Senate Skittish Over Cutting Troops' Benefits

Defense Department file photo

The Pentagon is proposing to cut roughly $2 billion from troops' pay and benefits, but senators Wednesday demonstrated that the plan is something of a lead balloon on Capitol Hill.

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee pushed back against Pentagon officials Wednesday, suggesting a series of alternatives that could spare the benefits but keep the federal budget under Congress's self-imposed caps.

"I understand where you're coming from, you've got a budget cap that we created," said South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, referring to the department's $496 billion base budget cap. "So if we could find a $2 billion safety valve here I think it would prevent them from just having to ignore the personal account and raid other accounts."

Graham stressed that trying to find the funds to swap out the cuts should be an exercise for the Personnel Subcommittee, not Defense Department officials.

Robert Hale, the Defense Department's comptroller, said the cuts are necessary to comply with Congress's budget cap while also upgrading its equipment and keeping troops ready for combat. They would come from a mix of changes to health care costs, housing allowances, decreased funding for base grocery stores, and a pay freeze for top brass.

But it wasn't just Graham who wanted the Pentagon to rethink its plans.

New York Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand and New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte pressed officials on why the Defense Department couldn't wait until after a commission studying military compensation and retirement released its report in February 2015.

Military pay is a sore spot for Congress this year, after lawmakers cut nearly $6 billion in military retiree benefits in the December budget, but then backpedaled furiously after mass outcry from veterans' groups and the public.

But Hale pressed back, saying the Pentagon couldn't afford to wait. "If we wait two years until we have the commission results … then we're going to have take all of this money out of readiness and modernization, and we think that will destroy a balance and damage national security," he said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.