With the slow economy, young veterans are finding it especially difficult to find a job. The unemployment rate for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan is nearly three points above the national average. Yet Congress has failed to stop automatic sequestration budget cuts that are decimating programs to train veterans for new jobs. Sequestration could even start to delay veterans’ medical benefits starting next year, which would make it even tougher for them to start their new civilian lives.
It’s difficult to watch Congress shortchange veterans while the Pentagon wastes billions of dollars every year on the unnecessary and unaffordable Joint Strike Fighter, with scant oversight and no accountability. The JSF is the Pentagon’s biggest program, costing $1.5 trillion – more than an entire decade of sequestration budget cuts. Taxpayers should expect a lot from any plane that costs that much, but the JSF is behind schedule, over budget and falling behind expectations; the Pentagon, however, has lowered its performance requirements twice for this underachieving aircraft.
Why continue to make excuses for a program that clearly is failing and costs so much? If budgets are really tight, we could cancel this program and fund numerous programs to help unemployed veterans find new jobs.
Anthony T. Hawkins
(The writer is the national coordinator for the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust.)