19 March 2014 Legislative News Update
Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published
every Monday when Congress is in session.
In this issue:
- Sequestration & the Budget
Sequestration and the Budget
Back in August 2011, Congress passed the Budget Control Act (BCA) to resolve the debt ceiling mess. Lawmakers in both chambers passed this act with bipartisan support and President Obama signed it into law. The legislation included $1.2 trillion in cuts and directed that a joint House and Senate super-committee be created to find another $1.2 trillion by Nov. 23, 2011. Unfortunately, the super-committee failed in its mission and sequestration (across-the-board spending cuts) went into effect in 2013.
Each year, budget cuts are split evenly between non-war defense spending and discretionary domestic spending. Sounds fair until you realize that the overall Defense portion of the Federal Budget is only 17 percent! Therefore, the BCA was skewed against Defense programs from the start with disproportionate sequestration cuts coming from America’s military, thereby threatening our national security.
DoD’s portion of sequestration is $52 billion per year through 2021 on top of the $487 billion already agreed to with the Army absorbing the lion’s share of the cut. Meanwhile Congress continues to make budget decisions based on politics, not strategy.
In December 2013, the Bipartisan Budget Act hammered out by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., provided limited relief from sequestration – but only through fiscal 2015. The measure allowed the Chief of Staff of the Army to “buy back” some readiness in the force (especially in the area of combat training center collective training), but only for a limited time. In fiscal 2016, full sequestration of the defense budget will resume and we will be right back to where we are now – or worse.
Over the past two years sequestration has managed to set America on a path to reduced military readiness and national security. Sequestered budgets are rapidly shrinking the nation’s military forces to unprecedented and even unacceptable levels thereby creating unready forces unable to accomplish the tasks assigned by the defense strategy. All of this while the world security environment is becoming increasingly uncertain and dangerous.
Through sequestration of the defense budget, Congress has driven a wedge between our active military forces and our reserve and National Guard forces, most notably in the United States Army. The irresponsibility of sequestration as a deficit reduction tactic is not only reducing the military's war winning capabilities to unacceptably low levels, it has created unnecessary divisiveness, acrimony, and demonization within the Armed Forces between servicemembers and leaders who just months ago were serving side by side in combat.
Further, because sequestration is so skewed against the defense budget, Congress has fomented an atmosphere of fiscal desperation that leads to false arguments and false choices when it comes to the compensation and benefits provided to the servicemembers and families who make up the All-Volunteer Force. They have forced defense leaders to try to balance excessively tightened budgets on the backs of our servicemen and women by implying that the troops “cost too much” and are to blame for our growing military unreadiness. The facts do not bear this out and the troops know it. But it has sown a growing distrust among servicemembers who are increasingly and unfairly portrayed as an entitlement special interest group.
The President’s fiscal 2015 budget:
§ Demonstrates the continuing effects of sequestration.
§ Puts Army endstrength on a glide path to smallest force since WWII (420,000 or less in the active Army).
§ Terminates the Ground Combat Vehicle program.
§ Terminates the Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter program.
§ Cuts the Network Integration Evaluation, the Army’s effort to look at new technologies in a realistic training environment.
§ Drives wedges within the Army over helicopter redistribution, other force structure issues, and overall manpower endstrength.
§ Puts undue pressure on military personnel compensation and family programs that could have long term negative impacts on the All-Volunteer Force and potentially break faith with the military community.
The bottom line: If sequestration if not fixed, future budgets will have across-the-board cuts even more severe than the current cuts. It is Congress that must fix this now before more damage is done. They must eliminate sequestration and fund our military to levels that enable all components of the Armed Forces to be adequately manned, trained and equipped to focus on the mission - and not on fighting over an arbitrarily depressed defense budget.
Get Active!! You MUST CONTACT CONGRESS to urge them to end sequestration permanently. Go to our website, www.ausa.org, click on the Contact Congress link, enter your zip code and click on the AUSA-prepared letter to Congress titled “End Sequestration Permanently.” This is important!