Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pay Cuts for Our Military? UPDATE: 2 Jun

In these tough times, everyone in the government is going to have to make some sacrifices to get our budget problems under control. Now it seems that outgoing SecDef has put cuts to military pay and compensation on the table as a cost-cutting measure.

President Obama has asked the Department of Defense to cut $400B and one of the ways that this could be accomplished is by cutting the pay of our Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, and Sailors. Obama is already not terribly popular among those serving. There are many who feel he is out of touch with members of the military. I can speak first-hand on this. While deployed on 2009 he came for a visit and folks were not interested in attending. Watching videos of former President Bush’s visit compared to Obama’s there was a stark difference between the ways folks responded to each individual. Bush got a rousing welcome with lots of cheers, while Obama’s greeting was respectful but certainly not over the top. I spoke to a couple of people who attended Obama’s meet-and-greet and they said Obama seemed surprised that he didn’t get the kind of welcome he had come to expect when greeting other well-wishers.  His Executive Order eliminating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and then pushing Congress to allow gays to serve openly in the military is a very good indicator of how out of touch he is with respect to the men and women of the military.  I point this out because if he OKs pay and benefit cuts what little inroads he has made with the military will disappear completely.

Over the course of my career I saw massive changes to the military. When I joined the Air Force, there were nearly 900,000 Airmen serving across the world. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism it was decided we didn’t need that many people so personnel cuts were made as well as many duty locations shutdown.  But despite the reduction in mission “iron” (aircraft) the work load was increased. In my career field we used to have two people on duty at all times. On individual observed the weather conditions on an hourly basis, or more often if weather conditions required it. The other person on duty was a forecaster who was responsible for a 24 hour forecast and also briefed pilots on weather conditions at their location and the location where the pilot wanted to go.  Now both responsibilities fall to one person. Technology has cut how much each “position” needs to do each shift, but it hasn’t been enough. There are still many times, especially when the weather is bad or a lot of pilots need to fly, when two people on shift are needed.

During these reductions in force (RIF), there was one constant. Increasing pay.  I need to make one thing clear; most folks do not serve this nation to get rich. Most who serve do it for as many reasons as there are people. A common thread though is the desire to be part of something larger than themselves.  But the increased pay was a very nice side benefit to the increased work hours and many deployments. Many of us saw the numbers of hours worked each day increase significantly and we all know about the deployments.

Now Obama, Gates, and Leon Panetta (incoming SecDef) are seriously considering chopping pay and benefits. I know everyone is going to have to bite the bullet to get all of this out of control spending contained. My one hope is these cost saving measures won’t go to some stupid Obama progressive program like tracking the mating habits of bears or the study of ants or to maintain renewalable energy subsidies. Despite what progressives might think, the men and women who serve are not stupid. We will know if these pay cuts are used to beef up some other pet program(s).

I posted this a day after this post. As you can see, the Obama Administration and members of Congress (including a Republican) just can't seem to get it through their thick heads that we have a serious budget crisis on our hands and we need to be cutting spending for all programs, not asking for additional funding for some stupid pet project.  This is the kind of thing that is going to get the men and women in the military really PO'd.

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