Budget cuts are taking a toll on deployed forces, with both service members and civilians “very worried about what’s going on in Washington,” says a senior member of Veterans of Foreign Wars.
In a memorandum to Congress based on a visit to troops in Europe, Africa and the U.S., VFW executive director Robert Wallace said cuts already made and cuts that might be made are creating morale problems.
“Breaking faith with an all-volunteer force and their families who have shouldered 12 years of war is not how you solve our nation’s budget problems,” Wallace said. “All it does is further weaken an over-tasked military and embolden our enemies to stretch and stress our remaining resources even further.
“Troops are willing to go into harm’s way at a moment’s notice. In return, all they ask from our nation and from Congress is that they be properly trained and equipped and that their families be cared for while they are deployed and should the worst occur,” Wallace said in a Sept. 12 memo sent to every congressional office. “The lack of a budget and sequestration is causing concerns our fighting force and their families do not need or deserve.”
Wallace pointed the finger directly at Congress. “The failure of Congress to pass a budget is having a perilous impact on a Defense Department that is struggling to maintain a strong face, but in reality isn’t flying its aircraft, sailing its ships or training its ground forces,” he said.
VFW spokesman Joe Davis said the letter is based on discussions that Wallace and John Biedrzycki, a VFW junior vice commander, had with service members of all ranks. VFW has sent similar letters to Congress in the past, but traditionally has focused on veterans issues, Davis said.
Wallace’s memo mentions “universal concerns” heard everywhere they visited. Budget uncertainty has a “direct impact” on forces, from cuts in readiness and training to quality of life programs such as daycare, dependent schools and commissaries.
Additionally, mid-career service members are concerned about how budget cuts will affect their careers, and service members of all ranks are worried about pay and benefits, including pay raises, retirement and health care.
Wallace’s memo arrives at a time when the House and Senate appear paralyzed on the 2014 budget, unable to agree on even temporary spending to keep the government running in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Thursday that he believes a government shutdown will be avoided but he did not offer any specifics.