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AR November 14th, 2013 05:37 PM

Personnel Costs Threaten the Military
 
Walter Pincus has a fascinating piece in the Post this morning. I think it's a must read:

Personnel costs are a growing threat to defense, military leaders tell Congress - The Washington Post

In all the hoopla about the ACA, the media has largely ignored what military brass has been telling Congress lately about the high cost of soldiers.

We usually hear of runaway military costs in terms of hardware overruns, building stuff that nobody wants or needs (except for defense contractors and the Congressmen they bribe), that kind of thing.

But the eye-opener here is that the cost of an Army soldier has doubled since 2001, including all the benefits such as non-taxable housing, fabulous health care for active and retired personnel and their families, and all the other perks. It's expected to double again by 2025.

From the article:

"And for the past three years, Congress has ignored the more vocal calls from President Obama and defense secretaries Robert Gates and Chuck Hagel to support their efforts to reduce the growing costs of military benefits, particularly the health-care programs for retirees."

The writer points out that all the service chiefs have been warning about runaway personnel costs and benefits for quite some time, and have pinpointed some obvious areas for savings. Again, from the article:

"All four chiefs mentioned programs being studied: reduction in active pay increases, reduced retirement pay and benefits, higher premiums for retirees for TRICARE (the broad medical support program for active and retired service personnel and their families), higher co-pays for pharmaceuticals, smaller off-base housing allowances, and the commissary system."

Sounds draconian, until you consider that:

"A Congressional Budget Office study released Wednesday reported that, between 2001 and 2012, basic military pay rose by 28 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars. During the same time, private-sector wages for white-collar and blue-collar workers roughly stagnated."

When you look at it that way, the military and its retirees have been doing very nicely.

If we really want to cut budgets, this seems a very good place to start. Sure beats the idiotic sequester.



Manuel November 14th, 2013 09:16 PM

Wow!

It's getting to the point that the country won't be able to afford going to war.

TM

zydecocruiser November 14th, 2013 09:31 PM

We shouldn't be invading sovereign nations anyway. Should outsource it like all the other jobs.

Manuel November 14th, 2013 10:17 PM

Wars are expensive.

We are still paying for the Vietnam war.

TM

Truck Cruiser November 14th, 2013 11:16 PM

We now have a all volunteer military. If you are going to ask these folks to risk life and limb to defend this country then you have to make it worth their while with pay and benefits.

While I agree with you all, We need to mind our own business and only go to war when this country is threatened.....You still have to have a ready force capable of defending this nation when needed.

Manuel November 15th, 2013 06:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Truck Cruiser (Post 1489302)
While I agree with you all, We need to mind our own business and only go to war when this country is threatened.....You still have to have a ready force capable of defending this nation when needed.

Yes we do!

And it should be strong and well trained. I just want them stationed over here and not all over the globe.

TM

Luanne Russo November 15th, 2013 09:55 AM

I think this thread is not about soldiers stationed all over the world, but the cost to have those soldiers.

I read the thread last night, and went though several emotions, deciding not to comment, but to think about it over night.

For one thing the article is full of misinformation, which doesn't surprise me.

Long ago this country stopped producing journalists who believed only in the truth, and wouldn't have dared report untruths. Now days it's make it up as you go, and screw the truth.

I am reminded of sitting in the stands and watching the changing of the guard of the unknown soldier, at Arlington Cemetery. That unknown soldier gave it all. He or she made this country first in their lives. Excepted Low pay, and sometimes horrible working conditions, in order to protect the rights of the Journalist.

I could go on, but what's the point.

Others reading this might not understand the meaning, but I do, and I know who it was intended for.

Was it written to hurt and to try to shame, you bet. Did it work? Part of it did. Do I have any regrets for what our life path has taken? Sometimes

The truth is most Americans will never understand what it takes to keep them free.

Sistersolo November 15th, 2013 10:30 AM

Luanne, I doubt it was written to hurt. It is simple truth that while many join the military because of a desire to serve their country, many others join (especially during relatively peaceful periods) for the training, experience, and benefits they will receive.

In private life, salaries go up when it's difficult to recruit someone for a job, and they go down again when there's a surplus of workers, as anyone who's tried to find a job in the current economy can testify. One of the many problems with government, including the military, is that shortages drive costs up, but sufficiencies or surpluses don't drive them back down again. All of our elected officials, including the congresspeople so universally reviled today, have seen the same increases in pay and benefits.

