Well, it's happened. The ax has fallen and sequestration is in effect. What does the cost of sequestration really mean in the long-term for military readiness and -- perhaps more importantly -- to military families?
According to a report put out by the Office of Management and Budget, some of the most vital defense functions will take a big hit. The Army is estimated to lose over $6.8 billion from its operating budget. The Navy and the Air Force will each lose $4.2 billion and the Marine Corps is estimated to lose $854 million. Tweet it: Tweet
In addition to the cuts in operating budgets, procurement is estimated to lose a whopping $13.9 billion across all services. This means there will be less bullets, bombs, and boats to take the fight to the country's enemies.
Other areas vital to military families such as health care, child care, commissaries (the military equivalent to a grocery store), and family housing are all taking cuts as well. Defense health programs alone are forecasted to lose $3.2 billion. Tweet it: Tweet
When a service member is worried about his family's health and welfare back home, his head isn't in the fight. Military commanders often say that when they ask troops about their biggest concerns, those concerns usually revolve around families at home and the resources available to them.
The situation for soldiers on the ground is complicated. While much has been made of military pay and whether or not it will be affected by sequestration, there are other areas that will be affected as well.
Currently, ships that were scheduled to deploy, such as the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and the guided-missile cruiser USS Gettysburg, will remain in port. Air wings, each with 50-60 aircrafts, will be shut down.
The delay or cancellation of deployments is also in the works for several other ships and commands. While this might not seem like such a bad thing, the reality is that many of these troops, especially those in the lowest ranks, depend on yearly deployments for the much needed income boost that comes from deployment pay.
Civilian Defense Department employees and contractors will see the biggest hit with mandatory furloughs and reductions in hiring and retention. Since many of these employees work on a contract basis, sequestration could mean that contracts aren't renewed and these employees will be out of work. Share this article: Tweet
In terms of readiness, this means maintenance on facilities won't be done. Upgrades and maintenance to existing systems and equipment won't be made. Projects already underway will grind to a halt and new ones will be canceled altogether.
Since these projects are often scheduled years in advance, it could mean that returning to normal operations could take years.
Some training facilities are slated to close and some military leaders fear that it could mean a return to the training methods of the 1970s, when troops pointed their guns at targets and yelled "BANG," due to a lack of ammunition.
Families play an essential support role in the military, which makes the quality of life programs that the military runs vitally important to readiness. According to a question and answer session with the National Military Family Association, families could face a number of changes including; Tweet it: Tweet
- Family health care will take a hit, including longer wait times or less access to care, delayed payments to civilian doctors, and the cancelation of some treatments, and procedures that are not vitally important. Military families have already seen increases in the costs of premiums and prescriptions.
- Child development centers, the daycare centers available on base for military members, will experience a reduction in hours and available spaces as employees are furloughed. This means that many families will have to seek off base care for their children at a higher price, putting a financial strain on those who can least afford it.
- Commissaries will close on Wednesdays, in addition to the days that they are already closed. While this doesn't seem like much, it will mean longer lines and more frustration when it comes time to go grocery shopping.
- Children who attend Department of Defense schools could see longer school years or a reduction in programs such as special education and financial aid programs as teachers are furloughed. The Department of Defense insists that it will do what is necessary for schools to maintain accreditation and provide a quality education to military children, but some uncertainty remains. If schools aren't able to maintain accreditation, it will mean school closures.
- Family housing will see a reduction in their maintenance and new construction budgets, according to the Office of Management and Budget report. This means that members who reside in military housing could see the quality of that housing decline, or less availability to members who move to a new base.
- Permanent Change of Station orders could be affected as well, though it is currently unclear how or if this will happen.
One thing is perfectly clear; these cuts are going to be painful, both to military personnel and their families. Soldiers already do a difficult job, and now, thanks to sequestration, they are being asked to do it without the resources they need to do so.