Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Defense Cuts Will Put Nations Security At Risk

A doomsday clock of budget cuts disproportionately targeting the Defense Department and set to strike midnight at the first of next year as experts are now saying it’s time to prepare for the worst.

To be sure, the facts are grim. Sequestration, the product of failure by a Super-committee last July to root $1.2 trillion of excess spending out of the U.S. budget, means an automatic round of spending cuts, half of which, or up to $600 billion over the next decade, will fall across the Defense Department. 

In the best-case scenario, Defense officials would be permitted by the Office of Management and Budget to administer the cuts themselves, choosing the programs they deem appropriate for trimming. In the worst case, the ax will fall across every defense program equally, taking roughly nine percent off the top without regard to consequences.

The incomes of about 80 Defense Force staff on overseas postings will be slashed on January 1, next year when their cost of living allowances are cut.

The staff affected have no way of protesting or negotiating as their counterpart in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are doing through the PSA and Foreign Service Association.

Any public criticism of the unilateral move by the Defense Force would probably cost them their jobs. But I have learned of deep unhappiness in the ranks at the move, which is forecast to save $5.6 million annually.

With 157 non-operational postings overseas, the average weekly loss amounts to $685 a week.
Minister Jonathan Coleman

Defense Minister Jonathan Coleman said the decision was made at the end of November just after the election and before a new Government is formed. Dr Coleman said he had since asked the Chief of Defense Force, Lieutenant General Rhys Jones, for an assurance that he had got it right. 

The Government has required the Defense Force to cut its annual costs permanently by $350 million to $400 million, by 2015. The cuts in allowances will apply to overseas personnel on postings to embassies, instructors, trainees and advisers. They won't affect those on operations in places such as Afghanistan or the Solomon’s. And it won't affect salaries.


Lindsey Graham
“You cannot buy three-quarters of a ship or building,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wrote to Senate Armed Services Committee leaders John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in a letter last November, explaining the crippling effects of such a measure. Management leaders generally advocate reducing or abandoning specific activities, rather than invoking across-the-board cuts, which can harm valuable endeavors.

If the hatchet strikes indiscriminately, and at a time that does not regard Defense budget planning, Panetta said the immediate result would be employee furloughs and contract and procurement curtailment; and the end of the decade would see the smallest U.S. Air Force in history in terms of personnel, smallest ground force since 1940, and smallest number of Navy ships since 1915.

President Barack Obama set the trend with his first budget proposal in 2009, proposing that over $8 billion in cuts, or half of overall budget reductions, come from a Defense Department that was waging two wars and would soon embark on a massive troop surge in Afghanistan.

If budget reductions are restricted primarily to major acquisitions, as may happen if DoD is given a vasectomy, the outcome is still damaging, said American Enterprise Institute scholar Mackenzie Eaglen, who has written extensively about military readiness and Defense budget issues.

Moreover, Republican staffers with the House Armed Services Committee projected last September: the Army and the Marine Corps risk dropping 200,000 troops from 2011 levels; the Navy 50 ships or more; and the Air Force nearly 480 fighters, with additional blows to unit technological capability, humanitarian and noncombat missions, and provision for military families and dependents.

With enormous stresses on military families, high suicide rates and growing unemployment among Guard veterans, this is not the time to renege on commitments made to our nation’s deployed warriors. MOAA is deeply disappointed that DoD even considered ratcheting back a policy designed to sustain morale and quality of life, much less proceed with these ill-considered cuts in respite leave for which already-deployed members had planned.

Here’s a quick summary of recently introduced bills of interest to the military and veterans community:

S. 2179 (Sen. Jim Webb, D-VA): Would require schools with GI Bill-funded students to meet the same educational standards currently required for other federal funding. Some institutions are targeting GI Bill-eligibles for high-cost/low-value curricula, and this reform will help both students and the government get appropriate education “bang for the buck.” 

H.R. 3895 (Rep. Jeff Miller, R-FL): Would exempt VA health care funding from automatic funding cuts should Congress fail to reach agreement on national debt reduction.

H.R. 3904 (Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-MT): Would provide retroactive early retirement eligibility to the group of Air Force majors with more than 15 years of service who were involuntarily separated last year.
H.R. 4168 (Rep. Frank Guinta, R-NH):  Would place the Clark AFB Military Cemetery under the control of the American Battle Monuments Commission to ensure proper care for this facility in the Philippines where many US veterans are buried.

H.R. 2182 and S. 1734 (Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-GA and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-CT): Companion House and Senate bills would provide incentives to increase the commercial value of innovative antibiotic drugs and streamline the regulatory process so that pioneering infectious disease products can reach patients more quickly.  This would help vulnerable troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom have been exposed to highly resistant and contagious strains of bacteria.
H.R. 4164 and S. 2112 (Rep. Don Young, R-AK and Sen. Mark Begich, D-AK): Companion House and Senate bills would codify in law space-available travel on military aircraft for all active duty, National Guard, reserve, military retirees – including “gray area” Reserve retirees, and certain survivors.  Most Space-A rules presently are governed by DoD regulation.

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