Why Should You Join?

MOAA members have access to services specifically designed for them.

Join Secondary page

The Bottom Line - What’s On the Chopping Block?

Increase size Decrease size Text Size PrintPrint

February 12, 2014

By Col. Mike Hayden, USAF (Ret)

During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the COLA cuts for working-age military retirees established in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (BBA), Pentagon witnesses repeatedly talked about curbing military personnel costs. It became crystal clear the Pentagon does not intend to wait until the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission’s (MCRMC) completes its review in February 2015 to start adjusting currently serving compensation and benefit programs.

Although the hearing focused on the COLA-cutting provision, committee members also discussed the rate of personnel cost growth, which Pentagon witnesses characterize as unsustainable. 

Regarding the FY 2015 budget submission, acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox said, “We are seriously considering proposing additional changes to compensation, not retirement … but modest proposals on other parts of compensation.” 

Fox outlined in her statement that “Secretary [Chuck] Hagel, the Joint Chiefs, and the service secretaries agree that we cannot afford to sustain the rate of growth in military compensation that we’ve experienced over the last decade.”

The witnesses further outlined that much of the rate of growth since the early 2000s “reflects the convergence of multiple motivations, all of them well-intentioned,” such as eliminating the pay gap and zeroing out out-of-pocket housing expenses.    

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. James Winnefeld Jr., USN, warned, “Demanding at this point that our compensation not only remain at its currently high relative level but that it continue to rise faster than that of the average American is simply not sustainable.”  

Fox went on to say, "The one-third of the defense budget consumed by military compensation cannot be exempt as an area of defense savings. We must find ways to slow the rate of growth." 

Instead of acknowledging that in the late 1990s retention and recruiting were on the ropes and subsequent plus-ups in personnel costs were needed corrections to keep the previous years of cutbacks from breaking the career force, it appears the Pentagon now uses the steep growth rate over the past decade to forecast the future personnel cost growth glide path — a glide path that’s much more horizontal since 2010.   

Military members will not see pay increases that exceed private-sector pay by 11.5 percent over the next two decades, and they won’t have their out-of-pocket housing expenses zeroed out — again.

But the writing on the wall is clear. The gains over the past 13 years are now targets for cuts.        

So what’s on the chopping block? We don’t have a crystal ball, but the following forms of pay and benefits have emerged as leading candidates:

  • capping pay raises or even freezing pay;
  • making additional end-strength cuts;
  • changing basic allowance for housing to make servicemembers assume more of the costs;
  • reducing the commissary benefit savings; and
  • means-testing TRICARE fees and establishing TRICARE For Life/TRICARE Standard enrollment fees. 

These and maybe more are facing the chopping block. More clarity will surface once the budget rolls out March 4. 

 

The bottom line:The Pentagon will push pay and benefit cuts, and they will be more than “tweaks.” These proposed changes will definitely impact the purchasing power of military families. 

 


 Copyright Military Officers Association of America. All rights reserved.
 

 

 

Please Leave a Comment

Please Sign in to comment on this page

23 Comments

Add Comment

Text Only 2000 character limit
  • I’m just curious, has anyone thought about what Tricare means testing would do to soldiers who served more than 20 years? For example, I served 33 years which made for a higher retirement pay. I could effectively be panelized for longevity. My current boss is a retired 0-5 and makes 30% less than me for his retirement. Hence, he would pay less than me even know he was 5 ranks higher. Additionally,thanks MOAA for all the help your providing for the soldiers. Rob

  • I wonder if I'm just waking up from a bad dream? This isn't the same country I was born in. What was down is now up and visa versa. Values, morals, courage, leadership and just plain common sense are inexplicably absent. I realize that things change, but this evolution is simply the destruction of a way of life.

  • I for one would like to see the members of congress and the senate reduce their benefits instead of the benefits of the active and retired military. I think we need to change the prerequisites to be voted into any government position. A mandatory minimum (no waiver)of 3 years of ACTIVE military duty should be a good start.

  • Many of the comments below were right on. I personally know of a contract person making 4 to 5 times what their military counterpart was making in the Afghan/Iraqi mess. Let me add a few words to the comments below. I entered the military in the late fifties. In those days military retired pay was linked to active duty pay, then comped out for rank and time in service. I suggest you long time retirees get into the current day active duty pay charts and comp out your rank and time in service. I have done that and I have a $400 shortfall when compared to today's retiree. My friend, one rank up and 8 years more in service, has over a $1,000 shortfall. Early in my career they uncoupled retired pay from active duty pay. I used to be one would go into the active pay chart, apply the appropriate percentages and start there. As time went by if the active pay changed so did the retired pay. Seems to me they have already stuck it to the retirees!

  • Is there anything else that the government could do to dishonor those who served. Not only do I have to pay a premium each month to SSA for Medicare, I can see the day I will have to pay an enrollment fee for TFL. Each day that they erode a benefit is a chip in the block of benefits promised. Maybe a class action suite is the way to go to protect what we have left. When will they realize that we are not going to just go off into the woods and die. (which seems to be what they would like) They continue to use us up and throw us out with the trash. I see a massive military retiree revolt in the making. It is coming.

  • Again, our govt is paying the contractors BIG BUCKS for material/equipment that is extremely expensive, but the troops are getting screwed. The pres can unilaterally raise min wage, but not support the troops (lower pay level military). They live in near poverty, pay a considerable portion of their "allowed" living expenses out of their own pockets, and have the worst working conditions you can imagine. For that, we are going to cut their pay and allowances and cap future raises and benefits! Outrageous!! The people responsible for this are making a pretty good living...contractors, big brass and congressmen! They are the ones who need to forfeit their benefits and cut their wages.

  • How much is a limb worth? How about 3? How much does an E-4 make when he gets blown up? Worth the cost? Who keeps them free to dither about with more corporate Pentagon lies? Who keeps you free? Is it worth some teeth or an eye socket? How about burns and traumatic brain injury? Who keeps you free? Free to make millions in sports, or legal congressional insider trading in stocks? How much are you willing to "CUT?" A leg severed below the knee? Seven fingers? How do you value these "cuts?" Reprehensible, self-serving lip service co-opted political figures both in uniform or suits sharing the same virtues of the whores we serve - or the whores we have become as service members. At least we get paid for their "tricks." How much is this cut versus that cut? They lie. And that's the truth.

  • A promise is made when our men and women enlist for military service. For our Government to have any credibility it must keep those promises. If they are not kept, the future military defense of this country will be in peril. This could happen now when when our Country is at its weakest position around the world. Heaven help us!

  • Please do not let them impose heavy fees on TFL! This program was developed to provide the lifetime health care many of us were promised upon joining. Imposing fees, copays and other costs to the participant just vitiates Congressional action to abide by the promises.

  • The Department of Defense can only propose changes to military pay and benefits. It takes Congress to actually enact changes to the system. An article in Politico on 2/12/14 highlighted Congressman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) roll in passing the COLA reduction in the first place. The article titled "Paul Ryan’s military pay gambit backfires" describes how Ryan pushed to include cuts to military retirement as part of December's bipartisan budget deal and that these cuts were just part of his plan to overhaul military compensation. Additionally, the latest Military Update by Tom Philpott also shined a light on Ryan role in pushing for the retiree COLA cap in December’s budget deal and describes Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) as being responsible for keeping the retirement COLA cap for new military members in the law. Remember that Ryan and Boehner are leaders of the Republican Party and are well within the Republican mainstream on budgetary and military issues.

Page 1 of 3

[First] [Previous] [Next] [Last]