Rep blasts higher ed aid to Pakistan, as military suspends US tuition assistance

Why is the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 prioritize," 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-N.C., also introduced an amendment to a budget bill to restore the program.

Poe described the cost of the program as .1 percent of the Defense Department's budget, and one that has helped graduate 50,000 individuals.

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    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 U.S. spent on education and social services aid to Pakistan in fiscal 2012. The U.S. spent a total of $370 million on all forms of nondefense aid to Pakistan that year -- which also represents just a fraction of the total amount obligated.

    The aid outrage is similar to that felt regarding $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 choice, 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."

    The Army program gives soldiers as much as $4,500 annually to take courses, at accredited schools, toward high school and college diplomas. Army officials could not give a specific amount on how much the cuts would save, but said 201,000 soldiers used the program in fiscal 2012 at the cost of $373 million.