"The Military Officers Association of America is warning that the military retirement system is facing assaults from various fronts including outgoing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, incoming Secretary Leon Panetta, Congress, and Vice President Joe Biden. Sec. Gates testified last week that he liked the idea of an early vesting system, which would enable servicemembers to leave the military with some form of retirement savings prior to reaching 20 years of service - similar to a civilian 401K. Military retirement cutbacks will likely be one of the outcomes of the deficit-reduction talks between administration and congressional leaders, which is currently being headed by Vice President Joe Biden."
Further digging showed that Gates wanted to cut military pay, as well. A private entering the service today earns $1467 a month. And Gates wants to cut pay. So I did the civic-minded thing and contacted my representatives to tell them what a crappy thing that would be. Today I got a response that should make anyone who honors the work, the sacrifice, that our service members do seriously pissed:
Dear Mrs. Wombles:
Thank you for contacting me regarding compensation and benefits for our nation’s military personnel. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this matter.
As a member of the Senate Finance and Budget Committees, I am mindful that we must strike a balance between stewarding hard-earned taxpayer money and ensuring that our service members have the tools necessary to both carry out ongoing missions and respond to evolving threats. Because these brave Americans must have the resources to fight and win the War on Terror, I will advocate defense spending that supports them.
Furthermore, although military pay and benefits have markedly increased in recent years, I share your concerns that we must do more to meet our nation's responsibility to our troops and their families. Our military personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world are defending our nation against tyranny and terror. They demonstrate every day their professionalism and dedication to duty and country. And while monetary compensation alone could never fully repay them for their sacrifices, our nation has a solemn obligation to do everything it can to support them. I remain committed to ensuring that our men and women in uniform are fairly compensated for the invaluable services they provide our nation.
I appreciate having the opportunity to represent the interests of Texans in the United States Senate, and you may be certain that I will continue to advocate policies and legislation that strengthen our national defense and support our brave military personnel and their families. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
United States Senator
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856
"Markedly increased"? Seriously? My response back to the Senator:
In a recent email from your office you wrote that "military pay and benefits have markedly increased in recent years." Really? 1.4% last year and no increase for retirees is marked? 3.4% the year before? How are these increased "marked"? Are you looking at the lower ranks? Do you realize, really get, that a 1.4% increase for a PFC is nothing? Yes, it might add up to some serious change for a general, but having been a soldier's wife, having struggled to pay the bills, to survive the separations, to put food on the table, this whole bit of marked increase is offensive because it denies the reality of our lower ranks. You send our soldiers away, now for a year or more at a time, you disrupt families, and lead our men and women into harms way, you poorly provide for them when they return shell-shocked and suffering, and you want to pay lip service to their marked pay increases?
What the hell? Marked increases?
2011 monthly pay for an E1: $1467
2010 monthly pay for an E1: $1447
2009 monthly pay for an E1: $1440
2008 monthly pay for an E1: $1347
Yeah, wow, that's massive, isn't it? These young people sign up for one of the hardest jobs they'll ever do. They put their lives on the line and a senator wants to tell his constituents that the $120 dollar pay increase they've seen over a four year period is a marked increase?
Fortunately, that whole fiasco may be gone by the wayside because Obama is proposing a 1.6% pay increase. Woo-hoo. Time for another marked increase. A private would pocket $24 extra a month. Wow!