Advocates: Give Afghan vets attention in speech

Greg Nash

President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union address could be the last while the U.S. military is at war in Afghanistan.

Defense industry officials and veterans groups expect the president to address the end of the war, what a currently unclear U.S. presence might look like in Afghanistan after 2014, and how the U.S. will care for its veterans when they return home.

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Veterans groups like Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) want Obama to discuss the importance of caring for veterans who have been at war since 2001, ensuring they are not forgotten when the Afghanistan War officially ends.

Tom Tarantino of the IAVA said Obama should, for instance, talk about the problem of suicides in the military and veterans community.

Veterans groups who are seeking to reverse cuts to military pensions from last month’s budget deal — something the White House has been silent on — want the president to weigh in on the issue, though hopes are not high he will do so.

For the defense industry, the budget deal makes it less likely  Obama will dive back into sequestration, which the White House has long railed against, because the two-year budget agreement gave the Pentagon $31 billion in sequester relief.

“There’s a lot of sequestration fatigue out there,” said one industry official.

The defense industry does hope Obama will address a national defense export strategy that would allow U.S. firms to better promote exports. They’re also looking for guidance from the president on issues like cybersecurity and drones, two hot-button issues that provide some of the biggest potential for growth within the defense industry.