Are 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 email@example.com, along with a location and description.
The Pentagon announced yesterday that it is reinstating Tuition Assistance programs which had been cut for the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force as part of the sequestration cuts.
An amendment blocking the tuition cuts was passed as part of the continuing resolution funding bill pushed through Congress last week. President Obama signed the measure into law Tuesday.
The bi-partisan amendment was sponsored by Senators Kay Hagan (D – N.C.) and James Inhofe (R – Ok). The continuing resolution bill did not reduce the $46 billion in overall cuts the Pentagon must make to comply with sequester, but it did give the DoD more flexibility in shifting funds into its operations and maintenance accounts.
So for all of you military students out there, it’s time to hit the books again!
UPDATE: 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.
Under the loud roar of sequestration and the thundering of the withdrawal of United States troops from Afghanistan, Congress is quietly talking about the possibility of dismantling the Selective Service System. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon) and Representative Mike Coffman (R-Colorado) are in the process of creating a bill that would eradicate the Selective Service System and consequently, the possibility of a modern conscription. As of mid-March, 2013, the potential bill had not been introduced to the floor of the House.
The Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 created the Selective Service System and peacetime draft. The draft ended in 1973 but the registration requirement remained. Young men between the ages of 18 and 25 years are required to register for possible conscription under penalty of law. With 17 million men in its database, the Selective Service System, an independent agency under the Executive branch, has a 2013 budget of $24 million and 130 employees.
In January 2013 then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced that the ban on female soldiers in combat positions was going to be lifted. Critics have questioned the timing and motive of this bill coming rather quickly after the lifting of the combat ban.
In addition, critics question the bill in terms of national security. While the armed forces have been an all-volunteer service since 1973, Selective Service Director Lawrence Romo calls the agency “an inexpensive insurance policy.” Others counter with the fact that the registration requirement was not in effect from 1975 until 1980 (when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan). Through the Soviet Afghan invasion and two Gulf Wars the U.S. military has maintained its health, strength, and viability. They also counter by pointing out the record numbers of voluntary enlistments immediately following the events of 9-11.
Until the formal presentation of the bill and adoption into law, all young men between the ages of 18 and 25 years old living in the United States must register with the Selective Services. U.S. male citizens living outside of the United States must also register. Online registration is quick and easy. Not registering limits your ability to receive student financial aid, get a federal job, participate in federal job training, or become a United States citizen. Prosecution and jail time is also a possibility, although it has not occurred since 1986.
The Army abruptly suspended its popular Tuition Assistance Program, effective Friday, March 8th, citing the combined budgetary constraints of sequestration and the looming potential expiration of the continuing resolution that funds Department of Defense operations and activities only through March 27th. Troops currently in school could finish out their terms, stated Army sources. But no new applicants would be accepted after 1700 Eastern Time on March 8th. (UPDATE: Even if you got in a registration prior to 1700 ET on the 8th, don’t expect it to be funded. An Army spokesperson informed us that funding had already been cut off. – Ed.)
The news came out with less than 24 hours to go before the deadline, and the notice and sent soldiers around the world flocking to computer terminals, trying to get in their applications.
(UPDATE: Even if you got in a registration prior to 1700 ET on the 8th, don’t expect it to be funded. An Army spokesperson informed us that funding had already been cut off. Why the confusion over the deadline? According to the spokesperson, the Army intended to give no notice, specifically to avoid confusion. But Military Times got wind of the impending decision, forcing the Army to go public with the news sooner than they intended, and were forced to rush some of the communications. Hence you had soldiers standing in line trying to get their applications in on Friday. – JVS.)
The news affects all components of the U.S. Army, including the Reserve and National Guard.
The news only affects the federal Tuition Assistance program itself. Other popular veterans and military education programs are not affected at this time. Soldiers continue to pursue their educational goals with VA education benefits, if applicable, that include the Montgomery GI Bill-Active Duty, (Chapter 30), Montgomery GI Bill-Selected Reserve (Chapter 1606, Reserve Education Assistance Program (Chapter 1607), The Post 9/11 GI Bill, federal grants and federal financial aid. National Guard soldiers may also be eligible for state Tuition Assistance benefits.
Last fiscal year, some 201,000 soldiers in the Army alone enrolled in the Tuition Assistance program. The program provided $373 million to soldiers pursuing their educational goals. Using the program, 2,831 soldiers earned associate’s degrees, 4,495 earned bachelor’s degrees, and 1,946 completed graduate degrees. On average, that equates to about $40,229 per degree earned.
