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  • Gates Tosses Military Pay, Benefits into Risk Pool

    Gates Tosses Military Pay, Benefits into Risk Pool

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week delivered his "last major policy speech" and, in it, suggested that politicians show courage in the fiscal crisis by making the military compensation system more efficient.

    Gates has the department preparing such a set of recommendations to be part of a $400 billion defense savings package over the next 12 years.

    Specifically he criticized a "one-size-fits-all approach" to basic pay and retirement, suggesting "tiered and targeted" methods could cost less but pay more to service members in "high demand and dangerous specialties."

    He implied pay levels overall are set too high as evidenced by the services' continuous ability to meet recruiting and retention targets, except for the Army and only "during the worst years of Iraq."

    Gates again asked that TRICARE fees be raised, particularly for working age retirees. And he eyes replacing the all-or-nothing 20-year retirement plan with a more "flexible" system that would allow earlier vesting in benefits but also encourage more members to serve longer careers.

    Some of these ideas are decades old. Over the past 40 years other defense secretaries have made similar or even more unpopular proclamations to curb military benefits, from closing discount stores on base to ending tax-free allowances and shifting the military to fully taxable salaries.

    Gates had soften some of the impact of his remarks to the conservative think-tank American Enterprise Institute May 24 by reassuring Marines at Camp Lejeune just weeks earlier that any change to retirement should not affect the current force. "So don't get nervous," he said.

    The reality is that sharp changes to pay or benefits typically don't occur as a result of policy speeches or even in-depth studies written over months by commissions created for that task. Dramatic changes usually occur during fiscal emergencies, real or perceived.

    The House Armed Services Committee, for example, thought it necessary in 1984-85 to move military retirement to an accrual accounting system to ensure funding of benefits to future members stopped encroaching on money for other defense programs.

    Lawmakers then set a target for the accrual account and told Defense officials to design a retirement plan to produce the required result. That turned out to be "Redux," a plan that cut the value of 20-year retirement by roughly 25 percent for new members. As time passed and retention fell among the Redux generation, Congress repealed the plan. To preserve some cost savings, however, a $30,000 lump sum bonus was offered to any member who agreed to opt back into Redux during their 15th year of service.

    Redux was fruit of a crisis tied to rising retirement obligations. The current debt crisis is far more threatening. Total national debt is nearing $15 trillion. Unless the debt ceiling is raised by Aug. 2, the U.S. Treasury says it will default on some obligations, likely triggering a worldwide financial crisis.

    Republicans vow not to raise the ceiling unless an agreement is reached with the White House to cut federal spending deeply, to include Medicare and other prized entitlements. Vice President Joe Biden is hosting closed-door meetings with Republicans and Democrats. He promises to bring forth at least $1 trillion in spending cuts over the next 10 years.

    It's during such closed-door deals that popular programs, even military benefits, can become tempting targets. Gates' remarks encourage that military compensation be part of planned defense cuts, suggesting excess dollars going today into compensation can be diverted over time to help replace aging fleets of aircraft, ships, submarines and land warfare vehicles.

    Benefit cuts that impact current members and families in wartime could be seen as unfair. But lawmakers negotiating with Biden have plenty of other options from among recommendations made late last year by separate debt reduction panels.

    A task force co-chaired by former Sen. Pete Domenici and economist Alice Rivlin proposed a cheaper military retirement plan, which could be shaped to target future members only. It would provide some retired pay at age 60 for those with as few as 10 years service. But it would end the tradition of paying an immediate annuity after only 20 years.

    The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, co-chaired by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, recommended a study of structural changes to federal retirement plans. One idea floated is to defer cost-of-living adjustments until age 62, when a one-time catch-up raise would restore lost inflation protection.

    Perhaps the ripest fruit for those arguing federal entitlements are unsustainable is adoption of a modified Consumer Price Index (CPI) that would shave annual cost-of-living adjustments. Both deficit reduction panels endorsed it.

    The revised index is a "chain-weighted" CPI. The Bureau of Labor Statistic created it in 2002 to address criticism of "substitution bias" in other CPIs. The idea behind the revised CPI is that, as prices rise, people actually change behavior and buy cheaper items, apples instead of oranges, for example. Yet the CPI used to adjust federal entitlements assumes consumers buy the same items month after month regardless of price.

    Reformers see this as exaggerating inflation and driving up entitlement costs. Defenders of current COLAs argue the index should measure price changes for the same goods and services over time, and not be adjusted continually based on changing behaviors from the sting of rising prices.

    Shifting to the new CPI would curb entitlement spending, on average, by .25 percentage points a year. Yet by one estimate the savings could total $300 billion over the next decade, at least half from Social Security benefits.

    For the Department of Defense, proponents might argue, this change alone is a no-brainer in desperate times, serving to dampen retirement costs without singling out the military alone for fiscal sacrifice.

  • #2
    Re: Gates Tosses Military Pay, Benefits into Risk Pool

    This is ridiculous. Early retirement is a major incentive for people to join the military especially in economic times that are good.

    What needs to happen for "cost savings" from the military is better oversight on acquitions of new military equipment.

    Prime example is the F-35 program it seems that price tag gets bigger and bigger.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Gates Tosses Military Pay, Benefits into Risk Pool

      I find it interesting that all a Congressman has to do to receive a hefty paycheck and healthcare for life..is to serve one term.


      I also find it interestin that the military would have taken a cut in pay (during the "almost" budget lock out) while the politicians would not loose anything.


      Is it me....I mean, I'm not the most educated person in the world but I do have a degree. I can think for myself and this seems....wrong.

      Is the military serving the people of the United States....or the politicians?

      I'm just curious.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Gates Tosses Military Pay, Benefits into Risk Pool

        Originally posted by eslguy76 View Post
        I find it interesting that all a Congressman has to do to receive a hefty paycheck and healthcare for life..is to serve one term.


        I also find it interestin that the military would have taken a cut in pay (during the "almost" budget lock out) while the politicians would not loose anything.


        Is it me....I mean, I'm not the most educated person in the world but I do have a degree. I can think for myself and this seems....wrong.

        Is the military serving the people of the United States....or the politicians?

        I'm just curious.
        Might not appear fair but they do pass laws in our Country and are elected to office. If a person wants those bennies; then they should run. But yes, it does seem ludicrious voting for your own raises and cutting benefits to the people that defend this Nation and then let Corporations and special interests get what they want.

        I think you really change what you stand for and who you are; once you are in Congress.

        I wish they just get this debt-ceiling problem resolved. I still want to receive a check while on leave.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Gates Tosses Military Pay, Benefits into Risk Pool

          I have to admit it's not fun to be a bargining chip in leu of the recent events, espeically considering what the trade off was.

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Gates Tosses Military Pay, Benefits into Risk Pool

            Originally posted by eslguy76 View Post
            I find it interesting that all a Congressman has to do to receive a hefty paycheck and healthcare for life..is to serve one term.


            I also find it interestin that the military would have taken a cut in pay (during the "almost" budget lock out) while the politicians would not loose anything.


            Is it me....I mean, I'm not the most educated person in the world but I do have a degree. I can think for myself and this seems....wrong.

            Is the military serving the people of the United States....or the politicians?

            I'm just curious.
            How dare you be critical of our leaders! Without them where would we be today? You seem to have very dangerous thinking here I think I'm going to give Homeland security a call on you. lol

            Comment

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