Sequestration Unpopular in Hawaii

NGAUS Washington Report

(Sept. 23, 2013) Speakers at the 135th General Conference & Exhibition in Honolulu were consistent in their dislike of the process that has sliced money from federal programs without considering a program's value or merit.

Sequestration was as popular as a typhoon just a few blocks from Waikiki Beach the last three days.

"Sequestration needs to be fixed and we're running out of time to do it," said Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

"Sequestration is really the result of political dysfunction," said Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

They are referring to the automatic spending cuts that went into effect in March as part of the Budget Control Act and cut defense and nondefense spending by equal dollar amounts. The military has said the effect has been to curtail readiness in the force.

"The Budget Control Act is law," said Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau. "It will have an impact on the National Guard."

Although the budget was the central topic for several speakers, others addressed various topics, including the testimony last week by Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, that the Army National Guard be reduced to 315,000, which, needless to say, was not a popular topic in the conference hall.

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki discussed how his embattled agency is trying to erase a backlog of benefit claims.

"No veteran should have to wait to receive earned benefits," he said. The agency is addressing the backlog and has reduced it by 160,000 claims in 180 days. The secretary, a wounded veteran of the war in Vietnam, said his goal is to eliminate the backlog in 2015.

Marine Maj. Gen. Darrell Moore of the U.S. Pacific Command described his command's area of operations. It is big, with more than half of the world's population and more than 1,000 languages.

Also, it is a "neighborhood that is well armed and a neighborhood that is not always friendly to American interests."

More speakers discussed a variety of subjects during the three-day event, which concludes tonight with the States Dinner. Detailed coverage will be in the October issue of NATIONAL GUARD.