New Defense Budget Unveiled
President Clinton's eighth and final DoD budget proposes spending of $291.1 billion. If enacted as is, the Fiscal 2001 DoD plan would bring a 1 percent real defense increase-the first ever requested by this Administration. Congress appears likely to boost the amount, however.
The 2001 plan, delivered to Congress Feb. 7, requests new budget authority for the fiscal year that begins next Oct. 1.
Under the Administration's plan, the Air Force would receive $85.3 billion-1.1 percent more in real, inflation-adjusted terms than it will spend this year.
The Air Force budget is 34.5 percent of the total amount allotted to the three military departments. The Navy Department, which includes the Navy and Marine Corps, receives $91.7 billion (37 percent) and the Army receives $70.6 billion (28.5 percent).
The budget includes a planned 3.7 percent pay raise. It fully funds production of 10 F-22 fighter aircraft and 12 new C-17 strategic airlifters.
Expeditionary Aerospace Force on Track
The Air Force is doing well in its transition to the Expeditionary Aerospace Force concept, according to the commander of Air Combat Command.
The first two Aerospace Expeditionary Force rotations have gone well, said ACC chief Gen. Ralph E. Eberhart on Jan. 12. AEFs No. 3 and 4 are on track, as well.
"There are no showstoppers as far as I can see," said Eberhart. "We identified the players in AEFs 3 and 4 early, which provided the advance notification of their deployment just as planned."
So far, only aircrews and maintainers have deployed as scheduled AEF teams. The next step involves sending support forces as scheduled teams, as opposed to individual taskings.
AEFs 5 and 6 in April should be aligned as such total force packages.
"We train as a team, so we should fight as a team," said Eberhart. "Being scheduled for your AEF in advance allows units from different bases to coordinate with each other and to all train to the same task, optimizing the team concept once in theater."
USAF Falls Short on Recruiting
The Air Force has traditionally not had much trouble in drawing recruits. The continued strong economy has changed that-as shown by the fact that the service missed its last quarterly recruiting goal by nearly 15 percent.
Fiscal 2000's first quarter, which ended Dec. 31, saw the Air Force taking in 6,466 new people--1,097 personnel short of its 7,563 goal.
Meanwhile, the other services made or exceeded their first-quarter 2000 goals.
In Fiscal 1999, Air Force recruiters brought in 32,068 new airmen. Though it was the highest one-year number since 1992, the result fell short of the goal by 1,732 troops. It marked only the ninth time in 44 years of record keeping that the Air Force had not met its annual recruiting target.
Cohen Approves Gay-Related Training Plans
Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen announced Feb. 1 that he had received and approved each of the military services' training plans updated to highlight the department's policies on homosexual conduct.
The updated plans incorporate the guidelines for investigating threats against or harassment of service members based on perceived or alleged homosexuality.
"I am very pleased with the effort that went into updating the services' training materials," said Cohen. "These plans make it very clear to recruits, service members, and to law enforcement personnel, commanders, judge advocates, and investigators that are charged with implementing the policy, that there is no room for harassment or threats in the military."
Missile Defense Test Fails
The Pentagon's effort to develop a National Missile Defense system suffered a setback Jan. 18 when a prototype interceptor warhead failed to hit a simulated incoming missile in a crucial, long-awaited test.
The system seemed to be working as designed until the final six seconds of the demonstration, said Pentagon officials. The 55-inch-long interceptor, fired from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, appeared on target until an infrared sensor failed to steer it in for the kill.
The dummy warhead--launched from Vandenberg AFB, Calif.--fell harmlessly into the ocean.
Using a postal analogy, a senior military official said that satellite sensors provided the state of the target, the early warning radar provided the ZIP code, while the X band radar got the interceptor to the street address.
"What we failed to do is ring the doorbell," said the official in a briefing for reporters.
