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  • A Webb of Expenses

    The decision by Congress to establish an all-volunteer force in 1973 ensured that American citizens have “the freedom to pursue their careers where and how they choose – in essence their right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The all-volunteer system, while expensive, has proven to be consistent with American values and well worth the costs required to recruit and retain highly-skilled and increasingly mobile professionals. Ensuring that America’s soldiers are sufficiently compensated for their invaluable service to their nation is and should always remain a top priority of our elected officials. Indeed, when the cash, non-cash, and deferred benefits a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine receives are totaled, Congress should be commended for ensuring America’s servicemembers are paid at a level comparable to their civilian counterparts.

    With a defense budget topline that is estimated to decline in the coming years—and a military compensation system that has grown at an unsustainable rate of almost 40 percent since the year 2000—the Congress must be prepared to take a long view and balance the requirements of meeting recruiting and retention priorities, continuing to modernize the force, and keeping manpower costs under control.

    The so-called Webb GI Bill, introduced by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) as S. 22, the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007, provides a considerable expansion of GI benefits to soldiers who have served since 9/11. Unfortunately, this bill does little to help sustain retention rates while greatly expanding personnel costs without any proposed offsets. Budgeting demands Congress set priorities. Devoting resources to allow education benefits to be transferred to spouses or dependent children should be a priority—so long as it’s done responsibly.

    Already projected to cost upwards of $52 billion over a ten-year period alone—doubling the present value of educational benefits—a study by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated the S.22 could cause a 16% decline in reenlistment rates due to soldiers enticed to leave the service after three years to take advantage of their education benefits. According to CBO, this unintended consequence would cost an additional $6.7 billion between 2009-2013 just to pay for additional reenlistment bonuses to make up for the 16% loss.

    Recent technical analyses of the current military compensation system show that non-cash benefits constitute a much larger share of compensation for the military than their private sector counterparts. (In-kind and deferred benefits include things like health care and retirement pay.) These analyses come from the Congressional Budget Office, the General Accountability Office, and RAND Corporation. Meanwhile, many military personnel believe they are underpaid when compared to their private sector peers because they focus on cash compensation levels. The Webb amendment will not resolve this perception problem. It might even make it worse. Congress would better serve the men and women in uniform by taking the money to be allocated to the expanded educational benefits proposed by Senator Webb and applying it to pay raises for military personnel.

    Compensating America’s soldiers in a way that can enable the force to continue to recruit and retain highly-skilled candidates, while working to keep manpower costs under control in a future of potentially-reduced defense budgets, must be the primary aim of the Congress. The Webb GI Bill fails to do either.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to A Webb of Expenses

    1. John, Delaware says:

      The new GI Bill will do wonders for enlistment. That should more than compensate for service members who choose to end their service after 1, 2, or 3 enlistments in order to go to college.

      Secondly, there are many reasons why people enlist. For example, they might not have the maturity, intelligence, or financial means to go to college. Military service can help them with two of these three; but it still takes an SAT score to get into a college. Sure, that sounds pretty harsh. But it's reality. University academics are not for everyone. The idea that everyone will run off to college is ridiculous.

      Having served in the military for 20 years, and having seen firsthand the unbelievable waste of tax-payers money, this GI Bill is a drop in the bucket in the conversation about fiscal responsibility. When DoD contractors stop paying six figure salaries to people who would have trouble maintaining a job at a fast food restaurant, then you can talk intellectually honestly about fiscal responsibility. If people west of Reston, Va knew what was going on inside the beltway, they'd storm the Capitol and/or Pentagon demanding their tax dollars back.

      The "so-called" Webb GI Bill is a home run. It's an excellent investment in our country's future and provides an great incentive for military service. This retired servicemember endorses it whole-heartedly.

    2. Will says:

      You should be utterly ashamed to write this garbage…we are spending BILLIONS per MONTH in a war which we should have never waged. Hell, $50 billion dollars over 10 years sound like a deal to me! (Considering we've spenT $600 billion in Iraq and counting…)

      I think the least we could do for these veterans is offer a benefit comparable to that offerred to WWII vets.

      Let me guess, you folks love to wave your flags and bump your chest about how patriotic you are, but when asked to do something MEANINGFUL for our veterans you go silent and start manufacturing arguments for why not to do so… But you have no problems with the national treasurey being handed over to the likes of Halliburton, Blackwater, Bechtel, et al.

