New enrollment in tuition assistance (TA) for service members was abruptly cancelled by the Army as part of its efforts to manage severe budget cuts mandated by Congress in the Budget Control Act of 2011
In response to the announcement, AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., said, "This loss in financial support that is necessary for our soldiers to pursue educational courses to improve themselves – personally and professionally --during their off-duty time while in the service or as they transition to the civilian sector during troop cutbacks is a blow to the morale of our all-volunteer force
While not directly affecting those now enrolled in approved TA courses, depriving many soldiers who wish to begin charting a self-improvement, educational goal to grow and improve themselves, especially our men and women who are or have been downrange and our wounded warriors is, said a brigade commander, a “significant morale killer.”
Command Sgt.Maj. Jimmie Spencer, USA, Ret., AUSA’s director of noncommissioned officer and soldier programs, issued a statement that said, in part, “I understand that we are at war and that is our number one priority, but putting TA (tuition assistance) on hold is painful
“We at AUSA are in the process of gathering information to develop a way to soften the blow. The budget shortfall is the problem and this situation is not likely to improve anytime soon. So we must start thinking ‘outside the box.’”
It was Congress’ actions that dealt the budget-cutting hand to the Army. Now they are seeking ways to soften the blow the tuition assistance cancellation will have on the force.
As the Senate resumes consideration of the continuing resolution to fund the government through the rest of fiscal 2013, Sens. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., will offer an AUSA-supported amendment that would simply bar reductions to the funding for tuition assistance.
It remains to be seen whether or not the amendment will be adopted. Even if it is, the House version of the bill did not include similar language so the matter would have to be decided in a conference committee that will reconcile the two versions of the bill.