In an attempt to save the military money, the Ryan/Murray budget has come up with a grand solution. Let's have "working age" military retirees give up some of their piece of the pie. They'll have more than enough, after all, if they decide to go work for a government contractor after their time in service. Of course, for all those retirees that have had enough of the system and would prefer to go back home and take a job in their local town or start their own small business or work for non-profit helping veterans, tough shit. They should just retire near Washington DC or San Antonio, Texas or Omaha, Nebraska or just name another big time military community with a list of contractors longer than the military who serve there. Yep, military retirees are rich because they all have another job waiting for them - or they should if they know what's best for them.
The saddest part of all of this is that the savings to the government are actually pretty damn small but the loss to the average retiree is huge. According to the Stars in Stripes:
Murray said the deal would cut $6 billion from military retirement over 10 years, and another $6 billion from federal civilian retirement by forcing new hires with fewer than five years’ federal service to contribute an additional 1.3 percent of salary toward their pensions.
Each retiree can expect to lose $83,000 if enlisted and $124,000 if an officer. That's a lot of money to a family, especially one that will be getting ready to send kids off to college, as most of these families will be. Military retirees and their spouses are generally 45 years or older and facing a tough economy upon getting out. Some will be like my family, with a spouse that hasn't had consistent employment because of multiple moves and will be trying like crazy to cobble together a resume that might convince someone in this economy to hire them. Those contracting jobs look awfully bright and shiny when there aren't any jobs back home and the spouse can't get hired due to a spotty work history. But do we really want to keep feeding the system this way? Do we really want to encourage more folks to head into a self-perpetuating military machine? I'm proud of my husband's service but I am not proud of our nation's addiction to the Military Industrial Complex.
The irony of all of this is that Congress has been given multiple opportunities to save even more money this past year and these opportunities was presented by the military itself.
It starts with the Abrams Tank:
Under a years-old plan, the Army intends to suspend buying upgraded Abrams tanks in 2016, a freeze that would last until 2019. The service wants to use the savings for other priorities, and believes sales to other nations will keep the production line running.
If the Pentagon holds off repairing, refurbishing or making new tanks for three years until new technologies are developed, the Army says it can save taxpayers as much as $3 billion.
That's half of the amount that would be saved by cutting the COLA raises on military retirees. And that's just one recommendation that Congress refused to take. Even FOX news
was getting in on the action earlier this year with an article that highlighted several programs that Congress refuses to touch:
Parked around the airstrip at Lackland Air Force Base are more than a dozen massive C-5A Galaxy transport planes. There is no money to fly them, repair them or put pilots in the cockpits, but Congress rejected the Air Force's bid to retire them.
Along the eastern seaboard, two Navy cruisers -- the USS Anzio in Norfolk, Va., and the USS Vicksburg in Mayport, Fla. -- were scheduled for retirement this year but both are now sitting pierside. Navy leaders will soon schedule the ships for significant repairs and begin readying their crews so they can go back into service.
Altogether, Congress is requiring the Navy to keep seven cruisers and two amphibious warships in service, eliminating the $4.3 billion the retirements would have saved over the next two years.
While the Navy sought to retire the seven ships, the Air Force wanted to save more than $600 million by retiring C-130 and C-5A cargo aircraft, three B-1 bombers and 18 high-altitude Global Hawk surveillance drones.
Congress disagreed, adding various requirements that the Navy and Air Force maintain the ships and aircraft, and in some cases added money to the budget to cover them. Fifteen of the C-5A Galaxy aircraft no longer set to retire are at Lackland, while 11 are at Martinsburg, W.Va., and are flown by the Air National Guard there.
The biggest fiasco of all that Congress refuses to address is the infamous F-35. A petition
asking that the program be scrapped tallies the costs of the project at over $1.5 trillion dollars and the project continues to experience severe delays and cost overruns. The plane isn't even wanted by many in the military. You can read all about it in the lengthy article at Vanity Fair
The problem with cutting any of those programs? Some Congressman has an invested interest in keeping them in his district. It would be a hard move to make. But to cut COLA from a small group of military retirees, no matter how hard they've worked these last 20 plus years to defend the nation, that's easy to do. There aren't enough of any of them in any single district to make a difference when it comes time to vote. Worse yet, they're all still on active duty and have taken an oath to refrain from political activity while in uniform. For most, that means they won't even consider calling their Congressman, no matter how angry they get.
Well, this military wife is angry. I'm tired of seeing the little guys take the hits. It's about time Congress stood up and fought for the average American and stopped protecting the Military Industrial Complex. If we need more jobs in this country, for heaven's sakes, lets create an economy that can rely on non-military related jobs. Get rid of the tanks and the planes and invest in our infrastructure. Build those high speed railways! Repair those bridges! Find real jobs that build our nation and quit funding corporate welfare. Because that is what we are really doing at the end of the day. We're keeping companies in business that are providing weapons and systems we no longer want and need. We have to cut the excess where it will make a true difference in the long run. Cutting my husband's retirement only means we will have $124,000 less to invest in our economy, whether it's in a future business, a future home, or just in our own children's education.
3:21 PM PT: Just in case you missed it, aznavy wrote his first diary about the same topic. It's right on the mark:
"Spread the pain to the youngest military retirees" - the most likely to have spent multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thank you for your service. It just cost you $83K or $123K. Our military industrial complex thanks you. On behalf of Congress, they also thank you for your service.