      Thank you JIM WEBB! SIEMPRE FIE!

      Obama/Webb 08 in a LANDSLIDE!!!!

    3. Cory, Georgia says:

      Its nice how this hack conveniently left out the part of the same study shows a 16% increase in recruitment, balancing the loss of reenlisting soldiers. I've been out of the military less than two years and it wasn't the "great" benefits of the GI Bill that lead me to decline reenlisting. It was the fact there was no foreseeable future to the endless deployments to Iraq and the possible outbreak of a new war in Iran. Preach both sides of the story James Carafano not just the parts that benefit your article. Jim Webb is stepping up to something that should have been improved years ago.

      • Dklisa says:

        God forbid you had to do actual MILITARY work…. Meaning, going to war. Re-enlist….right. Guess you are the kind of military personnel we pay for that would like to be on base, safe and sound, at home in good ol' USA while collecting pay and benefits and getting ready to bump out so you can go to school for free, too.

    4. Ray Wilkins says:

      I support the Webb bill on one condition; that it coincide with equal cuts in social welfare spending to those who contribute nothing. This will offset the increased cost of the bill and ease the burden on taxpayers who will no doubt have to pay for this bill.

    5. Kevin, New York says:

      Wow, 52 billion over 10 years? That comes out to roughly 35 dollars a taxpayer, per year. GET. OVER. IT.

    6. Mac, Tulsa says:

      Sen. Webb should be commended for his courage to bring this legislation forward. As a former Secretary of the U.S. Navy, former Assistant Secretary of Defense, and an Annapolis grad who also served in combat – and was decorated for his action – I think he's fully qualified to comment on and bring forth this work.

      If we decrease spending on programs of entitlement for those who do absolutely nothing to contribute – as opposed to say, many of us who have actually put a uniform on – then this can be "squeezed" into the budget.

      Thank you Senator Webb.

    7. Eric Roos, Alexandri says:

      I retired from the Army and am using the current GI Bill to the max. It has paid for two masters degrees that put me heads and shoulders above my peers who went to expensive schools and it has paid for three incredible certifications—seven tests in all. Finally, as my GI Bill nears its end, I'm expending it on a PhD program at Virginia Tech. I'm worried about how I'll finish the program once my GI Bill is depleted, but it has carried me quite far. Maybe I'm missing something, but the current GI Bill has served me well. Could I have gone to an Ivy League school under the GI Bill—no; but, did that a requirement to exceed the competitiveness of my peers—no. Again, what am I missing?

    8. Publius, Washington says:

      I am an active duty military officer with multiple Iraq deployments and continuing an active duty career.

      It is time for veterans to be intelectually and philosophically honest and oppose this new brand of federal welfare sweeping through Congress in the name of patriotism and "serving those who have served" and all the other platitudes that are greasing the skids of the rapidly expanding welfare state. The left, intentionally or not, is scoring a huge government expansion win by targeting traditionally conservative, limited-government constituencies, with the federal largesse.

      When do the expansive benefits of the military become the modern equivalent of the Quartering Act of 1765? Perhaps it is time to take a liberal weapon — the expansive and maleable interpretation of the Constitution — and launch some Third Amendment challenges to the bloated veteran and military benefit programs out there.

      As a mid-career junior officer, I was paid the taxable equivalent of more than $169,000 last year (about the same as a Congressman). Enlistment goals remain consistently met in excess of 100%. But we keep expanding pay and benefits and finance our bloated bureacracy by borrowing from Red China.

      I cancelled my VFW lifetime membership, because I now see that organization is "Veterans For Welfare".

      Stop the expansion of the federal welfare state, stop the federal dollar domination of the academy that is fueling sky-rocketing tuitions.

      Let me tell you a dirty little secret. This is note the "next greatest generation". After years of warfare, wee are still barely scratching mere hours of World War II combat casualties.

      Be honest. Starting with yourself.

    9. Robert, Tucson says:

      This Webb bill is a stupid idea…… If he really wants to help those who serve put the money in the bill for educating service members who wish to participate in degree programs while they serve… this would encourage both enlistment and retention, as well as providing for continued professional and academic growth in what is already the best educated military in the world.

