Sequestration – The Intersection of Politics and Budget

August 20, 2012 | Terry Howell

Last week Military Update reported that lawmakers are more interested in winning reelection in November than in removing the threat severe cuts to government programs in January.

The politics behind the threat of across-the-board budget cuts, which includes a 10 percent cut to defense programs, surfaced during a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing when some members of Congress openly admitted that making the hard decisions needed to avoid “sequestration” were outweighed by the concern for staying in their elected offices.

Sequestration is the part of last year’s Budget Control Act which requires across-the-board budget cuts be made if Congress cannot reach the $1.2 Trillion debt reduction deal on its own.

According to Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, the 10 percent cut to the Defense budget will have a devastating impact on the military. “It would be a disaster in terms of the Defense Department,” Panetta said. “As far as our budget is concerned, as far as our ability to respond to the threats that are out there, it has a big impact.”

However, to date neither the DoD or VA has offered any details as to how sequestration will (directly or indirectly) affect TRICAREDoD Child Care, tuition assistance, MyCAA, Veterans’ Health Care, and the GI Bill. Of course, this adds to the level of anxiety for those who will be directly impacted by sequestration – servicemembers, veterans, and their families.

UPDATE: According to recent article in the Army Times, basic military pay, basic allowance for hounsing and subsistence, retirement pay, and bonuses are exempt from from the 10 percent cuts. However, TRICARE and other military health care programs are not exempt.

In fact, up until recently, the word was that Department of Veterans Affairs programs would be spared the sequestration axe. But last month Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, told a joint hearing of the House Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services Committees, that the “VA is exempt from sequestration except for administrative costs… I don’t have a definition of administrative costs right now.”

This appears to mean, that although the money may be there, there may not be anyone available to administer the claims or payment processes. Of course the logical outcome is payment and claims processing delays for veterans.

E-mail your elected officials, and let your voice be heard on the subject!

Read ‘Military Update’ to learn how politics trumps Nation Defense and Veteran Programs.

Comments

  1. Idmtmedic says:

    Now this is the first time I have ever heard that a politician would NOT make a decision on something to save their job! I'm kidding of course. So now the only question is how much will be cut and from where. According to Charles and retiree our benefits are only going up? Well let's just see how much retirement benefits are affected. Obviously a deal most likely will be struck and it's going to hurt. It's a question of balance, and I'm certain the retirees and the federal workers are going to take the brunt of it. If you are not a member of a military organization then join one! If you don't join one then write your congressman and do it NOW! As retiree has pointed out try not to put exaggerated or incomplete information when writing to them. They keep their jobs by votes!!!!!! Become active and let your voices be heard.

  2. Ian McKay says:

    Considering what group (Congress) the original complaint was directed at, I find it very hard to believe that my letter of indignation will have any effect whatsoever. I have already communicated with my representative several times asking questions that I as an independent have relating to congressional methods and decisions. I have yet to receive an answer. Oh, I get periodic reports of the "wonderful" things done by my Democratic Rep. but no answers to my questions, and absolutely nothing in regard to the same problems that you believe will be looked into because of contacting one's congressman.

    The only way that I have of influenching my congressman is my vote, and when it comes time to exercise that vote I shall certainly do so.

  3. Wow, so the sky is falling. We don't know where, or how in fact it's going to happen though. Our President has increased the private, and public sector for the last 27 months. You seem to talk as if our President and his administration
    are out to dismantle the military and the public sector. Yes after war government's downsize the military. This is nothing new. Mitt Romney has adopted an economic ideal from Paul Ryan. It's called budget cut's (Pell Grant's, Medicare, Medicaid, ect. I would have thought military.com would not be so politically bias. Please correct me if I have misinterpreted your article.

    • Not once did the article say the President was to blame. Simply that politics could force sequestration, which could impact the military and veterans.

  4. Dianne Fain says:

    It is simple economics you cannot spend more than you take in and this has been going on for a long time. Unfortunately it is easier for them to cut the Military and their bennifits since they are government employees than to cut other unnessary programs or Heaven forbid the politicians own pay and bennifits.There are no easy answers, but we have to be heard as loud as those that are dependants on the Governments give away programs that do not require any work in return. We must choose whom we vote for carefully and try to see the hidden agendas ahead.

