Chelsea Schilling is a commentary editor and staff writer for WND and a proud U.S. Army veteran. She has also worked as a news producer at USA Radio Network and as a news reporter for the Sacramento Union.More ↓Less ↑
America’s men and women in uniform – many of whom have risked their lives in service to their country – are now being stripped of once-guaranteed college benefits as the Obama administration seeks to ensure citizens feel the pain of its loss in the sequester battle.
It’s just the latest move in a series of Obama administration actions that have chipped away at the U.S. military’s size, strength and benefits structure – and drastically changed the face of the most powerful fighting force in the world.
The U.S. Army, Air Force and Marine Corps have now halted their tuition assistance programs after across-the-board federal spending cuts went into effect March 1. The suspension applies to all components, including Reserve and National Guard personnel on active-duty orders. The U.S. Navy is also expected to deliver a similar announcement soon. The cuts do not affect G.I. Bill benefits.
According to new reports, any new applications for tuition assistance will be rejected by the Air Force. The branch’s application site states, “Air Force Military Tuition Assistance Currently not Available.”
The Air Force is also limiting its career training at its Non-Commissioned Officer Academy and Squadron Officer School – which means commanders will be forced to limit the number of airmen attending the training.
The program pays up to $4,500 per fiscal year for service members seeking a high-school diploma, certificate or college degree.
“This week, DOD’s comptroller issued guidance indicating that the services should consider significant reductions in funding new tuition assistance applicants, effective immediately and for the duration of the current fiscal situation,” Pentagon spokesman Nathan Christensen told the Marine Corps Times just days ago.
As WND reported just days ago, the Obama administration has directed federal agencies to make sequestration cuts as devastating as the administration warned they would be.
The Washington Times obtained a March 5 email sent by Charles Brown, an official with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service office in Raleigh, N.C. The email asked “if there was any latitude” in spreading the sequester cuts across the region and lessening the impacts on fish inspections.
Officials in Washington replied that whatever he does, he needs to make sure he doesn’t lessen the pain America will feel from sequestration.
The reply explained: “We have gone on record with a notification to Congress and whoever else that ‘APHIS would eliminate assistance to producers in 24 states in managing wildlife damage to the aquaculture industry, unless they provide funding to cover the costs.’ So it is our opinion that however you manage that reduction, you need to make sure you are not contradicting what we said the impact would be.”
Before sequestration went into effect, the administration predicted it would be a catastrophe. As WND reported, the public was warned the $85 billion in spending cuts would include the loss of police officers, firefighters, teachers, soldiers, air control towers and shipyards.
Once it became clear the administration would not get the tax increases it demanded and sequestration would go into effect, Obama began downplaying the effects of the automatic spending cuts, even calling the idea of sequestration just “dumb.” Now, it appears the administration wants to make sure its previous threats are realized.
Obama has made no secret of his plans for deep military cuts that would downsize the Pentagon. In 2010, he cut $487 billion from the defense budget. In 2011, he signed into law a budget process intended to cut an additional $492 billion over 10 years.
“On the list are not only base closings but also an additional reduction in deployed nuclear weapons and stockpiles and a restructuring of the military medical insurance program that costs more than America spends on all of its diplomacy and foreign aid around the world. Also being considered is yet another scaling back in next-generation warplanes, starting with the F-35, the most expensive weapons program in United States history.”
According to the report, some senior Pentagon officials have argued that massive cuts could leave room to increase funding for “building drones, developing offensive and defensive cyberweapons and focusing on Special Operations forces.”
But retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, a national security and foreign affairs analyst, warned, “These cuts leave America with a military inventory of ancient and broken equipment. Our tanker aircraft are on average 47 years old and our strategic bombers 34 years old, and besides, their numbers are totally insufficient for America’s global missions. For example, our air force shrank from 82 fighter squadrons at the end of the Cold War to 39 today and our Navy is in worse shape. We have a naval fleet of 284 ships and shrinking even though naval planners indicate we need at least 328 ships.”
In 2012, Obama declared that the “tide of war is receding” and called for shrinking the U.S. Army and Marines. The Los Angeles Times reported that Obama vowed to “ensure our security with smaller conventional ground forces,” adding that the armed forces “will be leaner” but “agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats.”
During the presidential campaign, former GOP presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney accused Obama of “cutting the capacity of America to defend itself.”
Obama’s also announced his plan to carry out a new round of nuclear-warhead cuts. The strategy is expected to leave the U.S. with only about 1,000 warheads, a level that experts say would weaken strategic nuclear deterrence capability.
As commander in chief, Obama leads a military of about 1.5 million active duty troops, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. That’s less than half the 3.6 million troops during the Korean War.
As Face the Facts, a nonpartisan think-tank, explains, “This smaller force has been stretched thin by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops faced longer deployments and multiple tours of duty to compensate for fewer personnel.”
