TREASURE ISLAND - COINS AND PRECIOUS METALS
On January 26, 2012, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered to congress a defense spending plan that many see as unwittingly creating a hollow force.
Historically speaking, and shoddy journalism notwithstanding, the federal government spends only a small portion on defense. The current defense budget is 3.5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By comparison, the peak of President Reagan’s military build-up amounted to 6.3% of GDP. Cold War spending was 7.5% of GDP. Purported bloated defense spending is a myth. Nevertheless, big defense cuts are coming.
Congress and President Obama’s administration must realize that defense spending is not the cause of our economic problems. To proceed on such a premise places the United States, our freedom and our interests around the world at risk.
The most controversial cuts in defense spending include proposed cuts in health care, cuts in force structure and major reductions in Army and Marine manpower.
Health care for active duty military, retirees, National Guard and reservists will take the largest hit. Generations of young people were induced into decades of arduous service with the promise that this would earn them the current health care package. The promise acknowledged their sacrifices as an up-front premium that few Americans are willing to pay. Defense cut proposals now renege on those promises and the fact that retirees have earned their promised health care. Many now count on promised health care to maintain their quality of life.
The defense cuts disproportionately shift health care costs to TRICARE and TRICARE for Life recipients. Prior to the early 1990s military personnel were promised health care delivered by the military upon retirement. In the 1990s retirees were expelled from the military health care system and were required to use TRICARE, followed later by Medicare coupled with TRICARE for life. Now, military retirees are expected to pay for what was once guaranteed compensation.
Especially disturbing is the fact that military retirees are the only group of government retirees that will face means-testing in a tiered approach to paying for their own health care, something that grossly violates the decades-long promise.
Unlike the civilian community, the military community, and especially the professional corps, is at a disadvantage. While civilians established themselves in trades, professions and other careers, military personnel had no such advantage. Only a few chose to serve whereas many more chose not too. Societies for millennia have recognized the sacrifice of military service and have compensated their military personnel accordingly.
In jeopardy is the highly successful recruitment and retention programs of an all-volunteer military.
An excellent case may be made for retaining health care for military retirees using historical experience. When the US cuts military compensation so that serving years of rigorous service is no longer worth the sacrifice, retention and recruitment suffer. That is what happened in the 1990s after constant pay, retirement and health care reductions.
Military personnel watch the way their predecessors are treated. Retirees are the best recruiters for the next generation of military personnel. Too often during the 1980s and 1990s the perception of treatment of retirees was “...and don’t let the door hit you in butt on the way out.” The nation’s defense paid a price in retention and personnel readiness.
At least 34 military organizations totaling over 5 million active, Guard, reserve and retired military oppose the president and congress in their plans to cut promised compensation. Anyone who knows of or has a family member connected to the military might consider reinforcing the 5 million voices by adding their own voice in support of our servicemen and women.
Senator Jim Webb spoke plainly at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on March 8. “All of this boils down to what a soldier or Marine or sailor or someone in the Air Force can see what happened to the people who went before them -- how they were treated after they left the uniform. I grew up in the Marine Corps tradition and no Marine is ever left behind, and I feel just as strongly about the commitment that we have made to lifetime medical care for the people who have served....How we take care of these people is one of the great litmus tests that people who are serving right now are going to be looking at.”
Plenty of waste, fraud and abuse in the Defense Department and federal government overall must and should be cut first. Cutting the federal budget on the backs of military personnel, past and present, is a risky move our country can ill afford.