Is the future of our all-volunteer force at risk because of the cost of expensive family benefits?
Sound crazy? Well, according to a recent news report, at least one unnamed four-star leader recently lamented that the Department of Defense has turned into a benefits company that occasionally kills a terrorist.
Renowned military reporter Tom Philpott’s Aug. 5 column shared findings from the Quadrennial Defense Independent Review Panel and comments from defense industry experts. Personnel costs have grown due to benefit expansions such as TRICARE for life, more pharmacy perks, better survivor benefits, more generous housing allowances, active duty pay raises and more.
Without those benefits to help take care of their families, how is the military going to continue to recruit and retain volunteers to put their lives on the line, leave their families for a year or more, and give up so much more the rest of us take for granted?
And here’s something that really leaped out at me:
“(Ret. Marine Corps Reserve Maj. Gen. Arnold) Punaro, who served as staff director of the Senate Armed Services Committee for eight years, noted that much of the recent entitlement growth has helped only retirees and their families, a population that now outnumbers the active duty community.”
Military leaders from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the Chief of Staff of the Army have reiterated the importance of family support to the morale and ultimately the success of our service members on the battlefield. Secretary of Defense Gates has promised to do all he can to preserve funding for military programs at the same time as he reduced overall defense spending.
I’m thrilled that they’ve expanded benefits for families. We’ve heard from families who say they wouldn’t be able to properly care for their children without EFMP.
But from the perspective of someone who works for a nonprofit that aids military families in need, there are still a lot of holes to plug. I know spouses who can’t get the medications they need for their kids from military pharmacies, being told “We’re here to serve soldiers, not families.” Even with $9 prescriptions, the Burfield family in Georgia is relying on help from Operation Homefront Georgia to pay their bills because all three of their children suffer from a deadly liver disease.