Tagged: budget cuts

Collecting Your Sequestration Pics and Stories

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com sequestration storiesAre reduced hours at commissaries, community centers, day care facilities, DoD schools and other military community support institutions negatively affecting you and your family? Do you want to put pressure on Congress to end the sequestration law that is forcing the DoD to furlough many critical civilian workers, resulting in disruptions to services to military families? Then take some pictures.

The Military Family Association is no slouch at public relations – and they understand very well that a picture is worth a thousand words. A few well-composed photographs can put a lot of pressure on Congress and the DoD to make some changes. Therefore, the Military Family Association is creating a clearing house for you to send your photographs of shuttered facilities, long lines, and other evidence of reduced services due to the sequester.

Here’s what they’re looking for:

  • Signs at installation facilities announcing closings or reduced hours
  • Extra long lines at the gate
  • Military equipment in disrepair (There should be no shortage of subject matter, from what I’ve seen recently!)
  • Canceled school programs
  • Unpaid bills piling up as a result of government furloughs

           

The Military Family Association would also like to collect photos of your family members holding up signs that detail what your family is going through as a result of sequestration. This was an often-utilized PR tactic during the run-up to the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The Military Family Association plans to use these photos to create a photo book, which their lobbying staff will hand deliver to each member of Congress. They will also post these photos on the www.militaryfamily.org website and make them available for the media. A sharp PR professional at the Military Family Association will no doubt make these images available to every journalist wanting to do a story on how the sequestration provisions affect military families.

To participate, send your photos to social@militaryfamily.org, along with  a location and description. 

The Association is also asking members to make a splash on Facebook by changing their cover photos to this image and profile pictures to this one.

SECDEF: Cutbacks Could Force Promotion Freeze In FY 2014

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

militaryauthority.com SECDEF cutbacksAs deep cuts in defense spending continue to take hold, the Secretary of Defense has notified Congress that the DoD will be forced to take some draconian measures come fiscal year 2014.

With an ongoing war in Afghanistan, the Secretary of Defense must find an additional $52 billion in cuts to make, hopefully without harming the war effort. As part of that plan, the Secretary of Defense told Congress, through a letter, that the combination of cutbacks could include some items that are deeply painful for military servicemembers and their families. For example, the Secretary said cuts could include:

  • A freeze on all promotions
  • A freeze on permanent-change-of-station moves
  • A continued freeze on civilian hiring
  • Halting all discretionary bonuses, such as reenlistment bonuses
  • Stop taking in recruits
  • 20 percent reductions in procurement, construction and R&D

Secretary Hagel sent the letter to Senators Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and James Inhofe (R – Oklahoma). The Senators had asked the Secretary to lay out the effects that planned budget rollbacks and sequestration measures would have on military personnel and readiness.

Hagel also said the DoD would be forced to make deep cuts to weapons programs and put off needed facilities and infrastructure maintenance. However, the law does not allow the DoD to shut down unneeded posts.

Hagel also called for caps on military pay increases, and increases in TRICARE fees for retirees.

The Secretary also said that if sequestration remains in effect as it currently stands, there would possibly be a round of involuntary discharges. 

All told, unless Congress takes action, the Department of Defense must find over half a trillion dollars in savings vis. Previously planned baseline spending over the next 10 years – while at the same time successfully prosecuting the Afghanistan war and satisfying its normal peacetime missions such as guarding key shipping lanes and deterring aggression from rival nations such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

However, the funds specifically allocated to support the Afghanistan warfighing mission have thus far been protected from sequester.

Secretary Hagel would also like to eliminate unneeded bases, ships and weapons. However, this is always an uphill battle for the Department of Defense, because every unneeded program is all too often some Congressperson’s pet project. 

Congress, DoD Lock Horns in Battle Over Your Next Pay Raise

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military pay raiseThe Obama Administration would like to cap your base pay increase at 1 percent next year. That’s the pay increase the Secretary of Defense has proposed for fiscal year 2014 – the smallest military pay increase in half a century.

‘That’s not high enough,’ say members of the Republican-controlled House Armed Services Committee on Personnel. The committee voted to advance a proposal from Representative Joe Wilson (R – North Carolina) calling for a minimum 1.8 percent pay raise for troops across the board.

