Congress has voted to restore the military’s tuition assistance program but has left the Coast Guard behind.
The 2013 government funding bill passed Thursday by the House and now on its way to the White House ordered the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to keep paying tuition assistance through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
The Army, Air Force and Marine Corps had all announced that they suspended their programs in a move that would save between $250 million and $300 million this year. The Navy had not suspended its program.
Congress does not give the services extra money to pay for benefits, requiring them to restart their programs by making other cuts.
“What this does is reverse the decision from the Department of Defense that took away some of the abilities of our troops, when they are brought into the service, have in terms of subsidizing their tuition,” said Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who led the charge to save the program after receiving thousands of complaints. “This would return it to the way it was before.”
The Coast Guard, which also announced it was suspending tuition assistance, is not covered because Inhofe’s amendment applied only to the defense budget. Coast Guard funding for tuition assistance is included in the Homeland Security budget. Coast Guard funding is included in the government funding bill, HR 933, but no one offered an amendment to protect its tuition assistance program
The amendment orders the services to carry out tuition assistance programs for the remainder of fiscal 2013, spending the amount allocated in the budget for the program minus the 9.4 percent cut required under sequestration. It is worded as an order, giving the services no flexibility.
UPDATE: Despite early reports to the contrary, Coast Guard officials say the service was included in the 2013 government funding bill passed Wednesday in the Senate and Thursday by the House.