Aug 16, 2011

Radical Overhaul of Military Retirement System Eyed; Plan Has Anti-public Language of GOP

By Michael Leon

Here's hoping President Obama takes this Modernizing the Military Retirement System privatization plan and very publicly gives it the Deep Six.

Respect, not DoD 'considerations of impacts to recruiting, retention'
A small group of Defense Business Board members was tasked to develop alternative plans to the current military retirement system, and CBS News is sounding the alarm that a "radical overhaul of military retirement" is being eyed, a story that the Pentagon is knocking down.

Established in 1972, the DoD's Defense Business Board is composed of members whom the vast majority of Americans have never heard of. The Board is chartered to "examine and advise on overall management and governance of the Department of Defense," among other official advisory duties.

For our servicemen and women, this small group of people could be making a lot of decisions impacting their financial health.

The Modernizing the Military Retirement System plan has privatization language that ought to scare the men and women who serve this country in the armed forces.

As Republican governors and presidential candidates condemn public workers, public everything except their own narrow brand of morality, the concern for our 1.4 million service members' financial health is clear.

One element of the plan to replace 20-year veterans' pension with a 401k-style plan with government contributions might help the stock market, but the risk to service members is apparent.

Sign in Wisconsin capitol in Feb.
And the anti-public direction in policy is clear. For example, one section of the plan includes the following language similar to the anti-public rhetoric of GOP governors like Wisconsin's Scott Walker who [after being elected] blasted public workers for allegedly overly generous pensions and salaries:
Where We Are Today
  • Retiree healthcare (TRICARE) is significantly more generous than civilian programs
  • Military retirement exceeds levels in the private sector
Yeah, those service members live the high life, living it large. Let's hope President Obama does not "drop the bomb" like Wisconsin's Scott Walker.

From CBS News
The military retirement system has long been considered untouchable - along with Social Security and Medicare. But in these days of soaring deficits, it seems everything is a potential target for budget cutters. A Pentagon-sponsored study says military pensions are no longer untouchable - they're unaffordable.

CBS News investigative correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports high-level, closely-held meetings are taking place at the Pentagon regarding a radical proposal to overhaul retirement for the nation's 1.4 million service members - a bedrock guarantee of military service.

The proposal comes from an influential panel of military advisers called the Defense Business Board. Their plan, laid out in a 24-page presentation 'Modernizing the Military Retirement System,' would eliminate the familiar system under which anyone who serves 20 years is eligible for retirement at half their salary. Instead, they'd get a 401k-style plan with government contributions.
However, one propaganda arm of the Pentagon, American Forces Press Service, knocks the CBS report down, saying:
The military retirement system isn’t going to change any time soon, Defense Department officials said. ...

[A] Pentagon spokeswoman said, officials are reviewing the board’s recommendations.

'Any recommendation to change the military retirement system must be approached with thoughtful analysis, to include considerations of impacts to recruiting and retention,' Eileen Lainez said. 'While the military retirement system, as with all other compensation, is a fair subject of review for effectiveness and efficiency, no changes to the current retirement system have been approved, and no changes will be made without careful consideration for both the current force and the future force.'
What is clear is that no one went to the nation's some 26-million veterans and asked them their opinion about overhauling the retirement plans for the nation's 1.4 million service members; and certainly the active service members are not the decision-makers here.

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