Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Military Services Suspends Tuition Assistance

Due to Sequestration, the military services are suspending tuition assistance to service members. According to the U.S. General Accounting Office, costs have risen in recent years and it may be that reforms are necessary. But I do know that when  you talk to a military recruiter, one of the hot buttons they push again and again to get kids to sign up is that the military will help you get through college. My wife and I both benefited from aid provided by the military when we were in the service and later college. In fact, when I entered the service in the early '80s, I was on academic probation at the junior college I was then attending and had no intention of going on to college. The reason I ultimately went to college was due to my sergeants pushing me to continue my education, the base academic office, the online, onbase, offbase, and CLEP tests that I took. Eventually, I used my VEAP to get me through college and my wife used her "New GI Bill. It was the same story with my dad. He came from what would be known as an economically challenged background and when he got out of the Navy in the 60s, he used the GI bill to get his degree and go to work as an Electrical Engineer.

Arguing that cutting tuition assistance is bad doesn't really address my complaint about this decision. It plays into the game that's going on when the White House cuts tours and the DOD cuts tuition assistance.  Yes money is tight and as a matter of law, government agencies across the board have to make cuts. But does anyone truly believe that White House tours are over for good or that tuition assistance for military members won't be restored? No! These are temporary cuts designed to make a political point.

Instead, we need leadership from those we've put in charge of the Department of Defense, the White House, and the other governmental agencies. The Department of Defense should take another look at programs such as
  • The Global Hawk Block 30 drone program;
  • The C-27J Spartan cargo aircraft;
  • Upgrades to the M1 Abrams tank;
  • Air National Guard funding;
  • A proposed East Coast missile defense system.
These are all big ticket programs that the military has said it doesn't need or want at least in the amounts pushed by Congress. While I'm not saying these are the right programs to cut or that they even can be cut, I am saying that when you cut programs that we know will be restored, e.g., tuition assistance for the military or White House tours, we know that these are temporary cuts done for political purposes or because a particular program represents low hanging fruit that can be cut with a pen stroke and restored the same way later.

Instead, we need our military leadership (and the leadership of other agencies) to step up and examine programs like the Seven Big Boondoggles identified in Business Insider and then make real cuts that will have a real and true long-term impact on the US budget.

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