Pointing out that President Obama just pledged a month ago to "keep our Armed Forces the best-trained, best led, best-equipped fighting force in history," the top leader of The American Legion warned that if the administration's 2013 defense budget is enacted, America will once again return to a hollow force.
"To keep the best fighting force, you must recruit and retain the best people," National Commander Fang Wong said. "By increasing, and in some cases, quadrupling health insurance fees for military retirees, you are sending a powerful message to those in uniform and to their families that their decades of service and sacrifice are unappreciated. Moreover, most believe that the Retirement Modernization Commission that this budget recommends will lead to a 401(K)-type plan, which will encourage people to leave the military for a safer and less demanding career in the private sector. ‘Grandfathering' benefit cuts merely tells tomorrow's veterans that their service isn't as valuable as those who served before them."
The budget for 2013 represents an 8 percent cut from 2012. In October, the 2.4 million member American Legion passed a national resolution which called on Congress and the White House to "cease all efforts to reduce the defense budget from its current level."
Wong, a Vietnam War veteran, added that he fully understands the fiscal realities that Washington faces. "America has a debt crisis," he said. "But no debt is higher than what America owes its veterans, who already sacrificed years of service, lost family time, physical injury and the comforts of home so that the other 90 percent of Americans can continue to live in freedom. Throughout our nation's history, every time we cut defense we paid for it with American blood."
Although U.S. forces have left Iraq, Wong pointed out that Iran, North Korea and international terrorism remain as threats to American interests. "Our men and women in the military have performed magnificently over the last decade. We must not return to a pre-9/11 mentality and be victimized by their past success in defending us."
The American Legion was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 14,000 posts across the nation.