The failure could further complicate National Missile Defense politics. Later this year President Clinton is scheduled to decide whether to go ahead and deploy an NMD system. NMD proponents are now urging a delay in this decision-making process, saying it is a decision best left to the next presidential administration.
All candidates for the Republican Presidential nomination are in favor of NMD deployment.
On the Democratic side, Vice President Al Gore has conditioned his support of such a shield on a favorable outcome of talks with Russia to amend the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Bill Bradley is the most skeptical major candidate, saying that the technology remains unproven and that NMD deployment could have adverse diplomatic consequences.
Another interceptor test is scheduled for late spring. The Pentagon will present its determination of NMD feasibility shortly thereafter.
White House Offers Cyberspace Battle Plan
On Jan. 7 the Clinton Administration proposed a comprehensive plan to protect America's vital computer systems from hackers, viruses, and other attacks.
The plan asks Congress to increase federal spending for computer security and research by $280 million, to $2.3 billion, next year.
Among the plan's highlights:
"It's really important ... that we produce, in partnership with the private sector ... new technologies that can be rapidly put into the information infrastructure to begin to provide the kinds of protections that we're here to talk about," said White House Chief of Staff John D. Podesta in a Jan. 7 briefing.
Faster Than a Speeding Falcon
Gen. Michael E. Ryan, Air Force Chief of Staff, tried to catch an F-22 on Jan. 11. Flying chase in an F-16 during a Raptor test mission at Edwards AFB, Calif., Ryan had a good chance to see the nation's newest air superiority fighter-from behind.
The F-16 was "flat out at Mach 1.6," said Ryan, but the F-22 "walked away from us."
"I'm really impressed with the airplane," said Ryan following a two-day visit to Edwards for updates on 21st century weapons systems.
Whether the F-22 receives all the testing it needs is another question. A reduction in flight test hours caused by the cost cap for the airplane's engineering and manufacturing development phase has been criticized by the Pentagon's testing chief, Philip E. Coyle III.
"I'm not concerned about that [the level of testing]," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen told the Defense Writers Group Jan. 28. "I talked to General Ryan about this, and he is still pretty excited about the tests to date."
The F-22 surpassed the 500-hour flight test milestone in late December during the test program's 225th sortie. As of that date, the F-22 had completed more than 11 percent of its flight-test requirement.
Pentagon Raises Housing Allowances
Defense Secretary Cohen announced Jan. 6 that his new defense budget contained a $160 million increase in housing allowances for troops living off base.
Within five years, said the Pentagon chief, the armed services will provide cost-free off-base housing, at a charge to the Pentagon of $3 billion more.
To do that, the Pentagon plans to press for a change to the current Congressional statute that limits monthly housing allowance payments to no more than 85 percent of the average local cost for housing. Service members pay the shortfall--about 15 percent-out of their own pocket.
The move is intended to encourage troops to re-enlist rather than flee the services for civilian jobs and to help attract new recruits.
"There's no reason in the world why you should have a mandated 15 percent out of your pocket if you happen to be living off base because you don't have adequate housing on base," said Cohen when he announced the increases in an address to troops at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The Pentagon said that, last year, service members living off base were stuck with paying an average of 18.8 percent of their rent. With the increase in allowances, that will be reduced to 15 percent or less.
"Good housing is a top priority for the department and a crucial component of quality of life," Cohen said.
More than half of the military live off base, a senior official said.
The military is also trying to improve the housing on military installations across the country. Some 200,000 of the 300,000 housing units on those bases are substandard and in need of repair or replacement.
Pentagon Approves More C-130Js
The Department of Defense has decided to buy 24 C-130J cargo airplanes through the year 2005, reported the Wall Street Journal Jan. 10.
The move comes after the Pentagon comptroller recommended killing the program and came as a bit of good news for the C-130J's manufacturer, Lockheed Martin.
Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre said DoD is trying to avoid having to pay for the reopening of the C-130 production line in future years. Restarting the C-130 line would cost about $600 million, according to Pentagon estimates.
