I took a bit of a roundabout path to reading this Op-Ed from the New York Times Editorial Board. I am still seething after having first read it a couple of hours ago. It seems whichever member of the Editorial Board that authored this, thinks the military members are not “sacrificing” enough so pay and benefits need to be “on the table.” As I looked through the short bios of the various members of the Editorial Board, it is fairly obvious that few if any of them have actually had much experience of military life beyond the obligatory “I support the Troops” or “Thank you for your service” they may have uttered in an airport somewhere.
From the editorial:
Big-ticket weapons like aircraft carriers and the F-35 fighter jet have to be part of any conversation about cutting Pentagon spending to satisfy the mandatory budget reductions known as the sequester. But compensation for military personnel has to be on the table, too — even though no other defense issue is more politically volatile or emotionally fraught.
After a decade of war, the very idea of cutting benefits to soldiers, sailors and Marines who put their lives on the line seems ungrateful. But America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan is over or winding down, and the Pentagon is obliged to find nearly $1 trillion in savings over 10 years. Tough choices will be required in all parts of the budget. Compensation includes pay, retirement benefits, health care and housing allowances. It consumes about half the military budget, and it is increasing.
Pete Peterson would be so proud and I’m sure the Beltway Village Idiots Politicians, Pundits, and Courtiers in Washington are chagrined that they couldn’t get Very Serious People credit for proposing this first.
Proposals like this are in my mind, another facet of the austerity movement seeking to cut back the social safety net for Veterans and the working poor. The people making these proposals see statistics, they do not see human beings. Please let me assure you, all those military members are first and foremost humans. They are sons and brothers, daughters and mothers. As I wrote on Veterans Day 2012, there are almost as many reasons for people serving as there are people serving.
If they really do see a need for cuts to the Pentagon bloat, there are a whole host of areas that should be “on the table” before member pay and benefits is on the horizon. The F35 Joint Strike Force fighter is a good start with its cost per plane doubling from $81M to $162M. There are currently ten Nimitz class nuclear powered aircraft carriers with an operational life of 50 years. The first (USS Nimitz) went online in 1975 so is still within its original operational window for a dozen more years. The tenth (USS George H.W. Bush) was commissioned in 2009. Planned de-commissioning costs for the Nimitz-class carriers is $750M – $900M (versus roughly $53M to de-commission a conventional non-nuclear carrier.)
Then we have the next generation of super-carriers, the Ford class with three scheduled for construction and commissioning in 2016, 2020, and 2025. The current projected cost is $9B for construction of the first of these (USS Gerald R. Ford on top of $5B for original R&D and Engineering.
I don’t know but I just have to think we really do not need a new floating nuclear powered city rolling off the construction gangways every five years from now until 2060.
Since the Op-Ed specified concerns about the costs of health care for military, I googled “military health care costs on the rise.” I admit I am skeptical when the first item shown is from “Third-Way,” our old “friends” pushing the Grand Bargain to cut Social Security. But let’s give them a mild benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be an across the board savings and cost benefit to institute a Medicare for All/Single Payer health care system? After all, a major component of the costs of Health Care is actually the cost of Health Insurance, not treatment costs in and of themselves.
I will make one proposal that will definitely save a fair amount of money in salary and benefits across the board. As I wrote here back in 2010, it would be beneficial on a myriad of levels to cut back on the numbers of Flag Officers and associated staff. That is the ultimate definition of a “win-win” for all concerned.
And because I can: