Your Military Life on the Fiscal Cliff

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When we asked our Facebook fans last week what topics they think we should be talking about here on SpouseBuzz, a whole hill of people responding “budget cuts.” And why wouldn’t they? When members of Congress start blathering on about “sequestration” and “defense cuts” and “the fiscal cliff,” most Americans have a hard time figuring out what that stuff means to them.

But not military families.

Military families know that the federal budget is our life blood – and not just because it is our paycheck. It’s the programs our children attend. It’s our ability to shop at the commissary. It’s the body armor our spouses wear, the weapons they use and the vehicles they drive.

The federal budget is everything.

So it makes sense that we’re worried about it. It makes sense that we know that this is going to make a difference in our day to day lives.

It would also make sense if, like the people in this school, programs managers on bases and posts around the country are already starting to scale back. I’m wondering (and even hoping a little – because that’s how small-scale it was) if the particular lameness of a “Winter Wonderland” here on Fort Campbell, in place of the normal extravagance, this past weekend isn’t to blame on belt tightening.

And yet getting program managers to pony up to the fact that they are cutting at all is really hard.

And so I need you.

You are our eyes and ears on the ground. You see what is being cut, what is no longer available. You know what programs you can’t use, who scaled back their hours, who isn’t open anymore and where you can no longer take your kids.  Take our poll below and weigh in …

Fill out my online form.

And then please, pretty please, tell us in the comments: what have you seen? We’ll follow-up with your base or post, and possibly include them in a story we’re doing on how the budget cuts impact you.

Give us a hand? Thanks.

About the Author

Amy Bushatz
Amy is the editor in chief of Military.com’s spouse and family blog SpouseBuzz.com. A journalist by trade, Amy also covers spouse and family news for Military.com 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 CNN.com, 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.

35 Comments on "Your Military Life on the Fiscal Cliff"

  1. On Cherry Point, things like grass cutting on base and in housing are being scaled back, we are likely losing our bowling alley also. Last year they tried to do away with the pools, but there was a lot of push back, and so they stopped cutting grass to keep the pools open. Seems like a good trade to me. Those are just the start.

  2. Here on Andrews AFB we lost our bowling alley, movie theater, and auto hobby shop this year. The library is gone in 2013. The base parks and other areas are all run down and in need of work. It is sad to see really.

  3. sarah i agree we need to keep the military running. trust me married soldiers make well over their single counterparts. BAH and BAS anyone. If you cant manage yourself without it go to financial counseling.

  4. I have worked at the Army level command for several years, and what struck me as odd when I first got there was the number of DOD Contractors that were in positions that could have been filled with soldiers. I also agree that we can and should make a lot of spending cuts, but lets start letting soldiers do the jobs they were trained for instead of hiring in civilians to do the job. If you are ever deployed, have you noticed that the cooks are all contracted? The cooks who do work at the DFAC are there in a strictly supervisory roll only. So we pay our cooks to watch cooks cook. Sounds like we could eliminate one of those positions. Again make cuts and scale back where needed, but lets make sure that were not cutting needed positions.

  5. So, is the Army to be a career path only for officers and enlisted single folk who have nothing better to do with their lives? My my, I feel like such a drain on society Dan so I guess I will get a divorce so I can keep serving. Oh wait, I can do you better. I will do something horrible like tell an officer a college degree does not make you officer material and get a BCD. Then you won’t have to worry about paying for my retirement with taxes. Let’s save that for generals like Mr Ward. It is so sad, getting busted from 4 to 3 stars. But, he will still gross over $150K a year. PATHETIC.

  6. Mr Ward just might be able to pay his fair share, as long as the dumbocrats have their way with the fiscal talks. Evil rich guy! What was he thinking, like he has the right to achieve personal wealth?

  7. but you notice that congress doesn't take any hits at all………………………

  8. True, how could they vote themselves a pay cut anyways. They vote themselves a pay raise like working 150 days or so a year i hard to do. And complain that enlisted end strength is too high and their retirements too costly.

  9. robertabbott | December 4, 2012 at 3:58 pm |

    All this talk about a fiscal cliff offers up two scenarios, the executive branch and the leglislative branch of government can either join hands like Robert Redford and Paul Newman did in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and jump. Fortunately there was water below to cushion their fall or like Wiley Coyote chasing the Road Runner, they can just go over the cliff and plummet into the abyss. Meanwhile what's a military family to do other than walk on egg shells and have endless moments of anxiety coupled with night sweats. What was that old saying about "tough times don't last always…tough people do. I guess we will all find out in January how valid the old saying was.

