What About the Enlisted Ranks?
The Obama administration has finally figured out how to bring class warfare to the American military. The recent announcement from the Defense Business Board about changing the retirement promise to members of the Armed Forces has accomplished just that.
The great and good members of the Defense Business Board are very accomplished individuals. Some have made significant contributions to America in uniform service in both peace and war and their service will be honored for all time. Some have made significant contributions to their careers and financial well-being by engaging on military issues and defense technology without ever serving. By any measure, they can easily fall into the definition of "America's Ruling Class," as coined by the brilliant seminal article written by Professor Angelo M. Codevilla in the American Spectator.
The DOD web link above shares for all to see the background of the "DBB" members who want to change the military retirement system. That suggestion has succeeded in putting the DOD budget in play into a very important heretofore sacred area: retirement benefits to warriors in time of war. The simple practical PR result is a lot of public punditry by reporters and talking heads on how important it is to cut defense in this time of American financially difficulties. The DBB just provided additional "top cover" for that debate.
OK -- that is all well and good except for one point. This point must be expressed directly in censored military speak: "Where are the frigging enlisted men and woman on the panel." In other words, a question from the troops, especially from "Gunnys" that I heard in my Marine service as a junior officer while making many mistakes: "WTF, Sir?"
The answer on why this is a huge "class warfare issue" is self-evident. The panel of the great and good do not statistically represent those they are "frigging with." Senator James Webb (D-VA), a Marine Officer who has demonstrated a lifetime of service protecting the troops, was on this issue very early: "Webb wants Officer to Enlisted Ratio Explained."
Currently, by service, the breakdown the Enlisted/Officer ratio is close to 5 to 1 for Army and Navy, and 4 to 1 for AF, with the Marines at 9 to 1. As an aside, that is almost the same ratio Lt. Presley O'Bannon had (10 to 1, actually) when he took Tripoli.
So first a sensible recommendation for personnel savings is to cut the number of officers and also stop "grade creep." For example the USN admiral-to-ship ratio is currently 1 to 1.3 (not counting reserve Flags) and the Army Major General numbers to their normal Command a Division (101st, 82nd, etc.) is currently around 10 to 1. I know unfair analysis because other commands require the same rank. But regardless, with the DBB, it is the old adage: "it is a poor butcher that hits his own thumb." So the first recommendation could have been to rebalance the fighting force.
Moving on, in addition to no enlisted, it is apparent there was no real analytical work done that looked at some very nasty trends. The huge "bulge" in retirement actually came as a result of a much larger cohort of warriors from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the height of the Cold War. With the current trend to contract out a lot of previous active military requirements -- for example, the famous Army transportation corps "Red Ball Express" -- the problem of pure numbers is different.
So from looking at the proposal, it is clear that even taking into consideration the current fixed force structure, they used today's actuarial tables to make a nasty point about future costs -- American citizens are living longer.
They equated 1 year of additional life of a Military Retiree to a cost. This analysis is nasty in the extreme. This is because of the 2.7 to 3 million warriors who served in South East Asia during Vietnam (1965-1975), fewer than one third are left alive. So where is the cost analysis for early death due to environment factors in the battlefield?
To summarize the Defense Business Board's recommendations: no enlisted representation, bad analytical work on demographics, and finally no representation of their partner the Department of Veteran Affairs to explain the real actuarial table numbers (see slide #3). President Obama's never-ending quest for class warfare has extended into a military at war.
Ed Timperlake formerly was assistant secretary in the Department of Veterans Affairs for Public and Congressional Affairs, and then assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.