The Department of Defense has finally found a way to reduce its ungainly budget. No, not by cutting out waste and fraud, but on the backs of the spouses of the troops. The Military Spouse Career Advancement Accounts program, MyCAA, began in 2009. It was designed to provide up to $6000 a year in tuition assistance for the spouses of active military personnel.
At the start of the program, applications ran at a pace of roughly 10,000 per month. But, with the recession foreclosing other options, applications had risen to 70,000 by January, 2010. With the program budgeted for $61 million in the current fiscal year, and unable to respond to demand, DoD ended the program, cold. New applications are no longer accepted, and those previously approved have had their funding cut off.
Rather than seek additional funding or finding other cuts to keep the program alive, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, testifying before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, called the program a “mistake.” There are 1.3 million military spouses. The program was designed to advance academic, professional and technical training to help spouses find jobs regardless of where their active duty partners might be stationed.
At the time of the shut down, more than 136,000 had been accepted into MyCAA with about 98,000 already receiving benefits. Some benefits have been reinstated, but not all, and new applications are not being accepted.
To put this in perspective, according the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, U. S. military spending in 2008 was $607 billion. That’s $1.66 billion a day, or $69 million every hour, 24 hours a day. MyCAA accounted for less than one hour of total military expenditures in a fiscal year.
Meanwhile, we continue to maintain an inter-continental ballistic nuclear deterrent against a Soviet Union that no longer exists, maintain installations from Europe to the Pacific that are the legacy of a war that ended 65 years ago, and submit to congressional egos that insist on procuring weapons systems that DoD neither wants nor needs. Notice I didn’t mention the cost of those two wars or that base on the island of Cuba that two presidents have said we should close. Nor did I mention the administrative, investigative and legal costs of booting 13,400 gay servicepeople out of the military under DADT.
It seems the way to cut military spending is to devise something useful and popular, then give it the ax. And before someone goes off on how spouses are not military personnel, please remember that the welfare of spouses and family play an enormous role in the morale of our active duty troops whose lives are at risk every day around the globe.