  10. We all need to remember one thing, we chose to be here! It is an all volunteer military. The government does not owe us anything other than a paycheck. Yes, programs for kids are nice, shopping at the Commissary is nice, the pools are nice, and so-on. But, they are not owed to us! If some servicemen/women and spouses would stop treating the military like welfare, we might all be ok! How can you serve in the military and still get food stamps? I have seen it and it disgusted me!! We need to get out of the mindset that the government owes us or has to do everything for us. People need to quit being "sheeple"! That frame of mind is what got us into this mess to begin with. It you can't live without all the extra's of military life than it is time for you to go!

  11. Budget cuts are needed. I recently had a conversation with a soldier who is getting out of the military due to back issues. (Medically discharged) He was telling me that he is going to have a sleep study done too so that he can beef up his disability. Needless to say I was disgusted. This guy has never deployed and the back injury is from a previous car accident prior to the military. He goes to Bush Gardens and rides roller coasters though. I say we take a budget cut with the Malingering soldiers. Taking advantage of the assistance for soldiers who are truly injured.

  12. All the talk of pay cuts, closing down facilities on post to save money. Well how about the military
    community in general, start a volunteer program and do the work themselvws to improve the post/base
    to their satisfaction or better.
    Then get rid of the civilians that work on post like the ID section, finance, etc. Get our soldiers back in the game like back in the day when every MOS was covered to do the work. Let our soldiers do it again and our dependents can work the commissary, Post Exchange, swimming pools, gyms, etc. Its our turn to pay back the military.

  13. Here at Elmendorf we have lost our enlisted club, our auto hobby shop, and our arts and crafts store. Honestly, we are adjacent to a good sized city, so while those things were nice to have they were mostly inferior to what is available off base with but with inconvenient hours. Services like that make much more sense on true overseas bases, where they are appreciated and utilized and can turn a true profit.

    Meanwhile, budget cuts cancelled a training deployment for the F-22s earlier this year, and the guys working on the planes went without filters for their respirators for weeks because there wasn’t money in their budget to buy more until the next fiscal year. Meanwhile, airmen staff the front desk at military hotels, the gyms, and medical clinics. Those jobs could be done at an hourly rate by civilians for so much less money!

    I also agree with the previous poster that it is bs for military families to have food stamps and WIC. If you choose to be a stay at home mom but you can’t afford food on one income, then why should I work to buy your family groceries? Get a job! It’s often the families on assistance taking all sorts of trips to visit family and going on extended vacations. They game the system and don’t seem to feel any guilt over the rest of us working to fund their lifestyle.

  14. Boricua0427 | December 5, 2012 at 2:36 am |

    I totally agree the wives of soldiers should find a job., most of them all they do is stay home and enjoy all the privileges earned by their spouses male or female. I served 20 years in the USARMY and my wife worked all the time. We were never handed anything they need to go back and check out how we did it in the old school. And you civilians need to stay away from all these entitlements, this is not the America I fought for, love and grew up in, it is a shame where are heading.

  15. What I find interesting is everyone seems to willing to give stuff up on our level when things at higher levels are costing the military much more. My husband works for a unit that is run pretty much by a civilian who just ordered a $16,000 computer that can not be used because although it was authorized it is not cleared to be used by the IT guys on their network–and probably never will be. So basically, that computer is sitting in storage. A $16,000 paperweight. Nice, huh. My questions are, "Why is there a civilian running something that should be run by someone in the military? How did this person get authorization to order something that could not even be used–something that was fairly expensive? Why aren't these problems being looked into?" Accountability needs to be taken everywhere not just things taken away.

  16. You want to know were the cuts can occur? Just walk over to the installation's contracting office and they will give you a long list of crazy stuff they have to buy that can be cut. How about scaling back all those P-cards and allow contracting specialist to negotiate lower prices through leveraging.

  17. Boricua0427 | December 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm |

    Sarah I am so tired of your BS put on a uniform and go fight in Afghanistan or shut up. We deserve all that is given to us. If we are out there fighting for our freedom and your'e baking cookies in the safety of your home don't complain, PUT UP OR SHUT UP.

  18. I have read write ups from a bunch of whinny wimps. Militaty members and families have earned everything they have and more. The average soldier is not overpaid, and his spouse has an extremely hard time finding employment with so many moves.

