Pentagon reinstating tuition assistance

Faster than you can say New Coke, Pentagon officials are reinstating the tuition assistance program for all members of the military branches.

The announcement that DOD no longer plans to cut the popular education benefit for U.S. troops is a political defeat for the Obama administration and a rare pushback win for lawmakers skeptical of how Pentagon officials are choosing -- or threatening -- to comply with mandated spending cuts known as sequestration.

In the continuing resolution lawmakers passed last week to keep the U.S. government funded until the end of the month, members of Congress essentially told the Defense Department to find savings elsewhere.

In the weeks since sequestration started, on March 1, in order to comply with the across-the-board mandated spending cuts -- or to show Congress just how politically sensitive some cuts could be -- the Pentagon has gone right for the jugular. The Navy has canceled ship deployments, including keeping an entire aircraft carrier from the Persian Gulf, while the defense secretary’s office has threatened to start cut teachers at military schools and close discount grocery stores beloved by military spouses.  

But when it came to tuition assistance, lawmakers found themselves in a spending mood, blocking the cut cold with an amendment from Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Kay Hagan, Democrat from the military-heavy state of North Carolina.

“Based on the legislation that just passed, tuition assistance is to be reinstated across the services,” said Mark Wright, DOD spokesman, in a statement Wednesday.  “DOD agrees with Congress that the tuition assistance program is very important, both to the department and our service members. Each service is responsible for funding and administering its tuition assistance program in accordance with the DOD tuition assistance policy. We are working with the services to develop a plan to comply with any legislation.”

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images