The cuts, formally known as "sequestration," would slash military spending by $500 billion over the next decade, building on $487 billion in spending reductions included in last summer's Budget Control Act that raised the federal borrowing limit.
"We are facing a grave threat to our national security that Congress created with the debt ceiling agreement," Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said in a keynote address here at an event hosted by TechAmerica, a prominent national advocacy organization representing the technology industry.
"I'm not someone who thinks that we shouldn't reduce defense spending responsibly," Ayotte said, but warned that the sequestration would take a "meat ax approach" with indiscriminate cuts that would trigger widespread layoffs throughout the defense industrial base.
Just last week, the National Association of Manufacturers released a study projecting that if the defense cuts were to take effect, more than 1 million private-sector jobs would be lost by 2014, elevating the overall unemployment level and lowering GDP by nearly 1 percent.
That argument, perhaps more than concerns over the erosion of national security by sharp cuts in military staffing levels, has the potential to make defense sequestration a "sleeper issue" in the November election, Ayotte said.