Times are tough. America is sinking in over 1 trillion dollars in debt. Something had to give.
Last week Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced that the Pentagon has been directed to cut spending by $78 billion over the next five years. Analysts say the change means the Army and Marine Corps will eventually shrink their ranks by thousands of troops.
There have been few hints as to where exactly the cuts will be made. In a time of war, it is prudent to believe that some family programs may hit the chopping block first.
In a news conference to announce the cuts, Gates said, “We must come to realize that not every defense program is necessary, not every defense dollar is sacred or well-spent, and more of everything is simply not sustainable.”
In an instant, I can think of a handful of programs that many families in our military community rely on, compliments of MWR, ACS and CYS – free childcare, respite care for families with special needs children, free counseling services, community fairs and holiday events.
These services are greatly needed and help military families, especially those working on a small budget. These services can also, arguably, be duplicated by non-military agencies. That makes them, I fear, an easy target for cuts.
The reduction of military family benefits has also already crossed Congress’ radar.
In November, the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform unveiled a 58-part plan to cut the federal budget deficits by $200 billion by the year 2015. Among their suggestions:
All Tricare beneficiaries, including active duty family members, would have a co-pay for office visits and pay an enrollment fee.
The number of service members assigned to duty stations in Europe and Asia would decrease from 150,000 to 100,000.
More than 50 Department of Defense schools in Alabama, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia would close.
Cost of living allowance would be reformed and possibly reduced.
One trillion dollars is a lot of debt. The above programs cost a lot of money. It may not take much for non-military constituents to convince their legislators that military benefits can take a small hit now and then.
After all, in the private sector, most people have already undergone pay freezes or months worth of unemployment after a layoff. And, in a lot of states there are many more non-military constituents than there are military.
For military families, many of the programs they rely on are free or low cost. To seek the same quality of help and care outside the gate can be difficult, if not impossible with one parent deployed. It can also be costly.
Also, once service members begin leaving their military careers as the new budget thins the ranks, they may not find work easily in the civilian sector.
More men and women will be standing in the unemployment line. More children will go hungry. More families will suffer.
Many of these military families will have the added stressors of combat-related injury and illnesses to tend to.
This is when volunteers and supporters at Operation Homefront can step in and change lives for the better.
When injury cripples a family, Operation Homefront can steady them and give them the tools they need to stand again.
When military services are cut and families can no longer afford food, Operation Homefront can fill their tables and give them the strength then need to carry on.
Operation Homefront has already helped thousands of military families across the U.S. Thousands more will need help in the years to come.
Our volunteers can see the change that results from their dedication. They see families improve. They watch families succeed.
As federal budget cuts loom and threaten the security of many of these warriors’ families, our volunteers and supporters are more important than ever.
Join us as we give back to military families who have given so much.