Earlier this week the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission released its report recommending an overhaul to the military’s compensation and retirement system. The recommendations, which include a 401k-type savings plan, a graduated pension for service members completing 20 years of service, and a plan to move military retirees to private health insurance similar to that of federal employees has me skeptical.
The problem with much of this is that it starts from a false assumption; military service is comparable with civilian employment and therefore should be compensated similarly.
The simple truth, that congressional and executive branch leaders don’t seem to understand, is that these lives are vastly dissimilar and attempting to curtail compensation to match a civilian paradigm is either intellectually dishonest or a colossal misunderstanding of the world in which service members live.
I could write a long dissertation on the topic, but that would only obfuscate issues and bore us both.
It is this simple. The idea of a grateful nation is a fallacy at best and any compensation military retirees earn is sorely needed as veterans reenter civilian life.
Military retirees need every penny and advantage to re-enter a civilian world. They often have to start over in a career field and many have to convince employers that a military career is has transferable value. Moreover, the ageism military retirees face can and does raise its head as these employment applicants are often grayer than people they are competing against. (I have personally been asked in job interviews whether I would have longevity since I had already retired from one profession.)
To return to military retirees to the civilian world with an “on the cheap” pension and healthcare system that takes money out of pockets as they struggle to make their way in an employment system that values coast over experience is a slap in the face that will surely lead to reduced retention of quality leaders.
It is easy to get knuckleheads to stay, but getting quality leaders to stay requires commitment from the federal government and the American people that seems to be ebbing.
Much of the discussion I’ve read concerning compensation, says that military leaders are concerned that skyrocketing personnel costs are putting future weapons modernization at risk. This rings hollow.
We spend more on defense than do the next ten nations combined. We have a parking lot of tanks in the Nevada desert gathering dust because no service wants them, and there is story, after story of built and unneeded and unwanted equipment.
And the solution to this unrestrained spending free-for-all is to saddle modernization on the back of people programs and retiree compensation.
It’s wrong and unconscionable.
It just makes no sense and will surely lead to poor retention.
When it does, more young people will die and get wounded because the leaders they need left the service because the congress and the nation turned its collective backs on them.