Veterans services aren’t targeted for cuts | The Tennessean

Nov 11, 2012

Written by state Rep. Karen Camper

This Veterans Day, I want to thank all of the men and women who have bravely served our country. After a career in U.S. Army Intelligence, I understand the hard work and sacrifices needed to do the job.

I have worked tirelessly with members of the bipartisan Veterans Legislative Caucus to do things in Tennessee in the best interest of our men and women in uniform, and we must always make sure that we hold our national leaders to the same standard.

With the elections over, Congress must roll up its sleeves and get to work. They face a range of issues including mandated cuts to both domestic and Pentagon spending (“sequestration”). Some members of Congress have proposed exempting the Pentagon from any spending reductions. They are quick to bring up our troops and veterans to scare us into thinking the inflated Pentagon budget is untouchable and should be continued to allow to rise, as it has for more than a decade. As a veteran, I think otherwise.

First, claims that the upcoming mandated reductions to Pentagon spending will have a major impact on veterans and active military are not entirely accurate. President Obama has stated many times that military personnel and the Department of Veterans Affairs will be exempted from any cuts if sequestration occurs.

Second, this fear-mongering is really about protecting Pentagon and contractor profits, not protecting our military and veterans. Pentagon contracting firms have seen record profits and some of their CEOs make salaries that are on par with Wall Street executives. Additionally, the top five Pentagon contractors — Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon — have reduced their employment rolls by more than 18,000 workers over the past six years, while their profits grew dramatically. They are also ramping up their spending on lobbying.

We need a Pentagon budget that addresses 21st-century threats to keep our nation safe and secure. We must protect and support the men and women serving in the military, and honor and support our veterans and military families. For example, for the cost of just one new nuclear submarine (which was designed to fight Cold War threats), we could provide body armor and bomb-resistant Humvees to all our troops overseas, as well as house and treat every homeless U.S. veteran, and still have $2.2 billion left over to pay down our debt. Our troops and security should come before pork-barrel programs.

Finally, veterans rely on programs that assist the middle class and the more vulnerable. These programs, ranging from SNAP/food stamps to heating and housing assistance, are also slated for cuts in the coming years. If Pentagon contractors get their way and are allowed to keep their profitable government contracts, these programs and others that serve our veterans, military families, and hard-working people all across Tennessee face even deeper cuts.

I want to keep our nation strong and secure, and ensure our troops and veterans have the opportunities they deserve after defending our nation. This Veterans Day, I call on all of our politicians to have a serious conversation about how to solve our fiscal crisis. Don’t play political games by invoking our service. Our veterans and our nation deserve better.

Karen Camper is a Democratic state representative from Memphis, chair of the Veterans Legislative Caucus, and an active member of the Women Legislators Lobby, a program of Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND).

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