The Trump administration budget proposal released Monday included significant cuts to the nation's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and military officials are saying those cuts would have devastating affects on U.S. military members and their families.
"It's a very unfortunate situation," Army Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Ierardi, the Pentagon's Joint Staff Director for force structure, readiness and assessment, said of the difficulties of troops who have to resort to food stamps.
Ierardi did not immediately have an estimate on how many troops were on food stamps but said he had personally dealt with the problem of families struggling to meet their dietary needs in a previous post as a division commander. He said the military would seek to mitigate the impact on families if the proposed cuts to the food stamp program were approved by Congress.
A report by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Defense lacked the means to track just how many men and women in uniform receive food stamp benefits, but the organization was able to put together some statistics:
The report found that about 23,000 active duty service members received food stamps in 2013, according to U.S. Census data. In addition, information from the Department of Defense Education Activity showed that in September 2015, 24 percent of 23,000 children in U.S. DoDEA schools were eligible for free meals, while 21 percent were eligible for reduced-price meals.
During a Monday briefing on the budget, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the Trump administration is not against the social safety net, but it wants to determine how many people are on it who do not actually need it.
Mulvaney said that more low-income Americans would need to work to qualify for benefits. "If you are on food stamps, and you are able-bodied, we need you to go to work," Mulvaney said, although members of the military now eligible for food stamps already have a full-time job in defense of the nation.