      If the tax payer is going to help finance the increased knowledge and expertise of these service members, they should also reap some benefit in the forum enticements to continue service

    10. Chance, MD says:

      First, as the other commenter noted, you left out the point that increase in recruiting will help offset any retention issues.

      Second, education benefits should not be used as a retention incentive. There are a number of programs and incentives to help retention, and using the GI Bill (which I helped pay for with my $1200 contribution) as a carrot to keep me in is not in keeping with the original intent of the program.

      Third, perhaps the junior officer above is paid like a congressman, but this former NCO sure wasn't, and many of the non cash benefits looked great on paper, but weren't so good in practice (don't get me started on military health care). This is hardly "welfare". This is compensation. And if the guy above got 2 masters and almost a PhD with his, great, but not every area or program of study is right for every person. I for example can not learn very well with online classes, despite them being cheaper.

      Fourth, despite what the surveys and studies say, military service has few comparable civilian equivalants, either in danger (real and percieved), time away from home and loved one, missed educational oppurtunities, restrictions on personal life, highly disciplined atmosphere, or other comparisons. I never met a McDonald's employee who was required to know as much and perform as strictly as even the most junior enlisted soldier. There simply is no comparison.

      This GI Bill should be lauded, and passed immediately.

    11. Steve, Eugene says:

      A response to Kevin, from New York who wrote:

      "Wow, 52 billion over 10 years? That comes out to roughly 35 dollars a taxpayer, per year. GET. OVER. IT"

      $35 per taxpayer, plus $X for the Iraq War, plus $X for the Afghanistan War, plus $X for Medicare, plus $X for Social Security, plus $X for federal employees benefits, plus $X for food stamp, plus $X for welfare, plus $X other entitlement programs…. shall I continue?

      The government is spending money like a drunken sailor. Special interest in Capitol Hill almost always wins. Government:

      1. gives tax credit (lobbied by 'green' companies)

      2. gives subsidies (lobbied by farm companies & oil companies)

      3. gives tax benefit (lobbied by homebuilder companies)

      4. increases payroll tax on Medicare 8 times (lobbied by older people + Medicare beneficiaries)

      5. increases payroll tax on Social Sec 20 times (lobbied by older people + SS beneficiaries)

      6. increases veteran benefits (lobbied by veteran organizations).

      Oh well, I'm only one person, what can I do?

      I paid out of pocket for most of my years in community college. Then I transferred to a 4-year public university. The current MGIB is enough to pay for my tuition, books, fees, school supplies, gas, and there is still leftover to pay for my daily expenses. Once I get my bachelor degree, I will still have enough to help me pay for a Certified Financial Planner training at a local private university. And if my MGIB won't cover the tuition cost at the private university, I'll not complain to the government, begging, asking for more money. I'll just work hard, save money, and apply for private scholarships to finish off.

    12. Cpl Grames, Iraq says:

      As an Private First Class infantryman in the marine corps, i was being paid roughly 1800 dollars a month to live in the roughest conditions most americans could ever imagine and work 16-20 hour days on a daily basis for almost 7 months straight (jan06-jul06), the new GI bill will be the only benefit that will have made this enlistment at all worthwhile. I didnt see tax payers or so called "war politicians" crying a river and demanding that combat troops(i emphesize combat) be paid a salary proportionate to the amount of danger we were in, so i sure as heck dont want to hear them crying about 52 billion now.

      The only reasonable arguement against the new GI bill would be to say that only combat troops/veterans are eligible, being that the a large portion of the troops are in some kind of support role and have plenty the opportunity and time to attend classes while enlisted.

      In short, any civilian who opposes it doesnt see the vast potential for the kind of impact educated leaders could have on america in the long run, and any military personell who oppose it probably didnt really earn it and just dont feel right taking something that so many true warriors had to die for. I honestly hope their children will be drafted in the next war.

      Thank god for great americans like Senator Jim Webb, he went all the way to support us while some of his colleagues(the most powerful ones) were only concerned with retention and politics.

      • Dklisa says:

        …." i sure as heck dont want to hear them crying about 52 billion now."

        I think a little gratitude is in order! But you want ever more….. Can you say: Thank you, taxpayers…..?? Apparently not, just give me, give me.

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