- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2012

Combat operations in Iraq may have concluded and the effort in Afghanistan may be on a politically driven timeline to completion, but American service members now find themselves fighting off a new attack - one from their own government.

TRICARE, the military’s medical program, is in the cross hairs of the Department of Defense. Citing proposed cuts as “a tough and challenging responsibility,” Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta recommended to the House Budget Committee a TRICARE fee increase of upward of 345 percent. Let’s talk numbers.

In 2010 the Defense Health Program (DHP), of which TRICARE is a component, cost taxpayers a total of $48 billion. Out of a 2010 federal budget of $3.5 trillion, DHP therefore accounted for a mere 1.4 percent. And yet since 2009, the Obama administration’s funding for welfare has ballooned to more than $430 billion, a 49 percent increase. Perhaps Mr. Panetta should harken back to those heady days when he served as President Clinton’s chief of staff. Surely he remembers that Mr. Clinton, forced into pragmatism by a Republican Congress, instituted the most sweeping reforms to welfare in the nation’s history, resulting in an astonishing drop in those living off the largesse of others.

Armed with those data, Mr. Panetta could actually take a stand on behalf of those whom he was appointed to lead. To quote Thomas Jefferson, “I think … we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious.” When a nation looks back over the past decade, there has been no greater display of industriousness than the labors of our service members - many of whom sacrificed all on Lincoln’s “altar of freedom.”

So it comes down to this: Why not reduce funding to those who have contributed nothing in order to sustain those who have contributed much? Unfortunately, given this administration’s ideology, I think I know the answer.

DAN WILSON

Stafford, Va.