Amid the ongoing turmoil over future defense spending, the Pentagon’s top budget officer says tuition assistance money for troops is not on the chopping block.
“We are not planning to cut it back substantially,” Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale said at a Pentagon news briefing Thursday.
“We continue to look at it in the context of overall budget reduction and there may be some trims, but we know it’s an important program and we won’t stop it and we will continue to fund it,” Hale said. “There may have been some temporary interruptions during the [16-day government] shutdown but we’ll continue to support the program. We know it’s important to our people.”
Tuition assistance has been a contentious topic since the spring, when several services announced major cutbacks to their TA programs in response the across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration. The Navy was the only service to avoid making substantial chances, in part because the Navy already had curtailed its program several years ago.
In response to a barrage of complaints, Congress required all of the services to reinstate their TA programs for the rest of the fiscal year.
The Air Force recently rolled out its new TA program for 2014, which will require supervisor oversight of TA requests and will restrict access for troublemakers, fitness test failures and other substandard performers.
So far, the services have resisted pressure to force troops to pick up part of the tab for their studies, for example by returning to a pre-2002 rule that required service members to pay 25 percent of their tuition costs out of pocket.