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 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT