Military Retirement Unfair? Really?

Reminds Me of Gen McPeak and the Quality Air Force

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.

This Isn’t Your Daddy’s Military

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.

What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

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. Fox News: Are Military Pensions Too ‘Generous’?

6 thoughts on “Military Retirement Unfair? Really?

  1. snoopy

    Even if military benefits are more generous than those available in the private sector, us civilians don’t hafta do our jobs with bullets whizzing past our heads, or wondering if we’re gonna roll over a landmine on the way to work.

    I’m betting that none of the Defense Business Board members have children in the military or they’d be singing a different tune. For that matter, how many of those members were ever in service themselves? At first glance, it seems most of these people are consultants, analysts, and suits – no former military personnel.

  2. silverfiddle

    I noticed the board was full of DoD civilian types and not too many retired uniformed service members.

    I read the whole package, and what they say makes sense in many respects. People could walk away after 10 or 15 years and take their retirement chunk with them. I also like how people doing hardship duty or hazardous duty, war zones, etc accrue more retirement benefits. So it’s not all bad.

    The problem I see is that they paint a nice picture, but between here and getting the new legislation passed, a lot of mischief can happen.

    1. Bigdawg Post author

      The twenty year mark has always been the brass ring. The ones who get out also receive benefits. Where else can an inexperienced 18 year old get free training while getting full pay and receive a college education on the company’s dime?

  3. Z

    Hi, I came over from Silverfiddle’s blog…welcome to our corner of the blogosphere.
    I can’t imagine denying military ANYTHING, not after all they do for US. And I applaud groups like Wounded Warrior Project……..I just hope this economy isn’t reflecting too much on donations. God bless our troops, wherever they are. And God bless their families. Imagine when wives and mothers didn’t hear from their soldiers for years a a time…or at least very long months in a row? Letters were slow……no phone, no email. Families deserve a stipend, too!

    1. Bigdawg Post author

      Thanks for support Golly. They tried mucking with the retirement system in the 90s. Not even to this extent. Retention suffered and they had to do a 180. The problem is you’re going to have personnel separated by a single day treated differently. Kind of like that Ally Bank commercial, ” But he’s new-er”


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