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Pay raise for troops (or shooting yourself in the foot)
Posted by: McQ on Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Army Times headline says "White House: 3.5 percent pay hike unnecessary".

In fact, what the White House says is a 3% payraise is sufficient, and 3.5% is unnecessary.

That's quite a difference. Of course that doesn't stop the usual suspects, in this case Speaker Pelosi's blog, from framing it the Army Times way anyway:

"White House States Opposition to Pay Raise for Troops, Increase in Widows’ Benefits"

Love that last "widow benefits" bit. The section to which the administration objects is this:
Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance: The Administration opposes section 644, which would pay a monthly special survivor indemnity allowance of $40 from the DoD Military Retirement Fund. The current benefit programs for survivors, DoD’s Survivor Benefit Plan (SBP) and Department of Veterans Affairs’ Dependency Indemnity Compensation (DIC), provide sufficient benefits and avoid duplication of two complementary federal benefits programs established for the same purpose — providing a lifetime annuity for the survivor of an active, retired or former servicemember. This offset policy is consistent with private sector benefits. The provision is estimated to cost $27 million in the first year and about $160 million through FY 2013. It appears to be the first step toward eliminating the offset between SBP and DIC; full elimination of this offset would cost the Military Retirement Fund between $6 and $8 billion over 10 years.
The point is good. Add the $40 bucks to an existing surviver benefit annuity, but don't create another and certainly don't take it from the Military Retirement Fund. But everyone will grind to a halt at the word 'widow' and while recoiling in horror, never get to the reasoning.

Oh, and, speaking of widows, Ms. Pelosi, of course, doesn't mention this:
Refusal by lawmakers to approve Tricare fees for beneficiaries, something administration officials view as an important step in holding down health care cost, also drew opposition, along with a provision imposing price controls on prescription drugs dispensed to Tricare users.
Yeah, so give 'em $40 bucks a month, but health care fees for widows ... ohhh no.

And the Army Times mangled the prescription drug bit. The administration, rightly, opposes "price controls":
The Administration strongly opposes section 703, which would impose price controls on prescription drugs when they are dispensed to enrollees in TRICARE through community pharmacies. The Administration believes market competition is the most effective way to promote discounts in the community setting. Government price-setting at community pharmacies will eliminate retail competition; it could also have an adverse impact on other markets, which could limit access to life-saving drugs, reduce convenience for beneficiaries, and ultimately increase costs. Drugs dispensed directly by DoD in its hospitals, clinics, and mail order facilities are already purchased at government purchasing schedules and DOD is working to encourage beneficiaries to take advantage of the lowest prescription drug prices available whenever possible.
Another little goodie Ms. Pelosi doesn't mention is this:
A prohibition on converting medical jobs held by military members into civilian positions drew opposition. “This will eliminate the flexibility of the Secretary of Defense to use civilian medical personnel for jobs away from the battlefield and at the same time use the converted military billets to enhance the strength of operating units,” the policy statement says.
That would actually enhance medical care in "jobs away from the battlefield" by introducing a skilled and stable medical cadre into these institutions while military medical assets would be more available to handle battlefield duties.

So, in reality, no one's skirts are clean in this bill.

All of that being said, I have to agree with Congress on the pay raise. You want good people? You want to keep them? Then pay them a competitive wage:
The Bush administration had asked for a 3 percent military raise for Jan. 1, 2008, enough to match last year’s average pay increase in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee recommends a 3.5 percent pay increase for 2008, and increases in 2009 through 2012 that also are 0.5 percentage point greater than private-sector pay raises.

The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.

Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”

“When combined with the overall military benefit package, the president’s proposal provides a good quality of life for service members and their families,” the policy statement says. “While we agree military pay must be kept competitive, the 3 percent raise, equal to the increase in the Employment Cost Index, will do that.”
I understand the desire by the administration to hold down costs and applaud the sentiment. However, as with much this administration does, this isn't the fight to be fighting right now. Go after pork. Go after discretionary spending. Go after waste, fraud and abuse. But only a political Neanderthal berates his political opponents for supposedly not supporting the troops and then opposes 1/2 a percent more in pay for them. Talk about a politically tone-deaf move.

Defense is one of the honest to goodness, good-time, rock and roll legitimate functions of government. So I don't have a problem giving them 3.5% more in pay. Want to make it revenue neutral? Then require the Congress to tell you where they're going to cut spending in the discretionary account to pay for it. That ought to get some hems and haws from the PAYGO crowd.

But for heaven sake, fighting something which can be spun as Pelosi, the Army Times and any number of ill-informed lefty blogs have done is political stupidity.
 
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Comments
Defense is one of the honest to goodness, good-time, rock and roll legitimate functions of government.
Interesting. Why so ? You seem all-out to privatise everything else, why not defence ?
 
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://blewog.blogspot.com
Interesting. Why so ? You seem all-out to privatise everything else, why not defence ?
Well first, to privatize "everything else" would mean I don’t believe in government at all, and I’ve never made that claim. What I have said though, time after time, is the government of which I do approve has the sole job of protecting our individual rights from being violated by force or fraud. ’Force’ would include that of an outside enemy, thus a defense mounted by government is a legitimate function.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Blewyn,

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution empowers Congress to raise and support Armies. It’s one of the things they are supposed to do.
 
Written By: MarkD
URL: http://
McQ, I’ve often wondered what the reputation of the Army Times is like in the actual Army. Do people take the publication seriously or what?
 
Written By: Jeff the Baptist
URL: http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com
McQ, I’ve often wondered what the reputation of the Army Times is like in the actual Army. Do people take the publication seriously or what?
Jeff, I haven’t read it in so long I really don’t know what it is like now. But I hear mixed reviews from folks I know in the Army. Good on keeping up with things which are important to them in terms of pay raises, benefits, etc., but not particularly reflective, on the whole, of the readership when it comes to opinion.

I’d also remind you that it is now a Gannett publication.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Wouldn’t it be great if the soldiers could vote themselves a pay raise and control Congress’s salary, rather than the other way around?
 
Written By: steverino
URL: http://steverino.journalspace.com/
Precisely what I was poking at...
 
Written By: Blewyn
URL: http://blewog.blogspot.com

 
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