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Possible National Guard cuts have some worried

BY MITCH MCANDREW | AUGUST 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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The Iowa National Guard is once again facing prospective budget cutbacks, staged to occur at the end of the federal fiscal year at the end of next month, and this time, military students could be affected.

The main objective of the revamp is to find the optimal size of the Army, large enough to continue to defend the nation but small enough to be financially efficient. This includes Reserve and Army National Guard members as well as those on active duty.

There are several proposals from lawmakers, and the legislation is still being debated. One plan leaves the National Guard untouched at 350,000 soldiers, while other versions reduce Guard numbers to 335,000 soldiers or 315,000 service members, respectively.

The Iowa National Guard has a force of approximately 9,200, made up of both Army and Air Guard members. The latter plan would cut roughly 650 of this force.

The plan’s many unknowns are leaving a number of National Guard officials apprehensive, as they can do little more than guess.

“It’s all very speculative right now,” said Duff McFadden, the Guard public-affairs officer.

One of the main concerns among the University of Iowa’s military community are the consequences that the budget cuts could have on educational benefits for soldiers, such as the National Guard Education Assistance Program.

The program gives money to undergraduate students who are Iowa National Guard members attending a postsecondary school.

Military and veteran students have a significant presence on Iowa’s campus.

The university’s ROTC program is home to approximately 110 cadets, and the program is seeing increased participation.

In 2013, there were 501 students enrolled at the university receiving some kind of military benefits, and 177 of these students were on the post 9/11 GI Bill.

Statewide, 945 college students are furthering their education using National Guard Education Assistance Program benefits.

Although there is no concrete evidence of the prospective cuts affecting these vital educational resources, it is also not unlikely given Iowa’s recent legislative track record.

In early 2012, the Legislature cut funding to the education almost in half, which created an uproar among many veteran and ROTC groups in the state.

The legislation was ultimately reversed thanks to fierce opposition, but the incident left an impression.

“Politically, it would be very dicey to cut educational benefits for veterans and military personnel,” said David Johnson, a senior database manager in the UI Registrar’s Office. “Of all the things that our taxes go to, education makes the most sense.”

Regardless of the possible implications of the budget cuts, UI Professor of military science Joseph Albrecht remains optimistic.

“While the benefits are nice, they are certainly not the only reason students are interested in military service,” he said. “As long as there are cadets, we will help them find the best way to obtain financial assistance.”


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