|Pentagon Press Secretary George Little|
World and national events make this "A Time for All Seasons" and there is a reason that Friday is a favorite weekday of most! But it was with trepidation that MilitaryAvenue dialed into the DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable Friday afternoon to talk with Pentagon Press Secretary George Little and DoD Spokesman U.S. Navy Capt. John Kirby. Why? - you wonder? We were about to discuss the new 2013 budget proposal from the Pentagon. The subject always seems to be one of the tough issues that never please anyone. Which programs are being cut this time, manpower reductions, aircraft and naval vessel numbers slashed, Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) recommendations, etc.? Do the needs of the military drive the budget or does the budget drive our military needs is always the question?
This Roundtable was a fine example of those discussions. Great questions from bloggers and answers from the Pentagon. But they left me wondering what the message these media experts were sending to us and you. “Refocus attention on skill sets”, “pay growth may slow”, “no commitment to be broken for military retirement”, “F-35 is aircraft of our future”, new BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) proposals, airlift cuts to match troop cuts in Army and Marines, …
The Secretary of Defense announced his budget priorities and these men were explaining those priorities and how they would impact the military community. Troops coming home from Europe, fewer troops (80,000 soldiers and 20,000 Marines), a BRAC like commission to review military retirement (grandfathered for all currently serving), emphasis on special forces and maintaining the number of big deck carriers, - the intent? Save $259 Billion over the next five years and $487 Billion over the next 10 years. Having been a program element monitor (PEM) warrior at the Pentagon, it was apparent that not much has changed since I departed active duty. The discussions will focus on keeping programs in each service, protecting the turf but always looking for ways to save money.
Why is this discussion important to you?
Pentagon budget discussions translate into real life changing events. Think not? Ask that soldier or Marine and his family what they think when 100,000 folks are told “thank you for your service” but it is time to look for other employment. I have seen the results of selective early retirement boards on folks too. Kids in college? Sorry, we want you to retire anyway. Planned to stay till you were at 20 or 30 year point with a sick child for health care reasons? Maybe not? BRAC closing the base where your commissary, exchange and health care is located? Closest one is now 300 miles away. Smaller troop numbers, Brigade rotations to Europe, fewer aircraft will result in longer and more frequent deployments – can not imagine that? Wish it were true.
I asked about health changes for the retiree population. Another MilitaryAvenue team member listening to the Roundtable suggested I sounded a bit emotional and I guess I did. When the media team suggested that retirees under 65 had a second job and other health insurance I cringed. According to their comments little impact! Another blogger (thank you Gail Harris, writing for Foreign Policy Association ) backed me up as a military retiree under 65 relying on Tricare insurance. Besides, if you think that it will have little impact why make changes? The retirees paying more for health care are offsetting other program cuts and that means a lot of money from their pockets. Mr. Panetta said in a press release that, “But let me be clear that even after these increases, the cost borne by military retirees will remain below the levels in comparable private-sector plans.” Please Mr. Secretary, when did we ask civilian/private sector personnel to fight our wars, deploy multiple times, do crazy dangerous things like fly over the top of underground nuclear tests, pull 7 gs flying aircraft, work for 38 hours + non stop, hike 20+ miles in one night, get shot at, bombed and miss that Christmas, anniversary, child’s birth? My list could go on sir! When we asked the American corporate world to make those type of sacrifices on a daily basis, then we have a fair analogy.
So Mr. Secretary, these are not just numbers when you talk about people and lets put actions in place to support rhetoric that we are taking care of the troops. These budget changes will create life changing events. But I return to the thought at the beginning: "A Time for All Seasons." Let’s take a look at where this budget goes and see if it supports our national defense, takes care of those patriots who do the mission and those who support them on the home front. Maybe it is time for a change, a smaller military, less benefits, reduced health care. As long as the interests of the nation come first, fit a strategy that protects our resources and people, a military with a smaller extended reach and capability I say, "Put me in coach"! But let’s all play the game with the same rules and not change them during the game like some advocate.
A big thank you to DoDLive and Secretary Little and Capt Kirby for this Blogger Roundtable discussion. You can find a transcript and listen to an audio of the Roundtable at DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable.
Follow Col K on twitter at @MilAve_Col_K.
Photo Credit US Department of Defense