Troops received a base pay increase of 1.7 percent for 2013, effective January 1. But the increase was not enough to offset the 2 percentage point increase in Social Security tax withholding – resulting in a net loss to base pay for any servicemember who did not get promoted or get a pay increase based on time in service this year.

Some active duty troops came out ahead with adjustments to BAH, or basic allowance for housing, depending on rank and location. Reserve component troops don’t normally qualify for housing allowances, though, so Guardsmen and Reservists actually had to make do with a net pay cut, on an after-tax basis, for 2013.

Currently, the law links military pay increases to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Cost Index. This would call for the same 1.8 percent increase that Wilson and Congressional Republicans are calling for. 

The Administration is trying to cut spending in order to bring budgets in line with sequestration provisions. They estimate that holding the pay increase to 1 percent rather than 1.8 percent will save $540 million. They are also trying to increase TRICARE fees, which would reduce net federal outlays by $1 billion – at the expense of the troops. The Congressional subcommittee also firmly rejected this idea.

Some Democrats point out that they have been pushed into a corner by irresponsible Congressional appropriations and earmarks on unwanted or outdated weapons systems. For example, Congress has mandated more spending on weapons systems the military does not even want, over $400 million in more M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks – even though the last tanks have left Europe and the Army is down to just one armored division and one cavalry division.

These tanks are manufactured in Lima, Ohio – by union employees, and in the districts of two key Republicans, Senator Rob Portman and Jim Jordan – as well as Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown. Cancelling the project would clear the decks of most of the 1.8 percent pay increase that servicemembers would normally expect by law. But that would mean the loss of thousands of factory jobs concentrated in this one key district. The plant is operated by General Dynamics, which spent $11 million on lobbying last year according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Air Force Girlie-Mag Sweep: It Was Dumber Than We Could Ever Have Imagined

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

They say “truth is stranger than fiction,” and sometimes that makes for a really good laugh. Today’s Fun Friday edition is brought to you by the Air Force. We couldn’t make this up…

 

Air Force girlie-mag sweepIn January, we reported on the Air Force’s big girlie-mag hunt, in which the cash-strapped service found thousands of man-hours to send officers on a tour of workspaces throughout the Air Force, looking for evidence that someone, somewhere, may enjoy pictures of beautiful women.

When we suggested that the Air Force would have to start with heritage nose art photographs from WWII, it was tongue in cheek. We were sure the Air Force could not possibly be that dumb.

Lesson learned.

The fact is that the Air Force inspection teams were routinely confiscating or removing books and posters depicting historical aircraft nose art all over the country.

And it gets even worse.

The Air Force also somehow found the man-hours to tabulate the results of the sweep, tallying up the tens of thousands of confiscated items. In all, the Air Force girlie-pic police snagged over 32,000 items judged to be racy, offensive, or even pornographic. However, only a very tiny fraction of the seized or removed items were flagged by the Air Force as overtly pornographic. The vast majority of items seized or removed were taken because they were either “inappropriate/offensive” or “unprofessional.”

Among the tabulated items seized:

