Army Could Face Resistance from Congress as It Eyes Cuts to Education Benefits

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and Chief of Staff of the Army General Randy George
Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth, and Chief of Staff of the Army, General Randy George, testify before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense in Washington, D.C., April 10, 2024. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David Resnick)

The Army's consideration of cuts to two of its premier education benefits is the result of at least one of those program's runaway success and ballooning cost, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told lawmakers Wednesday.

Wormuth described the Army Credentialing Assistance Program as having "catastrophic success" due to its popularity when asked by Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, whose district includes the Fort Cavazos area, on whether cuts to key benefits could impact recruiting and retention.

But cutting education benefits, a key recruiting and retention tool for the military, could be an enormous hurdle for the service and a nightmare when it comes to optics, particularly in an election year.

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"The military is having serious problems with recruiting. So, you're going to cut the benefits for those you want to recruit? It doesn't make any sense," Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., said on CNN Thursday.

"There will be very strong pushback, I am certain," Garamendi, a key Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, added.

The service is reviewing both the Army Credentialing Assistance Program, or CA, and the Tuition Assistance Program.

Army CA was introduced forcewide in 2020. The program gives soldiers $4,000 per year for civilian credentials, qualifications that are critical in certain fields and sometimes expire. On top of being a pseudo military-training tool, it's also intended for troops to set themselves up for civilian qualifications before they transition out of the service.

"We have not made any decisions about the Credentialing Assistance Program or Tuition Assistance Program," Wormuth told lawmakers Wednesday when asked about's reporting on the potential cuts.

Officials with direct knowledge of the situation explained to that part of the problem is a lack of regulation on how the benefit is used. Unlike the GI Bill, there are no significant rules over where the benefit could be used. However, there is no clear evidence of fraud or misuse, as has been the case with the GI Bill.

"The challenge we have is, we really, frankly, didn't put any guardrails around the program to help us scope it," Wormuth explained during testimony. initially reported on the proposed cuts April 1.

Service planners are mulling limiting how often soldiers can use Army CA. Right now, it can be used in perpetuity.

The service is considering reducing Army CA to $1,000 per year, and $4,000 over the course of a career, sources familiar with the matter told Most credentialing, such as in the cybersecurity field, coding and project management, cost much more. It is also weighing whether a qualification should be relevant to the soldier's job, which could severely limit opportunities in certain fields such as combat arms.

About 64,500 soldiers have used Army CA since it was introduced four years ago. But its popularity has skyrocketed, costing the service $8 million in 2022 and rising to $60.2 million last year.


It's unclear what specific changes the Army is mulling for tuition assistance, which is used by about 101,000 beneficiaries each year, averaging about $218 million in annual costs.


The plans do not affect the GI Bill, which is managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. That benefit, which is designed for traditional college semesters, is difficult to use while on active duty.

"The military is the single largest educational system in the United States," Garamendi said. "Everybody that is in the military has the opportunity to learn a trade, not to just shoot a gun."

Related: Army's Premier Education Benefits May Be on Chopping Block, with Tuition Assistance Cuts Being Considered, Too

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