Commodifying the Force
Originally published August 22nd, 2011.
Lex made some good points but even long before he was in the military – when starting to go “all volunteer” the services were changing. In the early 70s, with Vietnam winding down and the Army motto was “Today’s Army wants to join you” they started a program called RIF – for reduction in force.
Even military bureaucratese had crept into Lex’s lexicon (it’s too early for me to think that was a “pun” the word just crept out there ) – anyway what Lex termed “non voluntary separations” – are layoffs by any other name.
And the Army – as I assume the other services – went about it like corporate America. I knew of some good Sgts and officers – who with 19 years and then some, got their “involuntary separation” notice. They’d been RIFed.
And, perplexing to me, those who seemed to just stay on for the ride – coasting and doing as little as possible – hoping to get to their magic 20 – seemed to stay in.
This is all a good 10-15 years before Lex was at Annapolis.
As to the pension reforming – the military is cost cutting everywhere. A cousin of mine wanted to be an Army officer since he was 14.
Studied the process of how to get into West Point, dotted all the “I”s and crossed the “T”s, and was admitted .
He graduated and during Ranger training blew out his back and, perplexing to his family, has not had an operation to help his condition.
He is leaving the Army next month rather bitter about the the way he was treated.
Is it because of his medical condition?
Cost of the operation?
I honestly don’t know.
But things seem to be changing.
I was an AF pilot’s wife when the post-Vietnam RIFs came down & the uncertainty of who would be cut loose was … difficult. We jumped ship (so to speak) and relocated to Colorado from Michigan — the best decision ever.
Re: military pension reform. Even Caterpillar Inc. labor unions have recognized that what cannot go on will not go on. Defined benefit pensions are no longer economically feasible. With the defense budget limited by political & economic realities and pensions eating up an ever-greater portion of that budget, a defined contribution plan is the only choice left. There are benefits: the funds would belong to the individual; the plan account would be portable; the individual would no longer have to stay in the service ~20 years to obtain retirement funds — they would be his from day one, and could be rolled into a IRA or new employer’s 401k whenever he separates.
Bill, I am sorry to hear about your cousin, but is it possible that his medical condition simply would not benefit from surgery? My sister has had vertebrae fused, disc stents inserted, etc., and still suffers from back problems with extreme pain. She has obtained no net benefit. Some things cannot be fixed.
colocomment – after posting that I was wondering if I should have, because I honestly don’t know why they wouldn’t operate on him.
He was pulled out of Afghanistan because of his back – flown to Landstuhl to be evaluated, and sent stateside where he currently is.
I shouldn’t leave the impression that the Army is cheap because in general they take care of their own. Without really knowing the whole story (and I have never done the obvious and simply asked him) perhaps I should have left out that story.
I struggle with this one, knowing that the Services have paid out retirement pensions for generations now, only to see the idea of a 401K come around. Changing plans now will incur a disaster of epic proportions when it comes to new Recruits, leaving many to choose another path rather than have GOVERNMENT manage their pension; think Social Security to understand what I’m talking about. 50% of base at 20 is 50% of base. Period. Not some variable number to stress over, being mismanaged into a fustercluck by a group of indifferent souls with an established pension unaffected by the performance of their work.
Having worked in Civil Service for the Navy, I also have first hand experience with how badly a government 401K type program is managed; numerous gains all but wiped out with one loss, and on a scarily recurring and seemingly programmatic basis.
I struggle with the idea of a 401K coming out of a Congress who receives retirement after what, one term? How vested is anyone at that point? The same Congress that provides for its own health care program, rather than tie into the one specified for we po’ folk.
Retired Veterans are not anything like retired Union members, whose Union has an overhead totally unrelated to the actual business of doing business. Oh wait, there’s Congress involved, so I may have to modify that statement a bit. Also, as Grandpa Bluewater stated in one comment at the Mothership, 50% of base pay is not 50% of pay. There’s a vast difference in benefits paid out, especially when one considers that COLA has always been several points behind inflation.
OT: Thank God for the rain this morning in Tucson; cats and dogs rain. It might actually stay a bit cooler today. And speaking of backs and surgeries, gotta touch base with QM. He’s scheduled for lumbar spinal work on the 24th. Please keep him in your prayers. Maybe he’ll stop by prior to going in.
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