Applause for screwing the troops

| December 15, 2013

Chock Block sends us a link to Breaking Defense and article written by Russell Rumbaugh, whoever he is. He applauds Congress’ budget deal this last week which cut Cost of Living Allowances for military retirees, saying that it proves that Congress can screw the troops when they want to. As Chock Block points out, the photo that Rumbaugh uses for his article about cutting Pentagon waste is of a veterinarian operating on a military family’s pet. How that impacts Pentagon spending, I’m not sure.

But, Rumbaugh writes;

For the most adamant, personnel costs are about to eat the entire Department of Defense budget, reducing it to just a welfare agency and leaving the United States at the mercy of its enemies. Since the creation of the All-Volunteer Force, spending per servicemember has risen inexorably. The Department—as with the rest of the country—has watched its healthcare costs dramatically outpace inflation. Since the defense budget started expanding in the late 1990s, Congress has consistently heaped largesse on defense personnel. It repealed the retirement reform passed in the 1980s just before it kicked in, let former military members double dip by taking their military retirement pay while drawing a full civil service salary, allowed retirees to keep both their retirement and disabled pay, created the $10 billion-a-year TRICARE for Life Medicare supplement, and expanded eligibility for both healthcare and retirement benefits.

Maybe Rumbaugh could glance for a moment at history – the history of the All-Volunteer Force is a sad one. During the Carter Administration defense spending was so dismal, that when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and Carter figured that he might actually need a military force to stop them, he reinstituted the draft, because recruiting volunteers probably wouldn’t work. The Carter Administration’s answer to recruiting was issuing those of us who lived in the barracks a colorful bed spread. I kid you not.

When I got promoted to Sergeant from Corporal, my pay shot up $25/month. And I never had a pet that I had to take to the vet’s office. And, oh, yeah, it was Carter who ended what Rumbaugh calls “double-dipping”, allowing a military retiree to also draw a federal pension. It was Clinton who brought it back in 1999 mainly because the Federal government needed the military retiree pool to fill it’s ranks with experienced and dedicated people and military retirees wouldn’t take a federal job if they would loose a pension when they retired. It was in the government’s best interest to hire veterans, not some greedy move by VSOs to enrich retirees.

Every administration tries to cut personnel costs at the Pentagon, even former President Bush, but this one is more successful than the others because they think that that the US will never need a military force again, somehow. they figure that they can resolve their problems like the lawyers they are and that when the military isn’t at war, they can parade for the emperor. How much can that cost?

The problem with Rumbaugh and the Obama Administration is that they think that all factors remain constant irrespective of their policies. They figure, for example, that recruiting for the military is high now, so will it be after they make military service unattractive and take away all of the incentives that drive recruiting.

Category: Barack Obama/Joe Biden

Comments (34)

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  1. Old Trooper says:

    Are you telling me that Carter is responsible for those G-dam rainbow blankets we had to live with!?!? Now I really don’t like that guy!!

    As for Rumbaugh…..fuck him.

  2. RunPatRum says:

    Yeah, those blankets clashed with our gray metal bunks in our Quonset huts…guess that is what he means by heaping largesse.

  3. FAEX says:

    Why is military retirement hated so much? Let’s see, I sacrifice my time, my body, my family and potentially my life for 20 years for only half of my base pay. I can still go the PX and commissary and get increasingly eroding medical benefits. Then I am demonized by people like Mr. Rumbaugh for wanting to be a productive member of society by actually being gainfully employed for a second career. If people are so upset that I have earned a military retirement then they need to get off their lazy asses and sign up. They can live with the sacrifices and everlasting scars. It pisses me off to no end the idiots that have never spent a day in uniform telling us we are lesser citizens and deserve nothing for our sacrifices.

  4. Sparks says:

    Rumbaugh, whoever he is, is f@cked in the head just like the Administration and the no-balls DoD. I hate this. It is one of my biggest peeves. We cannot do enough for our military personnel and our retirees in my book. You can take a lot of what he wrote and substitute “the entitled welfare class” for the military and it fits just fine. If they want to save dollars, stop giving them away to every deadbeat in the nation who WON’T work. Along with Section 8 Housing, food stamps, cell phones, etc., etc. Quit f@cking with the military!!!. These people EARNED what they get. If they get a private sector, civil service position after they retire, God bless them and quit screwing with them. We are going to end up, if this continues, with a military so unattractive to young people that we will have to reinstate the draft. History has an ugly way of repeating itself and we are heading that direction. An under manned military without the capability to respond to needed situation anywhere in the world. I am on a rant and not thinking clearly enough to write well so I will stop now.

