New Issues… same as the old issues…
That tune has been going round in my head since yesterday. Robert Gates, after a historical term as Secretary of Defense, serving two presidents during ongoing wars, retired; and today the new Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta took his oath.
What are the issues that the new Secretary of Defense has to deal with? The same as the issues the former Secretary of Defense had to deal with. Will the transfer mean a great difference to the military families that Secretary Panetta is now responsible for? Maybe, maybe not.
The budget cuts to the military are looming worries for most of us. Secretary Gates has been a strong advocate for troops and their families. When the budget axe was falling, Secretary Gates tried to make sure our programs weren’t cut. Whether or not he was successful is unclear at this point.
The continuing conflict in Iraq; the ongoing war in Afghanistan; the suicide rates of both active duty servicemembers, veterans and family members; the gradual eroding of the promised benefits including health care and now even the commissary; changes in education benefits and GI Bill; budget uncertainties that led the Navy to put PCS (Permanent Change of Station) moves on hold until very recently; these are the issues we worry about.
Secretary Panetta made a promise today: “You and your families will always be foremost on my mind and at the top of my agenda.” In his message to the Department of Defense, Secretary Panetta said:
Even as the United States addresses fiscal challenges at home, there will be no hollow force on my watch. That will require us all to be disciplined in how we manage taxpayer resources. … We must preserve the excellence and superiority of our military while looking for ways to identify savings. While tough budget choices will need to be made, I do not believe in the false choice between fiscal discipline and a strong national defense.
We all know there have to be budget cuts, but the military family services and benefits should not be the first on the chopping block. Services like child care, education and survivor benefits for the one percent who have been at war for 10 years shouldn’t be cut to enable pork barrel programs from politicians currying favor with their constituents. We aren’t talking about the infamous 600 dollar hammer but about the child care subsidies to allow servicemembers to make sure their children are taken care of adequately when they are at work or the funds to supply a counselor to a spouse going through hard times during deployment. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
Photo from the Department of Defense