July 25, 2013


Military Entitlements Are Killing Readiness : The Pentagon and President Obama understand this. So why doesn't Congress? (MACKENZIE EAGLEN AND MICHAEL O'HANLON, 7/25/13, WSJ)

The Tricare program, highly subsidized health care for military retirees, supposedly honors a promise made many years ago by some military recruiters to provide service members free health care for life. Setting aside that such a promise was never officially made, Tricare is incentivizing overuse of the health-care system.

In 2004, for example, the rate at which Tricare recipients used outpatient services was 44% higher than in civilian plans; the inpatient rate was 60% higher. That is unsustainable, and it is the main reason President Obama has promised to veto the House appropriations bill unless Tricare fees for military retirees are raised.

Military retirees receive an extremely generous pension. For example, under the "High-3" retirement system--one option available for troops who entered the military after Sept. 8, 1980--retired active-duty forces receive 50% of an average of their three highest years of basic pay after 20 years of service, up to a maximum of 75% of their "High-3" pay after 30 years of service, along with an annual cost of living adjustment determined by the Consumer Price Index.

Begun in an era when those leaving the military often struggled in the workforce, the military retirement system is long overdue for an overhaul. It cost the Pentagon nearly $20 billion in 2011 and does nothing to address the fact that the vast majority of combat veterans (who are officially "veterans" but not "retirees") don't serve a full 20 years--and therefore get zero pension. In other words, those who deploy overseas and fight are often getting nothing while those who may well have stayed stateside for two decades before leaving the military get a very generous post-service pension.

Conveniences like commissaries also need rethinking in the era of Wal-Mart and Home Depot. So does military pay, which should generally track the rate of inflation but need not increase faster (as it often has of late), given the solid and generous compensation packages already provided to service members.

There is plenty more to consider, including addressing the 20% excess capacity in military bases and the bloat in the roughly 760,000-strong civilian workforce, which has grown even as the uniformed military has shrunk. A 10% cut to that bureaucracy, implemented intelligently and without furloughs, is sensible and fair.

But gut the weaponry too.

Posted by at July 25, 2013 9:24 PM

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