This came out of the morning Situation Report from @glubold of Foreign Policy magazine. The secret sauce, for those interested, is to read NightWatch for a mix of what might happen and what the news is too clumsy to cover, then check the various FP feeds to see what has actually come to pass.
This is a domestic rather than international issue, but it’s one that is liable to bite us hard.
The Pentagon is starting to touch the third rail of budgetary spending: military compensation, retirement and benefits spending. As Chuck Hagel completes his “listening tour” of troops and their families, a quiet effort has begun to review military retirement and compensation that will grow louder as its work begins to surface. Hagel is finishing up his domestic road trip today, visiting airmen at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and then Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Hagel, we’re told, wants to hear from troops and families about the challenges they face during a period of shrinking budgets. He’s listening but he’s also starting slowly to float the idea that compensation benefits and even retirement plans may have to be pared back in order to make the Pentagon’s ledgers add up. Personnel costs alone cost the services between 55 and 65 percent of their budgets and rising – a fact the Pentagon brass say they’ve been saddled with for years. But now as budgets tighten, it’s a fact that can’t be ignored.
Airmen, marines, sailors, and soldiers who served their time and were discharged with a clean DD214 are going to see their retirement benefits slashed. The 55% – 65% of budget being personnel was an eye opener for me – if I pay attention to domestic matters it’s almost always system costs, system life cycle, and changing military doctrine. This looks like a brewing battle between our veterans and defense contractors who are desperately trying to keep their nose in the Pentagon’s feeding trough as the normal 25% post war budget cuts begin.
But there is a ticking bomb out there: