Business Columnists HEADLINES
Even as defense budgets drop and the Joint Chiefs urge Congress to spread some of the fiscal pain across personnel accounts, the House armed services subcommittee on military personnel has said “No.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the furlough of 680,000 civilian employees for one day a week, from early July through September, to avoid taking deeper cuts in training and maintenance that could have degraded readiness to the point of threatening “core missions,” he said.
For those looking for signs that the economic recovery we’ve been promised for five years might finally be taking hold, and that the Tacoma renaissance we’ve been promised for even longer might be back on track, last week’s entries on The News Tribune’s Biz Buzz blog made for uplifting reading.
Base commissaries are facing turbulent times as staff vacancies swell under a federal hiring freeze, employee furloughs remain a worry, and the Defense Commissary Agency digests budget guidance for fiscal 2015 that will force new efficiencies on stores and, possibly, deeper cuts to store operations.
Military folks upset by Obama administration proposals to cap pay raises, to phase-in sharply higher co-pays on prescriptions filled off base and to raise Tricare costs on working-age retirees also tend to rail against such changes with arguments politicians can shrug off as stale or in error.
Rahm Emanuel, while serving as President Obama’s first chief of staff, once advised not to let a “crisis go to waste” because that’s when politicians will do things they otherwise wouldn’t.
Trying once more to get military compensation costs “under control,” the Obama administration has asked Congress to cap annual active duty and reserve component pay raises and to phase in over four years a complex formula for raising Tricare fees on retirees of all ages and their families.
With the backlog of compensa-tion claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs having ballooned in recent years, one would expect major veterans service organizations to be among the VA’s harshest critics.
What’s the difference between “intrinsic value” and “market value”? – C.B., Opelika, Ala.
Smoking-cessation drugs now are available at no charge through the Tricare Mail Order Program for service members, military family members and retirees younger than 65 who want to kick this unhealthy habit.
Can you explain “vested” and “unvested” options? – S.Y., Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Army, Air Force and Marine Corps will be forced to reopen their tuition assistance programs — and the Coast Guard likely will be pressured to follow — under a late-hour Senate amendment to a stopgap budget bill.
What does “street name” refer to? – T.W., Sioux City, Iowa
Here are some fresh developments that feuding politicians have created for the U.S. military in wartime:
What are “same-store sales” numbers? – G.R., Flagstaff, Ariz.
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