The Army is suspending the Tuition Assistance program for active duty and reserve soldiers beginning Friday, according to an email obtained by the Washington Times.
The move will suspend financial assistance for soldiers who take classes in their off-duty time after work and on the weekends.
“This suspension is necessary given the significant budget execution challenges caused by the combined effects of a possible year-long continuing resolution and sequestration,” said an official Army statement Friday.
Classes that are already approved will be funded, but not new requests for assistance, according to the memo.
The Army is facing a more than $18 billion shortfall over the next seven months of the fiscal year, due to a continuing resolution funding the Army at 2012 levels, and by large automatic defense cuts known as sequestration that went into effect March 1st.
Since then, lawmakers have begun looking at legislation that would pass a 2013 defense appropriations bill instead of extending the continuing resolution that expires March 27. Meanwhile, the president and other lawmakers are attempting to find a long-term solution to the cuts of $500 billion to the defense department over the next 10 years.
But those outcomes at the moment are still uncertain.
The Army’s move will remain in effect “until the fiscal situation matures,” said the email, issued by Army Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, the deputy chief of staff of personnel.
It will not affect G.I. Bill benefits that pay for soldiers to attend college, but will still hurt soldiers who are looking to be promoted within the military, or are preparing for careers afterwards.
One Army staff sergeant based in the Washington, D.C.-area has already transferred his last G.I. benefits to his wife, and is using the tuition assistance program to take classes at the University of Maryland to pursue a teaching career after he retires.
His classes this semester are paid for, including one just approved days ago, but he is not sure what he will do next semester, said the sergeant, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record.
The sergeant, who has been with the Army for 11 years as a recruiter, said the suspension would have an effect on his job.
“One of the main benefits we can offer is tuition assistance,” he said, especially for reservists that the Army is increasingly looking to recruit.
Now, he worries that new privates he recently recruited will attempt to utilize the benefits, only to be told they are not offered anymore.
“At this point, it’s too early to tell if there will be an effect on retention or recruiting,” Lt. Gen. Bromberg told the Washington Times at a roundtable media discussion Friday at the Pentagon. “I’ll know more in the coming weeks. We’ll make appropriate judgments as the budget clarifies.”
The Marine Corps has already taken a similar move, announced last week. The Navy and Air Force are expected to make decisions next week, according to an article by the American Forces Press Service.
“The Army understands the impacts of this action and will re-evaluate should the budgetary situation improve. Soldiers should contact their local education centers with questions and to get updates. Updated information will also be posted to www.goarmyed.com,” the Army statement said.