THE BLOG
03/01/2013 11:15 am ET Updated May 01, 2013

Sequester, Our Military, and the Confused GOP

On the dawn of sequestration, Republicans are still in deep disagreement over how it will affect our military, and in even deeper disagreement over how to handle it. One thing they do seem to agree on, though, is that they aren't willing to close corporate tax loopholes to avoid it.

To the disagreements, just the other day, Senator John Cornyn flip-flopped on his position, saying that sequestration won't affect national security, because, he claims, overall funding for the Pentagon will go up. First of all, that's patently false. Second of all, it's a change in tune from 2011, when he called sequestration cuts, "arbitrary and reckless." On the other side of the party, you have senators like John McCain, who warn of impending disaster for the military, if the cuts go through. Calling the cuts "unconscionable," McCain said, "Across-the-board cuts are the worst and most cowardly way to approach this situation."

On yet another issue, Cornyn is joined by Senator James Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Committee on Armed Services, in proposing that the president and Pentagon have complete flexibility to shift resources around, to mitigate the effects of the sequester. The thinking is that, as of now, the Pentagon can only shift resources within a specific program to make up for budget shortfalls within that program. For example, military hospitals could cut back on non-medical administrative staff to try to ensure doctors are working around the clock. It can't, however, cancel a contract for new jet fighters, and shift that money to keep everyone at the hospitals working.

Sounds like a reasonable suggestion? Well, wait. Senator Kelly Ayotte, backed by John McCain, and House Budget Chairman Hal Rogers refuses to even consider it, claiming it would be ceding legislative budgetary powers to hand the executive branch that kind of leeway. So, the objection to the above proposal is a Republican-on-Republican hit, rendering it DOA.

In short, you can now see why President Obama has such trouble negotiating anything with Republicans. They're still not sure if the sequester hurts or not, or how to help our troops if and when it hits.

Here's the truth: The sequester will be a disaster, if it's allowed to proceed in the long-term.

On the homefront, troops and military families will be hit hard. Medical care, DoD-run schools at home and abroad, social services like sexual assault prevention and treatment, tuition assistance, child care, and many other programs will get cut. That doesn't even begin to address the many cut backs in non-defense programs that benefit our troops and military families.

In the field, our troops will also feel an impact. Operations and Maintenance Funding (O&M) already is facing a $6 billion shortfall, and sequestration could double it. The O&M funding stream is what may affect our troops in the field the most, because it's essentially responsible for their readiness and deployments. The Pentagon will do it's best to shift money within the program where it's needed. General Ray Odierno already identified fully-funding forces in the Korean Peninsula as a must. But what would be cut back in O&M to make up that funding?

"What that means is the rest of the forces that are now back in the United States will not be able to train," Odierno said. "They will be able to do small-level, squad-level training. They will not be able to do platoon-level, company-level, battalion-level training back at their installations. They will not be able to go out to combat training centers, which is what provides them the final readiness certification at the battalion and brigade level."

The result?

First, it means that our overall military readiness is reduced. God forbid there is an attack, or disaster, our troops will not have been trained for any given mission, as well as they should be. It also means that we may not have trained troops to send to Afghanistan, to replace troops who should be ending their tour. And, it means our transition to an Advise, Train, and Assist role in Afghanistan could be slowed.

What we don't know, yet, is how the furlough of 800,000 civilian DoD employees could affect troops in the field. For example, will we have to cut back on civilians who help with sending equipment overseas? There could be a tremendous trickle-down effect from the furloughs.

Even with all of this evident, nowhere among the "solutions" from Republicans, is even an inkling that maybe it's time to close corporate loopholes, and end subsidies for oil companies to balance out our debt reduction, and avoid sequestration.

There may not be a lot of agreement among warring factions of Republicans these days, but one belief of conservatives remains constant among them -- protect corporate interests at all costs, even at the cost of our troops, their families, and our own security.

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