Pentagon Budget Cuts Would Squeeze Military Families

Tuesday, 25 Feb 2014 07:17 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Proposed military cuts announced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday would affect service members and their families, The Hill reported.

The budget proposal calls for a 5 percent reduction in tax-free housing allowances for service members and an end to insurance reimbursements for renters.

Healthcare copayments would also go up, as would deductibles for some family members of active duty service members and some veterans – though not for those medically retired, according to Stars and Stripes.

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Pay increases would be 1 percent in 2015, though salaries for general and flag officers would be frozen for a year.

Subsidies for commissaries would drop from $1.4 billion annually to $400 million. The impact would be felt in domestic commissaries, which would find it harder to keep their products cheaper compared with local supermarkets.

The Pentagon will seek to close bases in 2017 and to field a smaller force.

The active duty Army would be cut to pre-World War II levels from 520,000 to between 440,000 and 450,000. The Army National Guard would go from 355,000 to about 335,000, and the Army Reserve would see a reduction from 205,000 to 195,000.
The Marine Corps would drop from 190,000 to 182,000.

Special operations forces would increase from 66,000 to 69,700, according to Stars and Stripes.

Navy ships assigned to domestic waters would be cut from 52 to 32. The Navy plans to maintain 11 or 10 carrier groups, depending on sequestration spending levels in 2016, Stars and Stripes reported.

A number of weapons systems would be eliminated, including the Air Force's A-10 Warthog attack jets and its fleet of U­2 manned spy planes.

The Army Guard's Apache attack helicopters would be transferred to active duty units. The Active Army would transfer Blackhawk helicopters to the National Guard, according to Stars and Stripes.

Veterans and military personnel representatives said that in reducing costs, the Pentagon was putting too heavy a burden on soldiers and their families.

"We know the Defense Department must make difficult budget decisions, but these cuts would hit service members, making it harder for them and their families to make ends meet," said Paul Rieckhoff of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.

The Military Officers Association of America predicted that — even excluding higher healthcare costs and additional commissary expenses — the annual impact on an Army sergeant with a family of four would be in the range of $1,400; for a captain, the hit would be $2,100, according to The Hill.

Hagel described the budget as the first in 13 years not based on a war footing. "This is a budget that recognizes the reality of the magnitude of our fiscal challenges."

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A more complete picture will come into view on March 4 when the full 2015 budget request is made public. All the proposed changes would need congressional approval.

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