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In Our Opinion — March 2012

The Funding Battle Continues

When President Barack Obama submitted a proposed $525.4 billion Department of Defense base budget for fiscal 2013 to Congress last month, we took a close look — as we're sure most of you did — at the funding request made to support quality of life, including Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs and services. Needless to say, it left us shaking our heads.

Yes, the overall fiscal 2013 funding request for military family support programs — including MWR, childcare and youth programs, commissaries, and warfighter and family services — remained the same, $8.5 billion, as in fiscal 2012.

But the request specifically earmarked for MWR programs — the lifeblood of what you do each and every day to boost the morale of military families — actually decreased from $1.5 billion in fiscal 2012 to $1.4 billion in fiscal 2013.

The question is why?

In MWR, funding for activities in Categories A, B and (on a limited scale) C is critical to the families who utilize these programs and services to “get away” — even for a few hours — from the daily stress of military life.

Since the Global War on Terror began more than a decade ago, funds have been diverted from MWR programs that are essential quality-of-life benefits for servicemembers and their families. As a result, you as MWR professionals have faced an ongoing uphill climb to ensure that these activities continue — and you have done a tremendous job.

Of course, throughout the entire MWR community, providing these essential quality-of-life programs requires additional funding streams. During wartime efforts in the past 10 years, budgets have had to focus on the fight, and MWR programs have had to take a back seat when it comes to getting sufficient appropriated funding (APF) support to meet your needs.

With more APF dollars going to Category A mission-sustaining activities during wartime efforts, fewer APF dollars went into Categories B and C. As a result, nonappropriated funds (NAF) generated from Category B and C activities, and exchange dividends generated by the Army & Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES), Navy Exchange Service Command (NEXCOM), Marine Corps Exchanges (MCX) and Coast Guard Exchanges (CGX) remained your primary funding sources, leaving it up to you to fight for every dollar you could get.

Now, as the drawdown of U.S. troops continues in Southwest Asia — combined with the fiscal 2013 budget proposal that includes a decrease in the number of troops in the Army and Marine Corps, as well as a reduced Army presence in Europe — these developments contribute to the overall picture: the MWR funding battle continues, and the struggle to obtain the dollars necessary for the programs and services you provide will require additional stamina and all the reinforcements you can muster.

We hope that implementing a defense strategy that cuts DoD spending by nearly $500 billion in the next 10 years does not cut into MWR funding too deeply, especially with all the good things going on across MWR in all services.

One exciting quality-of-life development is the opening of new lodging facilities — such as Navy Lodge North Island (page 16), and in the future, Army Lodging facilities at Fort Lee, Va., and Fort Benning, Ga. — to accommodate the needs of servicemembers, family members, DoD civilians and visitors on travel orders, staying on base for training or special events, or other circumstances where lodging is a necessity.

We could go on and on about all the exciting things taking place in the MWR community, and we hope that lack of funding will not prevent these critical quality-of-life programs from continuing.

However, Congress holds the purse strings, and we trust that Congress will honor the commitment to quality of life and that the budget, when finally passed, ensures that MWR programs do not regress, but rather progress.