    • Jeff Carter says:

      In my opinion there is an easy answer. The politicians have to decide what comes first their office or the country. Once they realize it is the country then they know they have to stop the handouts to their donators.

  5. I'am not at all surprised, this republican control house haven't done a thing sense they been in office…..other than go "skinny-dipping".

    • Silent Majority says:

      If you knew what you are talking about you would know that the Republican controled House did attempt to fix this problem but their bill died in the Democrat controled Senate (skinny-dippint aside).

    • Congress has submitted several budgets, but Obama has failed to act again and again. Working in a defense support industry, I know first hand the difficulty members of the military have with budget woes. This democrat, job-killing president is the bigger problem, NOT congress!!

      • Ben Dover says:

        Our bigger problem was his predecessor and his Republican controlled house and Senate that brought us 2 unfunded wars, not to mention the BS Patriot Act.

        • His Predecssor (GWB) passed a budget every year. As far as 911, I guess you would of not done anything since the wars were not funded according to your sources.

          • As Ben and the Constitution point out, budgets are actually a matter for the Congress, although the spending is signed by law by the President. And yes, President G. W. Bush chose NOT to include the two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) in the budget, thus exempting them from the rules regarding paying for them. Basically he (with the acquiescence of Congress) whipped out the US Credit Card and paid for them. That's one of the reasons the national debt doubled during his administration.

          • And Obama surpassed the amount Bush added to the debt in less than half the time.

      • Nelro, try learning how your own (I assume) country works. "Congress has submitted several budgets, but Obama has failed to act" is just plain inaccurate. There has not been a budget sent to the president for signature. In case you're still unsure how this works, remember, the president PROposes, congress DISposes. You president can suggest, beg, cajole, or even twist arms, but congress (both houses) must act to put a bill on his desk and that just hasn't happened.

        • Harry Reid will not allow a budget to come to the floor to be voted on. Just in case you didn't know. You ever hear of Ryan? That's the guy running as the GOP VP. He has proposed many budgets over the years but Reid will not allow it to come to the floor for a vote. He gets his marching orders from Obama. I hope you feel enligthened.

        • And every budget the House submits the Senate does nothing with (essentially killing it). The only budget Obama proposed was voted UNANIMOUSLY against by BOTH the House and the Senate (which alone should speak volumes regarding his knowledge on the issue). Reid has already said that "they do not need to submit a budget" for 2013; the last time the Senate passed a budget was 29 Apr 09. And raising the debt ceiling is NOT a budget.

    • Sheer genius.

    • retired462 says:

      Hey, "top dog" – sober up ! Reid sits on every bill that passes the house!

    • Ben Dover says:

      The Repub legislators in our great 50 States since the 2010 elections have togather introduced in excess of 1,000 bills on abortion but not much yet on jobs bills. Jobs, jobs, jobs was their platform in the 2010 election cycle that won them control of the US House as well as a majority of state houses, yet we still hear carp from the right.

      • Ben, tell the Senate to get off their butts and (at least) vote on the 25+ jobs bills the House passed that are just sitting and growing dusty in the Senate in-box.

    • Hey Dog Breath. Here is a clue. Obama has not passed a Budget which is required by the US Constitution since he became President. The Republicans have always been pro military and the Democrats against the Military. Where you been? Btw, wasn't it just nice that Obama allowed the Navy to wear there Unitforms in a Gay Parade. That's real sweet. I rather go skinny dipping

  6. Larry US Army Ret says:

    I am a military retiree. But lets all get real! Our government has been spending money that it did not have for decades (much more recently than before) but when you are in a deep hole, you have to stop digging. We will all have to contribute to getting out of this hole. Some programs will be reduced but as long as EVERYONE helps pay their share, including the entitlement programs like welfare, we can start filling in this hole. It won't happen overnight, but it will never happen if we don't get started. I know most people have the attitude, take it from someone else. But, if we don't all help, we will leave a bankrupt country for our kids and grandkids. Look at Greece and most of Europe. Most people don't know that most great civilizations in history were not defeated militarily, but collapsed economically under the wieght of their own debt. If we have to "chip in" to stop the US from being next one, I'm in. It is too bad that no politician has enough guts to stand up and do what needs to done. The only unemployment they seem to be really worried about is their own.

