One of the best lines in the movie “Forrest Gump” is the oft repeated “stupid is, as stupid does” and evidence of monumental stupidity is referenced without a doubt in David Wood’s HP article “http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/30/defense-budget-cuts_n_2584099.html.”
Journalistic integrity aside, it should be deplorable practice to use highly vehement trigger words in a volatile time, when nerves are raw and emotions run high. But in a world where writers live and die by page hits, comments and reader interaction, the use of provocative labels is about all one has left, right David? “Lavish” has evoked the response it was intended to simply by noting the vehement responses the article has generated. It is a shame to note however, how low a once respected and highly educated writer has to stoop to generate copy. The Huffington Post should be ashamed for publishing such obvious drivel from a journalist with over 40 yrs experience in supposed military operations. It’s further obvious the talent and integrity that won this writer the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting is not present in this article in any way, shape or form.
David Woods’ antagonistic piece opens with the line “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.”
Dude, on what planet do you live? Veterans and active-duty personnel alike will stand in the proverbial line daily to relate the deplorable conditions found in any and all military facilities and in the operational readiness of situation specific hardware and arms. In layman’s terms, our forward deployment ability sucks and is getting worse with impending cuts and present suspension of services.
What is “lavish” to one man, is merely sustaining to hundreds of thousands of active-duty military personnel and their families. Pontification and postulation on the part of the Huffington Post writer aside, lets wander through the ether and do some heavy lifting to get some true facts.
The military has been fairly consistent with the private-sector compensation as noted on Militaryrates.com, “Historically, military pay raises coincided with wage earnings in the private sector. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ uses the Employment Cost Index (ECI) to adjust military wage increases. But, according to the MOAA (Military Officers Association of America), the gap between military and private-sector wages accumulated from 1972 to 2010 is at minus 2.4 percent.”
Anyone remember the horrific conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center? How would you have liked to have been flown in from Germany to begin further treatment and recovery at this facility David? Doesn’t really give you the warm and friendlies does it?
Mr. Wood asserts: “But the data is clear. Since 2001, total military compensation, including pay and benefits, grew by 20.5 percent, while comparable private-sector civilian pay did not increase at all.”
The US Military machine has finally, in the last decade, begun to achieve parity with the civilian world after lacking for almost a century. Militaryrates.com offers that “In 2003, the Department of Defense and other government agencies introduced the initiative “Forward Compatible Military Pay” to address claims about an outdated and inconsistent military pay system.” From the Report of the Eleventh Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation: “Compensation plays an important role in recruiting, retaining, and motivating the men and women in uniform who serve this nation. Without adequate compensation, the nation would be unable to sustain the all-volunteer force, in the size and with the skill sets needed to support the missions called for in the national security strategy. To maintain its viability, members of the all-volunteer force must receive compensation that is competitive with civilian earnings.” Americanprogress.org further illustrates this, “To ensure the force attracts and retains high-quality recruits, the Defense Department ties basic military pay to civilian salaries as measured by the Employment Cost Index, ensuring that service members are paid in-line with comparably educated civilian employees.” As a nation we’ve fought two wars in the last decade. War is expensive in every facet, from front-line operational readiness to retention of qualified personnel. When unemployment is over 8% nationally and private-sector business generation is stagnant and failing with increasing rapidity, there will be no private-sector civilian pay increases either, so that point of contention is not sound. Joyce Raezer, executive director of the National Military Family Association, says it best in the very article itself. She defended the increases in pay and benefits by saying, “We’ve been at war. We’ve had to pay for people to be at war.”
David continues with the statement “Currently, the Pentagon pays all housing costs for families who live off base.” This statement is not factual and can be disproved easily. Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA) are based on time in service, housing costs for the geographical location, and number of dependents and is usually about 19 to 20% out of pocket expense.
Poor David continues to spiral out of control with his statement “Other benefits include shopping at on-base commissaries, which typically save military shoppers about 30 percent on groceries.”
Writer Rod Powers explores the commissary savings myth in an article locate on http://usmilitary.about.com/ “Commissaries operate under guidelines and procedures incorporated into Federal Law. Commissaries must sell their items for the same price they purchase them. A five percent surcharge is added to the purchase to help pay for normal operating costs and facility maintenance and construction … Although most of the commissary “pay-roll” (cashiers, stockers, etc.) comes out of the surcharge, baggers are independent contractors who work solely for tips. It’s customary to tip baggers between $1.00 and $5.00, depending upon the total amount of your purchase … I visited a local Wal Mart “Super Store,” and bought $103.57 worth of groceries. I then made a list of the items I bought and traveled to Patrick AFB (about 90 miles away). At the commissary there, I priced the exact same items. According to DeCA, my commissary bill should have been around $70.00. Had I actually purchased the items, my bill would have been $85.52. Tack on the 5 percent surcharge, and it would have been $89.79. I won’t count the bagger’s tip, as Commissary baggers not only bag your groceries but take them outside and load them into your car. That’s worth every penny of the tip, in my opinion. My total discount would have been 13.3 percent.” Sorry David, wrong again.
The HP article further states “Base pay and housing allowance boosts the income of an Army master sergeant with 10 years of service, living at Fort Drum, N.Y., to $84,666.48 a year”
According to http://www.militaryfactory.com an army master sergeant with 10 yrs of service would gross $49,122.00 per yr base pay doing some simple math. Care to show us where it states the remaining 35, 544.48 is made up in housing allowances and tax breaks Mr. Woods? Can you?
Further research shows the statement “An Army captain with six years of service with the 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, earns $85,330.80 a year in pay and housing allowance — not counting bonuses, tax-free danger pay for service in a war zone and other benefits.” to be just as ludicrous. Again, according to http://www.militaryfactory.com an O-3 over 6 would gross $64, 339.20 which is significantly less than the amount the article would lead us to believe.
To all of the brave men and women in harms way, we say “Thank You.” “Thank you!!” Thank you for your service and your sacrifice and the sacrifices made by the families who love and support you. There are still those of us in the world who believe that you will never be compensated justly or wholly for your actions across the globe that allow us to sleep peacefully in our beds at night.