  5. Beretverde says:

    Don’t want to get too far off the subject but-

    Carter did not re-institute the draft…he brought back the mandatory registering for the Selective Service System in case a draft was needed.

    @#3…yes 50% of BASE pay. It can be very misleading to civilians. In essence you are retiring at around 40% or less. BAH, Sep rats, jump/flight/SCUBA/HALO/Sea/Dive/overseas pay etc. does not compute.

  6. B Woodman says:

    It costs less to maintain a military of serfs and slaves (draftees), rather then a military of free citizens (volunteers).
    I wonder how loud Mr Rumbaugh would screech when the Administration mandates that his child (or those of his friends-same thing) be forced to join the military as a front line grunt at slave wages, because there aren’t enough willing to join and pick up the slack in the upcoming hollow army.

  7. Common Sense says:

    It’s not just the Dems that are responsible for this. Only 62 Republicans voted against it. They voted for more debt, more spending, and reduced benefits for the military. We don’t have Democrats and Republicans, we have Dem and Dem Lite.

    Remember that come next November.

  8. Club Manager says:

    The article’s author Russell Rumbaugh is currently Director, Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense, and Senior Associate Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense for the Stimson Center. It is a nonpro?t, nonpartisan institution devoted to enhancing international peace and security through a unique combination of rigorous analysis and outreach. They deal with some heady topics; no doubt have a lot of bright people making big bucks, a lot of it probably our tax dollars.

    As for the dickweed himself, he was an Army captain infantry officer who “resigned” after a stellar military career which included receiving a Commendation Medal for his service in Kosovo. His civilian career includes a stint as the obligatory “CIA military analyst.” He holds a BA in political science from Univ of Chicago and a Master in security studies from MIT.

    Since I’ve gone through my allotment of Viagra for the day and nothing is going on, I plan to wax eloquent in pointing out the fallacies in the article and send it to all who published his piece of crap asking for equal time. In the event any of you would like to share a few thoughts, here is dickweed’s contact information:

    Phone 202-478-3422

  9. A Proud Infidel says:

    Shitheads like Rumbaugh puff their chests out when they swoon about Military cutbacks, has he or any of his ilk ever proposed cutbacks in any handout program, which eats more of the Federal budget every year? I’m sick and tired of bein in the checkout line behind some twenty-something girl in new designer clothes, perfect makeup and nails, texting on the newest and latest model of cell phone who then pays for her groceries with food stampa & WIC!! I’m ass-out sick & tired of hearing people bawl about how they can’t go get a job because they’d make too much and lose their welfare or SSI!!
    I could go on all damned day on this…

  10. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Retirement at half pay sounds great–until you learn what full pay is. Then, it sucks. If you are in your early 40s and came out whole and you have a F/T gig on top, then okay, you have a good chance not to be on food stamps.

  11. Ex-PH2 says:

    I’m trying to follow the logic behind the idea that personnel costs are the biggest expense in DoD. Equipment and supplie have a higher cost per item, collated into the total expense for logistics and not counting personnel paychecks. The $52 million for just one of those high-end fighter jets represents how many paychecks in one month?

    If the bothersome point is pay and benefits, without taking into account the cost of equipment (never mind the training), how is the military suppoed to use all that nice equipment without people to run it? What are we – temp workers? Are we to just toil with no recompense?

    Yeah, that’ll bring in a WHOLE lot of people in a heartbeat. Come and get shot at, but don’t expect to get paid.

  12. Pat says:

    I would be willing to make some small sacrifice for the greater good, IF I thought our politacal class would also cut spending in other areas of government. But I know that they won’t, and as a group of people who are not allowed to go on strike or agitate politically like other government employees, we just get screwed.

  13. Club Manager says:

    By the way troops, the budget did not contain the same reduction in retirement benefits for civil service retirees. Ask your Congressman why the next time they ask for your vote.

  14. Hondo says:

    Club Manager: civil servants under FERS have had a similar “COLA lite” since FERS began.

    Any Federal civilian first hired after 1 Jan 1983 is under FERS.

  15. Hondo says:

    Ex-PH2: when all military personnel costs are totaled (far more than pay and allowances fall under that umbrella), the total is between 1/4 and 1/3 of DoD’s base budget.

  16. HS Sophomore says:

    Nope. Cause the military totally isn’t the only job in the US where you can’t unionize, you spend a year abroad or away on business for every year and a half you get at home with family, you have to unquestioningly obey your superiors, you can’t quit, the physical demands make you look like a geriatric by age 40, you have to get shot at for a living, and you make an amount of money that often equates to about minimum wage when you divide salary by hours worked—I could go on, but won’t. Hell, how do they expect to have anyone to fill out the ranks by the time they’re done?

