Leon Panetta warns 'Doomsday' clock set if GOP cuts more from defense

EUGENE, Ore. – Those debt-cutting GOP and Tea Party members in Congress who want more military cuts – including benefits for those who are now fighting the War on Terror – have set a “Doomsday” clock for December, says Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked Congress to reconsider allowing automatic budget cuts if lawmakers can't come to an agreement, calling the possibility a "kind of doomsday mechanism. It could trigger a round of dangerous across-the-board defense cuts that would do real damage to our security, our troops and their families, and our ability to protect the nation," Panetta warned during an Aug. 22 PBS News report from the Pentagon. Also, in what’s been dubbed the “Patchwork Nation” of military communities – to include the greater Eugene area that provides medicine, surgery and mental health services for more than 62,000 veterans – that depend “on a major portion of the federal budget, are rallying to defend their livelihoods and military benefits” in the wake of recent proclamations by GOP and Tea Party members that military programs and benefits are on the table for them to cut.

Republicans and Tea Party members who want to cut more from the government spending.

PBS News also reported Aug. 22 that “since Congress and President Obama cut the last-minute debt ceiling play last month, military members and their families have been rallying to defend benefits for those who are going into harm’s way to defend the nation.

While the “debt-busting congressional super-committee has yet to hold its first meeting,” PBS News reported that GOP and Tea Party members have said the Defense budget and benefits for military members is “on the table for more cuts.”

In brief, "many of these Tea Party budget cut experts know nothing about the miltary or its missions. And, they know less about the family members who are already trying to make ends meet while supporting their husbands or wives fighting this war on terror," says Eugene veteran Maggie Wilson who served as an Army nurse during the Vietnam War.

Defense Secretary Panetta wants to protect military benefits

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in an Aug. 19 interview with Army Times that he sought to reassure today’s troops “that their benefits will not be slashed amid widespread budget-cutting talks in Washington.”

The plan to cut military benefits in a time of war raised more than eyebrows with many in the U.S. who think the GOP and Tea Party are going too far in their zeal to cut more government spending.

In turn, Panetta told Army Times from his Pentagon office that “he wants to grandfather today’s retirement pensions for current troops, even if budget pressures force changes for future recruits.”

“People who have come into the service and put their lives on the line, been deployed to the war zones, fought for this country, and who have been promised certain benefits as result of that — I’m not going to break faith with what’s been promised to them,” Panetta said. “Now, does that mean that stops you from making any changes? No, because obviously you can grandfather people in terms of their benefits, and then look at what changes you want put in place for those who decide to become a part of the volunteer force in the future.”

Panetta, who took office in July, also told Army Times that “he has not been briefed on a recent draft recommendation from the Defense Business Board that urged the Pentagon to do away with the 20-year pension system in favor of corporate-style 401(k) savings accounts. The board’s plan would alter the military retirement system for those troops serving today who have not reached the 20-year mark.”

Panetta says 'Doomsday' clock set for December

"This potential deep cut in defense spending is not meant as policy. Rather, it is designed to be unpalatable to spur responsible, balanced deficit reduction and avoid misguided cuts to our security,” said Panetta during an Aug. 22 PBS News report where he went on to say the cuts are "completely unacceptable" and vowed to fight them.

But this is not a fight he has to have alone, he added, because the military members and their families also have something to say about the GOP and Tea Party plan to cut more from the soldiers and family members who are now defending the nation.

Michele Bachmann wants to first cut and then kill benefits for veterans

Representative Michele Bachmann’s plan for freezing VA health care, and then cutting our disability benefits “turned me off to her right away. Who does she think she is,” asserted Sandra whose husband is a Vietnam War veteran being cared for at a VA clinic here in Eugene.

“Why does she want to hurt our boys like this,” added this veteran’s wife with the message in her eyes starkly bemused. “Bachmann wants to cut government, fine, but don’t cut our soldiers who’ve served this country with honor and distinction.”

