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The Bottom Line - The Survey Says?

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May 15, 2014

By Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret) 

There’s no doubt sequestration places uniformed service leaders in a difficult position, a position MOAA believes, if continued, would put national security at risk.

Sequestration has the Pentagon uniformed and civilian leaders attempting to balance a budget that is taking a topline cut of $1 trillion over 10 years. Based on that burden, the Pentagon has put everything on the table to find savings — including the pay and benefits needed to sustain the all-volunteer force.

In a May 6 hearing, the Joint Chiefs testified side-by-side before the full Senate Armed Services Committee and unanimously defended pay and benefits proposals that “slow the growth” of personnel cost growth by shifting costs onto currently serving members and retirees and their families.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin Dempsey told the senators, “We've been tasked to reduce the defense budget by up to $1 trillion over 10 years while upholding our sacred obligation to properly train, equip, and prepare the force."

Dempsey said all of the Joint Chiefs and all of the services' senior enlisted leaders support the proposals to “rebalance military compensation.”

But do the troops? 

Several defense leaders in separate hearings said the servicemembers they’ve talked to are willing to accept pay and benefit changes as long as they can get the training and equipment needed to do their jobs.

This feedback flies in the face of recent survey data.

So who are these defense leaders talking to and what does the survey say? It appears they are not talking to servicemembers and their families who are taking online surveys.

MOAA conducted a compensation survey in March. Of the 4,700 currently serving members who responded, more than 65 percent indicated they were least satisfied with their basic pay.

In a survey conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation of Post-9/11 veterans and currently serving members, 83 percent indicated they do not favor the Pentagon’s FY 2015 proposals to cap pay, cut commissary benefits, and increase housing and health care costs.

A survey conducted by Military.com found 90 percent of active duty servicemembers rejected the proposed changes to pay and benefits issued by the Pentagon.

The Association of the United States Navy (AUSN) also conducted a poll. In the same hearing where the Joint Chiefs testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, AUSN President Vice Adm. John Totushek, USN (Ret), said their survey found the same results as Military.com.

"We did a recent study basically asking people to tell us what they thought about the impending changes, and 90 percent of them didn't like what was being proposed," Totushek said. "What the chiefs are hearing might not be what's really going on."

Former U.S. Rep. and retired Army Lt. Col. Allen West, who sat on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, called the Pentagon’s pay and benefit proposals “quite disturbing,” and continued, “We should not be forcing our men and women in uniform to choose between a paycheck and training.” 

MOAA agrees.

The bottom line: What does the survey say? MOAA believes it’s pretty clear servicemembers and their families do not support these proposals. Fortunately, the House Armed Services Committee feels the same way. 



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  • I must have missed something. The astute Members of Congress tell us they want to save a trillion dollars over ten years. To propose to pay for it, they are thrilled to take it out of the pay and benefits of the well less than one percent who actually volunteer to serve in harm’s way to protect the remaining 99%-plus who sit home and go shopping. This includes the 1%, very few of who volunteered to serve in harm’s way but have had a great time transferring the income and assets of the working, middle class, retirees, and members of the Armed Forces into their overflowing pockets.

    Can anyone explain why only those who volunteered and served in the Armed Forces are responsible for covering the Department of Defense budget while those who sit, watch, and complain about military pay and benefits accomplish their goal of never serving or paying federal taxes to support the cost of defending the country?

  • I totally agree with the statement that it is not true that General Officers will only say what the Administration wants to hear. Some of my best and respected friends are General Officers. As far as when certain Generals were promoted well, I suggest that the facts have already been checked and I stand firm on that issue. In regard to my question concerning Bush Generals, this was in response to Richard Levy dissing the President of the United States on this MOAA site. My response was aimed at shutting down such disrespect on a site that represents military officers. With 34 years of service myself (both enlisted and officer) I came in under Eisenhower and went out under Clinton, I don't take any of this lightly. Your suggestion of caution is understood, but I believe misdirected.

  • WRT to the comment about "Bush Generals" I think you need to review your numbers. Remember that in addition to being political appointees, the rank comes with the position to which they are appointed. Having not done a person-for-person verification, but from my personal experience, most general/flag officers serve in a position for 1-4 years, especially at the O-9/10 ranks. Since Pres Obama has been in office since Jan 2009, nearly all the senior officers have been appointed to their present post under his administration, so I think it's pretty safe to say that those senior leaders are not "Bush Generals." I also disagree with the blanket statements that General Officers will only say what the Administration wants to hear. I know several General Officers who have disagreed with the in-place CINC and said so. Some have kept their jobs, others have not, but I was taught that sweeping generalizations (no pun intended) weaken otherwise strong arguments, so be cautious of too much emotion and check the facts first. Respectfully submitted.

  • Senior military officers serve at the pleasure of The President, with the advice and consent of the Senate. They are soldiers/sailors and airmen, but become political by nature once nominated and confirmed. It would take an "en masse" departure from the party line for the American people to hear the real truth. Unfortunately, that is unlikely to happen! Must be some pretty strong "Kool-Aid" being passed around at the upper echelons! Also, if troops feel intimidated at all by their senior leadership, they too are likely to respond in a manner they think their leadership wants. Thus, "the skew".