  • A copy of Air Force Times with a photograph showing female airmen breastfeeding.
  • A fitness magazine, which the Air Force deemed inappropriate at a fitness center.
  • A small Confederate flag
  • A World War Two heritage plaque
  • Religious books
  • A signed pro sports team cheerleader poster confiscated from someone’s desk or workstation 
  • A WWII heritage poster “w/ inappropriate image”
  • A “crash video with explicit language” 
  • WWII era nose art poster (categorized as “unprofessional”) 
  • An autographed Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader photo
  • Two wine glasses 
  • Inappropriate and offensive copies of Runners’ World and Men’s Fitness magazines.
  • The Swimsuit Issue of Sports Illustrated
  • Yoga magazine
  • A copy of Women’s Health
  • Hooter’s restaurant nametags from Hooter’s waitresses
  • A poster of a fitness model in a swimsuit
  • “Have a cup of shut the hell up” tile poster
  • Life magazine
  • Cosmo magazines, removed from a restroom 
  • 10 squadron history books, categorized as inappropriate/offensive, and confiscated from their location in a vault.
  • Rubber dog droppings
  • Sexually suggestive magazines (The Air Force specified Cosmo, Maxim and FHM.) 
  • An aircraft chock labeled “loser block.” 
  • An Achmed the Dead Terrorist video 
  • Fitness magazines
  • “Unknown meaning of graffiti.” That’s right. They don’t know what it means, so they confiscated it anyway.
  • A urinal sticker depicting “Hanoi” Jane Fonda
  • An inappropriate kitchen utensil 
  • Smokeless tobacco (categorized as “unprofessional”)
  • A plane made from beer cans
  • 13 songs 
  • Aircraft tail art
  • Miscellaneous flight suit patches 
  • A Princess Leia Star Wars action figure (no word on whether it was Leia on Jabba the Hutt’s leash, though)
  • Copies of books like 50 Shades of Grey, What’s Your Poo Telling You (a health book), and Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office
  • A morale coin
  • A corkscrew
  • A model airplane removed from an individual workspace because of inappropriate nose art. 
  • A big red button labeled “Bullsh*t,” which made a statement when pressed, confiscated from the individual workspace of what appears to be the smartest person in the Air Force.
So which one of these was your favorite? Tell us in the comments below.

Military Officers Association: White House Budget Proposals ‘Cross the Line’

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

military budget cutsThe Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) condemned President Obama’s proposed cuts in military retirement pay and benefits fee hikes, saying the President’s proposals “cross the line.”

The MOAA further announced that intends to use its influence and that of its 380,000-plus members to fight both proposals. The following is verbatim from the MOAA statement of April 11th, 2013:

“MOAA opposes the suggested pay cap for currently serving members of the uniformed services of 1% (versus a 1.8% raise by law) and the Pentagon’s plan to shift$25+ billion in costs to military beneficiaries over 10 years by:

  • Raising annual fees by $1,000 or more for retired families of all ages.
  • Imposing means-testing of military retiree health benefits – which no other federal retirees endure.
  • Dramatically increasing pharmacy copays to approach or surpass the median of civilian plans.

“Military pay along with strong health care and retirement benefits are the foundational elements necessary to not just recruit, but also sustain an all-volunteer force,” MOAA President and CEO, Vice Adm.  Norb Ryan Jr.  said.  “The last time the government cut back on military pay and benefits, the results were disastrous by the late ‘90s.  It simply didn’t work then and it’s taken the past 12 years to rebuild what was lost,” he concluded.

DoD cites the need to impose these benefit cuts in order to curb “exploding” personnel cost since 2000 reiterating that health care and personnel costs now consume “one-third of the defense budget.”

“DoD’s own documents prove military health costs are not ‘exploding’ – the combined personnel and health costs are less than one-third of DoD budget the same as they’ve been for 30 years,” Ryan stated.

The Pentagon proposed similar fee increases last year and in the past; however, Congress dampened those proposals enacting selected current and future increases in 2011 and 2012, but explicitly limited discretionary increases by DoD. 

Congress rejected larger increases on the basis that:

  • Pentagon leaders need to do more to more effectively manage costs instead of penalizing beneficiaries.
  • Achieving savings by driving beneficiaries away from using service-earned benefits is inappropriate.

“Significant cuts to the crucial incentive packages that sustain a top-quality career force will undermine long-term retention and readiness,” Ryan stated.  “These proposals cross the line.  Not only do they affect the equities of military personnel and their families, they also affect the ability to support long-term national security,” he concluded.”

The Military Officers Association of America is the nation’s largest association specifically made up of current and former military officers. It is headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia.

Congress Saves Tuition Assistance for Everyone

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Congress reinstates Tuition AssistanceUPDATE: The Coast Guard announced Friday that it will be restoring funding for Tuition Assistance. The continuing resolution passed by Congress on Thursday applies to all military services, including the Coast Guard. Earlier reports from many news outlets, including this blog, that the Coast Guard was left out of the order, were in error.

The decision of the DoD uniformed services to suspend the popular tuition assistance program (TA) that granted qualifying servicemembers up to $4,500 per year in tuition costs, sparked a lot of complaining from the ranks. The suspension was expect to save about $250-300 million in this fiscal year alone. The Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard had all announced that their programs were suspended at the urging of the Secretary of Defense over the past two weeks. The Navy announced on March 20th that it planned to keep funding the benefit to active duty sailors through the end of the fiscal year, at least.

