Impending budget cuts in Washington could mean big consequences for the military, including pay cuts for those serving our country, including hundreds from Kern County.
While those overseas worry about protecting America, their family members on the home front are worried about protecting their paychecks. Just days before he leaves office, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is proposing less money in paychecks for our troops next year. Panetta, a savvy Washington operative in budget politics, is leaving it to Congress to figure out how not to cut pay and keep thousands of defense employees on the job.
"We will furlough as many as 800,000 DOD civilians around the country for up to 22 days. They could face a 20 percent cut in their salary. You don't think that's going to impact on our economy?" said Panetta.
But, a recommendation to slow a pay raise for the military will put troops in the middle of that political fight between Congress and the President over spending cuts.
Panetta is proposing just a one percent increase in troop pay for 2014. According to internal Pentagon calculations, it should have been at least 1.7 percent, which was the increase this year.
For a junior enlisted service member with two years in uniform, the basic pay is about $1,500 a month.
Panetta's recommendation would mean about $130 less pay than planned. It's something Kern County veteran Wesley Barrientos says will be a hardship for our service members who are already sacrificing so much.
"We want to make sure that while they are over there they are concentrating on the fight, not concentrating on how they are going to feed their family or how their spouse is going to maintain the household while they are gone. We don't want them to worry about that. We want them to concentrate on the fighting," said Barrientos, United States Army Corporal (Ret.).
Many people don't realize that military members don't get a free ride while in the service.
"Military members have to pay for everything. Unless you are deployed, you have to pay for your uniform, your housing, your chow. It all comes out of our paychecks," said local Marine veteran Jeremy Staat.
Some officials familiar with Panetta's plan call it nothing short of a pay cut, something that will cause more hardship for cash-strapped members of our military.