  • ( as I was saying) Consequently, we as a nation are where we are at today. Confused by rhetoric as we watch our institutions and infrastructure crumble while we are convinced that taxes are bad and our right to carry weapons under the second amendment is supported by a "don't tread on me" attitude (that I am not sure most people even understand).
    Our military leaders should be very careful in how they present their position politically and even more so how they are perceived as leaders to the nation. It is humorous to note that they have evolved to asking the troops what they prefer in surveys thus invoking service members presence as pawns in a greater chess game, in addition to their role as biological replacement units in the nation's defense.
    If jointness is in then JCS should speak with one voice and all should be on the same sheet of music with real facts and honesty to back up what they say. This never used to be that hard and with today's technology it really should be much easier to come together.

  • Here's the thing. For 13 years we have been at war. Thirteen years ago it was decided that we go to war with the Army that we have. This resulted in what I believe was a major abuse of our reserves and National Guard. There was no draft, and General Shinseki's assessment of the number of troops needed for Iraq was laughed at by civilian appointees and politicians who were clueless as to what was required. This was because these civilians had no idea what it means to deploy a military force or even what a military force does. Consequently, in my opinion, the powers that be went "general shopping" and Instead civilians in government authorized the expenditure of billions of dollars for numerous contractors and nation building in foreign countries.
    Our civilian population was in fear due to an unprovoked attack on our soil. Yet, they were told to go shopping. Consequently no one other than the military had skin in the game. As things continued security clearances were approved by contractors for contractors and the wars evolved into quasi-military adventures which included mercenary contractors who unlike the military had impunity when it came to war crimes.
    Many civilians viewed the wars like a sports game as the TV brought hype into their living rooms. Because they "went shopping" and were oblivious to what the military does, the theme became "thank you for your service". TV shows, video games , and movies gave them the only taste of the military they could understand. Members of Congress set the example by calling the newly elected commander in chief names that never would have stood in any other era. These same persons in congress along with their appointees set out to make the country's leadership fail by belittling a dedicated commander in chief who was elected twice by a majority of citizens and the downward spiral just continually gained momentum.
    Consequently, we as a nation are where we are at today. Confused by rhet

  • The choice between training and equipment, and cuts in pay and benefits is a ridiculous choice. Historically, it has been shown that combat tested troops leave the service enmasse after every conflict when there is RIF and a reduction in pay and benefits. The best equipment, and the troops trained to operate them commensurate with the threat and mission are necessary to achieve success and victory in combat.

  • There were two issues and then article only addresses one. Congress asked if the troops would accept some benefit cuts if they received adequate training and equipping funds to do their job. For a volunteer Army both are important and they shouldn't be considered separately. Reportedly the Army is stating only 20% will remain at the highest level of combat readiness (not sure what the historic norm is) due to budget shortfalls. Big picture the Army is getting smaller and only 20% will be ready to deploy to combat quickly, while simultaneously we see crises emerging all around the world. This doesn't make sense to most rational people.

  • It seems little mentioned or understood that 3- and 4-star General and Flag Officers are political appointees. Lieutenant General / Vice Admiral and above are “appointed” by the President. If they want their jobs, or to keep their jobs, they will say whatever the President and the Administration wants to hear and tells them to say. (The last time a military member’s service record goes before a selection board of her/his military peers is for selection to O-8.)

    There should be no surprise that a non-partisan, non-DOD controlled survey of active duty service members, their families, and retirees will differ greatly from the President and his Administration’s “party line.” It does not matter what political party the President or his/her Administration is from, bad politics, bad policy, and wrong thinking will never get the approval of the people.

    Finally, I just do not understand why active duty members, their families, and military retirees are continuously held up as the source of a problem for our country’s military budget. Why is this “select group” the focus to “fix” the nation’s military budget? Why is this select group being asked to give back, give up, or take less so that DoD has more money to spend on national defense. Why is this select group being targeted to pay so to man, train, equip, and deploy our active duty forces? This attack from Washington is so focused and so savage that the only conclusion can be that many of our Washington politicians and their minions want to punish military members (current and former) and their families for choosing to serve in our military.

    What is next, requiring active duty military members to buy their own uniforms, deployment food, ammunition, guns, spare parts, aircraft and boat fuel, pay for repairs when “they” break something in battle. What is going on in this country?

  • This is another government scam in order to justify stealing money from our service-members and retirees. I know no military member is going to take less for what they do - and they shouldn't. As a disabled retiree, I know this is not what they would say. They don't make enough now and I didn't make enough when I was in compared to civilians. The DOD is trying to stick it to retirees as well by making us pay $3500 per year for medical care versus our $600 per year now. And then they try and justify this by saying that civilians pay that much. Who cares what civlians pay? Did civilians join the military? No. Why? Did civilians get deployed every six months half-way around the world to play Army? Did civilians do 200 push-ups every day? Did civilians have to move three times in one year with five children, a dog, and a pissed-off wife? Hell no they didn't. So don't lump retirees in with civilians just because we have already been used up and are out to pasture. Why don't we take the money that we gave Ukraine and pay our troops. Why do we support the enemy anyways? They were the enemy when I served!!!

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