A petition to the White House to reinstate the benefit garnered over 116,319 “signatures,” as of this writing – which would have forced a formal response from the White House staff. A similar petition on Change.org generated over 42,000 signatures.

However, Congress just voted to order the Defense Department to reinstate the tuition assistance benefit. Not that they are providing any resourcing for it – they just directed the Pentagon to reinstate Tuition Assistance and cut the money somewhere else in the budget to pay for it.

That could take the form of cuts to other benefits, training accounts, military schools, maintenance, supply, and even operational and deployment budgets.

Moreover, the Coast Guard – which announced it was suspending its own Tuition Assistance program last week – was left out of the Congressional order. Congress only included the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps. 

The restoration of the funds for TA is part of a continuing resolution passed by both houses of Congress on Thursday, 21 March, and is now headed to the President for signature. Two of the key players in preserving the tuition assistance benefit for servicemembers were Republican Senator James Inhofe of Nebraska and Democratic Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

While Inhofe was instrumental in getting the language inserting the TA benefit inserted into the bill, he actually voted against the continuing resolution, citing broader budgetary concerns. “One of the many concerns I had was that the CR failed to address critical budget shortfalls for the Department of Defense,” said Sen. Inhofe in a statement. “While certain patches were made to potentially mitigate some furloughs, it did not afford the full flexibility the Service Chiefs requested, leaving not only jobs at risk but also the readiness of our military. Although not adopted, Sen. Toomey’s amendment to reallocate $60 million in unnecessary defense funds for biofuels to the department’s operations and management budget would have also been a step in the right direction. I was also disappointed that amendments were ignored that would have held this Administration accountable for their misguided political game with how sequestration budget cuts are being implemented. It is time we end this crisis mode in Washington, and I hope that as we approach the budget debate we can look more responsibly at how to reduce wasteful, big-government spending while prioritizing and supporting our national security.”  

Senator Hagan had written a letter to the new Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, earlier this month, urging the restoration of the Tuition Assistance benefit. Hagan also voted for the Senate version of the bill.

Neither sponsor of the amendment explained why the Coast Guard wasn’t included in the language.

Assuming the President signs it, in addition to restoring the TA benefit, the bill would effectively head off a broad government shutdown, now scheduled to occur on March 27th.

As Sequester Takes Hold, Military Schoolchildren Take it on the Chin

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

Military schools cut with sequestrationThere are two levels to the impact of sequestration on military schoolchildren. The first is the direct impact of the payroll cuts and mandatory furloughs to the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), the federal bureaucracy within the Department of Defense that runs schools located on military posts around the world. But military families send their children to off-post schools as well – and these schools are bracing for a sharp reduction in federal “impact” aid, which they rely upon to offset the expenses of educating military children.

This impact aid is important because military people who live on post do not typically pay property taxes and while these families have children that have to be educated, these families do not directly contribute to the property tax base that traditionally funds local schools.

To qualify for federal impact aid, schools must meet one of two criteria:

  • Either 400 students or 3% of the student body are children of military personnel; or
  • 1000 students or 10% of the student body are children of military (both active duty
  • and activated Guard and Reservist), DA, DoD, DOJ Civilians, or Government Contractors that work at federal locations/properties.

Schools can also qualify for federal funding if federal lands exempt from property tax make up more than 10 percent of the district.

Thus, sequestration will soon be affecting not just the children educated on military installations, but all schools with significant concentrations of military dependents in their student bodies. All told, schools across the country will probably lose some $60 million in sequestration cuts.  It is the Department of Education, not the Department of Defense, that administers Impact aid. But this impact aid is subject to the same sequestration cuts that affect nearly every ‘discretionary program’ in the budget.

Military Children Shortchanged – Even Before the Sequester

As disruptive as the cuts to Impact Aid may be under the sequestration, they are trivial compared to the ongoing impact of neglect and chronic underfunding. According to reporting by USAToday.

The program has distributed $896 million in Federal Impact Aid for the 2010-11 school year, according to the Department of Education — $1 billion less than what those school districts were entitled to receive under the funding formula. The amount actually distributed by Congress has steadily decreased. Since fiscal year 2005-06, it has dropped from $995 million to the current $896 million.

