There is a great deal of uncertainty in the future of the military. With the threat of across-the-board budget cuts, known as sequestration, looming, the Department of Defense (DoD) has been tasked with preparing a number of different plans depending on what the outcome of the next several months will be, Military Times reports.
To be ready for any scenario, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has detailed four potential outcomes. The first, and least desirable, is that Congress fails to act and sequestration happens, resulting in $500 billion in cuts. The second is that Congress manages to pass a last-second pieces of legislation to avoid the cuts. Third involves lawmakers finding the $1.2 trillion in budget reductions, and the final scenario involves delaying sequestration for a year or two.
"The department's position is clear. We want a budget deal – one that's balanced – so that we can avoid the devastating consequences of sequestration," Pentagon press secretary George Little told reporters. "The stakes are too high for a nation facing a serious fiscal crisis."
Panetta has been one of the leading voices calling for Congress to come up with a detailed plan that he and other military officials can weigh in on. However, as of yet, proposals to slash the budget have been rare. Given the uncertainty surrounding the debate, veterans, active duty personnel and their families may be concerned with what the potential cuts means for their benefits.
The importance of avoiding sequestration, which would cut $55 billion from the 2013 military budget, was highlighted by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, who recently spoke before the House Armed Services Committee. In addition to saying the cuts would have a significant impact on the capabilities of the military, he pointed out that it could also hurt families by delaying payments to service providers through the Defense Health Program, according to the Heritage Foundation.
Furthermore, some government-run programs aimed specifically at military families could take a hit if sequestration is allowed to occur. In addition to potential changes to the TRICARE health insurance program, some lawmakers have floated the idea of ending government financial support of commissaries on military bases, according to Military.com.