Despite members of Congress’ determination, the sequester continues to be a lose-lose situation for DOD. On the one hand, the president’s budget recommends the lowest pay increase for servicemembers since 1963, while the alternative budget under the sequester would continue to furlough about 650,000 DOD civilian employees, cut all military promotions, freeze pay raises and cancel retention bonuses. As of July 15, DOD civilian employees are now being furloughed for 11 days, representing a 20 percent cut in pay while in effect.
How then do plans, such as the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, hurt future readiness of the Armed Forces? To best understand the answer, one must look back to 1986 when Congress decided to revamp military retirement options under a new system known as REDUX that offered lower initial compensation and greater returns only available to the most financially savvy servicemembers. In response, military retention plummeted.
Given the overwhelmingly negative response to cutting compensation benefits in the past, it is puzzling why Congress would want to attempt such measures now, when the military is already overburdened by the sequester’s hindrance of military readiness.
Asking our servicemembers to bear the financial burden, created by Congress’ inability to reach an agreement on the budget is stretching their willingness to serve too far. Ultimately this commission and Congress must remember discussions on military compensation, exacerbated by the sequester, not only affects thousands of DOD employees and servicemembers but also determines America’s ability to maintain a force capable of securing our nation’s interests for the foreseeable future.
Anthony A. Wallis is the legislative director for the Association of the United States Navy.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.