The U.S. Marine Corps has also suspended its tuition assistance program, and also announced that the cuts would also interrupt benefits for those already enrolled. The Air Force and Navy have not yet decided to do so, though the Defense Department has urged the service chiefs to consider slashing their funding for the program.
Sailors and airmen interested in participating in the program should enroll now, as the other services will likely follow suit in the next few days.
While troops putting their lives on the line are having their benefits cut, the Government continues to provide for the Lifetime Learning Credit and the American Opportunity Credit – both of which provide a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for attending college to those who meet the strict income thresholds.
Enlisted Ranks Hardest Hit
Nearly all officers already have bachelors’ degrees, though some enroll in the Tuition Assistance program to pursue graduate degrees. Officers who do so incur an additional service obligation, in exchange.
The program has a flat cap of $4,500 per enrollee for all ranks. That $4,500 value is a much greater percentage of compensation for a junior enlisted soldier or NCO than it is for officers. They are less likely to be able to afford to pay out of pocket for their educational expenses than officers. Lower-ranking troops will likely feel more pain from the decision than the officer corps.
The American Opportunity Tax Credit provides up to $2,500 per student each year for up to four years of college, while the Lifetime Learning Credit provides a tax credit of up to $2,000 annually. There is no cap on the number of years a taxpayer can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit. The income threshold for the full American Opportunity tax credit is an adjusted gross income of $80,000 ($160,000 for married couples filing jointly). Your credit amount is reduced for any amount you earn over those thresholds, and disappears entirely for those with incomes of $90,000 for singles and $180,000 for married couples filing jointly.
Most troops can qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit (though if all your income is tax-free combat zone income it might not do you much good).
The Lifetime Learning credit is a credit equal to 20 percent of the first 10,000 of qualified tuition. Credit eligibility begins to go away at an income of $47,000 per year for single individuals, and phases out completely at $57,000. For married couples, the thresholds are $94,000 and $114,000, respectively.
Soldiers can also use the GI Bill to pay for higher education courses, rather than tap into TA. However, as the Veterans of Foreign Wars points out, though, Tuition Assistance and the GI Bill have different missions. The Tuition Assistance program was developed to make it easier for discharged servicemembers to integrate into the civilian work force. Congress intended for the GI Bill education funding to benefit troops themselves, personally. The Tuition Assistance Program, on the other hand, was developed to benefit the military – under the assumption that the military would benefit from a more educated force.
In other news, the Obama Administration has announced that it intends to give some $450 million in foreign aid to Egypt. The Department of Defense is also providing matching contributions to civilian DoD employees who make contributions to their Thrift Savings Program. And the State of Colorado is all set to grant illegal immigrants in-state tuition while denying it to out-of-state American citizens and legal residents.
There 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.
Sequestration 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.
There’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.
High-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.”
- 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.
According to reporting by Military Times, some 20,000 TRICARE Prime beneficiaries will lose access to their plan, as of April 1, according to Pentagon sources familiar with the matter.
From the article:
The Pentagon is moving ahead with plans to slash its network of Tricare Prime providers, starting by eliminating the Prime option in three states and two cities in the Tricare West region.
As of April 1, as many as 30,000 Prime beneficiaries — retirees, Active Guard and Reserve troops, and family members — in Iowa; Minnesota; Oregon; Reno, Nev.; and Springfield, Mo., will have to switch to Tricare Standard, a traditional fee-for-service health plan, according to a source with knowledge of the reorganization.
Pentagon officials would not confirm that the five areas will lose Prime in April.
The areas lie outside Prime service areas covered under new Tricare regional contracts awarded by the Pentagon.
More details on precisely who is affected and how are available at the link.
The cuts aren’t exactly a surprise: They were first proposed in 2007, as a way to preserve scarce medical resources for active duty families when the military medical system was getting overstressed by deployments.
The cuts aren’t purely a Democratic initiative, either: While the Democrats held both the House and Senate in 2007, it is Republicans who hold the House now. And while Democrat Barack Obama is the Commander in Chief, GOP Senator John McCain, the former presidential candidate from Arizona, also went on record last year advocating similar cuts as a way to preserve training and operations budgets from the ravages of sequestration.