Key Think Tanks Weigh In On Personnel Reform

May 5, 2017

Two key national security think tanks in Washington, D.C., are starting a conversation with Congress regarding reforming and modernizing military personnel and compensation systems in DoD.

The main players are the Task Force on Defense Personnel at the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). These two organizations have teamed up to produce reports and, in the case of the BPC, have testified recently before the Senate Armed Services Committee and its Subcommittee on Personnel (SASC-P) regarding their push for major defense personnel reforms.

In testimony this week before the SASC-P, the cochairs of the Bipartisan Policy Center's Task Force on Defense Personnel stressed key areas of reform from its March report, Building a F.A.S.T. Force: A Flexible Personnel System for a Modern Military.

The “reformers” are looking to change the current system in the areas of military pay and compensation, promotion, and education, as well as other important areas of support for the modern military force, such as child care.

One BPC Task Force cochair, former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), who served on the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated, “This system does work for certain core functions, and that's why it has lasted so long.” But Talent also stressed, “You have to be careful in any changes you make so that you don't do harm to the system in areas where it is working well.”

CNAS stresses many of the same points in its report, AVF 4.0: The Future of the All-Volunteer Force.

The other BPC Task Force cochair, Kathy Roth-Douquet, president and CEO of Blue Star Families, pointed out many of today's personnel policies were put in place at the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War - entirely different situations than what military servicemembers and their families face today.

Both think tanks are pushing for reform legislation as early as next year's defense authorization bill, but it was clear from the hearing that members of Congress prefer to move slowly and with caution in the area of defense personnel reform. It appears legislators want to take any further potential personnel reform slow after the recent major review of military compensation, health care, and retirement in the congressionally mandated Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC), completed in January of 2015. 

The MCRMC recommended changes in areas such as retirement, which resulted in legislation to change the retirement system, but found, for example, that the overall structure of the current Regular Military Compensation (RMC) system was sound and did not requiresweeping overhaul, as envisioned by the reformers at BPC and CNAS. 

MOAA would like to know what you think. Send a message to and tell us if you think the military personnel system needs major reforms to adapt to today's servicemembers, their families, and the current and future national security environment? 


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