AR November 15th, 2013 10:35 AM

It is possible, and desirable, to apply sound business practices to the military without being unpatriotic, and if done properly, without diminishing the force we need.

For better or for worse, one of the principal reasons for the so-called "jobless recovery" is that private sector businesses managed to institute massive efficiency measures, partly as a result of the crash and partly as a result of technology advances, allowing them to do more with fewer people.

Result: stock market at record highs; job market still flopping around; education quality to meet the requirements for the 21st century worker still in the dumper.

The military can and should learn from this paradigm, and not confuse efficiency with an absence of patriotism. If anything, it's the most patriotic thing that could happen!

Paul B November 15th, 2013 11:16 AM

I think that we can all agree that there is massive waste in anything operated by the government, and the military is no exception.

Mike M November 15th, 2013 11:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Paul B (Post 1489337)
I think that we can all agree that there is massive waste in anything operated by the government, and the military is no exception.

Agreed: I have worked with government bureaucrats on IT projects and I had never seen more waste, inefficiency and down right incompetence in my career. The middle management megalomaniacs were the worst to deal with. People who had no idea what they were doing but still were managing multi-million dollar projects.

The IT staff were fine but many were under trained and did not have the tools required to do their jobs.

It got to the point that in the mid nineties we stopped bidding on any government contracts. They weren't worth the time and personnel it took to try and deliver. Plus, by the time the government made a final decision the original RFP (Request For Proposal) was worthless because costs and technology had changed. Also the government had changed their requirements.

There are excellent minds and top notch people working in the government but they are often overshadowed by the incompetent who, for some reason, have been promoted or appointed to positions with a "little" power and they have no idea how to use it.

OK: I'll get off my horse now but this type of topic brings back a little PTSD. :)

Take care,
Mike

AR November 15th, 2013 12:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mike M (Post 1489341)
There are excellent minds and top notch people working in the government but they are often overshadowed by the incompetent who, for some reason, have been promoted or appointed to positions with a "little" power and they have no idea how to use it.

Take care,
Mike

This is so true. Putting the political appointees aside, the top people in career positions in government are usually excellent. And so are most in the middle. But for some reason, those in the middle who can't cut it are often SPECTACULARLY incompetent.

Those of you who know me know I've never worked in government, but Terry did for many years in a middle-manager position in which she distinguished herself. We've talked about this issue from time to time, and the best we can come up with is that the way the government personnel system works makes it uncommonly difficult to get rid of the truly terrible. It used to be that there was a fair amount of nepotism involved too, but that seems less true these days.

It is a shame, not only for the country as a whole, but for the morale of the majority who do a fine and sometimes stellar job.

Mike's account probably gives a worthwhile insight into what went wrong with the you-know-which website.

zydecocruiser November 15th, 2013 01:00 PM

The Peter Principle is alive and well in both the private and public sector.

The private sector long ago started dealing with this including teaching employees, one way or another, not to consider a job to be employment for life.

The military should not be any different and compensation should not be in line with the private sector. Retirement certainly should not be so easy to attain. People in the military should be there because they want to be.

While the military is currently volunteer, before Bush started the wag the dog wars, many would join for perceived easy benefits, not thinking they might actually go to war. I think that is the wrong motivation.

If there were actually a credible threat to the US, I don't think there would be a shortage of volunteers for the duration of that threat. Get in, and get out. If not, bring back the draft.

Really, what makes being in the military any more special than being a policeman, fireman, or teacher? All put their lives on the line. And where do we stop? TSA? Dog Catcher? Anyone below the poverty level?

We hear talk of balanced budgets, cutbacks, and outsourcing. It should apply across the board. Those who want to deny me affordable healthcare should have their own removed first. Those who want to cut my retirement pension and healthcare need to have their own eliminated first.

Manuel November 15th, 2013 01:43 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Paul B (Post 1489337)
I think that we can all agree that there is massive waste in anything operated by the government, and the military is no exception.

That's for sure. I served in the US Army and I worked 35 years for a jet engine manufacturer and I can tell you that the military engine production is quite wasteful because there is no incentive for the military to hold the cost of their programs.

TM

bonnyprincecharlie November 17th, 2013 06:00 AM

Yes there is a way to hold militiary to budget. It's called sequestering.

AR November 17th, 2013 01:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by bonnyprincecharlie (Post 1489459)
Yes there is a way to hold militiary to budget. It's called sequestering.

That's "a" way, but it's not the right way.

Sequestering means, by definition, cutting without analysis, cutting without setting priorities, cutting without intelligent thought. It is not the right way to cut military spending any more than it's the right way to cut the rest of government spending.

