Sequestration – The Intersection of Politics and Budget

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.

About the Author

Terry Howell
Before becoming the Managing Editor for Military.com, Terry served 20 years in the U.S. Coast Guard as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate and aircrewman. In his final role in the Coast Guard, Terry served as a Career Development Advisor, where he provided career, finance, education, and benefits counseling to servicemembers and their families. Since retiring from the Coast Guard, Terry has authored the book, The Military Advantage, managed the content for TurboTap, the DoD's online transition program and VAforVets, the VA's transition assistance website. Terry earned both his Bachelor's and MBA at Corban University using Military Tuition Assistance and his GI Bill benefits to help cover the cost.

23 Comments on "Sequestration – The Intersection of Politics and Budget"

  1. 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. 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.

  4. Dianne Fain | August 21, 2012 at 8:43 am |

    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.

  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".

  6. Larry US Army Ret | August 21, 2012 at 9:15 am |

    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.

  7. coolarmydude | August 21, 2012 at 9:36 am |

    "Deficits don't matter." ~ Dick Cheney

  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.?

  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 | August 21, 2012 at 11:50 am |

    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. 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 | August 21, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

    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.

  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!

  17. puresaltA1A | August 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm |

    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!

  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.

  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!!

  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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