The Painful Costs of Sequester

Disasters in our homeland can occur at any time. Yet we now pretend that they will not occur between July 8 and Sept. 30 because the National Guard is being forced to furlough the military personnel who enable the military response to disasters in each of our states.

Under the sequester and in accordance with the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Defense Department will furlough for one day a week from early July through the remainder of the fiscal year around 800,000 federal employees, including 53,000 National Guard military technicians.  

Guard military technicians are the uniformed day-to-day backbone that performs training, maintenance and administrative functions to sustain National Guard readiness for overseas and domestic operations. These miltechs are the only uniformed personnel in the U.S. military not exempt from furlough under the sequester.   

As the adjutant general of a state that relies heavily upon the capabilities of the National Guard to respond to natural and manmade disasters, I’m greatly concerned about the consequences of these furloughs. In Florida, we will furlough nearly 1,000 soldiers and airmen, about half of our full-time force, putting our citizens at risk.   

We estimate almost 6,600 items of equipment used during deployments will not be refurbished, and our equipment readiness rates will drop by more than 10 percent. Deferment of maintenance not only impacts our readiness for emergency response, but also reduces our ability to train for this response.  

The Florida National Guard will respond, as always, to the needs of our state for hurricanes, wildfires, floods and any other disasters, but our ability to get the right people at the right place and time will be degraded. And in any emergency, speed means lives.

The negative impact of the furloughs extends well beyond our readiness to respond to disaster. They will cut deeply into the financial stability of citizen-soldiers and airmen and their families who will experience a 20 percent cut in pay beginning in July.  

Considering the challenges the Defense Department already faces with resiliency of the fighting force, the furlough of these uniformed service members will only exacerbate the problem.
 
The Florida National Guard has deployed more than 17,000 men and women since 9/11. Some have deployed multiple times. The National Guard is very much part of the military fabric that makes our nation strong. To not recognize them as part of the required and necessary full-time military force erodes unity.

It is our obligation not to break faith with any of those who serve and to ensure they choose to remain part of the all-volunteer force.  

The tragedy in Oklahoma drives home the reality that we must always be prepared to respond to emergencies in our states. The National Guard is the military force that provides that response, in coordination with local, state and federal agencies.  

We cannot allow these furloughs to impede our response to safeguard our citizens. Furloughing our warriors who wear the uniform of our nation and keep us safe is just wrong.

The author is the Florida adjutant general. As such, is responsible for the training and readiness of the Florida National Guard. He is also a member of the NGAUS board of directors.

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