Dateline: Sequestration's affects on military, veterans

On March 1, President Obama submitted his Office of Management and Budget order, detailing more precisely how the $85 billion in across-the-board budget cuts will be made. Overall, sequestration will have wide ranging and long term negative effects on the military and veterans.

Before any federal civilian employee is furloughed — the military is exempt by presidential order — the government must first identify and provide employees with a 30-day notice. Employees who receive furlough notices have seven days to appeal. For furlough notices to federal contractor employees, President Obama decided that although war spending is subject to sequestration, defense contractors did not need to follow the law and issue layoff notices. Thus, if contracts are altered, there may be a 30-day notice period that still must be given to contractor employees affected by sequestration.

In terms of Department of Defense (DoD) spending, military pay is exempt which causes other Pentagon accounts to take a heavier reduction of funding because the money that goes toward military pay must be made up for somewhere else in the Pentagon’s budget. According to testimony from military and civilian Pentagon officials, it appears DoD will target modernization and readiness accounts for the brunt of these reductions. Modernization is the purchase of new equipment needed for an uncertain future; readiness is how we currently pay to train and equip our military forces. However, The American Legion wants no more further reductions in DoD accounts as it feels this will be a disastrous public policy decision for our national security.

Like the Legion’s concern for the billion dollar reduction in VA medical major construction, which means ever-increasing maintenance costs for aging buildings, this delay in military modernization will cause costs to rise in order to maintain aging military equipment that has been heavily used in the past 10 years of warfare. And the loss of readiness funding means our current servicemembers will be subjected to longer deployments, their families subjected to greater stress due to their loved one being constantly in harm’s way, war equipment will further degrade due to lack of parts and replacement with new equipment, and due to equipment overuse there will more breakdowns of equipment over time. Lastly, units that remain in home station will not have enough funds for training and supplies to deploy.

In addition to sequestration, federal government funding is set to expire March 27 when Public Law 112-175 expires. This means that the final six months of fiscal year 2013 must be funded to avoid a possible government shutdown. The House of Representatives has developed a measure to fund the government until October 1, and is scheduled to vote on it soon.