Representatives from the Military Officers Association of America “stormed the hill” last week to inform congressmen on military pay and other issues.
Members from across the country teamed up in Washington, D.C., to inform and influence Congress on three key issues — pay and benefits of the current force, eliminating harmful sequestration cuts, and rejecting disproportional Tricare fee hikes.
Retired Lt. Col. Pat Christ, a resident of Harker Heights and Texas president of the organization, participated in the one-day event and helped meet with the 36 representatives and two senators who make up the Texas delegation.
“Historically it’s has been pretty good,” he said of the annual effort. “We’ve had pretty good success when we’ve done things in the past like this.”
Much of the discussion surrounded the 2015 budget submission, Christ said. The proposed budget has an impact on all three issues of focus.
MOAA representatives argued that “budget cuts undo Congress’s decade of work to rebalance military compensation with the extraordinary demands and sacrifices of a military career.”
Christ said military pay should remain competitive with the civilian workforce.
Just as top Army officials have said, MOAA agrees sequestration will hurt the military in the long run. Unless current law is changed, the Defense Department will have to cut an additional $54 billion in fiscal year 2016 and $269 billion over the following five fiscal years.
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 mitigated the spending cuts for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, but the original sequestration cuts return in 2016 and remain in effect through 2021.
“We asked them to get rid of the (Budget Control Act of 2011) and get rid of sequestration,” Christ said.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond Odierno told senators April 8 that “tough” choices must be made in uncertain fiscal times, and up to 46 percent of active brigade combat teams might need to be cut if full sequestration hits in 2016.
“We must make tough but necessary choices,” Odierno said during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “We must ensure we have the best Army possible, even under full sequestration.”
When it comes to Tricare, Christ said MOAA is asking Congress to wait on implementing any changes.
The proposed 2015 defense budget will shift over $9 billion in costs to military beneficiaries across a decade through various changes.
MOAA also asked Congress to wait for the report they requested from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission before making any piecemeal changes.
“Lets wait and see what this commission comes up with. A total (plan) instead of a piece here and a piece there,” Christ said.
The commission is expected to provide a report in February 2015.
“We know the budget needs to be balanced, but it doesn’t need to be done on the backs of our soldiers,” he said.
Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here. You can contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.