“When the federal government doesn’t keep its end of the bargain, teachers, students, and parents all suffer,” Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., says via e-mail. More than 200 school districts in his state depend on the aid, he says.”

The precise effects of the cuts are unknown and will vary from district to district and from school to school. Broadly, military families can expect a reduction in paid teaching staff, resulting in turn in bigger class sizes and more crowded rooms.

Since the local school district workers are not federal employees, they are not subject to mandatory furloughs. Instead, administrators at each district or school affected have more freedom to decide how to allocate the expected cuts in school funding. Funding for nonessential programs and extracurricular activities such as music and athletics could be cut back or eliminated.  We could also see rollbacks in funding after school day care or other district-funded programs and services.

Schools are already cutting back in anticipation of the cuts. One school eliminated math and science teaching positions and cut back baseball, cross-country and swimming.

If the cuts continue into the next fiscal year, some districts warn that some schools could close altogether, since they will not have funding to staff or maintain them.  

Troops Held Hostage in Partisan Sequestration Posturing

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

describe the imageSequestration is imposing what outgoing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta calls a “meat axe” on Pentagon spending.

It is probably a meat axe long overdue. But senior Pentagon officials, military leaders and Congressional observers are concerned that sequestration – which imposes a 10 percent cut in discretionary spending across the board and even more in some cases – forces the Pentagon to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

For example, the required cuts in maintenance and training expenditures for Army brigades strike deeply at the core mission of the Army, and grant them no more favorable treatment than the Army’s dumbest line item expenditures.

Likewise, the Department of Defense blames sequestration cuts for forcing it to cancel the deployment of a carrier battle group, and will force the Army to delay scheduled combat unit rotations to Afghanistan. The burden of sequestration, as currently structured, therefore falls most severely on American servicemen and women aboard ship or in combat, who will not get relieved on schedule. These families are already facing the stresses of deployment.

With that in mind, some Republican congressmen are working on legislation that would grant the Secretary of Defense more discretionary authority to move money around within the DoD to fund core missions and defund less critical activities.

Such a measure, GOP supporters argue, would preserve the core mission and capabilities of the military while still honoring the spirit of sequestration: To slash spending and reduce the deficit.

The Obama Administration indicates that it will veto the plan.

The reason: It’s politics. When White House officials first proposed sequestration as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, and when the President signed the BCA into law, Democrats were counting on the deep cuts to defense spending to be the pain that forced Republicans to concede to tax increases, rather than entitlement reforms and spending cuts.

Any move to grant more authority to the Secretary of Defense has the effect of lessening that pain for the traditionally hawkish Republicans – and thereby weaken the Democrat bargaining position in Congress. If the Pentagon has discretion over how it executes the sequestration cuts, Republicans have that much less incentive to strike a deal favorable to Democrats – and Democrats have that much less to leverage against Republicans.

The President, therefore, is in the curious position of opposing the very measure that will enable his new Secretary of Defense to do his job – and opposing the measures that will make it possible for his troops in harms way to be relieved on schedule.

In essence, he is holding American troops in the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan hostage to defend the interests of public worker unions.

Republicans are also practicing their version of gamesmanship: They know that absent substantial buy-in from congressional Democrats – who control the Senate – the measure is doomed to failure if the President vetoes it. But the bill’s supporters are planning to go forward with it anyway, to force the President and Congressional Democrats on record as opposing the relief of servicemembers in combat zones, who face longer deployments if sequestration cuts prevent the train-up of replacement brigades.

However, the GOP is not unanimous in its support of granting the executive branch additional authority. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), believes that Congress would be ceding too much of its constitutional Power of the Purse to the executive branch if a bill such as this passes.

The upshot: Congress is not willing to make the tough spending decisions. It therefore wants the Obama Administration to make them. The Obama Administration, in turn, doesn’t want to be seen making those tough decisions either.

And our troops in Afghanistan, fighting a war, and our sailors in the Persian Gulf, facing down the Iranians, are caught in the middle.

Sequestration: Who’s To Blame?

