I don’t know if you’ve been following the recent issue with the Department of Defenses’ decision (since overturned by congress) to possibly suspend service member’s tuition assistance.
If you haven’t, here is a synopsis provided by a guy who has had a few beers.
The government told the Department of Defense to cut XXX-percent of its budget and the DOD made plans to cut that percent. One of things that the DOD decided to cut was “free college,” or in more recognizable terms, tuition assistance.
After that decision was made a lot of service members lost their minds and cried.
They cried a lot. They cried on Facebook. They cried on Twitter. They cried on the internet in general. They cried to the media and they cried to their elected officials. Their tears were so great that the decision was reversed and their collective cheeks were dried with soft, fluffy tuition-assistance dollars.
So in its place, something else was cut. It was training. Training dollars in the U.S. Military have gone to shit. If you weren’t deploying in support of Afghanistan (or even if you were – read on!) we have left our military with enough training funds to draw shit on a dry-erase board and call it training.
While those service members safe at home protested the cutting of tuition assistance, those same monetary worries might actually force their comrades-in-arms to remain in theater past their scheduled redeployment date.
To be clear, according to the Washington Post, “Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, recently warned that the cuts may curtail training for 80 percent of ground forces, including some in the deployment pipeline, forcing him to extend the deployments of troops already in Afghanistan.”
Did you get that?
“Forcing him to extend the deployments of troops already in Afghanistan,” remains an option, but because “Sgt. Smith” yelled loudly enough that tuition assistance became the news story of the day.
Where was the outcry for slashing the training budget? Where was the Facebook rage at that possibility?
There was none. The very service members who should have heard that and offered up their tuition assistance as a way to offset training costs, remained oddly silent.
“Hey, I got mine,” right?
Overnight, the training budget went from fully funded to I’ll pay you tomorrow for a hit off the crack pipe today. Instead of training on how to be a military, the training dollars just fucking left the building and no one noticed.
Much like the National Guard Cpl. (and convicted criminal) Jesse Thorsen who intentionally wore his uniform to a political rally, some of today’s military members have to remember it’s not about them individually, it’s about the unit as a whole. Readiness really doesn’t suffer when school funds dry up. But when there aren’t enough funds to buy bullets for the rifle range, it’s a real fucking problem.
I retired from active duty service in 2009. I served a tour in Iraq and another in Afghanistan. I remember the lean days of military funding during the ’90s and recall that money tends to fall from the sky when the military is at war, but is a scares commodity in times of peace.
That’s as it should be. If the nation as a whole is asking its service members to serve in harm’s way then the nation has an obligation to ensure that every resource is spent making certain service members are safe, well supplied and well trained.
To my mind, tuition assistance is nice, but it doesn’t really fall into any of those aforementioned categories. College classes are nice, but they do little to ensure you and your battle buddy come home safe from a war zone.
In times of peace, the nation, rightfully, expects the budget of the U.S. Military to shrink.
I’m not saying that the federal gun to the military’s head demand that they “lose
$46 billion dollars,” right now, is the best way to go about reducing defense spending. I am saying that these cuts were visible on September 12, 2001. Anyone who thought the spending could go on, and on, and on just wasn’t paying attention.
Tuition assistance is exactly one of the first things you cut when faced with budgetary reductions during a war and attempting to prepare for tomorrow’s fight. Tuition Assistance is a ‘nice to have’ benefit, but it’s in no way an entitlement. An entitlement is decent body armor, a weapon your trained to shoot or a medic who knows what the hell they’re doing. Those my friends are entitlements.
I know, I know. Tuition assistance only costs the military $300-400 million and that’s a percentage of $43 billion that someone who is good at math will have to tell us. I’d counter with — that money is coming out of somewhere else now that your bachelor-degree funding is secured.
That cash would buy a lot of bullets for a rifle range, pay for a lot of fuel during a training exercise, fund a lot of medic training, and in short, save lives the next time we ask you to go into harm’s way.
But degrees are important too …
- Tuition Assistance no longer a sequestration victim (maddowblog.msnbc.com)
- Army and Marines Stop Enrollments in Tuition Assistance Program (whnt.com)
- Budget woes cited as Marines stop tuition assistance program, other branches may follow suit (al.com)
- Army becomes second service branch to stop new enrollments in Tuition Assistance Program (with video) (al.com)
- U.S. Coast Guard to reinstate Tuition Assistance (uscgnews.com)