    • oohrahDOC says:

      When former President Clinton left office, the government had almost 500
      billion dollars. By the end of "W''s 8 yrs in office. it was over 500' billion in debt. It just goes show, just because you run and be president, doesn't mean that you should if you don't have any common sense.

  7. coolarmydude says:

    "Deficits don't matter." ~ Dick Cheney

    • Maybe true when at previous lower debt levels but when the national debt exceeds the entire national GDP (sometime next year at the current growth rate of the national debt), you are in trouble

      • coolarmydude says:

        That still doesn't give him and Bush a pass. The Veteran Affairs budget issues have everything to do with the Bush administration's foreign policies, namely Iraq and Afghanistan. These new issues in the VA, from PTSD, to TBI, and other medical needs can safely be called indirect costs related to the war. And this is a generational cost.

  8. Cutting Social Security and Medicare is not an option. These government programs were paid for by you and me; all those who have paid in over their working life-times. If I deposit money into a bank, I'm "entitled" to withdraw that money when I please. Welfare, Medicaid, food stamps are not "entitlement" programs. The recipients of these programs have not paid in because there is no method to do so, except for taxes.
    Let's get real: cut all the social experiments, drug test welfare recipients, reduce elected official's salary, no subsidies for any private industry, and eliminate the tax loopholes. Why we don't have a flat tax by now is beyond me. My goodness, if a military retiree, me, can figure this out, why can't the people in D. C.?

    • coolarmydude says:

      I think we just need to let the Bush tax cuts end altogether and have some modest spending cuts across the board.. That is the better shared sacrafice than drastic cuts all over the place.

    • Payments out from Social Security and Medicare greatly exceed payments in and reasonable rates of return. The programs were set up when life expectancy was much shorter. Having said that, we still need them as a safety net and the most vulnerable financially cannot have their benefits cut. However, that doesn't mean they can't be means tested and indexed by income. Donald Trump doesn't need his Social Security and Medicare benefits, my mom does.

      • coolarmydude says:

        Keep in mind that the issues involving Social Security and Medicare are completely separate programs from discretionary spending, which is what oldmcpo was alluding to. This means that Social Security and Medicare should not be lumped in the same issues of the budget deficit. That is purely a discretionary spending issue and it should be resolved as such.

  9. Ladies and Gentleman I am here before you to tell you something I know nothing about Sound Familiar well this has been going on for Years it DIDNT JUST HAPPEN its not new off with there head has been around for years But Whose Head REMOVE THE BENNEFITS CUT THE BUDGET But whose
    SSI look who collects the Big amounts is it our ellected officials but they call it something else and it wont be touched Lend Me Your Ears Why there already Bleading Republicans & Democrats fight for there rights battles in congress with each other Well Hello I DONT CARE IF YOU ARE EITHER REPRESENTATIVE OF WHICH PARTY IT JUST SEEMS YOU FORGOT YOUR JOB IS TO REPRESENT THE PUBLIC NOT A PART OF IT
    if you can get this right I Promise to wipe the blood from my ears and clean them out and Regain My Hearing

  10. william chandler says:

    if congress and swenaatorsn gave up their rental vehicles that we pay for as well as pay their fair share of taxes adn cut their own benefits, such aas pay medical insurance premimmums and co pays as we alol do then therte qould be a better chance of covering the hole we are in from 2 wars and the co0st there of. tghink abouit it we have guiven our all and stil;l get cuts to us deeply such as no pay raise fort 2010 and 2011.est aAASURESD THt thepolirticiaNAS GOTM THEIR RAISE. FIR THE REPUBLICANS AND BRING SOME ONE QWHOM IS FOR THE PEOPLE BACK POLITICIANS SHOPULD LISTEMN TOP THE PUBLIC AND NOT DO WHAT IS BEST FOR THE POL;ITICUIAN AJND FO0RHET ABOUT WHO PUT THME IN OFF I9E THE ELEDCTION WILL BE SOMETHIMG ELSE AS THE POLIOTICIANS LIE TO US And make promises that thay do not intend on keepimg.

