Prepare for military’s next news

Filed under: Military,Print |

If you thought the new bipartisan federal budget agreement, recently passed by Congress and signed by President Obama, would solve the Pentagon’s concerns about how to allocate military funding, you might want to think again.

Already, the process is starting toward the 2015 (fiscal year) budget, which will go into effect Oct. 1.

Yes, there will be more military budget cuts. No, they won’t be across the board, touching every single line item. Yes, the military can pick and choose how it wants to achieve its funding reductions.

But that doesn’t take away the pain, and Colorado Springs will feel some impact.

In fact, circle the date of Tuesday, March 4, on your calendar. That’s the day when the Pentagon will be unveiling its funding plans — with specifics for each service branch — for the 2015 fiscal year.

We already know some gory details. For example, the Army is talking about a phased-in force reduction from 528,000 now to 420,000 by 2019. That’s a far steeper cut than initial plans to trim the Army to 490,000. Meanwhile, the Air Force is looking at a decrease from 332,000 to about 307,000, which might include shrinking programs, and grounding 550 or so aircraft. The most publicized Navy cut might be from 11 to 10 aircraft carriers worldwide, a proposal that has much opposition.

Beyond personnel numbers, the Pentagon might cut into housing allowances for anyone on active duty living off base. Currently, that adds up to about $20 billion a year, provided to about 1 million troops. But with overall numbers heading downward, that could mean making sure more are living on base, with fewer receiving an allowance to live elsewhere.

Obviously, that kind of change could impact the Colorado Springs area, particularly if the Army is more involved. Again, though, if such a reduction takes place over several years, the effect might not be so painful.

We hear that the Pentagon might cut into housing allowances for anyone on active duty living off base.

We got a clearer picture about the Air Force Academy when the CSBJ editorial staff met last week with Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson, the AFA superintendent, along with Brig. Gen. Andrew Armacost, the dean of faculty. Johnson talked about the delicate process of deciding what trims to make, especially in academics, without having a negative impact on the mission and quality of education.

The two generals spoke of possibly combining some of the 31 current academic majors, though they hoped the total enrollment of 4,000 cadets would stay the same. That’s because the Air Force Academy already has tightened that belt, going from 4,400-4,500 cadets down to 4,000 in the past two years, while West Point and Annapolis have remained at the higher level.

Johnson said she and other AFA leaders would announce specific upcoming cuts on March 4. Johnson gave no hints of what we might expect, but more civilian jobs might feel the budget axe, and reductions might happen in intercollegiate athletics. As of now, that program includes 17 sports for men and 10 for women, but some might take a hit, down to the intramural or club level.

None of this will be pleasant, but that’s the new reality in our post-war military. And the leaders at local installations are doing all they can to comply with tighter budgets without compromising missions. That’s all anyone can ask.