  19. Eliminate commissaries and base exchanges on bases in or near large metropolitan areas in the U.S.. The same with NCO and officers' clubs. These services are much more available off base or post and often have much better deals, better customer service and better hours. On the other hand, these are still necessary overseas and in more rural areas.

    Close ALL base theaters. They show third-run movies you can pay a dollar for at the local Redbox.

  20. Why is the government still paying for free breast augmentation for spouses and service members for cosmetic reasons?! This is an abuse of funds!! Check the Ft Lewis/McCord MAMC records!

  21. You want to know were the cuts can occur? Just walk over to the installation's contracting office and they will give you a long list of crazy stuff they have to buy that can be cut. How about scaling back all those P-cards and allow contracting specialist to negotiate lower prices through leveraging.__

  22. I havent noticed anything being unavailable or having a reduced availability at Dyess AFB but with my work schedule I havent had much time to really leave the house if im not leaving the base for one reason or another. This is not to say there hasnt been any changes though.

  23. Boricua0427 | December 5, 2012 at 7:54 pm |

    AMEN TO THAT JOHN BEADLE.

  24. Boricua0427 | December 5, 2012 at 8:26 pm |

    Glay don't forget cutting the salary of Senators and Congressmen, that when the feel like it get more raises than men in strip clubs.

  25. Attempt to, or cut military benefits for our soldiers, sailors, air force personnel, and marines and observe its impact on recruiting and the quality of our recruits. Congress and other "cutters" continue on this potential route and you go fight the conflicts. I am a proud retiree and served in the airborne, ranger, and special forces units. I, and many others, are now disabled while proud of my service I assure you we all feel we have earned the VA compensation, CRSC, PX/BX, commissary, and so on. Cut the benefits, cut the force and cut America's ability to maintaiin and project military power throughout the world. Don't "come a'callin" if you want to go off to Syria……………….

  26. They are attemting to cut Tricare for 171,000 Retirees.
    I would not bank on any of the retirement promises you are given while serving.
    Things have changed drastically since they privatized things.
    It isn't as much about actual cost, or our care, but profit for the contractors.

  27. To Mr Jay R. All I can say is WOW! For you to have served AND retired from the Amy AND Marine Corp is something I have never heard of! All I can say is congrats to such an accomplishment. I do however seem to believe (this is after all how your comment reads to me) that you may be insulting my by assuming I can not read or understand my husbands LES. Well let me explain to you there is no such allotment for groceries. Maybe there once was, but not now, not for families anyways. And we actually can afford our children so the comment of using comfoms is extremely rude. Please have the respect to stay yourself out of a married couples bedroom. Also you have no idea of my age nor my husbands, so yet again you should keep such comments to yourself. They are not only rude and disrespectful you have also deemed my children unworthy of their lives. My husband works hard for every single thing we have. We deserve everything we have. We take no hand outs and never will. Also maybe since you seem to think so highly of yourself to put your opinion out in such a way because you did serve 25 years in some branch of the Military if our BAH is set at $1025 dollars a month should we not recieve an itemized bill explaining to me how the money is being spent? After all housing is no long by the government. Base house is a cilivian owned contract. As for you hateful comments toward people that do recieve assissance from WIC and through Food Stamps why do you feel that other are entitled to such benfits and not the Military. That is a bit prejudice is it not? If my husband, as did yourself, fights to keep our country free and equal to all then why should we be deined such assistance? But beause I am so young and don’t “work” and I have had children at such a young age I guess I just don’t understand. Maybe one day I will be able to take such a cold and unfeeling stand and when that day comes I do pray for God’s forgiveness.

  28. It seems that Congress wants to cut spending on everything but their own pay. I believe they should set the example. They are over paid for what they don't do anyway.

  29. During the debates our president said that it "won't happen" that is, the fiscal disaster about to occur. I guess I just don't believe him. It will happen and the rammifications of it will be profound.

  30. Though I know it doesn't matter in a sea of comments here, I have to say this.

    I don't care about the theaters or the pools (there are bases with pools??). I don't use the childcare that has NEVER been free where I'm stationed and that even at a reduced rate is too expensive for me to entertain the idea of working for too long (sometimes we choose not to work for financial reasons too!).

    What I DO care about is whether or not my husband will have a job. I care about the guys he's worked with this last decade–who he's gone to war with. I care about their jobs.