  11. Congress never cares who they hurt as long as they receive their money and they are behind their desks everything is fine and dandy!

  12. oohrahDOC says:

    Congress can & WILL stick it the military. but refuse to take a paycut themselves. I wish I had job that I could work for only 4 yrs, quit and still get a
    paycheck for the rest of my life.

  13. Stop all contracts until the money is there.

  14. Its called balance. If you have not put in the amount you are taking out. You should not be eligible to take it out. Unfortunately the freeloaders have been outnumbering the workers for sometime now. The IRS already knows how much money legal american citizens have made within a givin lifetime and if you are not paying your taxes. Well no benefits for you my friend.

    Funny how that works right? Accountability…

  15. Leon Suchorski says:

    If you just stop giving the money away to the people who sneak into the country, and their kids. and the people who have been on Welfare for generations, Think of all of the money that you will save. The other choice is to stop foreign aid. It is amazing how much we just give away to other countries. If we would stop both of these items, we would have our National Debt paid off in a year or two.

    • That is a great idea yet that makes too much sense so the gov't wont do such a thing. However I dont think it will be enough to get us out of debt, but its a start.

    • And where did you get these ideas? What illegals are getting free money? Not in my town. And "welfare for generations" was rarely, if ever, actually seen. Just another old scare tactic. And since the Welfare Reform Act Clinton signed into law in the 90's, there has been a 5 year LIFETIME limit on collecting welfare – and you MUST also have a job in order to collect. Some states have more generous programs but they do so on their own dime. And compared to our military budget, foreign aid is a drop in the bucket. In 2010, foreign aid was less than 2% of GDP. A pittance.

    • 1. there is NO BUDGET for illegal aliens, any money they get is either incidental (i.e. hospital emergency rooms cannot turn aside anyone) or illegal. Cutting a budget of $0 results in a savings of $0.

      2. TANF is limited to 5 year lifetime maximum, and requires work. Has since the mid-90's.

      3. The entire cost of the State Department, to include foreign aid, is about $50 billion – which is what the DoD spends in healthcare every year. 49% of that "foreign aid" is actually spent in the US (buying agricultural products, goods to be financed by the EXIM bank, etc). So cutting foreign aid also cuts money going to US businesses.

      National DEFICIT is slightly over $1 trillion. National debt is $15 trillion. More than "a year or two" at $50 billion a year (realistically your suggestions are at about $10 billion a year max – so we pay it off in about 100 years).

      • correction – we pay off THIS YEAR's deficit in 100 years – in the meantime we keep racking up the debt.

    • Not true. The US is 21st in the world in foreign aid contributions per percentage of GDP. Welfare is 12% of the budget and defense is 25% of the budget. What is eating our fiscal lunch is health care and pensions (social security). On defense budget – people are the most expensive thing.

  16. Sequestration was forced onto America by the radical T-Party controlled Republican Party before they would approve a raise in the debt ceiling.. This was the only way they would accept the increase which under Bush senior and junior's terms were passed automatically with bi-partisan votes. But, now since a Democrat was President the debt couldn't be increased without major cuts to programs to the detriment of our people including the military and the addition of the Sequestration rule.This action caused a near default to our creditors! Their actions caused America's debt rating to be lowered causing the debt to increase due to raised interest rates. How many programs could have been saved if not for these interest rate increases? The Republican controlled House puppet leader John Boehner and Mitch McConnell were told by the T-Partiers that this was the only way if they wanted to keep their jobs! McConnell found this highly acceptable since his super majority actions in the Senate caused all legislation to be stalled! The Senate at that point couldn't pass anything except their pay raises.This "my way or the highway" has to stop and both houses have to work together to save America, not destroy it. If your children will not play together correctly, you punish them. Congress should be punished likewise! Get rid of them all plus stop the millionaires and billionaires from buying our Congress. If this action stays in place, your vote will not mean anything only their votes count!

