support the troops, bush style
The Bush Administration is showing typical support and concern for the troops who are carrying out his policies in Iraq: The Pentagon can't seem to find the money for promised hazardous duty and separation bonuses.
The Pentagon wants to cut the pay of its 148,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, who are already contending with guerrilla-style attacks, homesickness and 120- degree-plus heat.
Unless Congress and President Bush take quick action when Congress returns after Labor Day, the uniformed Americans in Iraq and the 9,000 in Afghanistan will lose a pay increase approved last April of $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" and $150 a month in "family separation allowances."
The Defense Department supports the cuts, saying its budget can't sustain the higher payments amid a host of other priorities. But the proposed cuts have stirred anger among military families and veterans' groups and even prompted an editorial attack in the Army Times, a weekly newspaper for military personnel and their families that is seldom so outspoken.
Congress made the April pay increases retroactive to Oct. 1, 2002, but they are set to expire when the federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30 unless Congress votes to keep them as part of its annual defense appropriations legislation.
Imminent danger pay, given to Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force members in combat zones, was raised to $225 from $150 a month. The family separation allowance, which goes to help military families pay rent, child care or other expenses while soldiers are away, was raised from $100 a month to $250.
Last month, the Pentagon sent Congress an interim budget report saying the extra $225 monthly for the two pay categories was costing about $25 million more a month, or $300 million for a full year. In its "appeals package" laying out its requests for cuts in pending congressional spending legislation, Pentagon officials recommended returning to the old, lower rates of special pay and said military experts would study the question of combat pay in coming months.
A White House spokesman referred questions about the administration's view on the pay cut to the Pentagon report.
This sutiation, while not irreparable, is still reprehensible. Let's face facts. Bush's missile defense pipedream is the budget buster. Ponying up to pay our troops approved combat and separation pay is not even an option.
I'm sure Bush will eventually do the right thing, to great applause from his apologists, but really. It's ridiculous matters even got this far. If Bush truly supported the troops -- or was even a halfway decent President -- he'd have never permitted such a thing to happen.
Update: Props to Tacitus for his expression of outrage from the right; he's quite correct that "it is evidence of incompetence at best" (emphasis his).
Update 2: As I anticipated, the Pentagon has backed away from the idea (props to Angry Bear for the link). Good. Here's a free hint, guys: If "disclosure of the idea quickly [becomes] a political embarrassment," that's a pretty good hint you shouldn't do it.