Pentagon reinstating tuition assistance

Faster than you can say New Coke, Pentagon officials are reinstating the tuition assistance program for all members of the military branches. The announcement that DOD no longer plans to cut the popular education benefit for U.S. troops is a political defeat for the Obama administration and a rare pushback win for lawmakers skeptical of ...

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Faster than you can say New Coke, Pentagon officials are reinstating the tuition assistance program for all members of the military branches.

The announcement that DOD no longer plans to cut the popular education benefit for U.S. troops is a political defeat for the Obama administration and a rare pushback win for lawmakers skeptical of how Pentagon officials are choosing -- or threatening -- to comply with mandated spending cuts known as sequestration.

In the continuing resolution lawmakers passed last week to keep the U.S. government funded until the end of the month, members of Congress essentially told the Defense Department to find savings elsewhere.

Faster than you can say New Coke, Pentagon officials are reinstating the tuition assistance program for all members of the military branches.

The announcement that DOD no longer plans to cut the popular education benefit for U.S. troops is a political defeat for the Obama administration and a rare pushback win for lawmakers skeptical of how Pentagon officials are choosing — or threatening — to comply with mandated spending cuts known as sequestration.

In the continuing resolution lawmakers passed last week to keep the U.S. government funded until the end of the month, members of Congress essentially told the Defense Department to find savings elsewhere.

In the weeks since sequestration started, on March 1, in order to comply with the across-the-board mandated spending cuts — or to show Congress just how politically sensitive some cuts could be — the Pentagon has gone right for the jugular. The Navy has canceled ship deployments, including keeping an entire aircraft carrier from the Persian Gulf, while the defense secretary’s office has threatened to start cut teachers at military schools and close discount grocery stores beloved by military spouses.  

But when it came to tuition assistance, lawmakers found themselves in a spending mood, blocking the cut cold with an amendment from Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Kay Hagan, Democrat from the military-heavy state of North Carolina.

“Based on the legislation that just passed, tuition assistance is to be reinstated across the services,” said Mark Wright, DOD spokesman, in a statement Wednesday.  “DOD agrees with Congress that the tuition assistance program is very important, both to the department and our service members. Each service is responsible for funding and administering its tuition assistance program in accordance with the DOD tuition assistance policy. We are working with the services to develop a plan to comply with any legislation.”

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

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