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Sequester Jeopardizes Military

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For several months last year our Congress had the Sequester’hanging over all budgetary deliberations. For those of you who don’t remember, in 2011 Congress passed a law saying that if they couldn’t agree on a plan to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion—including the $2.5 trillion in deficit reduction lawmakers in both parties have already accomplished over the last few years—about $1 trillion in automatic, arbitrary and across the board budget cuts would start to take effect in 2013. 

The Sequester was designed to be so odious, so draconian that no elected representative could possibly allow those cuts to go into effect. Well, guess what? Our completely dysfunctional Congress allowed those cuts to go into effect March 1. Supposedly, the cuts will end with the start of the new Federal fiscal year on October 1, but that is not certain.

These cuts have jeopardized our military readiness and eviscerated job-creating investments in education and energy and medical research, nationwide and they fail to take into account whether they eliminate some bloated program that has outlived its usefulness, or cut a vital service that Americans depend on every single day.

As a wannabe writer/historian, the Sequester has adversely impacted me directly. The resources staffers at the National Archives and Navy History & Heritage Command have had their work week shorted. This creates a backlog in information requests and response to any and all inquiries. I’ve been waiting two months for an answer to a question about the Korean Conflict.

Another impact of the sequester hits every local retired service member—at least those of us who utilize the facilities at Fairchild Air Force Base. The other day I had occasion to go to Spokane for a ball game and decided to stop by the base to pick up some groceries at the Commissary. I’ve known for years that the Commissary was closed on Mondays but since it was Tuesday I figured no problem. I pulled into a mostly empty parking lot in front of the store and walked toward the door. Posted prominently on the entry was a sign that read “CLOSED.” The placard went on to explain that due to the Sequester, operating hours had to be reduced because of shortened work hours and reduced staffing. The sign further stated these operating hours would be in effect until the end of September. 

For over 30 years I have come to rely on Fairchild for everything from cereal to pain relievers. For most of the first ten years of my family living in North Idaho we routinely drove in to the base on a monthly basis. While there we stocked up on milk, canned goods and other basic necessities. Since those were pretty lean years, that monthly trip served as a ‘family outing’ and gave us a chance to have lunch or dinner someplace other than home.

It seems that the Sequester has now adversely affected the entire country—that is, except for the very people who allowed this fiasco to happen—our Congress. When cuts to the FAA budget forced them to furlough some air traffic controllers, slowing scheduled airlines, our elected representatives somehow managed to find enough money to allow the FAA to operate at full strength. Funny how that only happened because the Congress was preparing for its summer recess and they all wanted to go home!

The duplicity of this bunch of clowns that currently occupy the Congress knows no bounds! Congress ensures that wealthy corporate farmers retain their subsidies while eliminating the Food Stamp program in the recently passed Farm Bill. Maybe you are wondering how food stamps relate to military readiness? According to the Military.com website, 5,000 food stamp recipients listed their employment as ‘active duty military.’ I know if it was my family that wasn’t eating regularly it would affect my job performance. And when protecting America was my job, that job could suffer.

Granted, most of these personnel promote out of the need for SNAP (Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program—food stamps) due to corresponding pay raises and other allowances as an individual moves to a higher pay grade. The fact remains that this is a vulnerable population. Most of these recipients are older recruits with existing families who join the military because of the poor job market.

Statistics show that last year, $99 million in food stamps were cashed in at bases by military families, disabled veterans and other with military identification. This year more than $53 million were cashed in through June according to the Defense Commissary Agency. That is an increase from last year and projects to a 7 percent increase in food stamp usage on military installations. 

It has been reported that the SNAP program may be reinstated in the Senate. But the odds of this reinsertion being accepted and passed in the gridlocked House is tenuous at best. 

The Republican controlled House insists on giving the Armed Forces more money than even they want while short-changing every other program that helps veterans and the disadvantaged. We can do better than these Do-Nothings holding the country hostage to their ideologies. Come the 2014 primaries we must rectify this ridiculous situation in the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate and State Legislatures Nationwide.

In other local news of note there may be some movement in creating a new 88-bed veterans home Post Falls. According to a CDA Press article on 7/18/2013 there is good chance that land for this home could be donated. Having the site free of cost should improve the chances of getting the funding needed to create a fourth veterans home in Idaho. Currently, the nearest veterans home is in Lewiston. The two other homes are located in Boise and Pocatello. At best it will be some time next year before any firm word comes out of the VA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Stay tuned.

Until next month, take care and enjoy our summer—it will over sooner than we want.

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Author info

Gil  Beyer Gil Beyer A 21 year Navy veteran, lived in Bonner County for over 30 years, Past Commander of the Priest River DAV Chapter and admitted news junkie.

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Veterans News, sequester

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