  17. Ex-PH2 says:

    @15 – Then tell me, Hondo, how Rumbaugh can justify this: ‘personnel costs are about to eat the entire Department of Defense budget’. It’s almost like he’s talking through his hat.

  18. HMCS(FMF) ret says:

    Remember how this Preezy and other have constantly said “we will not balance the budget on the backs of veterans”… just like O’Choomer care, it’s another lie, but the exception is that both sides of the aisle have fed us the lie for far too long.

    If any one of them had the balls, they would go after welfare and SS fraud… cut the bennies of those that are second and third generation welfare recipients. Hell, if they had any guts, they would exempt vets from federal income taxes for life – I wounder how much of an impact that would be since there are so few of us compared to the general population, and would be an incentive to serve.

  19. Club Manager says:

    Hondo, we are talking about two different things, I know about FERS. I’m talking about The Bipartisan Budget Act which funds the government through next year and lessens sequestrations impact, but it also cuts retirement COLAs for military retirees under the age of 62. It provides them with a COLA -1. Meaning that instead of receiving a 1.5 percent COLA adjustment, they would receive a 0.5 percent increase (the proposed cut will be phased in over 3 years).
    What I’m saying is if they are going to cut retirement COLAs for military then cut it for all civilians as well. I retired under the older civil service system, gave up my retired military pay for civil service, came out a lot of $$ ahead in addition to getting my 40% VA free and clear. That is not fair to disabled military retirees who have to pay back their less than 50% received from the VA. If we are going to reduce COLA, let’s spread it around. If my two kids are going to lose, then I should as well.
    HMCS(FMF) ret you are right on the money, I was thinking about that SOB, ummm strike that, POTUS making the speech at the American Legion Annual Conference a couple of years ago. In fact I quoted him in my Arkansas newsletter word for word.

  20. UpNorth says:

    @18, HMCS, what you proposed would be a good idea, but for one thing. Most everyone who has served would land in the percentage of those who actually pay income taxes in the U.S. Can’t have that, someone has to make sure that the folks on food stamps, welfare, living in Sec.8 housing and SSI are well-funded.

  21. Jim Legans, Jr says:

    There are fewer than two million military retirees in the US. That’s such a tiny percent of the population I don’t really see how they’re going to be saving very much money by screwing us out of a lousy 1% COLA increase. That’s about 25 bucks a month for me, I probably won’t even notice it. This seems more like harassment than responsible fiscal policy.

  22. Pat says:

    There are ways to trim the costs of vegerans. Sadly, I’m assigned to one of the Army’s Warrior Transition units. Its a game here for Joe and Jane to get all the can from the med board and VA. A guy I processed in with is a supply SGT from 2d ID. He was sent here because of his knee, but his “percentages” weren’t good enough. I told me that he let them know he had PTSD. From one tour in Iraq as a 92Y. He also is trying for sleep apnea, which is 40 pct, off the bat.

    Every time I have returned from deployment, I have been given the brief from the VA rep who ALWAYS says “I’m 100 pct disabled!” Never mind that he is in good health. We are encouraging weakness in our military, and it is damaging our esprit de corps and is costing the taxpayers millions, if nit billions.

  23. Pat says:

    Holy crap. “Vegerans” should be “veterans.”

  24. Pat says:

    I need to type my comments in word from now on. He told me that he let them know about PTSD, not “I.”

    Nit = not.

  25. PavePusher says:

    And the kicker to it all is that they (Congress) doesn’t even bother to vote themselves a future pay cut to match how they screw over the Citizens and Vets. Head-Smarminess His-self, Chuck f#%@&*! Schumer, today on Morning Joe, claimed that they had made sacrifices by not having a pay raise in several years. That must be rough on a body made up almost entirely of millionaires. Chuck, what’s your current net worth? And what are your retirement benefits, again?

    They aren’t even trying to hide the fact that consider themselves to be royalty anymore.

  26. PavePusher says:

    And the fact that they won’t even consider cutting actual pork….

  27. Pinto Nag says:

    It has nothing to do with caring for our nation, either economically or militarily; it has everything to do now with simply keeping the balls in the air a little longer so they can continue to enjoy the privilege to which they have become accustomed, and have time to get far enough away after their time in office is done that they don’t get squashed by the train wreck to come. That’s all.

  28. Hondo says:

    Club Manager: just making a point regarding civilian retirements, fella. Many people have this false idea that all Federal civilians retire with a huge pension. Under CSRS, that could be the case (80% of high-3 average was possible). Under FERS, um, not so much – 1% per year of high-3 average ain’t exactly “all that” when it comes to a pension.

