Isn’t it fair to postulate that our military personnel system is fundamentally anachronistic and merits another look?
Cliff retirement at 20 years of service, for instance, strikes me as a relic of an age when twenty years in the Army left a veteran a broken man, with blown joints, no hearing, and a limited ability to work in an agricultural or industrial economy. Advances in medicine, lengthening lifespan, and the shift to a service economy in this country (albeit with large swaths of agricultural and industrial employment across the workforce) make me wonder — as a taxpayer — why we’re paying 38-year-olds as they embark on their second full career. [Thomas Ricks' Blog]
What I don’t understand is that Fick is a prior service Marine so he knows full well that there is very few servicemembers who retire at the age of 38. He should also know there are very few servicemembers who retire after 20 years who don’t have some kind of disability. In fact I personally don’t know of one retired veteran who isn’t receiving some form of disability from the VA. Fick should know this full well, which leads me to believe he is approaching this from a political perspective considering his Democratic Party background. Keep in mind that there is a current Democratic effort to cut veteran benefits that “continues to rise at disturbing rates“. So it seems like more than a coincidence that a think tank type like Fick would start promoting a cut in veterans benefits as well.
If the Democrats in Congress and the think tank types think the military benefits are too high and a drain on the federal budget, than why don’t they advocate for cuts in pay and benefits of the government civilian workforce who nearly every single one I work with makes more money than I do?
With that said let’s look at some of the alternatives to the 20 year retirement system that were being floated around in the comments of Thomas Ricks’ posting:
- Retire after 30 years of service
- 60 year old retirement age like the National Guard
Raising the retirement age to 30 or setting a 60 year old retirement mark would cause a great hit to recruiting and retention. For example after a couple of deployments a servicemember may be around the 8-10 years of service and the 20 year mark seem more attainable. However, if the servicemember has 20 more years of deployments to look at their family may just decide it is better to get out and find another profession without deployments. The 30 year retirement age will also cause the overall age of the military to raise. It would mean a more experienced force, but not necessarily a more combat capable one with older soldiers not as agile as younger troops and nursing more injuries. So there is plenty of impacts to messing with the retirement age and other benefits that veterans receive.
With an all volunteer military I think it would be best to be careful messing with a pay and benefits system that has allowed the US military to field the finest fighting force in the world.