Sunday, September 25, 2005


By Stockton

According to the Navy Times:

A group of House Republicans have proposed a plan to offset the costs of relief and rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina that includes trimming military quality-of-life programs, including health care.

Possible sources of funding cuts to free up money for Katrina relief include reduced health benefits, consolidation of the three military exchange systems and the closure of the military's stateside school system.

The House Republican Study Committee, headed by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., is not singling out the military as it tries to raise the estimated $200 billion that the federal government will need for various Katrina-related spending.

Their proposal includes freezing congressional pay, charging federal workers for parking and cutting back on legislative earmarking items added to agency budgets by lawmakers as ways of raising money.

They call their effort Operation Offset, and hope to get spending cuts considered before Congress approves any more money devoted to Katrina relief and recovery operations.
Their offset list includes three provisions aimed at military quality-of-life programs:

Service members would be offered cash if they are willing to accept reduced health care benefits for their families. The less comprehensive plan would encourage individuals to be more cost-conscious when purchasing health care products by including deductibles, co-payments and a maximum annual out-of-pocket expenditure limit, according to a written explanation provided by the study group. Reduced health care benefits could save $2.4 billion over 10 years.

The three separate military exchange systems could be consolidated, saving up to $1.9 billion over 10 years, the study group says. The Army and Air Force share an exchange system, AAFES, while the Navy and Marine Corps have their own systems. Consolidating would eliminate inefficiencies from duplicative purchasing, different personnel departments, warehouse and inventory systems and management headquarters while retaining the current ability for service embers and their families to receive a wide selection of goods at a low price, the statement says.

According to House Republicans, this action will coincide with a refusal to rollback tax breaks for the wealthiest 1% of Americans.

"To deny succesful citizens their fair share would make a mockery of everything our men and women in Iraq are fighting for," said one Congressional spokesperson. "Basically, our men and women in uniform are used to sacrifice so what's one more?"

In related news, the President announced that each rifleman in Iraq may be limited to two rounds of ammunition as a way to extend tax relief to the wealthiest 2% of Americans.

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