Four retired senior officers have written an opinion piece claiming that military retirement benefits are too generous. Of course, they weren't writing about their own benefit package, but about the earned benefit of thousands of Senior Enlisted and Field Grade officers that can leave service after 20 years with a pension in hand. That very pension is meant to help our Armed Services retain quality folks but those same people gamble while doing so. At any point in their career, they could fail to promote and kiss 100% of that pension goodbye. Or the military could chose to hand them a pink slip after more than a decade of service but before the magic number 20.
And why aren't these retired generals and admirals talking about their own pension plans?
Because their pensions were beefed up during the Bush/Cheney years. Beefed up so much, in fact, that today's retiring generals and admirals earn more in pension per year than they earned while serving active duty.
The photo above gives you a good idea that General James L. Jones makes a decent amount of money. He's one of the four who helped write the opinion piece about the over-generous retirement package of regular military folks. He just purchased a $3,725,000 mansion with a wine cellar that holds 3,000 bottles, a library of 6,000 books, and a recent $1 million renovation. He continued to work after military service, an excuse he has used for cutting pensions of other military retirees. His business roles have been varied but most striking are those positions he held concurrent to his role as National Security Advisor for President Obama: a salary and bonus of $900,000 from the US Chamber of Commerce; a $330,000 fee from Boeing; and a $290,000 fee from Chevron.
Adm. Gregory Johnson (USNA, retired), our second op-ed contributor, is a double dipper of sorts. He earns his military pension while receiving a salary from the DoD as a consultant (more kindly referred to as a mentor) that can be anywhere from $200-$340 per hour. He also serves on several boards for several defense companies, including CACI International Inc., where he earns a combined cash and stock compensation of $214,036 per year. Adm. Johnson said that he couldn't make enough money mentoring alone. Imagine that - I think everyone reading this post could live a life of relative luxury just on his pension yet he says it isn't enough.
According to Forbes, our third op-ed contributor, Major Gen. Arnold Punaro (USMC, retired), has a very diverse portfolio. Through Leidos Holdings, he has a total compensation package of $2,735,249. His other sources of income seem minor in comparison - Sourcefire Inc came in at $172,239 and SAIC,Inc at $15,600, and DesignLine Corp at $149,998. He continues to give advice to the Pentagon via the Reserve Forces Policy Board and the controversial Defense Business Board:
The board proposes not only to slash and privatize military pensions, but also to have the Pentagon invest in oil futures, boost pay for its executives and political appointees, and make it easier for them to fire rank-and-file employees while scaling back those workers' collective-bargaining rights. Adam Weinstein, Mother Jones
Last but not least is op-ed contributor number four, Gen. Charles Wald (USAF, retired). He seems to be internet savvy, even having his own Twitter account
. Finding information on his earnings is beyond my skill as an internet researcher, especially when Bloomberg Business shows zero compensation
on his profile. We do know
, however, that he served as Vice President of International Programs for L-3 Communications Corporation and currently serves as Vice Chairman Senior Advisor to Deloitte Services LP. He is also a director of the Atlantic Council, a think tank promoting continued cooperation between Europe and North America. I can't imagine he does all of that work for free.
Many of you reading this will think that I resent these men for the amount of money they earn. I don't. I resent the fact that our military leadership, while doing everything they can to hold on to each and every one of their personal dollars, much of it at taxpayer expense, claims that the military middle class costs too much.
These men made different decisions than those my husband and I will make in our retirement. We have no desire for either of us to work for the federal government nor for defense contractors. We've often thought that a simple military pension would help us start our own business or allow my husband to work for a non-profit and still make a decent living. Many military retirees and their spouses want to do the same.
If Congress does see the need to change the military pension system, I hope they take into account that the advice of generals is often colored by their station in life and that not all military retirees want to continue running the rat race. Some of them just want to go back home to small town America and live a normal, everyday life. That military pension makes it possible for individuals to escape the Military Industrial Complex. If some want to stay, so be it, but don't cut benefits based on the future earning potential of a defense contractor.
If these men are really worried about the defense budget, they could begin the cuts by offering up portions of their own hard earned pensions. It wouldn't really go very far in that monstrosity we call a budget but it would be a meaningful gesture to thousands that served beside them. It would mean they are willing to stand side by side with their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Instead, these men chose to attack the middle class. This time, the middle class is going to fight back, even if it is only one military spouse at a time.
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