    What's that you say? You didn't know the actual employment of service members could be on the chopping block? Well here in the last year I've watched friends be cut as a result of what was called an "Enlisted Retention Board." They were essentially fired and sent home with no chance of retirement benefits just because they were in an overmanned rate in the Navy. The Navy told them they'd only cut the 'under performers' but where the military meets a quota, you know that some of your good guys are going to go. Thousands of Sailors were fired this year.

    Or maybe you haven't heard about PTS in the Navy? Perform to Serve. A "streamlining" measure that requires all kinds of paperwork that makes you go cross-eyed to be sent in at just the right time so that some computer system can tally up your career and decide whether or not you should be allowed to re-enlist. Here again we've seen friend after friend after friend having to pack up and move elsewhere with no job.

    And among those benefits are medical benefits…. I know I know 'Free healthcare' right? But after over a decade of war there are those among us who are broken. Mentally or physically. There are wounds that demand being cared for. Among spouses too–spouses who have been spread so thin for so long that they are brittle.

    Are we entitled? I suppose there are those among us who have an 'entitlement' attitude just like so many other Americans do.

    But let's get this straight–Over a decade of war and you want to make cuts on the very people who have made sacrifices for this long?

    THAT'S why I worry about the fiscal cliff. That's why 'budget cuts' coming down the line make me sick to my stomach.

  31. This is my first response about a subject I feel needs to be shared. In my case I have been retired for more years than many folks have been alive. I retired in 1968 after over 20 years in the Navy. Of course I then went to the civilian world and worked another thirty two and one half years before I retired on Social Security and my Navy retirement. Now as I see it those that are in Washington DC want to cut my retirement and possibly my Social Security. Well, my first comment would be that Every Federal employee which would include all of the political leaders and even Federal Judges be first in line to take a pay cut in the same percentages that I would loose by their actions in a job that they were elected if they were to cut my "earned" advantages of such things as the Navy Exchange, Commissary, and other things I gain by being retired Navy. I admit that there are not many in my state if affairs having been retired from the Navy for forty four years but the loss of any of these benefits would put me into the poverty state of affairs and I depend on them. Also they are talking about my TriCare for Life and adding cost to my medication and treatment by the way of my Doctor. My suggestion for the politicians is again for them put themselves on the same restrictions.

  32. I am not sure where my first post on this subject went but I will try to do it again. I am probably one of the few that are retired for more years than most of the current military folks that would comment on this subject. I retired from the Navy as an Chief with over 20 years service and now have been retired for over forty four years. I do believe that those in Washington DC need to become aware of those of us that have served our Great Country in the Military and then have gone into a civilian job and contributed in a second career towards this Nation of ours. And when I say Contributed, I mean putting into a retirement fund like Social Security and what other laying away of funds we can so we do not have to become dependent on any form of Welfare in the community in which we live in. I would suggest those from the top and all the way down to the last file clerk in Government to take a pay cut in the same percentage I will face if they do not figure out how to deal with this fiscal cliff. This includes things like my TriCare for Life, my Social Security, and any other funds I have salted away to cover what I thought would be needed. It is about time that the politicians become aware that they are not some sort of Elate group. If they pass a law that exempts themselves, then it should not be that way. Like maybe they should be under Social Security and required to put away funds for their own retirement. And this includes the Health Care that they passed into law. As far as cutting the Military, we need to go back to when the United States came into being and have funding for what was originally deamed necessary and not pet perks that seem to pad their own re-election prospects. I guess I have blown off enough steam for now. Norman L

  33. We live in the Tri-Border area of Europe, what is supposed to be our main support base is an hour and a half away. The base everyone was using has been cut across the board. I'm paying out the nose for child care. BAH and COLA no where near covers the ammount I have to pay in heating oil every year as there is no on base housing, and the services on base SUCK. So people stationed at Ramstein and Spang and other places where you get to live on base, get ready. This fiscal cliff is going to take you down to where we're at. Say good by to the Bx being open 7 days a week, the commissary too. Good bye to more than one register open at a time unless its sat or sun. Get rid of the bookmark, Get rid of all of the fast food except Burger King (which is rarely fully staffed.) Welcome to our world.

  34. I agree CUT BUDGET ALL ACROSS STARTING WITH CONGRESS PAY. And make other countries pay for us to go through the canals to protect them and us not to pay. And service members who ever served on ships and boats know what I am talking about. And Military is always the first piece of the pie to be taken. So let start with the Congress and then go from there.

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