Under the new plan, the Pentagon will buy four C-130Js a year in 2001, 2002, and 2003. Twelve more will be penciled into the 2004 and 2005 budgets.
The decision will provide Lockheed an extra $300 million infusion in 2001 and ensure the future of a production line in which the company has sunk some $1 billion.
Major Faces Charges Over Anthrax Shots
On Jan. 14, Maj. Sonnie G. Bates of the 436th Airlift Wing, Dover AFB, Del., was charged with disobeying a lawful order for refusing to take the Defense Department's anthrax vaccinations.
Bates, who had offered to resign last fall, waived his right to an Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury, on Feb. 2. His case could be dismissed or referred to special or general court-martial. He is among the highest-ranking officers to come in conflict with the Air Force over the anthrax vaccination program.
In an appearance before a Congressional committee last October, Bates said the vaccine has "the appearance of being experimental" and feared for his health if forced to take the shots. He became concerned, he said, after seeing that a dozen people in his squadron have "unusual or disabling illnesses that did not exist prior to the anthrax vaccine."
In addition, Bates is the father of an autistic child.
"[He] cannot, in all good conscience, risk being debilitated by a risky vaccine and be left unable to function as a caregiver for his son and provider for his family," wrote House Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Dan Burton (RInd.) in a letter sent to Defense Secretary William Cohen in mid-January.
At least 200 military personnel have refused to take the anthrax vaccination shots, according to military officials.
Furthermore, claims are being made that the services are inconsistent in handling personnel who refuse to take the anthrax shots. Some reserve officer and enlisted personnel have quit. Some active enlisted personnel have received prison sentences, had to forfeit pay, or been given dishonorable discharges. Reportedly, at least one Navy officer was allowed to resign honorably.
The Defense Department maintains that the vaccine is safe and effective. It is licensed by the Food and Drug Administration and is used in private industry, officials note.
Military Procurement To Hit $60 Billion
The Clinton Administration's proposed Fiscal 2001 defense budget contains about $60 billion for procurement, according to department spokesman Kenneth H. Bacon.
The Joint Chiefs had set the $60 billion figure as a hoped-for goal several years ago.
"I believe, we will hit it this year or at least be within a whisper," Bacon said Jan. 11.
The Fiscal 2000 procurement spending request was $53 billion. Lawmakers subsequently tacked on items totaling a further $1.4 billion.
However, Congress also imposed an across-the-board 0.38 percent cut in Fiscal 2000 federal spending. Pentagon personnel programs were exempt, but other programs were cut. Bacon called them "surgical cuts." And, in fact, important programs such as the F-22 generally fared well in this year's procurement budget, according to officials.
"Our top-priority programs got no or very small cuts," said Bacon. Some lower-priority programs took cuts of a higher percentage, some 5 percent or even up to 10 percent.
UN Prosecutor: No Need for Kosovo Probe
Chief United Nations war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said Feb. 1 that she has seen no evidence to warrant an investigation of whether NATO's Kosovo bombing campaign violated international treaties on the conduct of war.
"Our work is not done but what we can say is that up until now we have no indications that we should open an inquiry," she said after meeting with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in London.
A tribunal investigation was prompted by Yugoslavia, some Western law professors, and Russian lawmakers who said the NATO bombing killed scores of civilians. Its preliminary report surfaced in late December when Del Ponte told a British newspaper she was prepared to seek indictments, if warranted.
The United States rejected the notion out of hand, pointing out that NATO went to great lengths to spare civilians. (See "Aerospace World: UN Tribunal Drops Investigations of NATO for War Crimes," February, p. 12.)
Cost of NMD System on the Rise
Cost estimates for an initial National Missile Defense system are about to go up-estimates range from 20 to 50 percent-according to Pentagon officials.
The Defense Department now figures that the first installment of NMD would cost more than its previous estimate of $10.5 billion, projected just last year.