    • I agree to every word you spoke. This do- nothing Congress is absolutely the worse I've seen in all my years on this earth. I am a disable Vietnam Veteran and it's a shame the way this country is being held hostage by a few, not caring don't give a crap but their own agenda. Tea Nuts holding all the cards on those elected to serve. Do away with special interests and big guns seem intent to ruin this country. They have cried and moaned every since this President was sworn in. While the rest of the country was waiting and hoping for some changes to be made, they slipped into their backrooms and starting the DO NOTHING SENATE/CONGRESS. I wonder if the teanuts realize while they hurting a lot of people they are also hurting
      their own…Makes you wonder who the real terrorists are……

    • Ha,Ha, see what happer when Millionaires, Lawyers,Out touch members of Congress, and most of all when they haven't been in The Military aday of their life. Do they even visit military bases and talk to the men and women that in uniform, talk to their family members……. The answer is no. It's ashame that most memebers don't care, they need to visit bases like Fort Benning,Ga, Fort Bragg,Nc, Fort Sam Houston,Tx where medical personal is train and Va Hospitals. Just get out and see what going on and don't let the T-Party keep you from doing the "Thing".

      • Are you honestly laying this on the Republicans as if the Democrats somehow were innocent by-standers? Somehow, this is Bush and Bush's fault? Obama had TWO YEARS with a SUPER MAJORITY — Why did the King not lay down the Law and bring the Magical Fix when he and the DEMs had Absolute Control — Instead they SPENT SPENT SPENT!!! . Like money was Toilet Paper and they only had those two years to get out their last Turd — Lets be honest, the DEMs Own at least as Big a Piece of this TURD Sandwich as the Republicans and the Tea Party has little to do with any of it — Lets get a Grip Fellas — This is Now Obama's ECONOMY and if he wants to Blame His Predecessor, than Look In The MIRROR Barry??? .

  17. puresaltA1A says:

    The US government is struggling with the same problem the military has in paying for pensions and healthcare… except on a massive scale…. Right now 67% of the US "budget… hasnt been one for over 1200 days…" goes to nondiscretional spending aka social security, medicare, medicaid… those benefits are underfund by over 100 trillion….spending is up from 54% in 2005…. 9% of the US "Budget" goes to pay for the interest in the national debt.. (could fund another entire US military with those proceeds)…. the rest goes to discretionary spending aka Military, EPA, Education… the military will always have its head first… no matter what… Once a person looks at the demografics and the amount of unfunded liablities and debt… One will come to figure out that the US government is on a completely unsustainable path…. and that no amount of tax or wealth confiscation can correct it.. and the politicians will cut the military to the bone to not upset the voters "benefits" and will avoid at all costs to come to grasps with reality…. cuts will continue even if either side compromises………. which leads us to a path of complete chaos once the government fails to start paying its "benefits" to the US Population…. or we could change our path and talk about the real problems and plan for workable solutions so your children (or grandchildren)and my children will not live in chaos…

  18. However, to date neither the DoD or VA has offered any details as to how sequestration will affect military pay, TRICARE, military housing, DoD Child Care, tuition assistance, MyCAA, Veterans’ Health Care, and the GI Bill. Of course, this adds to the level of anxiety for those who will be directly impacted by sequestration – servicemembers, veterans, and their families.

    It will be a big Christmas surprise for all of us!

    • Here is what is coming. The military is going to get smaller – a lot smaller in terms of personnel. People will be booted before retirement eligibility. It isn't likely anyone will get paid to leave. Enlistment and reenlistment bonuses and GI Bill kickers will dry up. Enlistment and commissioning requirements will make it harder for people to join. The retirement system is going to be overhauled. TriCare for retirees is going to take a hit. Troops aren't going to move as much – to save on PCS costs. Money for individual training and schools is going to dry up – meaning going to career building schools is going to become competitive- not everyone will get to go. Promotions are going to slow down – a lot. The reserves and National Guard are going to go back in their box and stay there until the next war. Resources for families will begin to tighten – programs on the installations that were developed to support families during the war will go away. Instead of being stationed in foreign countries for years on end (very expensive) – troops will do training rotations in and out from the US. Civilian employees of all the services will take a cut in numbers. Contractors can probably start looking for a new job. And then the next war comes and we will spend a crazy amount of money to fight it.

