Soldiers are returning to a slower pace of life after exiting Iraq and withdrawing from Afghanistan, but the Army now is exposed to severe budget pressures that are frustrating and frightening troops and their families.
The Army has cut tens of thousands of troops and will cut tens of thousands more. Pay raises are minimal, bonuses are drying up and many soldiers find their best-laid plans for a career are in jeopardy.
Just when it did not seem it could be more demoralizing, Congress shut down the government. Suddenly, service members are worrying that they wonít be paid on time; assignments are on hold, and PCS orders are being pulled. It was so shaky that non-profit charity Fisher House offered to cover the governmentís obligations to pay death benefits to the families of the fallen before Congress was shamed into funding that account.
Lawmakers to a man and woman profess themselves to be great patriots and supporters of the troops. Perhaps, but Congress has failed them, just as it has failed the nation, by not keeping the government in business. The troops, amid all the uncertainty about their compensation and careers, have remained on the job as they are charged to do. They are responsible for the nationís security and that should never be in doubt. One of the first orders Congress must take up, once it resolves the shutdown mess, must be to pass legislation that ensures the troops ó active, Guard and Reserve ó are protected in the budget if lawmakers should again so miserably fail to do their job.
Itís a shame that such legislation is necessary, but clearly thatís the case.