Sequester has unfair effect on soldiers, Department of Defense employees

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illustration by Ashley Stuewe

With all the issues we are having in this country it seems that our government decided to add another issue to the list: sequestration. The sequester began March 1, when $1 trillion in budget cuts automatically took effect due to Congress’s inability to compromise on deficit reduction. When I first heard about it, I thought that it would not affect me, but I was wrong. It’s not affecting me the way you might think, though — the sequester is affecting people I know who serve our country.

As I heard friends and family discussing how this is hurting their families, I decided to do some research, because I didn’t fully understand it myself. This sequestration is going beyond Department of Defense employees and our armed forces, it is having an affect on education, after-school programs, meals for the sick and homebound seniors, and cuts funding for first responders in local communities. According to the White House website, 1.2 million kids across the U.S. will have no after-school programs. The sequestration will eliminate 4 million meals for the sick and elderly and eliminate jobs for 30,000 teachers throughout the country.

One of the biggest impacts the sequester has is on the people that defend this nation of ours: our soldiers and their families. The U.S. Army will feel most of the impact of the sequester, according to the American Forces Press Service, because it is the largest of the four branches of the Armed Forces, although the Navy, Air Force and Marines will also suffer some of the same issues. In Kansas, $78 million has been cut in Army base funding. Due to these cutbacks, the soldiers will not receive the proper training they require if they are called out to defend this country.

In addition to professional hurdles, these soldiers will suffer more personal cutbacks as well. According to the National Military Family Association website, a lot of different services that are offered to soldiers and their families will be affected by the sequester. Even though tuition assistance was restored to soldiers and their families, it is still being affected by sequestration. In the funding bill, additional money was not offered to restore it, so the Department of Defense will have to take money from other services to provide for it.

DOD civilians will also feel the pinch by having to take furloughs. They are required to take 14 days off between the time sequestration started and September of this year. In Kansas, 8,000 civilian DOD employees have been furloughed. This affects soldiers and their families because 40 percent of the workforce on military bases are run by DOD civilians. Certain services like medical clinics and community support services will have hours cut back due to staff being on furlough, causing reductions in care for soldiers and their families.

Let’s take a look at how the sequestration will affect us closer to home. According to the White House website, Kansas will lose approximately $5.5 million in funding for primary and secondary education. This will put 80 teacher and teacher aide jobs at risk. Five hundred children will not be able to attend Head Start or early Head Start, and 1,240 fewer children in Kansas will receive vaccines due to the cutbacks. These are only a few of the harmful effects of budget cutbacks due to the sequester; you can find the entire list at whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/sequester-factsheets/Kansas.pdf.

The more I looked into this, the more I got upset. There has to be a better way to fix the problems we have in this nation of ours. We the people need to stand up and say enough is enough. It’s not right to put the people who defend our nation at a disadvantage because the government doesn’t know how to balance a checkbook.

Russell Edem is a junior in mass communications. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.

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