On Thursday, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) Chairman of The Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee opened a hearing on Military Quality of life by welcoming the four senior enlisted members of their respective services: Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler, III, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Michael Barrett, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody. Culberson noted that the witnesses have “roughly 127 years in combined military experience.”
127 Years of Combined Military Experience
Written statements from the witnesses highlighted some of the impact budgetary challenges are having on the All-Volunteer Force:
- “The Army stands at a pivotal moment due to daunting fiscal challenges and strategic uncertainty. But, even in the midst of these challenges our mission has not changed: to prevent conflict, shape the environment and when necessary, fight and win our Nation’s wars.” Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond F. Chandler, III
- “It is my hope that the decision Congress will make continue to ensure that our Sailor’s pay and benefits remain competitive to sustain the All-Volunteer Force, today and into the future. Such efforts, once executed, will enable to us to continue to provide a quality of service commensurate to the sacrifices of our Sailors and their families.” Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens
- “This has been a stressful year on those serving in the Air Force. All members…have endured significant uncertainty and churn with respect to mission capability, compensation, and what it means to serve in our Air Force. The budget challenges we face have not been lost on our force.” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody
- “Uncertainty in whether they will be able to continue a career in the military due to draw down; what services and resources will be available to them and their families when serving and what will happen to any retirement when they get out; all are having an impact on the current force and the young men and women that will be considering serving in the future. We cannot jeopardize our liberty.” Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Michael Barrett.
The enlisted leaders testified on a wide range of issues to include: force draw down, privatized housing, BAH, recruiting, retention, and spousal employment. But the recently unveiled Pentagon proposal to reduce the commissary subsidy from $1.4 billion to $400 million, significantly reducing the value of the benefit drew the most discussion.
A consensus of opinion
Sergeant Major Chandler, noted that the $500 million the Army pays towards the commissary subsidy is a “significant drain” on resources adding, we must look at reducing the cost of the delivering the benefit.
Master Chief Petty Officer Stevens called for a “comprehensive review of how we do business” in order to provide assistance with less cost.
Chief Master Sergeant Cody was forthright in his statement, “The value our Airmen, their families, and our veterans place on the commissaries should not be understated; many junior enlisted Airman and fixed income retirees rely on these savings for basic sustainment.”
Sergeant Major Barrett proclaimed he was a “fan” of the commissary. He thought it was “ridiculous” to go after something that is saving young Marines money.
It is reassuring to know that 127 years of military experience has its finger on the pulse of the All-Volunteer Force and agree that the commissary is highly valued benefit—is anyone listening to our senior enlisted leaders?
Did our senior enlisted leaders get it right? Give us your thoughts?