(UPDATES) Panetta Calls for Cut in Active Duty Military Pay Raises

Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta speaks to college students at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

Note:

Most recent update on the military pay raises follows the update on the Georgetown University address.

EXTENDED UPDATE:

In extensive remarks today to college students at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta delivered a blistering attack on government gridlock and “the partisan dysfunction in Congress” and called on Congress to end such gridlock and resolve issues affecting the economy and, specifically, defense and national security issues.

While he did not directly address the possible cut in active duty military pay raises, he provided a detailed account of how the impending sequester would affect our defense posture and possibly our national security.

Here are some highlights. The full transcript is available here.

Addressing his remarks to the generation at Georgetown, “your generation,” he said:

As I leave government, I really believe that we are at a critical crossroads in the life of this nation. We’re emerging from a deep economic recession. We’re emerging from major wars that occurred in the post-9/11 era. And the hope is that we can bring those wars to an end. We are facing as a nation new opportunities and new possibilities. I really believe that in many ways we have an opportunity to enter a whole new renaissance in the United States, to develop an economy that is creative, that is innovative, that can grow strong in the 21st century, a country that can provide world leadership, can provide the kind of security, partnership in which we can work with other countries to develop their capabilities, to form new alliances, to form new partnerships with countries across the world, so that we can build a family of nations that can help provide security in a difficult world.

After addressing the challenges facing the United States, including national security, Panetta addressed head-on what he considers to be “perhaps, the most urgent task facing this nation and facing all of us,” that is “overcoming the partisan dysfunction in Congress that poses a threat to our quality of life, to our national security, to our economy, to our ability to address the problems that confront this country.”

Recalling a budget negotiations incident during the Reagan administration and commenting on governing either through leadership or through crisis, Panetta said:

Today, crisis drives policy. It has become too politically convenient to simply allow a crisis to develop and get worse and then react to the crisis. I mean, I understand, look, as somebody who was in politics as a representative for 16 years, I understand the mentality. Why do I have to make tough decisions that anger my constituents — raise their taxes, cut their entitlements? Why do I have to do those decisions when I can simply stand back and allow crisis to occur?

After expressing his concern that “we are putting our national security at risk by lurching from budget crisis to budget crisis to budget crisis,” Panetta addressed the approaching sequestration crisis:

Today we approach another trigger for sequestration, March 1. And the Department of Defense is again facing what I believe and what the service chiefs believe and what the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff believe is the most serious readiness crisis that this country is going to confront in over a decade. President Obama, obviously many leaders in Congress, share our concerns. There isn’t anybody I’ve talked to on Capitol Hill that doesn’t think this is crazy. No one that I’ve talked to doesn’t think that this a dangerous tool to impact the country.

Finally, after commenting on the serious damage that the sequester will do to the non-defense side of the budget and castigating Congress’ “constant partisanship, grid lock and recrimination” some more, Panetta got down to the impact of sequestration on his Department and on national security:

If Congress doesn’t act, and the Department is forced to operate, as we will be, under a year-long sequestration and a year-long continuing resolution, let me tell you what will happen. We will have to abruptly absorb in a period of about six months — remember, we’re in the fiscal year, started October 1st, we’ve got about six, seven months left in the fiscal year. If sequester goes into effect, we’ll then have to absorb those cuts in that latter part of the year. We’ll have to absorb $46 billion in sequester reductions. And we’ll be facing a $35 billion shortfall in operating funds for our active forces.

Panetta said that his Department has already tried to reduce spending but, nevertheless, “We’re looking at putting 46,000 jobs at risk,” and if the sequester goes into effect, “there will be a serious disruption in defense programs and a sharp decline in our military readiness.

More specifically, according to Panetta:

– We will furlough as many as 800,000 DOD civilians around the country for up to 22 days. They could face a 20 percent cut in their salary…

– We’re going to cut back on Army training and maintenance, putting about two-thirds of our active brigade combat teams outside Afghanistan at a reduced readiness level…

– We’re going to have to shrink our global naval operations with a reduction of as much as one-third in our western Pacific naval operations…

– We’ll cut the Air Force flying hours and weapons system maintenance, putting flying units below acceptable readiness standards by the end of the fiscal year…

Some “choice words” the Secretary added at various points:

* “It is a self-made crisis.”

