Newsflash: the Army will soon have fewer funds for the things we love.
I’ve spent the last few days here at the Association of the United States Army listening to top Army officials talk about their plans for escaping the drastic cuts to funding for the family programs we all hold dear – things like MWR, Army Community Services (ACS) and even Survivor Outreach Services (SOS).
The key word being thrown around here is “efficiencies.” Rather than saying outright they’ll being axing funding and cutting programs, leaders are saying they plan to find “efficiencies” within the funding they receive.
But of course the subtext here is that “efficiencies” is code for “cutting things that don’t do what they should, aren’t used enough or are too expensive.” I specifically asked one official, Maj. Gen. Rebuen Jones, whether programs will or will not be cut. His answer “we don’t know yet.”
But later in our conversation Jones, who is the deputy commander of the Army’s installation management, specifically gave an example of an “efficiency” that resulted in the cutting of a parenting program.
For example, Jones said, last year IMCOM worked with the Defense Department to eliminate Heroes at Home, a parent education program, and keep the New Parent Support Program, which offered the same services.
"Did we get some mail? You bet," he said. "Do you want to see my scars? I've got some. But it was the right thing to do."
Meanwhile, officials like Army Secretary John McHugh have pledged not to let family programs take the brunt of the pain for overall defense cuts.
Note that he didn’t say they won’t take ANY cuts – just that they won’t take the majority of the pain.
“I want to make a commitment here to you … that we will not make Army family programs a bill payer for other kinds of initiatives,” Secretary of the Army John McHugh said. “That’s a place we’ve been in the past, and it’s a place I don’t want to help take us back to.”
I asked McHugh and Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, how they plan to make sure Congress gets the “leave families alone” memo. And while McHugh, who spent most of his career as a lawmaker dealing with military issues, was slightly less optimistic, Odierno said that family funding is the least of their problems.
“This is one of the easiest issues we have with congress because they understand the importance of the families," said Gen. Raymond Odierno, the Army's chief of staff. “It’s about laying out a cognizant plan for them that they can understand.”
So, the good news out of this week is that family programs should not take quite as drastic of a hit as other portions of the defense budget. The bad news? The hit cometh.