WASHINGTON - Why is the US funding higher education for its ‘Benedict Arnold ally’ Pakistan when the Pentagon is cutting tuition assistance for American troops?
That’s the question Rep Ted Poe, R-Texas, asked as he prepared to introduce a bill Tuesday to give Pakistan aid the ‘sequester’ treatment - halting the money until US tuition assistance is restored.
“Why are we funding education programs for our Benedict Arnold ally when we can’t fund - or don’t fund - the education for our military? And to Pakistan of all places, where hatred for America is at its highest. Washington should watch its spending and prioritise,” Poe said on the floor Monday. “It’s time, Mr Speaker, to sequester Pakistan.”
Poe is the latest congressional lawmaker to try and short-circuit the tuition assistance cuts, which the administration began to make in light of the sequester. Last week, Sens. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., and Kay Hagan, D-NC, also introduced an amendment to a budget bill to restore the program. Poe described the cost of the program as 0.1 per cent of the Defense Department’s budget, and one that has helped graduate 50,000 individuals.
He said the Marines spent roughly $47 million from the program last year — comparing that to the $12.7 million spent on higher education in Pakistan.
“And that’s not all,” Poe said. “Since the sequester, the administration has approved $37 million in foreign aid to Pakistan.” The figure on higher education aid represents just a fraction of the $47.2 million the US spent on education and social services aid to Pakistan in fiscal 2012.
The US spent a total of $370 million on all forms of aid to Pakistan that year - which also represents just a fraction of the total amount obligated.
The aid outrage is similar to that over $250 million in aid recently announced for Egypt.
Several branches of the military have pulled back on tuition assistance since the sequester took effect March 1.
The Marine Corps said in a statement last week that it is trying to preserve ‘essential programs’ and that leadership “remains committed to providing opportunities to Marines as they pursue their educational goals.”
“Education counselors are available to assist Marines with their education choices including providing information about other education programs,” the statement said, noting there are “other education funding options such as the GI Bills, grants, scholarships and loans that can support a broader continuum of learning and educational goals.”