From the Military Officers' Association of America (MOAA):
On July 22, the Defense Business Board task force recommended that the Secretary of Defense reduce the DoD civilian workforce by more than 111,000, and laid the groundwork for potential future recommendations to cut spending on military retirement, health care, family support, and other programs.
Additionally, the task force recommended drastic reductions in combatant command staffing, hiring freezes, and elimination of organizational duplication. These preliminary recommendations will be followed in October by additional cost-cutting proposals.
For the last year, the Defense Business Board has predicted major problems for the Defense budget as the nation deals with deficit reduction efforts, the economic slowdown, escalating health care and personnel costs, and the potential exit from two wars.
Board members believe that avoiding a looming fiscal crisis will require cutting the Defense budget beyond Secretary Gates' recently announced target of a $100-billion reduction in "overhead" spending.
The Board's "Initial Observations" briefing devoted an entire section to costs for military compensation, retirement, health care, veterans affairs, concurrent receipt, commissaries, dependent education, and military family housing. It particularly highlighted costs associated with TRICARE For Life.
A page titled "The 'Military Retirement' sacred cow is increasingly unaffordable" cites increases in the number of military retirees since 1980 (as if this weren't the direct result of decisions by every administration and Congress since the 1950s to induce a large standing career force to protect America and the world) and criticizes the 20-year retirement system (as if the military could have sustained the force over the last 10 years of repeated wartime deployments without it).
Another cites personnel cost growth since 1998 - conveniently overlooking that 1998 was the nadir of two decades of erosion of military pay, retirement, health care, and other benefits and that the resulting retention problems of that era were what sparked Congress to embark on an extended program to fix them.
Unfortunately, the Defense Business Board report is only one of the early shots in what likely will be years of budget battles to reconcile military and other needs with truly daunting deficit projections.As you may imagine, this is a topic I am highly interested in. But facts are facts, and this fact is that military retired pay is an entitlement that has to be examined just like every other entitlement. As I have written before, we are facing the end of entitlements, no matter what their name or reason.
One day we will wake up - either by being reality-jerk-slapped across the face like the Greeks or by finally knowing that we have to shrink the government, its role in our lives and what we expect to be done for us. I much prefer the latter, I am far from confident it won't be the former.There is a continuing pattern here that disturbs me, though. It's the call for enormous cuts in DOD's budget and manpower when, as always before, the rest of the government stays bloated and gets budget increases. In fact, every department of government needs to belly up to the bar and take a hit in staffing, budgets and programming at least equivalent to what is proposed for DOD. And so do the Congressional staffs and budgets - but there is literally no oversight or checks and balances over Congress' internal budgeting.
The problem is that almost alone among the executive departments, DOD's entire budget is considered discretionary.
Discretionary spending is that part of the U.S. Federal Budget that is negotiated between the President and Congress each year as part of the budget process. It includes everything that is not in the mandatory budget, which are programs required by law to provide certain benefits, such as Social Security and Medicare. ...So more than 60 percent of federal spending is "mandatory," or required by existing law. But of the discretionary spending, DOD's budget accounts for more than half:
Discretionary spending in FY 2010 was $1.39 trillion, or 38% of total spending. More than half ($844 billion) was security spending, which includes the Department of Defense, overseas contingency programs and Homeland Security.
Discretionary spending is not what is breaking the bank of this country. The problem is mandatory spending (which includes military retired pay), programs that are direct entitlements to individuals and in many cases are effectively welfare and redistribution payments of one kind or another. Those must be cut hard to preserve the solvency of the country.
But those are also precisely the programs that Congress (no matter which party controls) has been using to buy votes from the recipients. Don't look for those payments to change soon, later or ever.
How democracies perish
Government's new motto: It's good to be king!
America is, in fact, bankrupt