* “This is not a game. This is reality,”

* “This is no way to govern the United States of America.”

* “This is not just a bad joke. And it isn’t a bad joke that Congress now has the lowest ratings it’s had in recent history.”

Amen, Mr. Secretary
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Pay Raise Update:

Statement from Pentagon Press Secretary George Little on Proposed 2014 Military Pay Raise

“The Department of Defense (DoD) will propose a one percent pay raise for service members in calendar year 2014 as part of the forthcoming fiscal 2014 defense budget request to Congress.

“The proposal provides a pay raise for U.S. forces in an era of slowing defense spending. In addition to this pay increase, the department will maintain important benefits for active duty service members and families, including housing and subsistence allowances, special pay, tuition assistance, health care, commissaries, child care and youth development programs, and military retirement benefits. Further details will be made available in the fiscal 2014 budget submission.

“Given the current budget environment, this pay raise is less than previously projected but allows the Department to maintain critical investments in readiness and modernization going forward. Department leaders preserved an increase in compensation as part of a balanced approach to future defense budgets that ensures service members are fully equipped, trained, and supported.”

==

Original Post

Yesterday, President Obama called on Congress to avoid deep, across-the-board spending cuts looming March 1 under a “sequestration” mechanism in budget law and to take a balanced approach to America’s debt problems.

Pentagon officials have said that if sequestration happens, hundreds of thousands of Defense Department civilian employees could be furloughed and readiness of the military force will plummet.

Today, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta dropped a bombshell.

CNN reports that Panetta will recommend to Congress that active duty military salaries be limited to a 1% increase in 2014, “effectively decreasing troop salaries next year.”

CNN:

The Pentagon has calculated that the Labor Department’s 2014 Employment Cost Index is expected to be above 1% but wants to still cut back on pay because of “budget uncertainties,” a department official told CNN. In 2013, a 1.7% increase was approved, based on the index, which has been the basis for military pay for the last several years.

Three Pentagon officials have confirmed details of the plan to CNN. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have also agreed to Panetta’s proposed pay plan. Final approval for the pay would come from Congress in the form of the 2014 budget.

The recommendation is tied to the Defense Department’s 2014 budget recommendation, which was expected to be sent to Congress this month, one of the officials said. But the officials acknowledge it is going to be seen as an effort to push Congress to stop the automatic budget cuts that could go into effect if no deal is reached on spending reductions.

Read full report here

More to follow

Photo: DOD

  

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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6 Comments

  1. Well, we have to start cutting somewhere. seven tenths of one percent is not bad.

  2. Is this about general cuts or about getting people out of the military. My brother in law is on his 4th tour and he says the army is just looking for reasons to boot people.

  3. Yes, we can cut military pay which makes up 20% of the budget, or we can get part of the other $500Bn to stop wasting so much.

  4. I really to have to question the man’s knowledge on budget information. Does he honestly know what the average pay for an enlisted (any military branch) even is? These people don’t even make what teachers make starting out. I remember when Desert Storm happened with most of the soldiers there shipping overseas and many of the families left behind in the area had to go on welfare and food stamps while their spouses were deployed. Even today, I have read of those in the lower ranks of the military who sometimes must use food stamps to help out their family.

    How about instead of cutting military pay, we discharge those who wouldn’t have been able to enlist before Bush relaxed the requirements. How about we cut a few multi-billion dollar weapons systems contracts. Lastly, how about we close most of the bases in Europe with the exception of maybe Rammstein and another. We have some form of military contingent in 150 different countries. I’m pretty most of those places are populated by big boys and girls who can take care of themselves. It’s for our military to start being smarter about strategy, readiness, and deployments. It’s certainly long past time for us to stop under-paying and under-caring for those those that serve in our military.

  5. Agreed, brcarthey. There are many other places to cut the military “fat.” I have the feeling that Panetta is using this threat to gain attention (and leverage) on the sequestration issue. I am not saying that such is right, just making an an observation.

  6. Actually I’m far more concerned with furloughing 800,000 DOD civilians than reducing a scheduled raise by a mere 7 tenths of one percent. What about those families? Big damage to some local economies also.

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