Unfortunately, we don't seem to have a Congress with the brains, dedication, or moral compass to do the right thing.

fourxbusymom November 17th, 2013 04:35 PM

Luanne,
I understand your feelings. I spent many years as a military wife (Navy). When there was a hurricane coming, my husband had to go take care of the ship/base and I was left to handle everything alone. When he deployed I spent 6+ months on pins and needles worrying if he was going to be sent back into harm's way...he was. 3 different times. When he was home, it didn't matter if the kids were sick, I was sick (with a toddler and a newborn at home) or, if even HE was sick - his command didn't care, and he had to be at work. What most civilians don't understand is that Military personnel do not work 40 hours a week, ever. There are times they give them liberal time off (usually right before deployments), but that doesn't happen often, or at least it didn't in our case. They also are not paid by the hour, so if you take the amount they are paid and divide it by their hours, they make way below the minimum wage. That's why so many of our enlisted families qualify for public assistance (food stamps, WIC). It's one of those situations that people don't understand that life until you've lived it...and it's tough.

Luanne Russo November 18th, 2013 02:12 PM

Thank you Busy Mom.

I encourage all to re read the original thread.

It's not about deployments, purchasing, etc. It's about if Military members deserve reduced health care.

The article is also full of untruths.

I agree that military spending is out of control, but do you really want to take away health care from those who covered your *** at night while you sleep?

bonnyprincecharlie November 18th, 2013 05:35 PM

Sad case is mercenaires hired by US get big bucks...
 
I do feel for the armed forces members, but you look at the huge amounts of money that mercencaries hired by the US for politicos, etc. are ridiculously high. Of course a lot of these poeple are former military so I guess its just a thing about picking a career path.

venice November 22nd, 2013 03:25 PM

My son is career military and because he is an Officer and Fighter pilot, his situation is much different than an enlisted personnel...what makes the military different then the civilian world is long multiple deployments in combat zones and the strain that places on families

When the Republican Party slashed the Farm Aid Bill and SNAP, they didn't realize that a large number of enlisted personnel with families would be directly impacted...I am sure Luanne's husband Jim understands that better than all of us

As other posters have stated, Government Military Contracts are a cesspool of waste...however in many Congressional districts, the largest civilian employer is the Federal Government awarding military contracts...funny how that changes the conversation

To understand how massive this issue is, visit the Pentagon

Paul B November 25th, 2013 01:15 PM

Here in San Antonio, hundreds of millions are being spent on new military construction at Fort Sam Houston and Lackland AFB, while they are destroying usable military barracks and Wilford Hall Hospital. They also spent many millions on building NSA South down here. The money being wasted could pay and provide health care for a lot of military active duty and retired. I also do not understand the logic of keeping so many personnel stationed overseas in non combat areas. I certainly am not against the military, since I am retired from the USAF, but I am against the waste.

venice November 25th, 2013 03:17 PM

Paul...retired Air Force..I knew that's why I like your postingsrofl

What you describe is an excellent example of your Congressional rep bringing his home district the "pork"

Hurricane Katrina wiped out most of the VA hospital in New Orleans...the political infighting that is going on to rebuild the VA Center here is unacceptable and a disgrace

After visiting my Son at the Pentagon I came to understand how massive the challenge really is...the 2 Iraq Wars combined with the Afghanistan extended conflict has drained our Country...we cannot continue to be the World's police force

However, we have many bright young military minds, with no political ax to grind, working on how do we respond to conflicts in the post 911 era...we are producing future leaders at our. 4 military academies who are really sharp..they are working across Service Lines to find ways to save $$$$$ thru synergy (F-35 program etc)...we learned from Korea, Vietnam, but the post 911 World is a whole other animal...when I hear politicians today saying we should send boots on the ground or air support, I wonder if they have kids in the Service

AR December 1st, 2013 11:40 AM

Luanne has asserted twice in this string that the Washington Post article I cited in the OP is replete with factual errors, but has not cited an single example of one, nor any contrary evidence.

Because of this, I offer a thoughtful editorial from a different publication, the New York Times, which reiterates many of the details in the Post article and takes a realistic but compassionate stance on the matter.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/01/op...p&rref=opinion

I'm aware that Luanne thinks I started this string as a personal attack. I did not, but I don't expect her to believe it. It is simply a subject well worth pondering.

If there are any factual errors in these pieces that can be documented, I'd like to know about them.


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