Retired Army Reservist Tom Hathaway wasn’t much impressed with Dan Goure’s criticism of the military retirement system in a July 23 blog posting. Hathaway sent the following rebuttal explaining the logic of the military retirement system.
In a recent article, Dr. Daniel Goure made the following statement: The military retirement system is the only retirement plan in this country that permits an individual to enlist at age 20, work for 20 years and then retire at age 40 on a full pension for the next 40 years — assuming an average lifespan of 80 years. While Dr. Goure’s assertion is technically correct, it is a bit misleading in its implications.
First, no other job in America routinely requires employees to subject themselves to: (a) the loss of individual freedom, (b) the need to pack up their entire family every three years or so and move, (c) the certainty of repeated deployments away from that family for a year or longer, (d) the danger of death or dismemberment in combat, and (e) the risk of post-traumatic stress syndrome and elevated suicide rates.
Second, the short dwell times at each installation and frequent absence of military spouses works against the second spouse being able to establish a career and add another paycheck to the family’s income.
Third, while it is true that a soldier or sailor can retire on a “full pension” after 20 years, what does that really mean? With luck, an enlisted man or woman can perhaps rise to the pay grade of E-7 after 20 years. That pension is worth about $25,000 per year. Assuming the family is typical with a spouse and two children under 18 (and no divorce in the works) that places this family almost on the poverty line — which according to the Census Bureau stood at $22,811 last year.
So the implication in the story that a retired soldier or sailor is no longer required to work is a bit of a stretch. There is no question that the defense department is hugely inefficient, and most of those issues cannot be corrected unless Congress re-writes laws which encourage inefficiency. I’ve spent 30 years in uniform (5 Active, 25 Reserve), 30 years working for a large automotive company (which did not go bankrupt) and four years working within the acquisition community — so I can see the problem. Personnel costs are high, but are they out of line with what is needed to fairly compensate people for what they do?
Please understand that the payment system to people who sacrifice so much is not the cause of the problem. Would you be willing to exchange 20 years of your life in the same way?
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