In a speech on Wednesday off the coast of San Diego, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned troops that the U.S. can’t afford its military personnel anymore.
Troops are already bracing for the results of a report on Feb. 1, which will most likely not be friendly to military pay. The report is by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which was originally created in 2013 by Congress for the purpose of researching feasible reforms for military pay and retirement benefits.
The White House is eagerly awaiting the results, as the Obama administration has set scaling back military budgets as a priority. Healthcare costs alone comprise 20 percent of the Pentagon’s annual budget, according to Congressional Budget Office calculations.
“I think this will be as big an issue … over the next year as there is, and it should be, because when you are talking about that entire compensation package for all of you and your families, I mean that is key,” Hagel stated, according to Military Times.
“We cannot sustain the current trajectory that we are on with the current system we have…We’ve got to address this. And we have to be honest about it. And we have to deal with it,” Hagel added.
Sen. John McCain, now chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, concurred with the need for sweeping reforms, particularly in the military health care system. Both Hagel and McCain reaffirmed that the inevitable changes coming to military pay and benefit policies will only apply to new recruits, and existing troops will be grandfathered out of the system currently in place.
“We know that it has to be reformed, everybody knows it has to be reformed,” McCain told The Hill. “There’s nobody I know that says you can continue as we’ve been going.” One of the Pentagon’s concerns revolves around personnel costs eroding investment in much-needed defense research and the development of high-tech weapons.
Some groups, however, have chastised the DOD for neglecting the needs of military personnel, and this increased level of tension between DOD officials and non-profit military groups will continue to build when the commission forwards its findings to Congress and the White House.
“Even though sequestration has placed DoD in a difficult position, we cannot continue to try and balance the budget on the backs of the very people who bear the burden of security for this nation and who have given so much over the last 13 years,” said Vice Admiral and President of the Military Officers Association of America Norb Ryan in December.