As a fellow Veteran of Afghanistan, I read Mr. Mark Lucas’ article on Friday morning with great interest. He correctly argued that there is indeed waste inside the Department of Defense, but incorrectly argued that the sequester cuts won’t impact the military and our families negatively.
Here are the facts: in 2009, Governor Culver implemented a mandatory, across-the-board cut of 10% to the Iowa budget, and Iowa Republicans rightly criticized his thoughtless approach, which left no discretion for department heads to cut the budget where it was actually needed. President Obama’s sequester mandates a similar 10% across-the-board cut to every line item in the Pentagon budget, regardless of waste, fraud or abuse. Iowa Republicans are right to criticize that thoughtless approach still today.
While it is true that “Active Duty personnel” were exempted from the cuts, the full cost of that savings is now being borne by the civilian work force in the Department of Defense. This force includes military technicians in the National Guard, who will see a 20% pay cut in a few weeks. These military technicians are the same folks who wear a uniform on the weekends serving our country in a drilling status and have been to Afghanistan as many times as any active duty Soldier. These Soldiers live and work in our local communities.
According to the National Guard Association of the United States (Legislative Action Alert #13-2), “On Friday, the Defense Department will likely begin the process to furlough more than 800,000 civilian employees. But that will include National Guard military technicians, who are unique to the federal workforce because they must be members of the National Guard to qualify for their jobs.”
While a 20% pay cut might not matter to a Captain who’s earning GS-11 technician pay, it will matter to a Sergeant who’s earning GS-5 technician pay, and whose wife will have to quit college and get a job in order to make up for the Sergeant’s 20% pay cut.
Furthermore, the military service chiefs were not given discretion to make cuts wisely. While there is no doubt that savings could be made through smart cuts, the sequester implements across the board cuts in places like our “Joint IED Defeat” and “Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Vehicle” programs – the same programs that are designed to protect our Soldiers’ lives from improvised explosive devices overseas.
Of course, these cuts were designed to be painful. Journalist Bob Woodward of The Washington Post has reported in recent days that sequester was the brain-child of White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and was personally approved by President Barack Obama. This fact underscores the idea that the White House did not want to delegate authority to make smart cuts to its service Chiefs; instead, the White House wanted these cuts to be so painful and detrimental to national security that Republicans would return to the table to offer up tax increases.
If that was not enough, the 50 billion sequestration cuts are coming on top of another 50 billion in cuts to defense spending enacted over the past two years. We should not advance the idea that a 100 billion dollar cut to our defense budget is no big deal. Defense spending is a mere 18% of the federal budget, but the defense budget is being asked to absorb $50 billion of cuts under sequestration.
If Republicans return to the bargaining table and offer up tax increases, they will get blamed. They should. If Republicans return to the bargaining table and refuse to offer up tax increases, they will get blamed. They shouldn’t. The very least Republicans can do is speak clearly on the issue of sequester and make it clear that the President not only signed it, but designed it to be as painful as possible for the Pentagon and our military families.
While there is no doubt that our debt and deficit are the overriding threats to our national security, Islamic extremism is growing by the hour in the Middle East in places like Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Iran and will rear its ugly head again soon in the very near future. Of that, we are certain.
Now is no time to be providing inadvertent cover to the President by offering up our military for deep, across-the-board cuts. Instead, leaders should be advocating for Senator Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) bill, which would give the President authority to delegate discretion on the sequester cuts to military service chiefs, who will make smart cuts to the Pentagon’s budget.
The President’s White House designed sequestration to make it painful for the Pentagon. Make him own it. And make no mistake about it: members of our military, their families, and our national security will be harmed if the sequester is allowed to stand.
blog comments powered by Disqus