Cost overruns are not the reason. Instead, DoD has quietly decided that NMD, if deployed, needs to feature 100 interceptor rockets instead of 20. This more robust system should theoretically be able to handle 20 incoming warheads by 2005 or 2006.
These interceptors would all be based in Alaska, DoD Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Walter B. Slocombe said in Congressional testimony, and would form an initial NMD architecture "optimized" to defeat "the most immediate threat, that from North Korea."
Slocombe noted that the Pentagon has also begun planning for a longer-term goal that would field even more interceptors to handle more "complex penetration" systems.
A potential deployment site in North Dakota is also still under review.
Cohen Seeks New Round of Base Closings
Defense Secretary William Cohen disclosed that the Clinton Administration will try to close more military bases, even in an election year.
"Yes, I do have a proposal for two more rounds [of base closings], roughly in 2003, 2005," Cohen said Jan. 28, only days before the public unveiling of the new defense budget. "I've allocated money in the [Fiscal 2001] budget for that. ... This is an issue that [members of Congress] will have to wrestle with in the coming year."
Cohen said he has talked with Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the Senate majority leader, about working with Congress to find a way to close more military sites. "He and I are going to try to get together and see if we can come up with some kind of a formulation that might enjoy some support," Cohen said.
Cohen and his predecessor, William J. Perry, have tried without success many times to close more bases.
"Those members on the [Congressional defense] committees that have jurisdiction over this will have choice," said Cohen. "They can say they can continue to carry the excess infrastructure and see either readiness accounts, or [operations and maintenance] accounts, or procurement accounts suffer, or be forced to raise the topline even further to carry the excess infrastructure.
"But I will continue to point out, these are the choices. There's a big wave coming in terms of what we have to procure, and the way to help pay for that is to eliminate excess overhead."
Missile Help for North Korea?
China is still providing North Korea with materials for its long-range missile program, according to reports in The Washington Times.
Missile-related goods were shipped via a Hong Kong company as recently as late December, stated the Times.
Such aid would be in direct contravention to assurances made by Chinese officials that they would tighten exports of missile technology covered by the 29-nation Missile Technology Control Regime.
Recent US intelligence reports claim that China has provided Pyongyang with fiber-optic gyroscopes, specialty steel, and accelerometers, among other items.
Last year, Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright said that the Administration takes such reports "seriously" and that "we have raised our concerns with China, and we will continue to do so."
Pentagon Plays Down Spy Satellite Problem
Y2Krelated problems in some of the nation's most sensitive spy satellites did not leave the United States blind at crucial times during the New Year's Eve weekend, claim Pentagon officials.
Some news reports have said that the flow of data from as many as five imagery satellites was disrupted on Dec. 31. After a total outage of a few hours, the amount of incoming imagery was sharply curtailed until Monday, Jan. 3, according to some reports.
"It was a significant event, but fortunately it had insignificant consequences. ... It was judged to have no operational significance, even though it was not a failure we wanted to have," said Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre on Jan. 4.
Other news reports hold that non-Y2K related computer problems caused a halt in transmission of satellite imagery to two key commands--US Pacific Command in Honolulu and US Central Command in Tampa, Fla.--for 12 hours in late December.
ANG Pilot Dies in Crash
An Idaho Air National Guard pilot, Maj. Mark Moynihan, 33, of Boise, was killed Jan. 20 when his A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft crashed northwest of Boise, Idaho, on a training mission.
His aircraft crashed in a field near Star, Idaho, and broke into pieces. No one else was injured.
Moynihan, a full-time pilot for the 190th Fighter Squadron, had been serving recently as a flight scheduler and instructor pilot for the 124th Wing, located at Boise Air Terminal, Idaho. He served on active duty as an A-10 pilot for nearly 10 years before joining the Guard in 1999.
