Sequestration Could Have Serious Consequences for Military Members

Sequestration of Military Member Benefits

Lawmakers continue to disagree about cuts to the federal budget.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle agree that deep cuts are essential to bring the federal budget under control. But they are still having trouble agreeing on how to implement the necessary reductions before next year.

The Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011 requires the federal government to reduce spending by more than $1 trillion by 2021. This amounts to cutting about $109 billion from the budget each year. To accomplish this, the BCA created the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, otherwise known as the Super Committee.

“Sequestration” was the name given to the mandatory, across-the-board spending cuts that would occur automatically should the committee fail to compromise.

Policymakers in Washington are still struggling to find common ground, and now there is a great deal of worry over what will happen — especially to U.S. service members and military families — if sequestration is allowed to occur.

Sequestration Breakdown

Through sequestration, budget cuts are split equally between defense discretionary spending and non-defense mandatory (entitlement) and discretionary (non-entitlement) spending, without any increase in tax revenue. This equals about $55 billion in cuts from both the defense and non-defense budgets every year.

Defense spending cuts will be spread across all the branches. While some particular programs may be spared, other sections of the military could see anywhere from a 7 to 10 percent of their budget eliminated. This does not include funds allocated specifically for war, though it will certainly have an effect on wartime operations.

Non-defense spending cuts are typically program-specific and categorized as either mandatory or discretionary. Most mandatory programs such as Social Security, Medicaid, food stamps, veterans’ compensation and retirement benefits are currently exempt from any reductions. Medicare is the main exception, though cuts are limited to no more than 2 percent a year ($11 billion in 2013) and these are limited to providers and insurers, not beneficiaries.

Similar to the defense spending cuts, non-defense discretionary spending cuts will be accomplished through broad reductions in funding for discretionary programs. The first round of automatic budget cuts is set to occur January 2, 2013.

Political Gridlock

If allowed to continue, sequestration could have drastic consequences for our nation’s Armed Forces.

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives passed the Sequester Reconciliation Act of 2012, but it has little chance of passing the Democrat-controlled Senate.The bill favors cutting social programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and subsidized insurance premiums over military spending or increased taxes.

This refusal to compromise on both sides of the political spectrum is creating a situation where sequestration could actually occur.

If a more balanced political discourse is not discovered soon, the military community could find itself bearing the brunt of its leadership’s indecisiveness.

Photo courtesy of nebulux76.