1.2 trillion in cuts but it doesn't have to come on the backs of our military because right now when you talk about the defense situation that you see all across the globe, we should not sending a message to our enemies we're going to cut our defense right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, always nice to see you.

WEST: It's always a pleasure.