By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2015 – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today the release of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization report, which contains recommendations to improve the efficiency and sustainability of compensation benefits for service members and veterans.
A panel of independent, bipartisan commissioners spent about 18 months on the painstaking overhaul based on feedback from more than 150,000 current and retired service members, the secretary said in a statement.
Reforming, Modernizing Benefits
“[The commissioners] have developed a wide-ranging set of recommendations on reforming and modernizing the package of benefits we provide to America’s men and women in uniform and their families, and [the Defense Department] will analyze the commission’s proposals in full detail,” Hagel said.
While the recommendations released today will not affect the budget request that President Barack Obama will submit to Congress next week, they will, Hagel explained, inform future discussions between the DOD and Congress.
The president, in a statement, acclaimed the commission for their “comprehensive and thorough review” of the military compensation and retirement systems, and said he will in coming weeks closely review a number of specific proposals senior civilian and military leadership.
“In September 2013 I asked the commission to focus on protecting the long-term viability of the all-volunteer force, improving quality of life for service members and their families, and ensuring the fiscal sustainability of the compensation and retirement systems,” Obama said. “Our men and women in uniform and their families deserve nothing less.”
Commissioner Michael Higgins said the new system offers service members and veterans choice, flexibility and access.
“It really steps up and addresses the demands of new generations that we need to recruit and retain,” Higgins noted. “Modernization is where we started, and that’s what caused us to move toward a path of change … and the savings influence sustainability at the end of the day.”
Hagel recognized the commission’s support for grandfathering current service members and retirees with its recommended changes on retirement pay; its focus on protecting future recruitment and retention; and its attempt to propose savings to ensure military members will be able to field a ready, agile, and modern force capable of meeting present and future threats.
While the secretary acknowledged that the findings would be fodder for discourse and debate, he emphasized the “two highest and most solemn obligations” the country has to its military: ensure U.S. troops and their families are fairly and appropriately compensated and cared for during and after their time in uniform, and provide service members with the best training and equipment possible so they are best prepared to answer the nation’s call.