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Public Statements

Inhofe-Hagan Amendment Introduced To Reinstate Tuition Assistance Program For Servicemembers

Press Release

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Senator Kay Hagan has joined Republican Senator Jim Inhofe, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to introduce an amendment reinstating the Tuition Assistance program for servicemembers. In the wake of sequestration, the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps have decided to suspend Tuition Assistance benefits, which are designated for active duty servicemembers. Earlier this week, Hagan sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel expressing her deep concern about the decision.

In FY2012, approximately 300,000 servicemembers participated in the Tuition Assistance program. In the same time period, more than 50,000 degrees, diplomas or certificates were earned by active duty servicemembers enrolled in the program. The decision exempts those already receiving aid, but prevents servicemembers from submitting new requests for the assistance.

"We cannot put the burden of addressing our long-term fiscal challenges on the backs of our servicemembers," said Senator Hagan. "The tuition assistance program gives our best and brightest the opportunity to continue developing their skills while on active duty, which will ultimately lead to smoother transitions to civilian life. Though I understand that the Department of Defense has tough budget decisions to make, I believe that it is shortsighted to completely suspend this program. I urge my colleagues to join me and Senator Inhofe to pass this amendment and reinstate this crucial program."

In the letter Hagan wrote:

"While I recognize that sequestration is forcing the Department of Defense to make difficult budgetary decisions, I believe that denying educational opportunities to our servicemembers is the wrong way to find savings, and I fear this decision will inhibit the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps from developing the highly skilled forces they need to succeed in this current environment.

In the letter, Hagan also emphasizes the importance of Tuition Assistance in helping to ensure servicemembers are prepared to enter the civilian workforce when they leave the military.

"Tuition Assistance also enhances the professionalism of the Active, Guard, and reserve forces by helping servicemembers more fully develop their skills, serves as an important tool to retain them in the military, and prepares those who choose to leave the military for a successful transition into the civilian workforce."

The letter reads as follows:

The Honorable Charles T. Hagel
Secretary of Defense
100 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000

Dear Secretary Hagel,

I am deeply concerned about the recent decision by the Air Force, Army and the Marine Corps to suspend the tuition assistance program. While I recognize that sequestration is forcing the Department of Defense to make difficult budgetary decisions, I believe that denying education opportunities to our servicemembers is the wrong way to find savings, and I fear this decision will inhibit the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps from developing the highly skilled forces they need to succeed in this current environment.

Thousands of servicemembers utilize the tuition assistance program to complete a high school diploma, earn college credit, or complete a degree. The services benefit from the tuition assistance program by providing their best and brightest with the opportunity to continue developing their skills and furthering education wile on active duty. Tuition Assistance also enhances the professionalism of the Active, guard, and Reserve forces by helping servicemembers more fully develop their skills, serves as an important tool to retain them in the military, and prepares those who choose to leave the military for a successful transition into the civilian workforce.

Again, I recognize that Congress' inability to address our long-term fiscal challenges has forced the Department o make many difficult budget decisions. However, senior defense officials have continually discussed the dangers of creating a hollow force. I agree that we should not hollow out our most critical asset -- the brave men and women serving this Nation. Completely suspending this program, rather than simply reducing its funding by an amount proportionate to the cuts mandated by sequestration, is an alarming decision.

I urge the Department to reconsider the suspension of Tuition Assistance in the Air Force, Army and Marine Corps , and to prevent the Navy from pursing similar actions. I believe the department can find other, lower priority areas to make reductions to allow our servicemembers to continue receiving tuition assistance.

Sincerely,

Kay R. Hagan
United States Senator


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