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Military Sequester: False Savings, Real Debt

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Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said it best. He is quoted as saying: "Sequestration is a mindless, irresponsible process," he said. "You know it, I know it."

The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel quotes Hagel explaining further:

"To implement the steep and abrupt reductions that have been required under sequestration, we've had to make very difficult decisions to reduce, stop and defer many activities and programs that keep our military prepared to fight -- including training, maintenance, and modernization investments."

The Secretary of Defense was being kind. Reality is, House Republicans passed "(Boehner: I got 98 percent of what I wanted) irresponsible legislation rather than actually governing. The Sequester is classic Reagan conservatism which offers many pretend savings leading directly to higher costs and greater debt.

Tobyhanna Army Depot

A state of the art facility repairing everything from handheld radios to satellite equipment, Tobyhanna is the military's largest, full service electronic maintenance facility. This depot performs a full gamut of services from design to fabrication and repair. The facility is a true marvel and their civilian workers routinely support troops in the field including Afghanistan. Visiting the depot last week, the impact of the government sequester became clear.

"The Depot will shut down industrial operations for 11 straight Fridays through Sept. 20. Those Fridays will serve as the furlough day for the vast majority of the depot's workforce.

As a result, the operating hours for many depot activities and services have changed - a list of the new hours is available on the Furlough Activity Schedule. These hours will remain in effect during the furlough period. If you have any questions, phone numbers for each activity and service are listed on the schedule.

Some of the activities affected by the furlough include the vehicle gates, cafeterias, commissary, credit union, Post Exchange, and One Stop Shop."

This sequester does little to eliminate the repair requirements and only creates a backlog and vital equipment shortages in the field. Backlogs are deferred work that still must be performed. These backlogs and shortages are debts -- costs that must be paid later. Unmentioned is worker tax revenue lost to federal, state and local governments which disrupt revenue at those levels.

Military Medical Treatment

The plague of suicide, coupled with PTSD and the stress of constant wartime deployments directly affect military effectiveness. Yet, the sequester results in cancellation of mental health appointments in large numbers. Untreated troops and families impose a direct cost on the military and society. Even if transferred to the private sector critical continuity of care and increased costs are imposed on the military and the individual. The absurdity does not end here but is systemic.

In Washington capitol region some dialysis appointments are cancelled forcing medically fragile patients into the much higher cost TRICARE system. These military medical dollars are not being 'saved'. The illusion of government cuts hides the fact that this much higher cost treatment finds its way directly into Defense Department funding. Generally, I demand a higher standard from the military and criticize loudly when they do not deliver it. The current absurdities and waste are NOT the fault of the military. Fault lies directly at the entrance to the offices of Republican members of Congress.

The Republican House made a fundamental error. The federal sector is much more effective than the private sector for fewer dollars. Cuts reduce performance not 'slack'. The reason some functions like defense and the post office are mentioned in the constitution is that these services must be the most reliable and effective. When reliability and effectiveness are the standard, the government must set the rules. The private sector will accept a level of failure unacceptable in the government. A concept Americans seem to forget.

Certainly, massive waste exists. Military leaders live well while military and civilians suffer cost increases and lack of services. U.S. nuclear weapons by military estimates are far in excess of national security requirements. Does the military really require more carriers now than at the height of the Cold War? What should the U.S. military look like in the future? These are the budget questions Congress should be asking but is afraid to address.

The sequester is a Republican demanded and passed house of mirrors reducing national security while creating the illusion of short term saving by creating longer term, larger and more expensive debt. An analogous situation would be a citizen claiming to save money by putting money in a savings account by not making car and mortgage payments. Also, this sequester furthers the long standing effort by the Republican Party to reduce workers' wages and income. National security is ignored and actively harmed. Troops and their families suffer at all levels.