A recent Defense Business Board study concludes that military benefits are “more generous and expensive” than those available in the private sector, and have therefore become “unaffordable” and “unfair.” Created back when military skills did not easily translate into civilian second careers, the system is also unnecessary, the study argues. And with retirees no longer dying as quickly as they once did, well it’s darn well inconvenient to boot. DBB wants to lift a page out of the corporate playbook: “renegotiate” (i.e. “reduce”) the workforce’s benefits package. Of course, the workforce in this case has spent the past decade not pulling shifts on an assembly line, but rotating between various theaters of war. Put simply, the retirement system promises military members half of their pay for life in exchange for 20 years of service, with the percentage of money increasing incrementally for those who serve more than 20 years. In its place, the DBB advocates a 401(k)-type arrangement with service members and the government both kicking in contributions. The DBB wants the Pentagon to scrap a lifelong retirement pension. In its place, the board would institute a tax-sheltered savings account to accompany service members into the post-military workplace. Counting on civilian employers to contribute to that account, while stipulating that benefits would be “payable at age 60 to 65” rather than at 40 or 45. Providing for Sgt Snorkel’s retirement would become an individual responsibility, shared by however many employers Snorkel could induce to pitch in, not a responsibility that the Pentagon would have to bear alone. I got news for you 401(k) plans may be the civilian norm but military life isn’t the civilian norm either.
Gone are the days of cold war luxury. Now it’s frequent rotation. And in case anybody hasn’t been keeping up, we’re losing Germany and Philippines assignments, replacing them with Iraq and Afghanistan. And it’s been that way for the last twenty years. How many civilian jobs force workers to be apart from their families for months or a year? I don’t see any companies in my city that forces it’s workers to live in a crowded tent city like some refugee. Eating freeze dried food in plastic bags. As a retired military member, I never had the chance to tell my boss to “bugger off I quit.” I knew about this up front. I knew that I had to stay in for twenty years to get a retirement. So I toughed it out and went to the desert one more time in my forties. A 401(k) retirement plan? Imagine if the military’s retirement funds were in Wall Street in 2007. When Wall Street tanks a 401(k) pension plan. Service members can’t retire as planned. And now they’re talking about not drawing retirement until your 60? You’re going to see 60 year old men deploying to war zones.
The concept of professionalism remains alive and well in the ranks of the armed forces, where an ethos of service and a commitment to a code of personal conduct have survived. An overhaul would commercialize military service. The effect would be to transform profession into trade, reducing long-serving officers and non-commissioned officers to the status of employees, valued as long as they are needed, expendable when they are not, forgotten the day they leave. I view my retirement pay as home equity I never had. Sure you get a second career because you have to get a second career. And you’re not going to start at the top of a corporation. If you consider the military is a profession that regularly gets sent into harm’s way, then the current retirement system is on par if not as generous as a major city’s police department of FBI agent’s retirement. 99 percent of society chooses to let the remaining one percent fight their wars and take the risks that they won’t take. Then society shouldn’t begrudge these service members of a fair reward. http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/08/19/are-military-pensions-too-generous/ http://www.military.com/news/article/servicemembers-resist-retirement-system-changes.html Fox News: Are Military Pensions Too ‘Generous’?