In the 90s, we all remember how the Clinton Administration “balanced the budget” by slashing military spending. By the end of the decade, soldiers were enduring turnstile deployments to hand out sandwiches around the world. Retirees were forced out of Tricare and into Medicare when they turned 65. There was a training ammo shortfall. All training dollars were spent on the “Meals on Wheels” operations. Troops and their families were on food stamps. What few troops there were left after the manpower cuts. After a decade of turning that around, it seems that we’re headed back in the same direction.
Last month, Congress decided to cut the rate of growth of military pensions. They explained that personnel costs are eating up half of the Defense budget. The Military Officers’ Association of America (MOAA) explains how that is not exactly true;
This may sound alarming, especially in light of the Pentagon stating in April of this year that military personnel costs consumed about a third of the budget.
But the fact is it does consume nearly half the budget if you include all personnel costs — military and civilian personnel, delivery of military health care, and in-kind compensation (DoD schools, commissaries, etcetera).
What’s difficult to find is what goes into in-kind compensation, because these figures and facts are imbedded in several accounts and only DoD knows how it’s defined.
But when analyzing the first three budget items — military personnel (MilPers account), civilian personnel (CivPers account), and defense health program (DHP) — history shows in the chart below that these personnel costs over the past 30 years have gone from a high in 1980 and 1991 of half of the defense budget share to now less than 40 percent.
So, basically, the Pentagon is using personnel costs as an excuse, and not a very valid excuse. And, oh, they’re lying about it all. In Stars & Stripes, the VSOs warn that this is just the beginning for Defense to begin shouldering the political load of cuts;
“This is what happens when you have an unengaged population whose focus starts to shift away,” said Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “When times get tough, people say everyone has to sacrifice. But not everyone has been sacrificing for the last 10 years.”
Yeah, see, that’s the problem. The troops shouldered the burden of war, so the rest of the country could head to the mall, now that the economy has made the average American uncomfortable, the troops and the casualties of the war are expected to to shoulder the burden of correcting economical woes.
In the last week, editorial boards at USA Today and the Washington Post have called the veterans’ opposition out of touch, noting that the military’s generous retirement benefits aren’t comparable to any private sector pensions. The Post called it a “dishonor” not to change a military retirement system long overdue for an update.
Yeah, when veterans resist cuts to what we’re owed, it’s dishonorable. What’s dishonorable are the lies that are being told in order to screw the true 1% so the 99% can be more comfortable. I don’t see the Washington Post, USAToday or Congress making any sacrifices, or recommending sacrifice from any other sector of the population, including criminals and illegal aliens who are owed nothing.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno tried to defend the cuts;
Though he would not directly address the cuts to military retirement pay contained in the budget signed in late December, Odierno said the Joint Chiefs of Staff are not looking to cut pay and benefits. Rather, they are trying to reduce rate of growth of pay and benefits.
Odierno said the military had closed the gap in pay disparity and, in some cases, even exceeded it. Now the service leaders need to look at pay and benefits to ensure the package is accurate and sustainable. Otherwise, the growing cost will force the services to reduce end strength.
“We have to look at this as a total package,” he said. But as the Pentagon looks to reduce future cost, it has “to be very careful because we don’t want to undercut the foundation of an all-volunteer Army.”
Yeah, well, Congress should look at the “total package” that they’re dealing with, rather than focus on the Defense Department for their cuts. I’ll remind the reader that sequestration happened because the White House proposed it and implemented it when Congress couldn’t summon the testicular fortitude to cut government across the board.
Thanks to PavePusher and Chief Tango for the links.