Legion Commander in Hutchinson 08 Feb 13

The National Commander of the American Legion wrapped up his Minnesota visits with dinner at the Hutchinson American Legion Post Thursday evening.

Commander Jim Koutz says the Legions’ number one concern right now is how policy changes and possible budget cuts may affect current military personnel and veterans.

Koutz says he disagrees with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta saying there only needs to be a 1% military pay increase this year, which is lower than the cost of living. He says if soldiers are held to that, all federal employees should be limited to the same pay increase.

Koutz also disagreed with the the announcement that the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman would not be sent to the Persian Gulf due to budgetary shortfalls. He’s urging Legion members to contact their legislators to avoid cuts that would be detrimental to all.

Koutz, who is a Vietnam veteran, says he’ll be returning to the country later this year to inspect three sites in an effort to continue the search for still missing soldiers. He says they will also search sites in Laos. Koutz says that POW/MIA program is also in line for possible funding cuts, which he strongly suggests “will not happen.”