    To put that in perspective: a GS-13 retiring making $100k a year ends up with a pension after 30 years of civilian service that’s almost exactly the same as an E8 retiring at 22 years.

    You may know this, but most others don’t: non-disability federal civilian retirees who retire under FERS receive no COLA’s to their pension until they reach age 62. None. Zip. Nada. See page 10 of

    And many people also have no idea that once they finally start getting COLAs at age 62, Federal civilians retiring under FERS get less than full CPI as a COLA most years. If inflation is over 3%, a FERS retiree’s COLA is CPI-1%. If it’s between 2% and 3%, FERS retirees over age 62 get 2%. Only if inflation is <= 2% do FERS retirees over 62 get a full COLA. Even under the current budget agreement, military retirees will get full COLA at age 62.

    In the 46 years since 1967 (1968-2013), there have been 16 years where CPI inflation was less than 3% – or about 1/3 of the time. Only 6 of those years had inflation of 2% or less.

    Bottom line: even under the budget deal, military retirees are getting a better deal, COLA-wise, than any Federal civilian who first started work after 1 Jan 1983 and who is today under FERS.

    Why CSRS COLAs were not affected, I don’t know. I suspect it may have to do with vested pension interests and the contractual law relating to same, but I’m not certain about that. Perhaps one of our lawyer readers can offer insight.

  29. Bobo says:

    Somehow, Congress missed a few bennies of their own before dumping on military retirees. In my perfect world, commiserate with cuts to military retirement programs would be similar cuts to Congressional retirements.

    1 – No member of Congress would ever get a 100% retirement. a one termer would get 25% of base pay, a two termer 35%, and so on, with the maximum retirement being 75% of base pay.

    2 – All Congressional retirees would receive medical benefits through Tricare or the VA during their term and post retirement.

    3 – Conviction of a felony at any time would end all retirement benefits.

    4 – This would take effect for all those currently in Congress but not yet retired.

    I haven’t run the numbers, but I’d guess that the above would save at least as much as the veteran’s retirement cuts that they are now proposing. I’ll hold my breath until someone on the Hill proposes something similar.

  30. Hondo says:

    Um, Bobo – Congress doesn’t get 100% of pay in retirement. They don’t vest until 5 years service – so a 2-term Congressman with no other Federal civilian service and who didn’t buy back any military time gets NADA. And under FERS, few will exceed 50% (Congressional annuities are more than 1% per year – 2%, if I recall correctly) for their pension, since that requires 25 years of service (12+ terms in the House or 4+ terms in the Senate). And I believe all Federal civilian pensions (both old CSRS and the newer FERS) are limited to 80% max by Federal law, with the only exception being for time due to unused sick leave.

    In contrast, if I recall correctly due to a recent change in Federal law it is possible for people serving in the military to now exceed 100% of their high-3 salary as a pension. That would happen for anyone who served more than 40 years – and that’s possible for senior GOs, senior WOs, and Medical/Chaplain personnel, and might be possible for selected senior Enlisted personnel as well.

  31. MustangCryppie says:

    @30 “That would happen for anyone who served more than 40 years – and that’s possible for senior GOs, senior WOs, and Medical/Chaplain personnel, and might be possible for selected senior Enlisted personnel as well.”

    The last O-6 I worked for fit in that category. He was former enlisted, finished up with over 40 years, 100% retirement. He was a Navy Cryptologist.

  32. Hondo says:

    MustangCryppie: yes, that’s also possible. But it is a bit of a corner-case.

    Doing that takes a good chunk of enlisted time (min 10 years) followed by getting a commission and making 05 or 06, though. The 30 year commissioned service limit for serving O6’s is statutory. By law, O5’s have to leave at 28 years commissioned service.

  33. 2/17 Air Cav says:

    Screwing military retirees is all but accomplished. The Senate’s test vote today showed that the budget containing the slash and burn provision for military retirees will pass, as it did last week in the House by a vote of 332-94, with seven utter cowards. For those of you who are interested in learning how your congresscritter voted, here’s the name-by-name vote, courtesy of the jubilant Washington Post. Don’t forget to send your thank-you note or F-You note to your critter, as applicable.

  34. OWB says:

    Sad. But, the reality is that I do not mind giving up a little bit of a retirement pay increase (we seriously need to keep reminding ourselves that this is not a cut, but a reduced increase) for the greater good. HOWEVER, it is absurd that we who earned our retirement income must do what the parasites are not expected to do.

    The madness must stop. Spending $$ we do not have on programs which are counterproductive is ridiculous. If I need to take a reduced increase to help, bring it on. But AFTER you cut the benefits to those who neither deserve nor need them.