On Nov. 2, 42 members of The American Legion will meet with members of the Joint Special Committee on Deficit Reduction - labeled the "supercommittee" - to discuss the Legion's concerns over proposals to the committee that would negatively impact the Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs budgets.
The supercommittee is charged with identifying at least $1.2 trillion of savings in the federal budget before Nov. 23. The American Legion has been closely involved in this issue since the committee was created in early August.
"We've undertaken a two-part effort in helping to advocate for our nation's veterans and military," American Legion National Legislative Director Tim Tetz said. "Our national staff has been meeting with committee staff and members for the past two months."
Tetz said the Legion has also been working the issue at the grassroots level with its membership, arranging the trips of 42 Legionnaires to visit their senators and representatives Nov. 2 on Capitol Hill. "This is one last face-to-face meeting to encourage careful deliberation before the committee votes," said Tetz.
In early August, as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the defense budget was cut by about $450 billion over the next decade, according to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Among the 175,000-plus recommendations received by the supercommittee were further reductions to the defense and veterans budgets. Even more cuts would be enacted if the committee fails to develop a plan to meet the $1.2 trillion reduction need. The Legion argues that such cuts would place America's national security at risk.
In response to this threat, The American Legion passed a resolution during its October National Executive Committee meetings, urging Congress and the White House to avoid further cuts to the defense budget.
"We certainly comprehend and appreciate the enormous financial challenges our country is facing today," American Legion National Commander Fang Wong said. "We also want Congress to understand that benefits for veterans and military families shouldn't be first in line when it comes to budget cuts.
"Our veterans community is willing to do its share to get America's economy rolling again. But other options exist to reduce our budget deficit, and we want Capitol Hill to take a closer look at them before cutting defense spending or veterans benefits."
When Legionnaires meet with supercommittee members, Tetz said, "We won't be asking them for a hands-off policy on the defense budget. We are outlining some efficiencies that won't impact our veterans or national defense, and encouraging them to look elsewhere. Our nation's veterans have already earned their benefits."