The proposed 2015 defense budget has been released, and it is not pretty. To summarize, the DoD is proposing limiting troop pay raises to below the civilian rate of growth and increasing servicemembers out-of-pocket expenses for housing, food, and medical.
The proposal calls for capping future military pay raises at 1 percent, reducing the basic housing allowance by 5 percent, cutting funding for commissary stores by $1B, and increasing co-pays, deductibles and premiums for TRICARE beneficiaries.
As to be expected, the DoD’s proposal has drawn fire from many of the veterans’ service organizations. Whether their argument is about the unfairness of cutting earned benefits or the long-lasting impact on force readiness, most agree that sequestration related budget cuts should not target the troops.
Highlighting the fact that TRICARE and Commissaries are an earned benefit, Dan Dellinger, National Commander of the American Legion, wrote “Whether it’s cutting commissary subsidies or increasing TRICARE deductibles and co-pays, these benefits are well deserved and available to anyone willing to serve. The American Legion will continue to call for an end to sequestration and insufficient defense budgets.”
Military Officers Association of America President Norb Ryan wrote, “Past experience capping military raises below private sector pay growth shows once pay raise caps begin, they continue until they undermine retention and readiness. When extended pay raise caps hurt retention in the 1970s, Congress had to enact two double-digit raises to correct that.”
It is interesting to note that the tone was less focused on blaming the DoD and more focused on blaming sequestration.
“There are consequences to forcing the Department of Defense to first reduce its budget by $487 billion over 10 years, then to double that amount due to sequestration,” said VFW National Commander William A. Thien. “And no matter how some might perceive these lower troop numbers, weapons systems retirements and benefits reductions, the truth is these cuts will continue to grow deeper the longer Congress is unable to end the sequester.”