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Veterans of Foreign Wars members have spent most of this week lobbying Congress on a fix for sequestration spending cuts, calling it their top legislative priority this year.
It’s an unusual choice, with military benefits changes, Veterans Affairs funding and the disability claims backlog also on the group’s list of talking points. But officials say the scheduled spending cuts for active-duty programs have the potential to negatively affect every other national security and veterans’ issue, and should be the easiest to fix.
“This is a self-inflicted wound that never should have happened,” said Bob Wallace, VFW’s executive director. “We need to highlight that, and hope that we can get [lawmakers] to do the right thing.”
Congress put the automatic spending cuts in place in 2011 as part of a broader deficit reduction effort. Plans called for more than $1 trillion in budget trims over a decade, spread evenly between defense and nondefense accounts.
Lawmakers immediately decried the cuts as too broad and crude, and promised a quick fix. But in the years since, they have managed to enact only a partial repeal, and only for a few fiscal years.
Pentagon leaders have warned that without a full repeal, military planners will have to brace for fewer personnel, reduced training funds and possible equipment shortages.
VFW leaders reiterated that fear on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, saying the cuts jeopardize “readiness and modernization programs and the continued viability of the all-volunteer force.”
Wallace said members also worry that future sequestration cuts could hit the Veterans Affairs Department, which has been exempt thus far.
Last month, representatives from Disabled American Veterans lobbied lawmakers on advance appropriations for all VA budget accounts. Members of other veterans groups are expected to conduct their own lobbying pushes in the weeks to come.