Increasing Prices for Military Benefits is Decreasing Military Readiness

Increasing Prices for Military Benefits is Decreasing Military Readiness

A recent roundtable event on current challenges of the military highlighted that leaders are concerned there is not enough funding to maintain the readiness of the armed forces while also sustaining benefits for those who have served.

The event was organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In early fall, CSIS released a report showing that from 1952-2016, the number of active-duty troops fell by 64%, while Department of Defense spending on personnel rose by more than 110% during the same period of time.

“We need to focus [military] benefits on those currently serving, but the problem is most of the benefits now have shifted to those no longer serving,” said Arnold Punaro, former staff director for the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mac Thornberry, current chair of the House Armed Services Committee, said that his committee has raised the issue of making military benefits more sustainable in recent years, but more still needs to be done.

Military personnel rules could be changed to alleviate some of those problems, such as allowing temporary enlistment for certain specialists who are in high demand. Even though other political issues are dominating Capitol Hill, the complexity of these kinds of changes has caused serious debates causing them to be delayed.

"Would you really want to see your battlefield risk increase and your effectiveness decrease in order to protect every single personnel benefit?" asked Sam Nunn, a former senator from Georgia from the Democratic party and a former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “But when you talk about making changes to benefits, even with a grandfather provision, the only people who know about it are basically the [troops], and lawmakers get no support politically for doing it.”

Punaro added that defense officials and political leaders need to reexamine legacy benefits such as the military's commissary system and the Department of Defense Education Activity to determine whether they still offer value over investing in equipment upgrades and weapons research.

Even though the U.S. military still possesses one of the most fierce fighting forces in the world and the most advanced pieces of equipment, the rising personnel costs could undermine that in the coming years.