December 8, 2012


Neoliberalism in the American military and its impact on civilians (JENNIFER MITTELSTADT, 7 December 2012, OpenDemocracy)

Folded into the current military spending cuts is a neoliberal agenda to privatize and outsource the retirement and health care benefits of military personnel and their families. Americans may consider these proposals of minimal concern, and of interest only to military personnel, veterans, and their families. But their implications reach far wider: they are part of a comprehensive neoliberal plan to privatize virtually all government social welfare programs and entitlements.

Promulgated by free-market advocates at the Heritage Foundation, corporate interests on the Defense Department's Defense Business Board, and the private Business Executives for National Security, current military health and retirement proposals seek to replace existing government programs with privately-held, market-based healthcare and pension programs. They closely mirror free-market proposals for Social Security, pension privatization, and health care privatization in the civilian sector.

Instead of using the current government-contracted HMO/PPO model, called TriCare, military personnel and their families would receive health care vouchers allowing them to either purchase whatever health care plan they chose from an array of private sector providers. Instead of earning defined retirement benefits - pensions - soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines would each pay into privately held 401K programs - or simply take a lump sum of cash. In a win-win for corporate advocates, cuts to what they call the "excessive" and "burdensome" human side of the military will simultaneously fund greater spending on expensive weapons and communications systems. And under the pretext of providing "choice" to military personnel, the programs decrease total benefits and increase private sector access to government funds and the money of military personnel. [...]

While Friedman and his acolytes failed to transfer military services to the private sector in the 1970s and the 1980s, free market advocates in the 1990s succeeded. Members of the Defense Science Board and the Business Executives for National Security - the same groups proposing current privatization of military pensions - used the occasion of the post Cold War drawdown and the slumping economy to introduce corporate boardroom practices such as cutting overheads, increasing efficiencies, and improving "quality" as budgetary coping mechanisms for a sharply reduced spending regime.

Vice President Al Gore's "Reinvention of Government" pushed these further, introducing widespread outsourcing practices throughout federal agencies. President Clinton then appointed Wall Street financiers like Joshua Gotbaum from investment firm Lazard Frères to lead a special outsourcing office in the Pentagon. Together, the policies of the Clinton era resulted in a historically unprecedented transfer of military support services from the public to the private sector. 

Posted by at December 8, 2012 6:55 PM

blog comments powered by Disqus