And so it Begins: Defense Spending Cuts


This story out of the D.C. area crossed my path in December – pretty innocuous stuff, in a way, except that it was among the first I saw notifying families that activities on base are going to start costing more.

The subtext here is clear: brace yourself, the budget cuts are coming to a base gym, childcare center, commissary, kennel, playground, housing office or recreation site near you.

One of the things I used to struggle with as a reporter was over how to give federal budget drama a face. The powers that be on Capitol Hill yammer on about cutting this and cutting that, and it can be hard know exactly who, if anyone, such things will impact.

But defense cuts are a little different. It’s easy to see how this drama impacts military families and our day-to-day lives. Now, suddenly paying $3 at the gym for a class that was once free probably isn’t going to break the bank once or twice. But if it’s something that you regularly participate in and have never had to budget for personally, it could have an impact. And if things like that start costing more all over the place, you’re going to have to make some choices about what activities you can keep doing and those for which you’ll have to find free alternatives.

I’ve not noticed any price hikes like this one here at the Army’s Fort Campbell – but we are living off post at the moment and I don’t frequent very many of the facilities. Maybe I’ve just missed them. Have you noticed any price increases where you are?

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of’s spouse and family blog A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for where she is the managing editor of spouse and family content. An Army wife and mother of two, Amy has been featured as a subject matter expert on, NPR, Fox News, NBC, CBS, ABC and BBC as well as in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post. Follow her on twitter @amybushatz.
  • OCONUS, the prices for school lunches have gone up forty or fifty cents each. The COLA has dropped significantly for us in the few months that we’ve been here.

    That said, I’m a firm believer that it will take all of us – the entire nation – to climb out of the hole we’re in. We’ll all be feeling the pinch, and I get irritated at those who shake a fist at Capitol Hill and then scream when budget cuts affect the programs that they use. (To be clear, I’m not accusing you of doing that in this article!)

    All in all, I think this military lifestyle is pretty sweet financially, especially when we factor in the costs of healthcare and just a few other perks… and my husband’s an E4.

    • Amy

      I couldn’t agree more! :-)

    • queenie

      I guess it all depends on what size budget you’re used to working with. I know when my husband was an E4 we were barely scraping by and it wasn’t because we lived above our means or accumulated debt. I think it’s disgusting that they approved a 1.6% pay increase for our soldiers and then in turn, raise the prices at the commissary and such. The low increase was a slap in the face as it was, no need to add insult to injury!

      • Black9

        I will tell you Queenie, Get ready for the roller coaster, I am Retired, almost 30 Years, I will tell you all of the people talking that the soldiers will have to give more, how much more? I put too many in bags that gave it all. You work for less than any government employee,work in the most dangerous enviorment, have the smallest retirement, Pay for the injuries you recieved in combat. The last ten years what soldier had it so good? how many don’t have a family anymore?If the people in washington want to reduce the deficit I don’t see them cutting federal workers pay, or their pay, They never do. I don’t see the staff in any department being reduced. They will never get it, They diden’t after WW!, WWII, Korea, Viertnam , reducing the manpower always too low, then they have to jump through their butts to train people, then they have people that is not trained to go direct in to combat. I hope one day they will learn…

        • george

          Yes you hit the nail right on the head. I’m retired also for 20 yrs and been in the military world all my life. The military gets hit twice as hard as any other federal office. Yet we have to do twice as much to make up the loss. I hope when the day comes when someone wakes up and it is not to late. My hat is off the entire military force and the families that give so much.

      • Cory Reily

        “They” (whoever that is) did not raise the prices at the commissarries. Prices fluctuate according to the cost of the items. There is no Big Green Meanie out there trying to take your money away from you. You can contact me at ****.******@****.*** if you would like and I will be happy to explain how things work.

    • Clay

      I understand the taste of Obama Kool-Aid is sweet at first then you get the sharp bitter twang after you set the cup down and you can see what’s at the bottom of it.

  • K.J.

    Aside from paying more for prescriptions at off base locations like CVS, I haven’t noticed any changes yet. It’s just more convenient for us to go somewhere close by and pay a few dollars as opposed to spending just the savings in gas to get to the nearest military medical center. I can certainly say that if the commissaries hike their prices or cease to be the benefit that they are, my family will be in trouble. We’ve done the math and know exactly how much that little perk really saves us and it makes a significant impact for us. I’d be sad to see that change because it is certainly worth the extra distance to drive there.

