Military cuts could affect local families, students

3/11/14

BY SHANNON WILEY

Staff Writer

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced on Feb. 24 the proposed military spending cuts for the 2015 fiscal year. Following this announcement, Americans, including those within the Salisbury University community, have mixed feelings about the new plan.

With the new budget, the military will be working with the smallest plan since before World War II, reducing the budget by $75 billion and cutting it even further in 2016.

Hagel said that these cuts, including doing away with a fleet of Air Force fighter planes, were “difficult choices that will change defense institutions for years to come, but are designed to leave the military capable of fulfilling U.S. defense strategy and defend the homeland against strategic threats.”

The new plan, according to the U.S. Department of Defense, would bring about reductions within troop strength and force structure in every military service.  In doing this, the government is working to “prioritize U.S. strategic interests in the face of reduce resources after more than ten years of war.”

“They’re downsizing the armed forces dramatically since getting out of war,” said Nicholas Engelhardt, president of SU’s Student Military and Veterans’ Association.

This involves mostly moving more military veterans back into civilian life.  Some are being encouraged to retire early, while others who are not meeting the minimum requirements are being let go.

Engelhardt reported that in recent years there has been an increase in veterans coming to the SU campus as well as veterans using their benefits to send their kids to school.  However, with the new cuts, Engelhardt expects benefits will become stricter, with firmer rules on how money can be used on campus, including getting a free education and getting housing paid for.

These cuts align with the U.S.’s current expectation that the country will cease to be involved in operations comparable to those in the Middle East.
“An army of this size is larger than required to meet the demands of our defense strategy. It is also larger than we can afford to modernize and keep ready,” Hagel said.

However, not all the plans include reductions to the military. The new budget also requires that the special operations forces grow by roughly 4,000 people.

Those receiving benefits from the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, or those who have served on active duty for at least 36 months and their dependents, should not experience cuts to their overall benefits.

“Veteran benefits are finite,” Engelhardt said. Although there are revisions every year, there have been no reductions; everyone gets the same benefits.

In the future, Engelhardt does not see these going anywhere either.

“I don’t know why they would change the G.I. Bill,” Engelhardt said. “It’s a huge incentive for people to join the military in the first place.”

The Naval Academy and Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps across the nation, including the ones at SU, may experience cuts.

Additionally, the military is starting to make it more difficult to get into from a civilian status, raising their expectations and looking for more people with a college degree.

“It’s just change, and change can be good,” Engelhardt said. “There is going to be more training rather than deployment, meaning more opportunities for actives with their families and home lives.”

Although the Pentagon sees this plan as a reflection of the country’s future needs, some feel unsure about their necessity.

“I think they’re helpful because we spend 26 times more than the country in second place to us, so I guess a few cuts are necessary,” freshman Nathan Camden said. “But that is what makes us the strongest military in the world.”

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