Gates aims at Military Pay and Retirement

What is wrong with Gates and his posse of clowns? Why keep attacking the deployed Soldier and his family?

In a speech at the American Enterprise Institute last week Defense Secretary Robert Gates reiterated his assertion that DoD needs to fundamentally change the way it does business.

He said procurement overhaul already has produced significant savings, and identified force size and structure, military compensation, retirement, and health care as additional targets for budget cuts to achieve a planned $400 billion in DoD budget savings over the next 10 years.

Gates launched a comprehensive review of DoD’s future needs last week to identify specific recommendations. Among the specifics he cited were:

* Lowering military compensation in light of strong recruiting and retention numbers
* Eliminating the “one size fits all” military retirement system in favor of a tiered and targeted retirement system that weights compensation towards the most in-demand specialties
* Increasing health care cost-sharing for working-age retirees

Considering the staggering debt facing the nation, the reality is that anything the government spends money on is going to come under great pressure for cutbacks in coming years.

But it’s troubling to hear Pentagon leadership citing the same old arguments that led to short-sighted changes of the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s that ultimately caused significant retention and readiness problems.

Sustaining pay comparability – through good budget times and bad – is a fundamental underpinning of the all-volunteer force. We’ve spent the last decade recovering from the follies of the past. Cutting back on military pay every year we experience satisfactory recruiting and retention is a proven method to create future retention problems. It’s the equivalent of driving a car by looking only in the rear-view mirror. Sooner or later, you’re going to crash.

On the retirement front, the country should thank its lucky stars it has the current 20-year retirement system, because it’s the primary reason we’ve been able to sustain the force through the last decade of war. The last retirement reform – the REDUX system of 1986 that cut lifetime retirement value by 22% for subsequent entrants – had to be repealed after it caused retention problems.

Now DoD budgeteers envision saving money by cutting retirement even more than REDUX did – by making military people fund more of their own retirement, delaying eligibility for retired pay until age 57 or later, and changing the retirement contribution every year based on the shortage skills of the time. They propose making it “fairer” by vesting military retirement benefits after 10 years of service.

But this system would blatantly take money from people who serve a career to pay people who leave early, creating a retention and readiness time bomb.

If you had 10 years of service, were facing a fourth tour to Afghanistan, and were given the choice of separating with a pro-rata retirement or being required to keep serving until age 57 to earn a regular retirement (knowing the military will still want to push most people off active duty well before that age), what would you do?

Budget-cutters always focus on short-term fiscal needs, recognizing that any negative consequences will be their successors’ problem to solve.

Their fatal flaw, from a national readiness standpoint, is that they plan for the best-case scenario, when a volatile real-world never follows that scenario.

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About Capers Bar

I am retired Army officer. I used to fly helicopters and airplanes while I was in the Army. Nowadays, I do other things that are not so cool and sexy. I decided to write about my journey or whatever you want to call it towards running a half-marathon this fall. I have been running since 1983, I have run the Duke City full and half marathons. I don't run that fast anymore, I did win a 10K when I was 21, those days are mercifully past me. The fastest mile I have turned is a 5:05 during one of those Army physical fitness test 2 mile runs. The point I am making is that I am old, slow, and experienced runner. I named the blog after my running buddy, Bandit, an Australian Blue Heeler. He is my 3rd K-9 running buddy, the previous two dogs were black labs. I hope to write about some of my discussions that I have with Bandit in the future. I once owned, but since sold and a satirical and irreverent sports blog that was moderately successful. I was published in the left-wing national sports media by Sports Illustrated and ESPN. I am "stuck" in Alabama working for a military contractor. I am working so fricking hard to get back to Southeast New Mexico or West Texas. Fingers and toes crossed.

2 comments on “Gates aims at Military Pay and Retirement

  1. Gates reminds me of McNamara. A fucking bean counter. I’m not even 60 and I can’t hardly walk after running 40-50 miles a week to meet the standards for 23 years. All the separation, all the deployments, all of the pain on the back end once you retire. THEY FUCKING OWE US. Gates can eat shit and bark at the moon!

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