June 6th, 2011
Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Robert Gates (SECDEF) recently delivered a policy speech in which he suggested that politicians must do something to fix the military compensation system in order to make it more efficient or DoD will not be able to meet its obligations in the coming years. With a strong call to reduce the national debt, which is nearly $15 trillion, the DoD budget will most certainly be less and less in the coming years. Change is coming.
I think there are modifications we can make in the areas of pay, retirement and education, some painful, yes, but should save dollars.
Can we cut the “personnel” expenditures without cutting the pay? I thing so.
SECDEF implied that those in “high demand and dangerous specialties” should be compensated more than those who are not – I have no disagreement, as a matter of fact, via special pays such as hazardous duty, flight pay, special duty assignment pay, etc., we already do. Maybe he is looking toward how those in the British military are paid. In the UK, as an example, an Electronics Tech would start at a higher level than a Culinary Specialist of the same rank – both could have the same amount of years in, they would hold the same rank, but paid differently. I am not a fan of this approach.
Military pay for our active and Reserve forces should remain as is with yearly adjustments based on the Employment Cost Index (ECI). SECDEF seems to believe that the services’ continuous ability to meet recruiting and retention targets stems from the fact our Armed Forces may be overcompensated. Our military recruiters have unprecedented numbers of applicants seeking enlistment, not because of the compensation package, but because the unemployment picture of the United States is so bleak. Also, to imply our Armed Forces may be overcompensated so soon after the Government Accounting Office’s report showed the pay gap has finally closed is a little off kilter. The 2011 pay raise of 1.4% was inline with the private sector ECI just as is the 1.4% proposal for 2012. Theoretically, any move away from ECI would produce a gap – a gap that congress spent ten years closing with half percent raises added to each ECI presidential budget pay proposal.
What would I change? I would eliminate the E-2 pay grade and phase out the E-8 pay grade. Keep the current pay structure and level (E-1 thru E-9) for the remaining pay grades to remain in-line with NATO designation (OR-1 thru OR-9).
Enlistees would ship to boot-camp as an E-1 and would be advanced to the next rank at the graduation of their initial school (A school for the Navy) or at 15 weeks post boot-camp graduation, whichever is soonest. The new E-3 would have a time in rate requirement of nine months before being eligible for E-4.
The E-7 time in rate would increase to five years with longevity raises increased for “Over 20″ and beyond. The new E-7 high year tenure would increase to 26 years and the current E-9 cap mandated by United States Code Title 10 Section 517(a). Section 517 would be increased to 3%.
Keep the retirement system as is for both active duty and the Reserve, with a couple of changes.
- Change One: Once a member retires, the member will receive their percentage of base pay as the current policy dictates; however, the member not realize yearly raises that are based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) until age 65.
- An example, if a member retires and has earned $1000 a month, the $1000 a month is what the member will receive until age 65 – at age 65, the member will start receiving the pay the member would have received as if the CPI adjustments had occurred each year with all future years adjusted by CPI until the members death.
- Change Two: Eliminate all issues with concurrent receipt (CR). Provide Concurrent Receipt for all members, including those retired under chapter 61, who earned retired pay and have a service connected disability rating.
- Concurrent Receipt is when a member who has retired from the military draws both the earned retired pay and “service connected” disability compensation from the Veteran’s Administration (VA). Currently, CR is not authorized for those who are given a disability rating less than 50% – for the members who’s retired pay is less than 50%, the VA disability amount is deducted from the members retired pay.
Eliminate Tuition Assistance (T/A). With the Post 9/11 GI Bill in place, once earned, members should have to draw from their GI Bill account for the pursuit of any non-service trade school certificates or college degree programs.
Get the Armed Forces out of the four-year college business; close our service academies. Expand Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and increase Officer Candidate School (OCS) selections to buffer the Academies losses. For the Navy, close and move OCS, Naval War College in New Port, RI, and Naval Post Graduate School is Monterey, CA, to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD – if room permits – also move Navy Education and Training to the vacated facilities in Annapolis. The other services would follow suit.
The member’s primary vehicle’s registration for base access would remain free, each additional vehicle would require a fee.
I don’t know how much each suggestion would cut, nor do I pretend to know the long term affects some of these changes may cause, but the conversation needs to happen because with a $15 trillion deficit, somethings gotta give.
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