Moynihan was an A-10 demonstration pilot for the northwest region and had more than 2,000 hours of flight time in the aircraft. He was also one of 14 Idaho ANG pilots who flew combat missions over Kosovo last year.
A search and rescue team, along with a safety team comprising members from the 124th Wing and 366th Wing at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, scoured the accident site.
USAF opened an investigation into the cause of the crash.
USAF wants to update its image in an effort to spur recruiting and retention and more accurately reflect its new role as an Expeditionary Aerospace Force.
That may mean coming up with a new slogan and new logo to replace the old "Hap" Arnold wings and star, among other things.
The Air Force in the early 1990s had a distinctive expression of purpose-"Global Reach, Global Power." It came from a white paper of the same title published in 1990. It is sometimes stated that USAF's slogan is "Aim High," but that was actually a promotional phrase used in recruiting advertising.
Similar confusion attends the Air Force symbol.
"Many people believe the Hap Arnold emblem (see below) is the official Air Force symbol, but it isn't," said Col. Ron Rand, Air Force director of public affairs. "We don't have an official symbol and never have had one. With the transition to the EAF and a new millennium, our leadership decided the timing is right to modernize our identity and give us an official symbol which will preserve the heritage of the Arnold wings."
Visual representations of the force vary even from base to base, unit to unit, and command to command. Basic symbols such as base welcome signs have little consistency.
"Unless you have really good eyes and can read the US Air Force tape on someone's battle dress uniform, you may not know what service he or she represents," said Rand. "As for our aircraft, which are seen by millions of people, the tail markings tend to represent the wing and the command."
Air Force leaders committed about $800,000 to survey the general public and their own personnel about attitudes toward the service and have those results interpreted by a private corporate identity firm, Siegel & Gale.
Siegel & Gale has never worked with the military, but its list of clients is long and impressive, said officials. It includes HarleyDavidson, Kodak, ESPN, Xerox, and the Girl Scouts of America.
Survey input came from 10,000 people. About three-quarters of them had some connection to the service. The others were from the general public.
Four positive themes emerged from the research: individual achievement, intelligence and technology, core values, and mission.
Siegel & Gale recommended making a core theme out of the service's vital mission, about which enlisted person and officer alike felt the most passionate. The other themes would support that focus.
"We want to ensure our core identity is part of our culture and is understood by our own people and the citizens we serve," said Gen. Michael E. Ryan, Chief of Staff.
The research found that Air Force personnel felt allegiance to their unit and their job, more so than being part of one big organization.
Based on its research, Siegel & Gale "concluded the Air Force is a world-class, mission-ready organization," according to USAF, thus the firm proposed the slogan of "World Ready."
It also proposed a logo (see above)-a more streamlined version of the Arnold emblem. Both were presented to USAF leaders in November. The verdict: More work on the theme is needed; the logo might pass.
"There are no final decisions on any of this yet," stated Rand. "When we reach a final decision on our identity, we're going to try it on for awhile as we develop a plan to roll it out with minimal disruption and cost," he added.
It would take months, if not years, before aircraft markings and entrance signs all resemble each other.
"We're trying to encapsulate the essence of what it means to be in the Air Force," said Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters. "The Air Force is a wonderful organization. It offers extraordinary opportunities beyond the monetary and the educational benefits that we have been using in recruiting."
The most sweeping examination of the military's self-image in years finds that many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines feel they do not have a reasonable lifestyle.
Service personnel feel overworked, underpaid, unconfident about their leaders, and unsure they have the resources to do their job. They deploy too often, for too long. Peacekeeping operations are eroding a focus on warfighting.
"America's military is facing potentially serious rifts in the fabric of its culture, with attending damage to future operational effectiveness," concludes the Center for Strategic and International Studies report "American Military Culture in the 21st Century."
On the positive side, US military personnel are still far better off than they were during the dark days of the Vietnam War. Men and women in uniform continue to share a strong bond of commitment to duty.
