For more than a decade, Congress and the Pentagon have lavished money on the nation's 1.3 million active-duty troops and their families. Salaries and benefits soared far above civilian compensation, military bases and housing were refurbished, support services like day care, family counseling and on-base college courses were expanded.... and gets worse from there.
Now comes the reckoning. These personnel costs, necessary and warranted for those bearing the burden of war, are threatening to wreck the military, squeezing the accounts meant to fix or replace gear worn from a decade of war, for research and development, and for new missions in, say, Africa.
So stubbornly are personnel costs rising that at the current rate of increase, they would consume the entire defense budget by the year 2039, leaving well-paid troops standing around with their tanks, ships and airplanes rusting and out of gas.
There have been many intelligent rejoinders across the web, but one of my favorites is this gem from a retired serviceman, that includes the following:
But just out of curiosity … who exactly do you think is overpaid? Generalities are fun, but whose “lavish” pay would you like slashed? The 20-year-old Ohioan struggling to understand Pashto while he orchestrates installation of a water filtration system in a village that has resisted improvement since before Alexander the Great? Maybe the 32-year-old Californian responsible for guiding a 50,000-pound aircraft moving at the speed of sound to a precise point in time and space where she will deliver a Volkswagen-sized munition to a point on the Earth no bigger than a hopscotch court … knowing she will kill her own teammates or allow the enemy to kill them if she gets it wrong, even by a little? Or maybe the 40-year-old Floridian whose success is defined by whether his ability to train, motivate, inspire, and focus the 500 people in his charge will be enough to keep them alive in a war where neither the enemy nor the objective are understood and the source of the next attack is never known? You’re not talking about “personnel” my friend … you’re talking about “people.” Individuals with talents, capabilities, and courage that scare the living hell out of enemies. They are a bargain at twice the current rate, fiscal pressures be damned.
But while we’re on the point. People don’t typically make Master Sergeant in the Army in 8 years and they certainly don’t make Brigadier General in 16 years. But if they did, why would the pay you decry be so unreasonable? We’re talking about educated, capable, fit, ingenious men and women capable of taking life one minute, saving it the next, then opening a homeless shelter before sundown. I’ve been known to bash a general or two in my time, but the vast majority of them could step into any boardroom in America and, before the first coffee mug hit the table, instantly distill the winners and losers in the room, mentally devise a strategy for the next six months of corporate operations, and spend the next hour memorizing the names of the children and pets of everyone in the room. These people you construe as fat cats are not “ordinary people doing extraordinary things” as the old trope goes. They are extraordinary people making amazing things look easy. The real question is whether a country so manifestly confused on the cost of foreign activism deserves them.
HuffPo can afford to be wrong, because other than looking like idiots, they have no real consequences. However, their idiocy is read by a significant population that has no frame of reference to know any better, and therefore assumes that the author has done his fact-checking and is speaking the truth. Unfortunately, the article is riddled with significant inaccuracies (I don't think we've had a 16-year-TIS BG since WWII, and probably all the way back to the Civil War; certainly not with today's time-in-grade requirements) and half-truths (BAH doesn't necessarily cover the cost of off-post housing, which is hardly lavish in most military communities) that readers are left with an outright wrong impression of life in the military.
It's too bad, too, because there's probably some legitimate issues to debate here. But this guy is wrong on too many things to constructively contribute to it.