$54.7 billion; the amount of funding the Department of Defense will automatically lose on January 2nd, 2013 to the mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration. The personnel accounts (military payroll) and the Department of Veteran Affairs exemption still stand. This is only the first cut that sequestration mandates over a ten year period, adding up to approximately $500 billion in cuts overall to defense.
Sequestration is the requirement, by law, to automatically balance the national budget with mandatory cuts across the board if Congress cannot create a balanced budget. Cuts will come at the expense of family services, procurement, and modernization funding, just to name a few. However, the release from the White House is extremely “soft”; it does not detail exactly which areas the cuts will come from nor exactly how much money will be taken from each department. It simply deducts the same minimum percentage off of each program as listed within the sequestration law (9.4 to 10 percent for defense) within the entire Department of Defense budget, with no variation. The report states “would be able to shift funds to ensure war fighting and critical military readiness capabilities were not degraded,” yet gives no detail or guidelines on who would determine what would be cut and where.
What does that mean for you? Here are just a few of the numbers
- Navy shipbuilding-down $2.1 billion
- Base housing maintenance and upkeep-down $121 million
- Army ammunition-down $229 million
Between the lack of detail and the fact that the report was a week late, Congress is upset, and Congressional Republicans are furious. The White House responded with a statement “The White House has now painted a graphic picture of what that scenario will look like. For 13 months, Congress has had the opportunity to take the steps necessary to prevent the sequester from kicking in, but has failed to do so. It is my hope this report serves as a wake-up call.” It also implies that Congress is using this issue as a political ploy, and need to solve this issue now, not after the presidential election in November.
This affects all parts of the national budget, not simply the Department of Defense. Cuts will come across the board (with the exception of a few exempted programs) and affect all Americans. Exemptions include Social Security and certain low-income program such as the Child Health Insurance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. What is not included are things we take for granted every day. Getting on a plane? Will there be enough air traffic controllers? Jonesing for a steak? Who inspected the processing facilities? The budget needs to be resolved now. Contact your Senator or Representative, give them a piece of your mind, and tell them to do their job. It’s what we elected them for. Don’t let them forget that.
The Budget Control Act of 2011 increased our nation’s debt limit and created what is known as the Budget Supercommittee. This bipartisan committee was commissioned with the purpose of finding a way to cut the budget by January 1st, 2013. If they did not, the Act implements a series of mandatory across the board cuts across multiple federal departments and programs. These cuts are known as sequestration and may go into effect as soon as January 2nd, 2013.
The Department of Defense is not immune from sequestration. Although President Obama has implemented his authority to exempt military personnel funds from sequestration (as granted by the Budget Control Act), that does not protect the entire department. Military personnel funds are defined as pay, benefit, and change of station travel funds. While this protects service members’ paychecks, it increases the amount of reductions in other Department of Defense programs from 8% (if personnel funds were included) to 12% (with the current exemption).
The House Armed Services Committee has met with both Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jeffery Zients, both of whom say cuts would be “devastating” to our nation’s armed forces. Carter also warns of the “creation of an unready, hollow force” should these cuts go into effect, bringing back memories of a post-Vietnam Era military.
What does this mean to every member of the armed forces? Cuts across the other 2,500 military departments, including:
- Military family social services
- Health care
- Equipment and
- Layoffs of civilian support staff (including but not limited to contractors)
Lack of training and equipment directly lead to a lack of readiness, placing our service members and our nation at risk. Morale is greatly undermined, and our service members (and nation) suffer even more.
There are approximate four months before sequestration goes into effect. Congress is out of session for most of two months (August and September). Then we have an election in November, with returning incumbents and lame ducks; if they can’t “get their act together” before the election, what makes us think that are they going to solve the problems between the time of the election and the inauguration of new members? Which, by the way, is interrupted by Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
This problem must be resolved now. Contact your Representatives and Senators and urge them not to let politics get in the way of national security. Hyperbole and over-exaggeration aside, this truly could be the issue of the decade, not just in terms of the Department of Defense but across almost all programs that receive federal funding across the country. Spending must be brought under control; let’s find an effective way to do so.