  • jesse caballero

    The Budget cuts are very necessary for the state our economy is in. All these services being cut will only affect a small part in everyones lives. I am E-5 in the active army based out of Fort Bragg, NC and I am happy the cuts are happening to the military first. These two wars in which I participated in drained the economy and while us service members were benefiting from our untaxed paychecks and combat pay, our fellow Americans were being raped back home. Its time the military stops wasting money left and right and starts cutting its soldiers. We need to help our economy by taking sacrifices.

    • Black9

      I hear all of you saying that we all have to pitch in, How about all of the programs that the government run out side of the Constitution, ie Welfare, Food Stamps, Housing,etc, I sure hope you all learn before its to late, It is always on your back the try to balance the budget, They will not cut any other programs. I am retired, I had people in my unit on Food stamps, We diden’t get raises so the soldiers could not afford to feed their families, AER, The Red Cross had to assist us to keep our people aflot. I really thought it was a shame that a soldier that put his life on the line is the one they target, Not anyone elese. They promise a lot but deliver little. open your eyes to see what is going on around you, you will always be on the short end of the stick.

      • Richard Rites

        It’s already too late if they cut any of these programs our GOP,s that are in office will lose these votes and have to “SELL” their souls in another way to get reelected. Right now the people utilizing (PLAYING THE SYSTEM) not all but I would say about 90% could go to work and be subsidized for the of their allowances but if you get pregnant at 14 cannot pass a drug or alcohol test and don’t have a H.S. diploma and know that the taxpayer will flip the bill why should they worry. In closing I’m retired from a state job and can’t afford to own the cell phones they carry dress the way they do and allow my wife to get a $100 nail job just to compete with friends. Does anyone besides myself see something wrong with this “PICTURE” Bless all of our troops for their service from a Vietnam Veteran

    • Matt (Doc) Keller

      Right on Jesse.

      An E-4 with dependents at Ft Hood makes $3,500/mo or $42K/yr. In this area you can use a VA home loan and buy a 3bed 2bath house for $100K. After mortgage, taxes and insurance that’s about &750/mo. If you cannot make it on that pay then you need financial counseling. So you may not be able to buy the biggest and nicest things but don’t blow your money and you can live comfortably. While in I bought my car and my truck with cash, and bought my house. I’ve since had to get out due to injuries and make less money then that E-4 and still maintain my house and family. Stop crying, the families job is not harder, how often do you hear about them being killed or lose limbs raising the kids? It’s not easier but be thankful your husband lets you stay home.

      • Matt

        *”not easy” not “not easier”

  • lisa b

    Not all military member go overseas and benefit from the untaxed paychecks. Not all services benefit from base housing. If you start cutting soldiers it will add to the unemployment. We all sacrifice by not having our husbands home 8 months out of the year including all major holidays. Moving around every 2-4 years so we haven’t had the chance to buy a house and put equality into it. most of the women have had to give up our jobs due to taking boards in different regions. So please don’t tell me about sacrifices. I see it in our paychecks twice a month.

    • Black9

      Lisa, you are on target.

    • Matt (Doc) Keller

      If you haven’t deployed then you are hiding out.

  • joey bear

    FYI …

    In America, people vote for mayors, governors, congressman, senators, and presidents of private and public companies. And they have to make decisions based on laws that were made by the people before them.

    Unemployment compensation pays a maximum of $500 per week, where I’m from. You folks also said welfare is bad. Hmmm..

    And a low increase was a slap in the face.

    You’ll be back to your mamma’s house before no time, and I’m sure there’s something wrong with that too. You go girls!

  • david

    If you understand how the Government budgeting and spending process works, you will learn he Government will continue to grow…no matter what. It is a beauraucracy that is into empire building.

    Until the fundamental process of budgeting and spending rewards spending reductions, the Government will grow until it collapses upon itself.

  • Mic

    I’m reading all these responses, and I’m thinking of Ron Paul. I am in no way a political person, I don’t undstand politics. But if you have the time, visit “Don’t vote for Ron Paul” on Facebook, or YouTube some videos about him. This man has me convinced he can change things, starting with our military.

    • from what experience, once of the worst —> from what I have experienced, one of the worst

  • Roger

    I’m Vietnam Vet and the military always got a raw deal. All these costs going up on bases is understanding but why so much?
    Without our military America will be no more. The military should be the last to have to pay more for anything.
    There are ways to fun activities on base. AAFES is always bragging how much money they give back to our troops.
    Stop foreign aid to countries that don’t even like Americans. That would help out our heros.
    God Bless America