Military Advocates Concerned That New Joint Chiefs Nominee Will Slash Troop Pay And Benefits
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford may soon find himself very unpopular with the troops.
With his Senate confirmation as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff all but presumed among beltway know-it-alls, Dunford must already be looking ahead at a daunting list of tasks: the continued withdrawal from Afghanistan, the fight against the Islamic State and containing an increasingly aggressive China.
However, what will likely prove to be most difficult (not to mention scorchingly unpopular) is the pressure from up top, and within the services, to curb the Pentagon’s pay and benefits programs, Politico reports.
Reform for the Obama administration means deep cuts.
So far, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has toed the line by advocating to replace the pension system with a program similar to a 401(k) retirement plan for members of the military. In other words, the proposed reform would reduce current pensions by about 20 percent.
Additionally, Carter has signaled strong interest in downsizing housing subsidies, grocery subsidies and other benefits.
All this amid loud criticism from uniformed and civilian alike that what needs curbing is costly programs and their equally costly screw ups.
The Pentagon is working closely with the Obama administration, much to the dismay of Republicans and Democrats in Congress, as well as rank and file troops concerned with the bottom line. Yet, at least on pension reform, the Pentagon has an ally: House Armed Services Committee chairman and Republican Rep. Mac Thornberry. However, Thornberry has explicitly turned down the plan to reduce housing subsidies for troops.
Others remain skeptical of the litany of reforms listed in the report earlier this year issued by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. The commission, created by Congress in 2012, has spent the last two years researching pay and compensation in the military, culminating in a report late January which has proved to be central in informing the debate.
On May 1, President Barack Obama sent his list of recommendations gleaned from the report to Congress. According to the White House, out of the 15 proposals, four, including items like TRICARE health reform, need more work, while 10 should be implemented.
Back in March, member of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Joe Heck said that reformers were simply “nickel-and-diming all these programs.”
Programs upon which the military’s “backbone,” the enlisted corps, have come to rely.
“If I could throw it out, I would throw it out,” Jon Ostrowski, director of government affairs for the Non-commissioned Officers Association, told Politico, referring to the commission’s report. “I don’t think the enlisted, which makes up most of the military, were represented at all. I think we are rushing this. It is just like Obamacare. Move it on through and read it later.”
For Ostrowski, part of the reason why Dunford received promotions so rapidly is because he gets things done. There lies the danger.
“I trust him so far. But I am concerned if he is going to rubber stamp and go along with everything,” Ostrowski said.
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