The details surrounding a proposal authored jointly by the White House and the Department of Defense to reduce military spending are continuing to leak out ahead of its submission to Congress for approval. And once again it seems as though President Obama is trying to finance the expansion of his agenda on the backs of Soldiers and their families. If you’ll remember in December a budget plan was signed into law by the President that made significant cuts to military pensions, granted it did pass with some bi-partisan support. This current proposal is far more damaging not just to Soldiers and their families but to our national security and level of military preparedness as well.
If you haven’t heard yet, this new defense budget proposal seeks to enact a massive reduction to overall military spending. This reduction in spending includes a reduction in the size of the active duty Army to less than 450,000. Not since the days prior to World War II has our Army been so small. This at a time when the US has seen more than two solid decades of war from the Gulf War, to the Bosnian campaign, to Afghanistan, and the second Iraq War. With terrorism on the rise in Africa, ever increasing tensions with Russia and the new possibility that Iraq is conspiring with Iran in violation of UN embargoes, it seems that we are far from finished fighting. The plan also calls for the retirement of the Air Force’s entire fleet of A-10 Warthogs, which the DoD says will be replaced by the new F-35 multipurpose fighter. Anyone who has served in the military in the last thirty years, particularly those who have seen combat, know how valuable the A-10 is in close air support. Its ability to lay down withering amounts of fire and to destroy armored units has saved the lives of countless Soldiers. In contrast the F-35 has become quite the embarrassing boondoggle over the last few years running wildly over budget and failing to live up to its design.
In addition to these reductions to our combat readiness the new proposal also calls for reductions in yearly promotions for Soldiers, reductions in housing allowances for Soldiers, increased Soldier contributions to their benefits, and reductions to subsidies paid to military commissaries. Let us examine these one at a time. First the plan calls for capping the yearly Soldier salary increase at 1%. Soldiers are already underpaid for the incredible service they provide not only to our nation but to the rest of the world; an increase cap of 1% is not even enough to keep up with inflation. Next the plan calls for a reduction in housing allowance payments of five percent. Housing allowance varies from region to region and in some places is barely enough to cover rent or mortgage payments on a house. On post housing is reserved for service members with families and once a member reaches a certain rank they are no longer allowed to live in the barracks. Now members who are forced to live off post, particularly in expensive areas like Washington DC will have even less money to pay for their homes. Next is the increase to service member contributions to their benefits. It could be argued that this isn’t so bad and is possibly necessary since military members do enjoy pretty good medical benefits, but when money is already tight among the lower enlisted and is now slated to get even tighter, it’s just as easy to argue that this is an unfair cherry on top of all the other reductions to military pay. Last is the reduction in subsidies paid to military commissaries. What this means is that commissaries will find it more difficult to offer service members the discounts on goods they currently offer. When it is considered that thousands of military families are currently living on food stamps (a travesty in itself) this just seems like kicking military members while they’re down. And keep in mind that the government pays out millions in subsidies to farmers every year for crops we don’t need, apparently that is more important that offering discounted goods to our cash strapped service members.
So what is the reason that we need to reduce military spending so much? What are we getting in exchange for all these cuts? Not much as it turns out. A report issued by the Congressional Budget Office indicates that these spending cuts will serve most to offset increases in domestic spending. Safety net programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are set to see spending increases in 2014. Another recipient of dollars saved by slashing military spending will be our creditors. Interest on our national debt is increasing at a terrifying rate. Interest on our date is set to increase by 14% per year over the next ten years. The Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Buck McKeon was quoted as saying, “We are going to be spending more in interest in a couple of years than we do in national defense.” Think about that for a moment. Now think about how President Obama has presided over the largest increase in US debt in the history of our nation, and how much it will continue to rise over the coming years.
So to recap: the President gets the expansion in social safety net spending that he wants thereby ensuring future votes for his party, the President adds more than six trillion dollars to our national debt which raises our interest payments through the roof, no reductions get made to entitlement spending including things like subsidies to farmers to grow crops we don’t use, and in the end the only ones getting screwed are the Soldiers who die fighting our wars. But who really cares about them, right?