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Richard Allen Smith Headshot

Don't Play Wall Street Roulette With Military Retirement

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AFGHANISTAN LAND DISPUTES
AP

This is unacceptable. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has confirmed reports that the Department of Defense is considering cutting and privatizing military retirement:

According to CBS, the plan "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."... Under the plan, drafted by the Defense Business Board, retired service members would have to wait until standard retirement age before touching their pensions. It would reportedly save $250 billion over two decades.

Cars are supposed to have their oil changed every three months OR every three thousand miles. There is a reason for that, and it's the same reason servicemembers are eligible to retire and collect a pension after twenty years. While a service member may not be at the traditional retirement age after twenty years, he or she certainly has put down enough miles to warrant cashing out.

All careers aren't created equal. Yes, civilians work longer to get to retirement. But civilians also aren't spending significant amount of time, multiple years that is, away from their families getting shot at. I know plenty of guys that are half way to retirement now and have spent the better part of a decade out of country. When civilians start doing that, then we can discuss bringing military retirement benefits in line with those in the civilian world.

And it's not just that service members deserve it. The excuse for this is the cost-saving measures that will allow the Pentagon to decrease its budget, and part of a larger cut to the federal budget. We've lost tens of billions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not spent money ineffectively but LOST it. We had the money, and now we don't know where it is. The Pentagon is still overpaying for contracts to KBR, L-3, Northrop, General Dynamics, Dyncorp, Raytheon and hundreds of other corporations that are either building crap the Pentagon doesn't need/want, or collecting three times a soldier's salary to do jobs that used to be done by soldiers. And beyond the Pentagon, the richest people and corporations in America are paying the lowest tax rates since the pre-depression era.

And let's imagine for a moment that every service member's retirement funds were in 401k in 2007. How many of them would have anything left to speak of at this point? The retirement that they were promised upon enlistment would be wiped out, thanks to Wall Street greed.

And this doesn't even touch the issue of retention. How many career service members are going to stick around once they're told they aren't getting their pension after twenty years? We will see a mass exodus of the most competent and essential leaders in our force.

With all this, we aren't asking millionaires to sacrifice. We aren't asking defense contractors to sacrifice. We aren't ending wars that cost trillions of dollars while providing no additional security to our nation. To the contrary, we are asking the brave men and women who have volunteered to wear their country's uniform to work longer, deploy more, spend more time away from their families, spend more time in imminent danger and, on top of that, throw their pension on a Wall Street roulette wheel.

That's completely unacceptable, and Pentagon policy makers should be ashamed for even thinking about it.

Around the Web

Radical overhaul of military retirement eyed - CBS News

Why Military Has a 20-Year Retirement

Military Retirement Pay Safe? | Military Advantage Blog | Military.com

Panetta: 'You Have To Consider' Military Retirement Reform ...

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