When the presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney selected the Wisconsin Congressional representative to be his running mate, he sent a powerful message: Rather than select a ho-hum safe choice like Tim Pawlenty, Romney went with the leading voice for fiscal conservativism in Congress. Ryan, the head of the House Budget Committee and a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, is perhaps the most vocal proponent of entitlement reform and – to some extent – deficit reduction on the Hill.
He’s well known among budget and policy wonks – but the broader public probably got their first taste of him when he confronted President Obama in a “town hall” debate on the merits of the Democrats’ health reform bill last year.
Romney has never held office at the national level; his highest political office was Governor of Massachusetts. So Romney does not have a track record of military issues to look at, except as Commander in Chief of them Massachusetts National Guard.
Ryan is not a veteran. As a matter of fact, this year marks the first year since 1932 in which no one on either major party ticket had served in the U.S. armed services. On the other hand, Ryan has been in Congress for 14 years, and has voted on a number of important military appropriations and provisions, as well as use-of-force resolutions.
So what’s his record?
Well, he voted to authorize military action against Al Qaeda in 2001, as did almost everyone on both sides of the aisle that year.
He also voted to authorize the use of force against Iraq to support the UN Security Council Resolutions in 2003 – at that time tantamount to a vote to go to war against Iraq.
Ryan also voted in favor of banning the use of U.S. ground forces in Libya without first securing Congressional Approval.
Ryan opposed the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy – preferring instead to prohibit gays and lesbians from serving openly in the Armed Forces.
Ryan also recently came out with a budget proposal for 2013 and a spending plan for the following ten years. According to his own analysts and the Congressional Budget Office, Ryan’s plan relies on reining in spending to balance the budget by 2040, and reduce the overall national debt from 68 percent of gross domestic product in 2011 to 10 percent of GDP by 2050.
His plan, say proponents, would do so while reducing tax rates. The Ryan plan would establish just two federal tax rates: 10 percent and 25 percent, while rolling back certain deductions.
Coming up with a plan, of course, is a lot different from selling it – and Ryan got precious few Congressional representatives to sign on to it – even from his own party.
As for military spending, Ryan’s plan would hold the Pentagon budget to match inflation over the next ten years. Not quite what the Pentagon might ask for – it doesn’t have room for a lot of mission creep – but it’s still a lot more money than what many of the President’s supporters suggest.
While the military budget essentially marks time under Ryan’s proposal, all federal domestic discretionary spending would be slashed by 13 percent.
That said, Ryan has not always been a free-spender when it comes to the military and veterans. He has on at least one occasion voted for a proposal to tighten the standards required to receive medical care from the Veterans Administration. Specifically, his committee floated a proposal to cut spending on providing VA care to veterans who do not have a service-related disability and whose incomes do not make them poor. Specifically, Ryan’s floated plan would cut off Category 8 veterans – and possibly Category 7 veterans as well – from receiving care from the VA.
If this plan were adopted, it would represent a return to the status quo ante – Veterans in Categories 7 and 8 were generally not eligible for care, either, until 1996, when a Republican Congress passed the Veterans Health Care Eligibility Act of 1996, expanding their eligibility and directing the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand their number of clinics and hospitals to accommodate their new patients.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, 90 percent of Category 7 and 8 veterans have health insurance available from other sources, including employer plans and Medicare.
Ryan opposed “sequestration’s” more draconian cuts to the Pentagon, describing the Sequester as a “meat-axe” approach.
He voted against slashing funding for the Osprey.
Ryan also voted against a proposal for a mandatory period of rest and recuperation between deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. President Bush also opposed the measure at the time. The bill exempted special operations troops and still allowed the President and Secretary of Defense to waive the requirement in response to unforeseen circumstances.
Ryan voted against a 2012 proposal to increase combat pay from $225 per month to $350.
So what do you think of the Romney/Ryan ticket? How does it compare to Obama/Biden? Do you know who you’ll be voting for this November based on what you know so far? Let us know in the comments!