Sequestration was designed to be so bad that Congress couldn't possibly let it happen.
But it did.
You might mention to congressmen what you think of their plan while they're home on vacation not working on preventing it from happening.
In fact, since sequestration kicked in, the GOP-led House of Representatives has voted five times (for a total of 34 votes in the last two years), to repeal Obamacare, knowing that such a plan was doomed in the Senate. Yet, in a perfect example of the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results), they keep wasting their time and your taxpayer dollars doing that, in order to posture for the television cameras, while the real issues of the country are ignored.
Not a single bill, during that time, has reached the floor of either chamber to end the effects of sequester.
During the phoney-baloney debt ceiling crisis that the Tea Party members of Congress created (you remember, we lost our bond rating over it), a deal was reached whereby the government would keep operating and, in exchange, Congress agreed to impose a series of arbitrary draconian cuts if it didn't pass a plan to balance the budget and reduce the deficit. Those cuts would be so odiferous that they wouldn't let it happen. Has anybody heard anything in the last two years about Congress doing anything about that? In fact, there are some members of Congress who are positively gleeful about what sequester is doing to cripple the government. Granted, the deficit is falling, but that's due more to Main Street leading a slow economic recovery from the Great Recession than anything Congress has done. Sequestration has had very little effect on that, according to the Congressional Budget Office and independent analysts.
But what sequester did do was require that the Department of Defense take a 10 percent across-the-board cut, in addition to an already planned half a trillion dollar cut in its budget due to the winding down of the war in Afghanistan. The rest of the government (Congress largely excluded) would take an 8 percent cut.
The DoD cuts were devastating, especially when it came to training and maintenance. Congress is driving us straight into a hollow force. It doesn't seem to understand that all our fancy high-tech toys are useless unless they're maintained and our people are trained on them.
At one point this year, the Air Force grounded its fleet (except for those training for a deployment or actually deployed). Pilots were in danger of losing their combat certifications. The Air Force managed to jiggle some funds to get them back in the air again, but just barely in time. In addition, DoD civilian employees took a 20 percent cut in pay as they were furloughed to make sequester work.
And it doesn't end Oct. 1, when the new federal fiscal year starts. Unless Congress acts, and there is no indication it is capable of doing it, sequestration will continue for nine more years.
Several things struck us in working on the story about how sequester was going to affect AFAD. First, at virtually every level of DoD we talked to, up to the Pentagon, we got the same mantra: "Yes, sequestration is hurting. There's nothing we can do. Talk to your congressman." It's as if they want people to feel some of the pain they're going through and they hope that anger will be directed at the people who clearly aren't killing themselves to fix the problem.
Second, far too many of the congressional staff members (from Idaho and otherwise) that we talked to didn't seem aware the Air Force had grounded its fleet (which explains why some members of Congress wanted to launch a no-fly zone over Syria -- they didn't know we didn't have any planes to do it). It's as if sequestration is a stump speech talking point, but not a reality to these people. Ask those who were furloughed how real it is, however.
The restrictions on the base participating in AFAD is part of a directive intended to be good PR for DoD. We grant, flying the Thunderbirds when regular pilots can't train would have been a major PR disaster. But oddly enough, not participating in AFAD is, at the least, a minor PR disaster. It's tough to believe that DoD's budget hinges on whether or not any vehicles from the local base can drive 25 miles or not (round trip, plus parade), but in exchange, it limits the ability of this community to honor the men and women who are directly struggling under the sequester rules.
And we DO want to honor those people. We're doing the best we can to get them in the parade and they're doing the best they can to take part, under the limits imposed on them. But it's hard. So, let's make sure we do honor them, with plenty of extra parade entries to make up for the loss of military equipment and an extra round of applause as the troops pass by.
-- Kelly Everitt