Bachmann, a Republican member of the House, representing Minnesota’s 6th congressional district, has never served in the U.S. military and seems “confused” about who’s on first when it comes to threats facing the U.S. For instance, the GOP presidential contender said on a radio talk show Aug. 18 there is “a growing fear among Americans about an ‘unstoppable decline’ of the United States and a ‘rise of the Soviet Union.’”

In turn, Bachmann seemed unaware that the Soviet Union collapsed and was formally dissolved in December 1991, with the Russian Federation as its new country name.

Also, during the same radio address where Bachmann didn’t seem to understand that the Soviet Union is now history, she pointed to “the rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the Soviet Union and our loss militarily going forward," she said.

In turn, Democrats noted that Bachmann is ready to become commander and chief of the U.S. military based on her lack of any deep understanding of both the military and its’ role in the world.

Bachmann’s plan to cut military care for veterans called out as “ill-advised”

Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said Bachmann’s plan to cut “veterans’ health care spending is an ill-advised move at a time when the number of veterans continues to grow as troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan. Sullivan said he finds it difficult to see how VA could freeze health care costs without hurting veterans.

“It is really astonishing to see this,” Sullivan said in a recent Air Force Times report on both this GOP plan to cut VA spending and also the military’s retirement system.

Also, Republicans and Tea Party budget cutters have planned to end current military retirement system.

In turn, Warren Buffet said in an Aug. 15 op-ed page of the New York Times that “the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan and the country should do more for them.

Moreover, Time.com reported Aug. 16 that the next battle for GOP and Tea Party budget cutters -- such as Bachmann -- is “looming over the military retirement system, which gives troops -- but only those who have served 20 or more years -- a lifetime pension equal to half their cash compensation. Trouble is, enlisted folks often start pocketing that at 38, while their officers can begin collecting at 42. This World War II, industrial-era, system made sense when people died at 65, but it makes no sense when many retired troops are living into their 80s and launching post-military careers.”

With more bad news for veterans here in Eugene and across the country -- who’ve returned from fighting the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan without arms, legs and suffering from mental health and other woes – this new budget cutting plan to “hurt the military will not stand,” says Iraq War veteran Justin who’s being treated for PTSD after witnessing many of his “band of brothers” die on the battlefield or from roadside bombs in the Persian Gulf Region.

“A hard rain is going to fall if these lawmakers go after veterans to try and save their tax breaks for the rich. I know from other veterans that we will send the message to Congress not to pressure our soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen into taking pay and benefit cuts at a time when we’re fighting a war over there,” asserted Justin while talking out loud in a very crowded room of other veterans and family members here at the Eugene VA clinic.

Washington warning GOP and Tea Party not to hurt the military

“Conservative think tanks in Washington are also urging their more fiscally austere Tea Party colleagues to think twice before allowing the budget-cutting axe to fall too heavily on the Pentagon or its programs. John Bolton, who served as permanent representative to U.N. in President George W. Bush's administration and now appears on Fox News, recently entered the fray asking the Tea Party groups to proceed carefully,” PBS News reported Aug. 22.

"The Tea Party has had a major impact on Washington, shifting the terms of the national debate from how much to spend to how much to cut. This is a significant achievement," Bolton wrote, but then adding, "American liberty is only as strong as our ability to defend it, and a hollowed-out military is a disservice to both the cause of freedom and the Framers' vision of the Constitution."

The budget cutting debate “leaves Military Bastions in an interesting position. Politically, they have been reliably Republican - narrowly backing Sen. John McCain in 2008 and President Bush by 10 points in 2000. But these communities have become dependent on military bases and the jobs and spending that come with them,” PBS News added in its Aug. 22 report.

Meanwhile, any new cuts to military benefits will directly impact “the 8.4 million residents of the Military Bastions” nationwide, and not counting the military members who are now fighting the War on Terror worldwide.

Image source of U.S. military members that number 1,477,896 active duty, and 1,458,500 Reserve personnel for an annual U.S. military budget of $692 billion: Wikipedia

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