Just when you thought that the government was done giving the military and veterans the short end of the stick, they prove you wrong.
In the ongoing budget negotiations in Congress, military pensions are now up as a possible way to find budget savings.
That’s right, the pensions we give our brave veterans may be cut back because our leaders can’t think of any better way to save money.
Can savings from military pensions be part of the solution to avoid deeper cuts from defense next month?
That’s an important question facing House-Senate negotiators as they try to close out a deal this week to avoid another round of sequestration in January and restore some certainty to the appropriations process for the remainder of this Congress.
The two sides appear close but Democrats are anxious about the level of savings being sought by Republicans from civilian federal workers. Finding some money on the military side of the equation could lessen this burden and make the package more equitable too from a political standpoint.
Indeed, the Pentagon has the greatest stake in some agreement and faces a further $21 billion cut in its 2014 budget if nothing is done. There is a greater recognition too –in Congress and among the Joint Chiefs— that it must come to terms with personnel-related costs, which are eating up more and more of what money remains.
“Forty-four cents of every dollar we spend goes to military personnel,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R.-Calif.) “You look at Detroit, you look at General Motors, you look at what happens when you build up these costs, but we aren’t doing anything about it in our [defense] bill this year.”
On the retirement front, President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget opened the door for the GOP by proposing to increase what federal employees contribute to their pensions: adjusting the number upward in three increments from .8 percent of pay to 2 percent.
When this was last proposed, Congress instead decided to charge newly-hired workers even more. The administration proposal seeks to impose its earlier plan on those hired before 2013. The estimated savings are about $20 billion over the coming decade.