The Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces are expected to tell Congress in a hearing that military pay and benefits for active duty members should be cut in order to ensure readiness for all the military forces. According to their expected testimony in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the seven officers will tell Congress that curbing benefits and pay will give the Pentagon the ability to ensure that force structure, unit training, and worldwide readiness are left intact. The position will most likely cause controversy given the upper echelon’s willingness to cut military pay and benefits, indiscriminately hurting the lower ranks of active duty members.
Sen. Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is giving the Joint Chiefs of Staff an unusual and potentially powerful opportunity to persuade senators they risk a readiness crisis if they don’t take significant steps this year to slow growth in military compensation.
All seven of the nation’s top four-star officers are to testify May 6, a rare event. They are expected side by side to urge support for pay and benefit curbs. The scene will be in sharp contrast to pleadings for higher pay by service chiefs during earlier times of crisis for the all-volunteer military.
The Joint Chiefs hope to make clear the dilemma Congress has created by trying to shield compensation from the effects of the 2011 Budget Control Act of 2011, with its deep cuts to overall defense spending and its automatic enforcement tool of sequestration.
The chiefs have said their budgets for 2015 and beyond offer a balanced approach to absorbing those cuts because they include $2.1 billion in compensation curbs next year and $30 billion in pay and benefit savings over five years. If Congress won’t back those, or offer alternative offsets, then the arbitrary across-the-board defense cuts of sequestration kick in.
The 28-star panel is expected to present fresh details on the consequences of that, for force structure, unit training, equipment and facility maintenance, worldwide operations and overall readiness.
Levin also has invited a second panel, of military association presidents, to testify. At least some of them will oppose any rise in troop or retiree out-of-pocket costs. To date, the most influential lawmakers on personnel matters are embracing that message, and shrugging off the warnings of defense civilian and military leaders.
Chairmen and ranking members of the military personnel subcommittees – Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and Susan Davis, D-Calif., – have suggested in recent hearings they will oppose any curbs on compensation.