The services have tried to come to grips with the mismatch between their resources and their missions for years. That is why the Air Force established the Expeditionary Aerospace Force and why the Navy tries to keep sailors at sea for no more than six months at one time.
But the survey's findings about trust in senior leaders may come as a shock to the military's top levels. Only slightly more than one-third of respondents agreed with the statement "when my service's senior leaders say something, you can believe it is true."
Survey leaders said that their work, plus anecdotal evidence, revealed striking differences in the quality of military organizational climates.
"Although one unit or ship had a strong sense of mission, teamwork, mutual trust, and open communication, another at the same location, with virtually identical missions and resources, had a far different climate.
"The quality of local leadership almost certainly explains those measurable differences," said the report.
The 1999 Air Force Chief of Staff survey revealed that the overwhelming majority of service members are satisfied with their jobs and unit performance but remain dissatisfied with pay, operations tempo, and health care.
The survey measures the Air Force's organizational climate and quality of life. Results were presented to Gen. Michael E. Ryan, the Air Force Chief of Staff, on Jan. 21.
"I'm satisfied with the process and the initial review of the data," said Ryan. "It appears we've made progress in many areas, but we still have work to do."
The poll reported high measures of general satisfaction. Ninety percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their jobs, for instance. Other key measures such as satisfaction with the service's core values and with training and development, all came in between 80 to 84 percent positive levels.
Quality-of-life issues did not always show such high ratings. Only 42 percent of enlisted families and 45 percent of officer families were happy with the health care they receive.
Housing came in for a better review than health care, gaining a 71 percent satisfaction rating from married enlisted personnel and 83 percent positive rating from married officers.
The sense of community at Air Force bases was important to 82 percent of officers and 70 percent of enlisted personnel. Sixty-three percent of enlisted and 77 percent of officers judged the quality of life at duty stations to be good.
As for career intentions, 61 percent of officers and 68 percent of enlisted personnel said they plan to make a career in the service. Between 63 percent and 76 percent of first- and second-term airmen and company grade officers said a retirement plan where everyone received 50 percent of their base pay would increase the likelihood of their serving for 20 years.
Unsurprisingly, the number of hours worked and number of days on Temporary Duty continues its slow upward climb. Officers who reported TDYs spend an average of 62 days per year at such temporary work and work a 55-hour week. In 1996, the comparable numbers were 50 days TDY and a 51-hour week. Enlisted personnel who had TDYs reported 68 TDY days, up from 46 in 1996, and a 51-hour work week, up from 46 four years ago.
Undersecretary of the Air Force Carol A. DiBattiste swore in the first two Air Force recruits of 2000 on Jan. 3 at the Baltimore Military Entrance Processing Station.
The trainees were the first of what service leaders hope will be a flood of new personnel this year to help the Air Force pull out of its continuing retention tailspin. (See "USAF Falls Short on Recruiting," p. 10.)
"Today was a very special day," said DiBattiste. "We not only put the first two people into the United States Air Force for the new millennium but also initiated the Air Force's new focus on recruiting and retention for the year 2000."
Ryan Watson, 22, of Stevensville, Md., chose an Air Force career in the security forces as a step toward his ultimate goal: a career in federal law enforcement.
Jason Kaun, 22, of White Hall, Md., left college after two and one-half years to pursue a career in F-15 avionics.
"I really wasn't going anywhere--dead-end jobs and partying--and wanted to do something different," he said. "My brother is in the Air Force, and after talking to him about the benefits and opportunities I made up my mind."
One of the most visible efforts to boost Air Force recruiting is a new television ad campaign that began this month.
"Up until this year, never in its history has the Air Force paid for television advertising," said Maj. Gen. Susan L. Pamerleau, director of personnel force management. "But senior leadership made the decision that we need to have a greater impact across the nation."
In addition, a new interactive road show, "The Air Force Experience," will tour 30 major cities by September. The road show, contained in two customized 18-wheel trucks, features videos, computer kiosks, a fleet of customized simulators, and an F-16 jet.
