Congress should quit playing games with Chugiak-Eagle River

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 19:00

Earlier this week, officials with the U.S. Department of Defense warned massive potential budget cuts could deal a devastating blow to the military. If the “sequestration” cuts go into effect, the Pentagon will be forced to slash $46 billion from its budget in the next seven months.

Officials say this could mean cuts to everything from troop readiness to spending on mental health. And, if enacted, these cuts could have a major impact not just on our nation’s military, but on the Chugiak-Eagle River community.

According to figures supplied by the State of Alaska, roughly 1 in 5 area residents is either currently serving in the military or is a veteran. Some of our local schools have enrollments that are 50 percent military or higher. To say that Chugiak-Eagle River is a military-dependent community would be an understatement. If the military’s budget is slashed, there is no doubt we’ll feel the impact here.

Officials on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson have already begun planning for the potential sequestration. They’re preparing to cut civilian projects on base, scale back operations and take whatever other measures might be necessary to work on a shoestring budget.

Unfortunately, these budget cuts don’t have to happen. In fact, all Congress has to do is make a deal that would basically keep the existing budget in force. However, Republicans say they want spending cuts, while Democrats argue they want an increase in revenue, i.e., taxes.

Because Republicans are bruised from their previous concessions on the “debt ceiling,” and Democrats are flying high after the recent elections, neither side wants to back down. So instead, they both appear to be playing a high-stakes game of chicken — a game that won’t end well for either side.

Congress should put aside its partisan bickering and simply make a deal. It doesn’t have to be a grand bargain that solves the deficit crisis in one fell swoop. All it has to be is a deal in which both sides give in just a little bit.

In our current political climate, that doesn’t seem very likely. Instead, it’s looking more and more like our elected officials plan to let sequestration kick in…so they can then blame the other side for whatever happens next.

We didn’t elect these folks to play chicken with our national defense — or with Chugiak-Eagle River. Congress needs to stop playing games with our community.

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