The Coming Defense Fallout

Army report: Military families to face benefit cuts

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The United States Army is projecting that a series of severe defense cuts could cause 251,000 Army civilians to be furloughed, lead to an Army-wide hiring freeze, and significantly reduce funding for critical social service programs that provide care to troops and their families.

The nearly $500 billion in looming defense cuts, otherwise known as sequestration, has led the Army to project widespread shortfalls that will impact troop readiness and defer post-combat equipment repairs for up to four years, according to detailed estimates issued by the Army and obtained by the Free Beacon.

Sequestration is set to kick in on March 1 if Congress fails to enact a preventative deal, which sources on Capitol Hill suggest is increasingly likely.

The Army expects to reduce funding significantly for several soldier and family programs in addition to a major scale down in combat preparation exercises.

Funding shortfalls would impact the Soldier Family Assistant Center, the Army Substance Abuse Program, the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, and a soldier reintegration program meant to ease the reentry into civilian life.

Additionally, the Army, which has already begun discharging and reassigning 60,000 soldiers, projects the economic impact of such cuts could “exceed $2 billion.”

Lawmakers and military experts are sounding the alarm about these cuts, maintaining the country has an obligation to continue caring for its fighting forces.

“How do you go to somebody in the military who’s been deployed four or five times . . . and say, ‘For your good work over the last decade, we’re going to ruin the military; we’re going to make it harder for you to have the equipment you need to fight, and we’re going to reduce benefits to your family?’ ” Sen. Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.), a vocal opponent of the sequester, told the Washington Post in January.

An Army spokesperson told the Free Beacon the looming cuts are certain to have “a major impact and some of it may affect benefits.”

“In the coming weeks you’ll see a lot of this fleshed out,” the spokesperson said, explaining military leaders will meet with Congress next week to provide details on how the force will be impacted.

“A lot of this is still widely under review,” the spokesperson said.

The defense cuts would also have a trickle down effect, potentially eliminating scores of jobs around military installations in multiple states, experts warned.

The Army has warned that if it is not given the authority to reallocate funds, “multiple commands [are] at risk of not supporting payroll even after [a] 22-day furlough,” according to documents recently issued by the Army to Congress.

“Military family members always have loads of jobs around installations,” said one military expert who requested anonymity to openly discuss the sensitive issue. “Many of those will disappear when the cuts go into effect.”

The sequestration is expected to have a destructive immediate and long-term economic impact, according to the Army’s preliminary estimates.

A “hiring freeze” is likely to be imposed almost immediately and temporary employees would be released from their jobs.

The Army has provided “termination notice to an estimated 1,300 Temporary/Term employees and directed an Army-wide hiring freeze,” according to Army talking points obtained by the Free Beacon.

Various training courses and maintenance programs could also be eliminated, according to the estimates.

“The greatest impact for the Army is in Active Component Operation and Maintenance (OMA),” which funds training and support operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, according to the talking points.

The OMA is facing an $18 billion shortfall.

Should the sequester take place, “these cumulative reductions will distress and shock Army installations and their surrounding communities with terminations of temporary and term employees, wide-scale reduction of support contracts with more than 3,000 industry partners, and furlough all 251K Army civilians for up to 22 days,” the talking points state.

The Army is warning that cuts of this size will take years to recover from.

“These lost capabilities require years to reinstate and some cannot be reversed,” the Army maintains. “The strategic impact is a rapid atrophy of unit combat skills with a failure to meet demands of National Military Strategy by the end of this year.”

New maintenance orders will also be canceled, leading to “an immediate release of [around] 5,000 temporary, term, and contract employees, mostly in Alabama, Texas, and Georgia,” according to the Army’s analysis.

Reductions in maintenance will have a direct impact on the military’s equipment.

“Post-combat equipment repair and maintenance [would be] stopped for 1,300 Tactical Wheeled vehicles, 14,000 communication devises, and 17,000 weapons,” the Army maintains.

Military experts warn that that the country’s national security is in real jeopardy.

“The sequester will badly harm military readiness,” Steven Bucci, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense, told the Free Beacon via email. “It will lead to a hollow military—people [without] the ability to train to maintain proficiency.”

“The red herring of ‘letting the Pentagon choose the cuts’ being okay is baloney,” added Bucci, director of the Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at the Heritage Foundation.

“It will not ever be done [without] politics, so it would end up eliminating all the programs the administration hates,” such as “missile defense, nuke modernization, and new ships,” Bucci explained.

The Army is emphasizing the economic impact sequestration will have on many states still struggling to recover from high unemployment rates.

“These mandated sequester reductions affect more than 1,000 companies in more than 40 states as they reduce their workforces,” the Army states in its talking points.

The budgetary crunch also “infringes on [the] ability to meet growing cyber defense needs,” the Army maintains.

The State Department would additionally “have to absorb a $168 million cut to embassy security” in the wake of a deadly attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, according to the New York Times.

Adam Kredo   Email Adam | Full Bio | RSS
Adam Kredo is senior writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Formerly an award-winning political reporter for the Washington Jewish Week, where he frequently broke national news, Kredo’s work has been featured in outlets such as the Jerusalem Post, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Politico, among others. He lives in Maryland with his comic books. His Twitter handle is @Kredo0. His email address is kredo@freebeacon.com.

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