  19. I hate to say it but the country is so much in debt cuts aren't the sole answer.The way we are going unfortunately we need to raise taxes.A least until we get back on our feet and have the politicians realize that there is not a endless pot of gold and you need to budget same as homeowners and renters do.Also we can't continue on the path a peace keepers of the world.Now China and Japan are arguing over a small island that each claim they own and i am keeping my fingers crossed on that one that we won't get involved in that one.

  20. Maybe the Director of the VA can start his understanding of what Administrative Costs are by knowing they are NOT allowing 5 million dollars worth of conferences to happen under his watch. But then he has not a clue of the fiscal responsibilities he is in charge of. Beret anyone?

  21. Here's the big deal that no one is talking about. Active duty military need to start thinking about not having a job. That means start the financial planning now. Don't spend all your deployment money on a new car. Don't buy a house and strap yourself to a mortgage. Pay down your debt. Don't create new debt. Save your money. I don't care who you are or what job you have or how valuable you have been told you are to an organization. Everyone is vulnerable to cuts in personnel. All ranks, all jobs and all active duty. Go to school and suck up as much of the tuition assistance you can while it still exists. Start thinking about what you would do if you didn't have an active duty paycheck and benefits a year from now.

    • WiseoldOwl says:

      I agree 100%. I decided to get out of active duty 20 years ago, go into the private sector, and stay in the USAR from which I retired in 2009. I run my own business and have never lived beyond my means. While there are a great many "programs" and "campaigns" to "hire" veterans, most civilian employers care if you have the technical skills to get the job done. Leadership and management skills are great, but if you don't have a technical skill that its in high demand, you may never be able to show your other traits off. So, if you are an active person or a DoD contractor, you'd better make a real serious plan of living on 50% to 60% of what you earn now. Sales may be an option, but you'd be competing with people 1/2 your age who will work for less than you expect. The next ten years will not be kind to the US military which saw a great boom from 2001 to now.

  22. OK, as i watched CSPAN a few weeks ago, there were some CEO's that were begging congress to figure out a way to stop sequestion. yet not one ceo would give up there pay (inthe MILLIONS PLUS STOCK UPTIONS) to do it, on the same token congress also needs to give up some pay as well. Didnt we learn in the military lead by example. Well if congress thinks we are that bankrupt then they need to stop with off shore accounts, insider trading, tax loop holes, how is it that a person runs for congress and makes 165,000 a year and in 4 years becomes a millionare. the math dosent add up. Legalize POT, excute FLAT TAX so all the ilegal people in this coutry will be paying thier way as well. dont know one illegal person that dosent need food, or gas, or a place to live tnat needs lots of care. not ROCET SCIENCE!!

    • seawich,

      Huh, so before we can stop seguestion, we need to fix the CEO's, Congressmen, Off Shore Accounts, Insider Trading, Tax Loop Holes, Pot, Flat Tax, etc. No wonder we can't ever get anything done, because we can't seem to get focused!

    • The Veterans Administration has lied to me and cut my disability saying I owe them 38,000 and since I married in 2002 and turned in my marriage license and got my wife an ID card, they never put her on as my dependant. Now they are paying me for her part back to 2009 instead of 2002.
      I would like to know who to contact about the notice of disagreement that I sent. This all came about last year and I still haven't heard anything. I have done everything right as far as filling out forms and changing my status sinceI retired in 1995 and they pull my records and tell me all these lies about me owing money to them. I know better, but they think we are all a bunch of idiots.

  23. This is just one more example of our elected representatives NOT doing their job and using the budget as a means of advancing their own selfish agendas. Perhaps we should start docking THEIR pay.

    I personally see NO difference between Progressives and Conservatives. BOTH are minorities trying to shove their agenda/believe systems down the throats of the majority.

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