While the US military has had numerous recent budget problems in the form of mandatory budget cuts known as sequestration over the past few years, Arizona Representative Martha McSally has put musicians squarely in the line of fire by adding an amendment to the House’s 2017 (fiscal year) national defense budget, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Her amendment essentially guts the US military’s large band and music program by essentially starving them of money. Rep. McSally’s amendment reads:
None of the funds made available by [the National Defense Authorization Act] may be used for performances by a military musical unit (as defined in section 974 of title 10, United States Code) described in paragraph (2)(B) or (3) of subsection (a) of such section. Source
This, in spite of the fact that military band spending is about $500 million – not a small chunk of money, to be sure, but only .0083% of the total NDAA proposal of $602 billion. Despite this relatively small budget, the US military is the single largest employer of musicians in the US.
Representative McSally is no stranger to hostility toward military musicians, either. Last year, she was quoted in an AirForceTimes article saying:
“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun.”
The NDAA is essentially the military’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year, and as such is one of the most important bills passed through Congress. Both the House and the Senate come up with separate versions of the defense budget, and then must meet in committee come up with a joint version that will be presented to the President for his signature.
How to Help – Contact Your Representatives!
Not all is lost, yet, though! But if you want to help preserve military bands and musicians you need to take action quickly by getting in touch with your Senators and Representative in Congress!
Make sure to contact your state Senators first, and tell them you are against this amendment to cut military band budgets. Right now this language only appears in the House’s version of the bill, and if enough Senators are against this amendment, it will not make it into the final bill once the House and Senate meet to resolve any differences in their respective bills. Additionally, please contact your Representative for your local district and tell them that you are against this amendment.