According to Defense News, “Obama is sticking by plans to shrink the Army to 490,000 active-duty troops and the Marine Corps to 186,000 … over the next five years.”
The group accused Obama of nearly a dozen breaches of national security, beginning with foolishly announcing the death of Osama bin Laden “to prop up his presidency politically,” rather than keeping a silent cover in order to use the information obtained in the bin Laden raid.
“In a few brief moments of selfish grandstanding and political opportunism,” OPSEC asserted, “our commander in chief lost the single opportunity to exploit intelligence that, had secrecy been preserved, might well have crushed al-Qaida once and for all.”
Also, under Obama administration guidance, the military adopted the president’s goal of homosexuality in the ranks through the 2011 repeal of its long-standing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy implemented by President Bill Clinton. In February 2013, Obama also issued a directive requiring the military to treat cohabitating homosexuals as married couples, including extending federal benefits to same-sex domestic partners.
Since the policy change, chaplains’ organizations have told WND there is bigotry against those who follow a traditional biblical and military perspective that does not promote homosexuality. In September 2012, officials with the Chaplain Alliance said among the situations that have developed:
Senior military officials have allowed personnel in favor of repeal to speak to media while those who have concerns have been ordered to be silent.
Service members engaged in homosexual behavior protested a service school’s open doors policy for all students that prohibited the closing of room doors for sexual purposes. The protesters were upset because they claimed that they had a right to participate in sexual behavior with their same-sex roommates.
A senior chaplain was stripped of his authority over the chapel under his charge because, in accordance with federal law, he proclaimed the chapel as a “sacred space” where marriage or marriage-like ceremonies would only be between one man and one woman.
Same-sex ceremonies have been performed at military chapels, including one at Fort Polk, La., a state that constitutionally defines marriage as one man and one woman.
The Navy has allowed sailors who have openly engaged in homosexual behavior to choose their bunk mates.
Perhaps most alarmingly, despite their personal sacrifice to protect Americans’ freedoms, the nation’s men and women in uniform are often deprived of the chance to cast a ballot for their own commander in chief.
WND reported in August 2012 when the Obama re-election campaign sued Ohio state officials in an attempt to suppress, in that pivotal swing state, the votes of America’s military men and women – who traditionally lean conservative and vote Republican. (CNN exit polling data from 2008 showed voters favored Republican John McCain over Obama by a 10-point margin, 54 to 44 percent.)
WND also reported in October 2012, during one of the most hotly contested elections in recent U.S. history, the number of military absentee ballot requests was strangely down by staggering numbers compared to the 2008 election. That news came just as a Military Times survey of military forces showed Romney with a 26-percent lead over Obama. The Times survey followed an earlier Rasmussen poll that showed a 59 to 35 percent lead for Romney among military service voters.
The low number of military requests perplexed Republican lawmakers, who in 2009 pushed and passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, which was supposed to make it easier for overseas military personnel to vote. The law required a voter assistance office at every military installation. It also automatically provided military voters with an opportunity to update their voter information during the check-in process at their duty stations.
However, the Defense Department’s Inspector General reported that the Pentagon was not complying with the 2009 law, citing information that only about half of overseas locations had functioning voter assistance offices.
“Tens of thousands of service members’ votes not counted” was the headline of a June 27, 2012, McClatchy newspaper article detailing just how seriously flawed the current system has been for enabling the millions of men and woman in the U.S. military to vote.
The story included the following statistics:
In 2010, of the approximately 2 million military and overseas voters accounted for in data reported by the states to the Election Assistance Commission, only 4.6 percent of those voters were able to cast an absentee ballot that counted, according to the Military Voter Protection Project’s analysis of that data from the federal Election Assistance Commission, which tracks participation in voting. That compared with 5.5 percent in 2006, which was also a midterm election, the organization concluded.
In his Washington Times column, American Majority Action CEO Ned Ryan placed the blame squarely on the president for the “abysmal” military absentee voting in the last two elections:
“So, why aren’t soldiers voting? In many cases they simply can’t, and they have their commander in chief, President Obama, to blame,” Ryan argued. “Hundreds of thousands of our uniformed personnel have been shut out of the process, and we can thank the Obama administration and even the Obama campaign for this tragedy. …
“The explanation? The Obama administration by way of the Pentagon blamed a lack of funds for their failure to comply with the law. That’s right, the same administration that has spent more money in less time than any other in American history is pleading poverty when it comes to ensuring that our military can vote …”
Ryan blasted the Obama administration for sending $2 billion to the Egyptian government and funding Solyndra, Obamacare, “Cash for Clunkers” and other massive federal programs while refusing to “spare change to help ensure that our nation’s heroes can exercise the right to vote.”
“It’s a national disgrace. Worse, the facts make us wonder if it is intentional. After all, members of the military vote overwhelmingly Republican.”