Troops start the new year with a 1 percent pay raise. That’s a little less than the 1.8 percent raise they would have gotten automatically from the annual cost of living adjustment. A study on pay and benefits from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission is due next month. Vice Adm. Norb Ryan is president of the Military Officers Association of America. He says some kind of reform is long overdue. He shared his Top 3 for 2015 on In Depth with Francis Rose. He says morale is still a top priority for the military, even with fewer commitments in Afghanistan.
MOAA’s top concern for 2015 is the morale and readiness of our uniformed services. We may be reducing our combat role in Afghanistan, but we are faced with increasing commitments elsewhere, including instability in Eastern Europe, containing the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, taking on new PACOM deployments and containing Ebola in West Africa. MOAA’s mission is to look out for all those that wear or have worn the uniform and their families.
Unfortunately, sequestration has forced the Pentagon to propose balancing the budget on the backs of the troops, and the troops are not buying it. Several surveys indicate morale is dropping and that there are problems ahead. Sequestration cuts threaten the fundamental capabilities of our nation’s armed forces. Recall that the 2011 Budget Control Act was designed to be so onerous that it would never take place, but it did. The subsequent 2013 Bipartisan Budget Act mitigated the spending cuts for fiscal 2014 and 2015, but sequestration returns in full-force in fiscal 2016. Unless the law is changed, the Defense Department will have to cut an additional $54 billion in the fiscal 2016 budget and $269 billion over the following five fiscal years. The resulting “meat axe” approach to budget reductions will likely hollow out the force and further negatively impact the morale and readiness of our uniformed services.
Many of the budget realities have led to outcries that personnel costs in the armed services are “out of control,” are simply unsustainable and that change is necessary. After listening to senior Pentagon leadership, Congress established the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission (MCRMC) and tasked it with developing detailed solutions ensuring that the uniformed services can maintain a professional all-volunteer force and that compensation and retirement systems are financially sustainable. Its report is due in February 2015. MOAA has testified before the Commission and looks forward to full vetting of the MCRMC’s recommendations to Congress to ensure their recommendations do not do a disservice to those on point and watch for this nation.
We remain diligent about securing good quality health care for our veterans. A national scandal erupted last April in Phoenix revealing that thousands of vets were stuck on long wait-lists for care. MOAA urged the administration to address the immediate needs and to chart a long-term course for VA health system for the next century. The resulting “Choice Act” authorized a commission to chart a course for VA health delivery over the next 20 years by examining best practices in American medicine along with trends in technology and telemedicine. The first phase of this work is underway. We must get this right and ensure our nation honors its commitment to our veterans.
In our special radio report, Top 3 for 2015, federal experts tell In Depth host Francis Rose what top three concepts, trends or priorities they believe will be important in 2015.