For years, the Bush administration resisted efforts to increase the “death benefit” paid to the families of U.S. troops killed in duty. Then, just a few days before the White House released its full FY06 budget (a surefire political bomb), the administration reversed course. The White House suddenly proposed “a dramatic increase to $100,000 in government payments to families of U.S. troops killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars,” which would be “part of the 2006 budget proposal submitted to Congress.” At the time, ThinkProgress likened the attention-grabbing move to jumping in front of a crowd and calling it a parade.
Apparently — though it hardly seems possible — we weren’t being cynical enough.
Turns out the Defense Department never included the “death benefit” boost in its ’06 budget. Now, says Military.com, the Army is being forced to go to Congress itself, “asking for an extra $348 million to keep the administration’s word.” As DefenseTech’s Noah Shachtman explains…
…maybe the death benefit lack this year was just a simple oversight on the Pentagon’s part. Maybe the Defense Department’s PR machine spun a little faster than its financial wheels could turn. But given the cynical games the Pentagon has been playing with soldiers’ paychecks — holding them hostage, essentially, as a back-door way to inflate military spending — I’m inclined to believe the worst.
Sounds like our troops need to have another chat with Sec. Rumsfeld.