Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on
 

Will candidates let returning troops fall off the fiscal cliff?

By Ron A. Astor, Special to CNN
updated 10:16 AM EDT, Mon October 29, 2012
Back from Afghanistan, troops from the Indiana Army National Guard are greeted by family and friends on September 26.
Back from Afghanistan, troops from the Indiana Army National Guard are greeted by family and friends on September 26.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ron Astor: We need plans to provide services for returning vets if defense is deeply cut
  • Astor: Candidates laud military members but provide no detailed plans for re-integration
  • Tens of thousands back from wars wonder what services will survive, he says
  • Astor: Obama "Joining Forces" is great, but it needs to be expanded with federal funds

Editor's note: Ron Avi Astor is the Richard M. and Ann L. Thor professor in urban social development at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. He is the leader of Building Capacity in Military-Connected Schools, a partnership involving USC and eight Southern California military connected school districts. He is the author of four new books published by Columbia University, Teachers College Press, aimed at creating supports for students from military families in public schools.

(CNN) -- With the presidential race heading into its final stretch, both candidates vow to protect the sacred promises made to military families. But neither is offering any details on how they might support military families if we hit a fiscal cliff with budget cuts that could wipe out services for military and veterans' families.

Join CNN for the presidential debates
Watch Tuesday's presidential debate and CNN's exclusive expert analysis starting at 7 p.m. ET on CNN TV, CNN.com and CNN's mobile apps. Become an analyst for your friends with our new online clip-and-share feature that lets you share your favorite debate moments on Facebook and Twitter.

Month after month, in the midst of a heated presidential and congressional pre-election cycle, we see no organized blueprint to integrate millions of military family members into civilian society.

Since 2001, more than 2 million troops have returned from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have spent less time at home than service members in the past because of frequent deployments, making readjustment and life at home for families harder than ever.

Today, as the military drawdown in Afghanistan proceeds, tens of thousands of military members are returning to uncertainty about their and their families' future. What services will be cut? Will it be medical care, mental health services or school supports for children?

Ron Astor
Ron Astor

The Republican National Convention barely mentioned military and veteran families. The Democratic National Convention was a great homage to our vets but didn't revealed specific plans for programs that President Barack Obama would support. After more than 10 years of war in Iraq and men and women in uniform continuing to die in Afghanistan, this silence on a national plan or funding for services only increases the stress and uncertainty that military families feel every day.

With all the public celebration of military families on the campaign trail, this lack of proposals for new resources or a detailed plan of how federal agencies will coordinate the integration of returning troops seems like a violation of our nation's promise and its social contract with the millions of brave warriors and their families.

Fiscal cliff danger: Another downgrade?

No one doubts Republicans and Democrats honor and care about military families. But words and public recognition are not enough.

"Joining Forces," led by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, is the Obama administration's broad initiative involving the public and private sectors to help provide services and opportunities for military members and their families. Last year, this campaign waged by large corporations, nonprofit organizations and universities raised the visibility of the needs of military families and veterans.

This national leadership is exactly what we need as a nation. But it is not enough. It must be on a much larger scale, backed up with federal resources. Obama's directive last year that all federal agencies cooperate and use existing resources to help military families was also a huge step in the right direction. But keeping that sacred vow to military and veteran families will require a federally led partnership with civilian society that provides full spectrum of programs designed to make the transition from military member to civilian a smooth one.

Both parties seem to be waiting for the elections to be over and are accepting the possibility of deep, across-the-board cuts in the Department of Defense if Congress doesn't reach a budget compromise during the post-election period.

But before the election, both candidates should provide detailed plans or at least debate their stance on federally supported programs for military and veteran families. Our political leaders should be striving to expand Veterans Administration services to meet the growing demand.

At minimum, those leaving the military need the education, employment, health and mental health services they were promised.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions in this commentary are solely those of Ron Astor.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
updated 12:25 PM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
updated 12:23 AM EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
updated 12:11 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
updated 1:24 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
updated 9:06 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
updated 11:54 AM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
updated 10:32 AM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
updated 10:43 PM EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat August 30, 2014
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
updated 9:30 AM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
updated 2:49 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
updated 6:42 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
updated 9:21 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
updated 9:19 AM EDT, Wed August 27, 2014
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
updated 7:35 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
updated 4:53 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
updated 11:58 AM EDT, Tue August 26, 2014
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
updated 3:50 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Mon August 25, 2014
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
updated 5:45 PM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT