From unveiling plans to shrink the government to last week's announcement to change the defense strategy, the Obama administration is responding to growing pressures to right the country's fiscal ship. As our Washington, D.C. reporter Erin Billups tells us, members in the military's advocacy community are lobbying against cuts to benefits they say devalue the sacrifice made by service members and their families.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While the Secretary of Defense last week promised to protect service members and their families in one breath…
"We are going to protect the quality, we're going to protect the benefits that are provided to our troops and to their families," said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
…In the next breath, he warned that with $487 billion in cuts required over the next decade and another $500 billion cut scheduled for next January, everything, including military compensation and benefits, is on the table.
Panetta said, "We have some responsibility to try and control costs in this area."
"It is insensitive. The sad reality is that the country has been insensitive before," said Col. Steve Strobridge, Military Officers Association of America Government Relations Director.
Groups like the Military Officers Association of America are pushing back against talks of a military pay freeze, increases in healthcare premiums and a possible transition to a 401K retirement plan, considering it sacred.
"You can't just look at the money. You have to recognize that military people do pay into the system. They pay in with their lives, they pay in with their families moving from time to time. Those are worth something in the service members eyes," Strobridge said.
Still, others argue that defense spending can't keep heading in the current direction without major consequences.
"If they don't deal with this, they're going to have less money to buy weapons that they need and do the training to keep up on readiness,” said Lawrence Korb, center for American Progress Senior Fellow. “We need some standards and because the budget has been growing so rapidly we haven't done that."
Korb of the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, says the country has abandoned the standard set by the employee cost index, which calculates benefit increases for service members, based on private-sector wages. Korb argues the so called cuts, aren't cuts at all.
Korb said, "They're reductions in the projected levels of defense spending. It's still going to go up. But it's not going to go up as fast."
The President will outline his budget including defense spending next month.