I am fine with the notion that enlisted benefits will be reduced. That is with a caveat: as long as it leads to a positive impact in our ability to win wars.
When I returned to my home town for the first time as an E-4, I discovered I made more money than my close friends, as well as my mom who is an elementary school teacher. Granted I am much more trained and perform much more demanding skills than most of my friends. But, even with those who are skilled and trained in their demanding tasks commensurate with my own: I am still earning more, and will have a pension and an IRA when it’s all said and done. As an E-5 with BAH, I make significantly more than my friends. Now, in Afghanistan I cost something like a million dollars a year by just having my boots on the ground. How is that sustainable?

What concerns me the most is that we’re in an adaptation race with terrorists; the cost of their adaptation is orders of magnitude lower than our own. If we do not change the costs of our adaptation and/or our ability to afford adapting, we will not be able to win this war. Just as the Soviets could not sustain their efforts against us in the Cold War. We had the Anti-ballistic Missile treaty which put an end to the most visible aspect of our adaptation race with the soviets. But, we will have no such a treaty with terrorists, nothing is sacred anything can be used to defeat us. To stay competitive against this in our current war on terrorism we need to make our ability to adapt sustainable, possibly for generations. I think the Secretary of Defense knows this, and I believe that is why he said nothing is sacred and everything must be looked at to see if we can cut costs, or if we really need it. If a reduction in enlisted benefits directly contributes towards winning, then it must be done. However, when it is done, it will be a challenge to make sure the deckplates understand this fact and it should be directly demonstrated to us how the Navy is better off for it.

Posted by CTR1(SW) H. Lucien Gauthier III in Navy
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  • Benjamin Walthrop

    Interesting perspectives. I am not entirely convinced that the United States military in general and the USN in particular have demonstrated a lack of ability to adapt within a budget constrained environment. I suspect that you have also overstated the terrorists’ true ability to adapt as well as the low costs associated with the adaptations they will have to make to truly make them a strategic or existential threat to our country are higher than they think or you imply.

    All that aside, I am pretty damn sure that the first place I would look to remove structural inefficiencies that may or may not be driving factors in the affordability of the USN would not be the benefits of enlisted service members. Apart from the fact that such an initiative would probably have negative impacts on recruiting (think quality and not necessarily quantity), there are certainly more targets that fall into the low hanging fruit variety with potentially much larger returns on time invested to identify them.

    Although Secretary Gates has stated that nothing is off the table regarding cost cutting initiatives, the reality is that in any responsible cost cutting initiative the analysis required to make those decisions both effective and produce that appropriate trade-offs between mission risk and reward will naturally limit these initiatives on a year for year basis due to staffing requirements. In reality, the only way to truly realize cost savings using the current funding model employed by Congress and on the DoD is to drive budget wedges, and enlisted pay and benefits should probably not be the first target of those initiatives.

    Your point regarding reasonable explanations for any and all policy actions across the rank structure are well taken, and should be considered by all leaders regardless of rank.


  • I do not support ANY reduction in pay and benefits to our servicepeople. They should cut elsewhere.

  • Fouled Anchor

    “I am fine with the notion that enlisted benefits will be reduced.”

    I’m not. I think a freeze or smaller increases are likely, but the discussion must be about service member benefits, not enlisted benefits.