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

sequestrationThere’s no doubt about it: If sequestration happens – and it is looking increasingly like it will, come March 1 – the across-the-board, indiscriminate spending cuts are going to have an impact on military families. We are already seeing it happen with the cancellation of the deployment of an entire carrier task force.

The National Military Family Association has published a useful corrective to dispel some of the myths surrounding sequestration and its effects. Meanwhile, the politicians and their toadies are working overtime as the deadline looms. No, not to solve the problem and come to a workable deal to avert it – but to make sure that the other side gets the blame.

So who is to blame for sequestration? The answer is clear: All of us.

For generations, Congressmen have been larding up the defense budget with non-essential programs. Senator Coburn has published a partial guide to the most egregious of stupid Pentagon expenses in his report, The Department of Everything.

And voters have tolerated it. In fact, we have encouraged it. We have repeatedly rewarded Congressmen who put their district interests over the mission by donating to them and reelecting them. This is true of both parties. Neither the Democrats nor Republicans have a lock on them.

 

Who’s idea was it anyway?

Sequestration was Obama’s idea. Or, at least, the concept of using sequestration – on the theory that nobody wanted it – as an incentive for Congress to strike a deal was originated as a White House proposal. President Obama has recently said that sequestration “is not something that I have proposed.” This is a lie.

It was the White House staff – specifically Jack Lew, who concocted the idea as a way to give the Republicans a face-saving way out of the debt-ceiling impasse of 2011. Republicans had vowed not to vote to increase the debt limit – that is, the President’s legal authority to borrow money for the treasury – unless there were significant spending cuts. According to reporting by Bob Woodward, Lew went to the President for his blessing on the proposal – and he received it.

Obama is so distant from the sequester that he recently nominated the sequestration’s architect as his Treasury Department nominee. So either the President backed the idea and thought it good policy, or he is in the habit of promoting bad policymakers to cabinet-level positions.

At any rate, once Lew’s office, acting on behalf of the White House and with the President’s personal authority, presented sequestration to Congress, Republicans wasted no time voting for it. The vote among Republicans was 218 in favor, and 33 opposed. The measure passed by three votes, though not a single House Democrat voted in favor.

To put a finer point on it:

1.Sequestration was Obama’s proposal.

2. Once proposed, Republicans voted overwhelmingly, 218 to 33, in favor of the bill that contained sequestration.

3. All House 188 Democrats voted against it, except for 5 abstaining.

 

And once they did pass it, Obama promptly signed it. At that moment, it ceased to matter who first floated the proposal. All parties who voted for the Budget Control Act own it, lock, stock and barrel – as does the President whose signature the law bears.

At the time, only the House of Representatives was controlled by Republicans – fresh from a resounding Tea Party victory in 2010. The Senate and Presidency were in Democratic hands. Any one of these bodies could have prevented sequestration from taking effect – and none of them did.

For good or for ill, the effects of sequestration fall equally at the feet of the GOP controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

But the plan also made it through the Senate, which Democrats control. And Obama doubled down on the plan in November 2011, when he vowed that he would veto any half-measures that would mitigate the negative effects of sequestration.

“Already some in Congress are trying to undo these automatic spending cuts,” said the President in a White House press conference. “My message to them is simple. NO. I will veto any effort to get rid of those automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense spending. There will be no easy off-ramps on this one.”

Moreover, the Democrat-controlled Senate has not passed a budget since 2009. Instead, they passed a series of continuing resolutions. There are tactical reasons for this: They would expose themselves to attacks from Republicans for any tax increases on one hand, and liberal interest groups for spending cuts on the other, with no compensation. No budget that passed a Democratic Senate would be likely to pass in the House. So they were content to sit on their hands and fire barbs at Paul Ryan – head of the House budget committee and the GOP nominee in 2012 for Vice President – for cutting grandma’s Medicare.

 

So why are the cuts so stupid?

The cuts are stupid because politics is stupid. Even Congress knows this, which is why they don’t even trust themselves with base closures. Instead, they create base closing commissions so they don’t have to make tough decisions.

But politics being what it is, the continuing resolutions tie the President’s hands, and the SECDEF’s hands. They cannot unilaterally decide to eliminate funding for stupid DoD programs, because Congress has specifically directed them to fund these particular programs. The SECDEF therefore has very limited authority to direct the transfer of funds from nonessential line items and redirect them to essential ones. This is why the DoD schools – bloated beyond belief with administrative staff, must furlough classroom teachers right along with desk jockeys in the head office.

