Sequester Does Not Stop the Music, Just the Travel


John Kline (R-MN-02) expressed his concerns about mandatory federal budget cuts,
“The cuts are mindless cuts — Republicans and Democrats would like to have an alternative to sequestration. We don’t want sequestration, because these cuts are not prioritized cuts.”

The impact has been slow … and thus far, citizen have not seen any impact … but the word is out as to what will be impacted … announcements have been made that the White House will be closing the doors for public tours (while the Capital Building remains open although there are changes to certain entrance doors and exterior checkpoints around the Capitol complex) to cuts in military programs.

The Pentagon faces a $46 billion budget reduction through the end of September, and additional cuts would come in future years as long as the sequester remains in effect. Add to that the Budget Control Act passed in 2011, requires the Department of Defense to reduce spending by $487 billion over the next 10 years.
Worse yet, since Congress has not approved a budget for the current fiscal year that started October 1st, DoD has been funded by continuing resolutions, which keep spending levels at the previous year’s rates. The House made a step today with the passage of a H. R. 933, a stopgap resolution that effectively entrenches the sequester for the current fiscal year.

Which brings us to the question, how angry must be those that had a chance to prioritize cuts … should they have made cuts then … and now see that those programs are being affected.

For example, Betty McCollum offered an amendment to the last Defense funding bill to reduce the monies spent in support of military bands. For those that do not know, the House had a chance to reduce the budget for the military’s 140 bands and 5,000 full-time musicians from $388 million to $200 million, but the House failed to approve Congresswoman McCollum’s amendment. The congresswoman had questioned the need to spend nearly $4 billion over the next decade on military bands and musical performances. Representative John Kline voted to let the band play on.

Now the sequester is taking shape and the military bands will be impacted … slightly.

Military Musical Unit (and Ceremonial Unit) Travel

Military musical and ceremonial units will not be permitted to travel beyond the local area immediately surrounding their respective duty stations except when all transportation, lodging, and subsistence, are provided by the requesting organization and can be accepted in accordance with existing law and Department policies, or where the Department has authority to retain any reimbursement and is fully reimbursed by the requesting organization for all incremental costs. Units may continue to perform locally both on and off military installations as long as those performances can be conducted at no cost to the Department.

Great … as previously noted, the compensation is not bad (military musicians may be awarded a ranking of staff sergeant or the equivalent and an annual salary of $51,000 for single people and $58,000 for married ones and enjoy full military benefits including medical and dental care, group life insurance coverage, 30 days of annual paid vacation, Post Exchange and Commissary benefits, and educational benefits), so those expenses will continue … they just won’t be able to travel.

When we hear that helicopter pilot training is being cut … but musicians get the support of former Marine helicopter pilot John Kline, that is … well, “mindless”.

Other areas that the DoD has set for curtailing include :
— Tuition Assistance
All Services should consider significant reductions in funding new tuition assistance applicants after the date of this memorandum for the duration of the current fiscal situation.
— All aerial demonstrations, including flyovers, jump team demonstrations, and participation in civilian air shows and military open houses will cease as of April 1, 2013.
— All military support to non-DoD organizations for outreach activities will cease, except when the Department has authority to retain any reimbursement and is fully reimbursed for all incremental costs incurred in providing the support. This includes, but is not limited to, military equipment displays at civilian air shows, parades, and civic events.
— Organizations need to ensure that travel of members and employees of Congress is sponsored by the DoD only where the purpose of the travel is of primary interest to and bears a substantial relationship to programs or activities of DoD and is not solely for the purpose of engendering goodwill or obtaining possible future benefits.

BTW …. Another example of questionable spending, in a vote of 216-202, the House rejected an amendment by Representatives Jack Kingston, (R-GA), and Betty McCollum, that would have trimmed $72.3 million for sports sponsorships (NASCAR, National Hot Rod Association drag racing, bass fishing tournaments, etc.). Representative John Kline voted to let the engines roar.

Yes, Congressman Kline … this is “mindless” and irresponsible.

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