Civilian workers at Fort Hood were outside the main gate at the end of August, demonstrating, holding up signs and trying to make as much noise as possible. The reason: To make a point that “sequestration” — arguably the No. 1 word of the year so far — is far from over.
“It will be 2022 before the end of (sequestration). Each of those years federal employees are subject to be furloughed,” said Samuel Boles, one of 20 unionized government workers protesting on Aug. 29.
Sequestration is a series of budget cuts that fell into place earlier this year because Congress couldn’t agree on a real budget plan. Experts say it was supposed to never really kick in because the cuts — viewed as too drastic by both Republicans and Democrats alike — would force the hands of Congress to work together, passing a more sensible budget.
Sequestration cuts military spending especially hard. The Defense Department is set to lose $54 billion in 2014 and $500 billion over 10 years.
Even though it’s been in place for months, we’re still learning the trickle-down effects of sequestration. For example, we just recently found out the popular Army combatives — a fighting competition where soldiers go toe-to-toe with each other using mixed martial arts — was canceled this year. The team from Fort Hood won the competition last year, and was set to host it again this month.
As many remember, Freedom Fest also took a beating this year. Fort Hood officials didn’t even bother calling the annual Fourth of July event “Freedom Fest” this year, opting to name it “An Independence Day Celebration.”
Organizations responsible for these types of events are doing what they can with the funding they do get. I’m sure they’d like to have the budgets they had in the past.
And I’ll be the first to say: Sequestraion sucks. But we have to deal with it. And, perhaps, there are some opportunities on the horizon. It’s time for cities, communities and other organizations to start thinking how we can help Fort Hood bring back — or perhaps even improve — the wonderful public festivals and events Fort Hood has been in charge of in the past. Perhaps some events could move off post, introducing them to a new audience.
Uncle Sam has hit hard times. But for the most part, the local economy is healthy. Fort Hood event organizers need to reach out, and the civilian organizations that have the means and will need to reach in. It’ll take a lot of communication and coordination, but there are some opportunities out there if the right people get involved.
We shouldn’t let sequestration — even if it does last 10 years — take everything away.