That’s why the DoD cannot let its grass grow a little long in order to keep your post day care facility running at capacity. Military day care centers will have to cut back staffing and possibly send children home. Care provided will be slashed along with deferrable post maintenance funds. Civilian employees working providing care to sick and injured veterans will get furloughed right along with those who do nothing but manage spreadsheets.

And neither side is particularly interested in changing that. The President is more interested in ensuring Republicans get blamed for sequestration than in presenting plans that will allow him to move money around to prioritize spending.

Sequestration Would Devastate Army Brigade Combat Team Training and Maintenance Budgets

Posted by Jason Van Steenwyk

describe the imageHigh-tech weapons systems have Congressional constituencies and highly-paid corporate lobbyists with big budgets. They make campaign contributions big enough to put politicians in or out of business – and big enough to fund primary challengers if the incumbent politician doesn’t play ball.

Training, maintenance and spare parts budgets? Not so much.

And so the sequestration provisions of the Budget Control Act – should they come to fruition – will fall heavily on Army BCT training and readiness budgets. The axe will cleave the 2nd tier units most deeply: That is, those not facing imminent deployments to Afghanistan or Korea.

Defense News – a Gannett publication and sister publication to Military Times, recently obtained an internal Army memo detailing the expected impact of sequestration on the backbone of the combat power of the Army: The brigade combat team.

Among the Army’s projections:

  • The budget for Active Component Operation and Maintenance, Army (OMA) is already $6 billion less than their projected requirements, even without sequestration.
  • If sequestration goes into effect, there will be an additional shortfall of $5.3 billion.
  • Together with a separate budget category – Emerging Overseas Contingency Operations Requirements, the Army is expecting a shortfall for OMA of up to 18.3 billion dollars in fiscal year 2013 – which will have substantial spillover effects through 2014 and even longer.
  • All 251,000 Army civilian employees could receive furloughs – unpaid leave – of up to 22 days.
  • Cumulative budget reductions will “distress and shock” Army installations and their surrounding communities with wide-scale reduction of support contracts.
  • All non-deploying or non-forward-stationed units (with the exception of one BCT will incur a delay of several months for training required under COCOM standards. 

The memo stated that “Shortfalls of this size, this far into the year, when some of our budget is already spent, will potentially impact 90 percent of remaining OMA funds – immediately eroding readiness, leaving the army with fully-trained unit only for OEF, rotations to Korea and the Global Response Force Brigade Combat Team.”

Specific Actions

  • The Army has already provided layoff notices to 1,300 temporary workers. An Army-wide freeze on civilian hiring is in effect.
  • Civilian employees will lose approximately 20 percent of pay.
  • The Army will halt post-combat repair and maintenance for 1,300 vehicles, 14,000 communication devices and 17,000 weapons.
  • If sequestration occurs, the Army will lay off 5,000 contract maintenance employees. Mostly in Alabama, Texas and Georgia.
  • Collective training at TO&E units will focus on squad and platoon level. Resources will not generally be available to train companies or battalions on collective tasks except for those deploying.
  • Four of the six currently scheduled brigade and battalion-level rotations to JRTC and the National Training Center will be canceled.
  • The Army will postpone individual training for 513 aviators, 4,000 military intelligence soldiers, and will cancel 15 field artillery training courses. Combat aviation brigades will be significantly eroded. 
  • All restoration and modernization projects will be cancelled. Facility sustainment will be reduced from 90 percent to 37 percent.
  • Procurement programs across the board will reduce orders by 10 to 15 percent. This will affect 1,000 different companies in over 40 states.

The memo comes just after the Navy announced that it is cancelling the deployment of the USS Harry S. Truman and its carrier battlegroup because of budget uncertainties. The job losses are not unexpected, but will not be welcome news to the Army community.

In leaking this memo, the Army may be seeking to rally public pressure on Congressional representatives to forge a compromise to avoid the more draconian provisions of the Budget Control Act. However, at least some significant budget reductions is almost certain at this point, barring a major international development.