A plan to reduce the federal deficit between now and 2028 is targeting military and veterans’ benefits. The plan, as articulated by the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in a report it completed in November, also focuses on other mandatory and discretionary federal programs. If fully adopted, the changes would save the federal government a total of $10 billion or more during the next decade. The present federal budget deficit, covering the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, 2017 and ended last Sept. 30, is now $779 billion, or 3.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), according to CBO. Suggested budget cuts for the Defense Department include:
* Reducing the Pentagon’s overall budget.
* Reducing DoD’s operation and maintenance appropriation for every category except funding for the Defense Health Program.
* Capping increases in basic pay for military personnel.
* Replacing military personnel with civilian employees.
* Canceling the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and buying more F-16 and F/A-18 aircraft instead.
* Stop construction of Ford-class aircraft carriers, and reduce funding for naval construction.
* Reduce the size of the Nuclear Triad (ground, air and sea-based weapons systems), and cancel the Long-Range Standoff Weapon.
* Defer development of the B-21 strategic stealth bomber, and retire both the B-1B bomber and the F-22 fighter.
* Cancel both the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System, and the production of the new missile for the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent System.
* Reduce the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rate to 80 percent of average housing costs.
Here are some key recommendations for veterans and retirees:
* An enrollment fee and minimum out-of-pocket requirements for TRICARE for Life, the health-care plan that covers military retirees.
* Narrowing veterans’ eligibility for disability compensation by excluding “certain disabilities unrelated to military duties.”
* Reduction of disability payments for veterans once they reach full retirement age for Social Security.
* Narrowing eligibility for disability compensation for veterans with low disability ratings.
* End eligibility for enrollment in the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system for veterans in Priority Groups 7 and 8 – that is, those with the highest incomes.
In presenting the suggested savings, CBO maintained that it did so without either endorsing or opposing each provision it put forth in the report. Nor did it provide specific details regarding how the cuts should be made, deferring such decisions to the departments and agencies responsible for each program.