OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Pentagon budget slashes benefits

The Topline: The Pentagon is facing a looming fight against veterans groups and lawmakers in its 2015 defense budget preview released Monday. 

The proposal would reduce benefits for active-duty personnel, reduce the Army’s size to a pre-World War II level and close excess military bases — all things that have faced stiff resistance by Congress and veterans. 

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Troops would see a 1 percent pay raise and flag and general officers would see a pay freeze in 2015. Troops living off-base would see the housing costs rise by 5 percent, and would no longer have renter’s insurance reimbursed. 

Healthcare fees and deductibles would rise for retired members and active-duty family members. Subsidies for military commissaries inside the U.S. that provide military families with low-cost goods would be reduced. 

Keeping pay raises at 1 percent and raising the cost of housing 5 percent would cost an E-5 Army sergeant with 10 years of service $1,400 per year, according to the Military Officers Association of America. 

An 0-3 Army captain would lose $2,100 per year, according to the MOAA. Those costs would not include changes from healthcare fee increases or the increased cost in goods at commissaries.

Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America issued the statement: “Here we go again. Washington is trying to balance the budget on the backs of those who have sacrificed the most.” 

“We know the Defense Department must make difficult budget decisions, but these cuts would hit servicemembers, making it harder for them and their families to make ends meet,” said a statement by the group’s CEO and founder, Paul Rieckhoff. 

For more on the budget preview, click here

Congress criticizes defense budget request: Lawmakers fired off statements criticizing the changes to military compensation and proposed program cuts. 

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) urged the Pentagon to wait until a commission appointed to review pay and compensation comes out with its recommendations in February 2015.  

"We know that the all volunteer force is a finely tuned instrument. That is why the NDAA instituted a commission to examine the compensation structure. I continue to believe it would be foolish to institute those significant, piecemeal changes before the commission reports — especially since these moves are the consequence of trying to resolve our fiscal problems on the backs of our troops,” McKeon said in a statement. 

Sen. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteStale, misguided, divisive: minimum wage can't win elections Trump voter fraud commission sets first meeting outside DC RNC chair warns: Republicans who refused to back Trump offer 'cautionary tale' MORE (R-N.H.) said she would fight the Pentagon’s plan to retire the Air Force’s A-10 attack jet fleets without having a viable alternative. 

“Instead of cutting its best and least expensive close air support aircraft in an attempt to save money, the Air Force could achieve similar savings elsewhere in its budget without putting our troops at increased risk,” she said in a statement. 

House Armed Services Committee ranking member Rep. Adam SmithAdam SmithCongress, authorize fresh base closures to strengthen our military GOP lawmaker drops effort to force vote to extend DACA protections Trump officials brief lawmakers on North Korea MORE (D-Wash.) called for his fellow lawmakers to reverse budget caps known as sequestration that would reduce Pentagon spending by $50 billion each year through 2023. 

“If Congress does not act, sequestration will go back into effect in fiscal year 2016 and beyond. Secretary Hagel clearly articulated that future uncertainty is making it difficult for the Department to plan,” Smith said in a statement. 

“Under these conditions, our military leaders are doing their best to put forward a budget that provides national security. The preview outlines some tough choices, and I look forward to reviewing the budget in its entirety.”

McKeon urges attention to Afghanistan: Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) urged the public and the administration not to abandon Afghanistan, and to support an enduring presence there after the NATO combat mission ends in 2014. 

“Without our support, and that support includes presence and money, the Afghan security forces can't execute,” he told an audience at the National Press Club on Monday afternoon. 

“The remaining gaps are not unreasonable for a five-year-old force. They need help with logistics, with administration, pay and leave, with air support, with intelligence,” said McKeon.

“Filling these gaps does not mean that America's sons and daughters will be stuck on the front lines forever,” he added. 

McKeon’s remarks comes after a Gallup poll last week that found that most Americans believe the war was an error. 

House Speaker Rep. John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerSpeculation mounts, but Ryan’s job seen as safe Boehner warns Trump: Don't pull out of Korea-US trade deal GOP Rep: Ryan wasting taxpayers dollars by blocking war authorization debate MORE (R-Ohio) echoed McKeon’s remarks in a statement Monday: “We all want to bring our remaining troops home as soon as possible, but succeeding in Afghanistan is vital to our national security interests and our mission must take priority over any calendar dates. The president has an obligation to better make that case to the American people.”

Military sexual assault bills blocked: An effort by Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidThe Memo: Trump pulls off a stone-cold stunner The Memo: Ending DACA a risky move for Trump Manchin pressed from both sides in reelection fight MORE (D-Nev.) to set up two military sexual assault bills for a vote this week was blocked by Sen. Jerry MoranGerald (Jerry) MoranIT modernization measure included in Senate-approved defense policy bill Campaign video touts apprenticeships making Trump commemorative coins Senate approves Trump's debt deal with Democrats MORE (R-Kan.), who demanded the Senate also vote on an Iran sanctions bill. 

"I am terribly disappointed that my Republican friends are trying to turn this vital national security concern into a partisan issue by trying to inject into it a setting where it's clearly not relevant," Reid said.

The White House has urged senators not to vote on additional sanctions as it seeks a final deal to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  

The bills are by Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandOvernight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax hit by earlier hack | What to know about Kaspersky controversy | Officials review EU-US privacy pact Senate passes 0B defense bill MORE (D-N.Y.) who proposes giving military lawyers outside a defendant’s chain of command authority over any military court case in order to avoid favoritism, retaliation against a victim or unwillingness to prosecute a case.

The other bill is by Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillGOP sees fresh opening with Dems’ single payer embrace Senators blast internet subsidy program It is time to make domestic terrorism a federal crime MORE (D-Mo.), who favors leaving the authority within the chain of command but supports other reform measures.

 

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