Other initiatives developed at a recent recruiting summit include more incentives for recruiters, increased recruiter training, and bigger bonuses in hard-to-fill job areas.
Undersecretary DiBattiste has long urged all Air Force members to promote their jobs and way of life.
"I challenge everyone to recruit at least one person for our Air Force this year," she said.
The Air Force remains something of a novice in the recruitment field, compared to the other services. That is because the Army and Navy have always had to fight harder to get the number of new people they need.
The Navy, for instance, has five times as many recruiters as the Air Force does. The Army's top signing bonus is $20,000, as opposed to $12,000 in the Air Force.
"Health care has been a consistent complaint that we are now trying to address in a fairly comprehensive way. Tricare has been plagued with problems in terms of the contracting. We need to streamline it to make it as universal in application as possible in the sense that as you go from one area, [then] you go into a new area, you have to start the process all over again, which is very complicated. We're trying to make it as seamless as possible so when you sign up you can pretty much expect the same kind of benefits wherever you go, as opposed to having different area arrangements in terms of a contract. So we're going to try to streamline that to make it more seamless. ...
"Then we're also looking into how we can make the Tricare Prime more equitable. Here we propose, one of the benefits, we have proposed to eliminate co-pay for those who are in the Tricare Prime program so that when they have to go off base for treatment they don't have to come up with the co-pay out of their pocket. That will also be a major improvement."
-Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, remarks to the Defense Writers Group in Washington, Jan. 28.
"This year, we've got to address health care. The bottom line is that our service members and their families must be able to count on their health care system. Our fighting men and women on the front lines of freedom need to know that their families are being taken care of."
"While they are doing their job taking care of the nation's defense, they expect us to provide an effective, user-friendly health care system." ...
"Every time I talk to them [a beneficiary], one of their most frequent complaints is ... with the process it takes to finally get the care they need." ...
"As many of you know, Tricare requires that members re-enroll every time they change regions, something that occurs frequently as our service members and their families must pick up and move every two to three years. This adds to their stress and frustration, and oftentimes, their workload." ...
"We ask our service members to be ready to serve any time, anywhere. They expect no less from their health care system. If a service member can't count on Tricare when it's needed, then when the time comes to re-enlist, the answer might just be no. In short, Tricare can't be just an insurance agency; it must be much more." ...
"For those [in the audience] who are military health care members, try not wearing your uniform one day-you've got my permission--and walk into the Tricare offices you're responsible for to see how you're treated. If you find things not to your liking, fix them. Remember, if it's hard for you, imagine what it's like for the young, inexperienced mother of two whose husband is deployed to Bosnia or Kosovo or any of the other garden spots our troops are deployed to."
-Gen. Henry H. Shelton, JCS Chairman, in Jan. 31 remarks to the annual Tricare Conference in Washington.
From "Our GIs Earn Enough," by Cindy Williams, in the Jan. 12 Washington Post. Williams, a senior research fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was assistant director for national security in the Congressional Budget Office, 1994-97.
"This month [January], every member of the US military is getting a 4.8 percent pay raise. ... Proponents of additional hefty raises argue that, even after this month's raise, the military suffers a 13 percent 'pay gap' relative to the private sector. But in fact there is no pay gap worthy of the name. ... "Wage data show that our troops typically earn more money than 75 percent of civilians with similar levels of education and experience.
"[A]fter four months in the Army, an 18-year-old private earns about $21,000 a year in pay and allowances. In addition, he or she gets a tax advantage worth about $800, because some of the allowances are not taxed. That's not bad for a person entering the work force with a high school diploma. By way of comparison, an automotive mechanic starting out with a diploma from a strong vocational high school might earn $14,000 a year. ... At the higher end of enlisted service, a master sergeant with 20 years in the Marine Corps typically earns more than $50,000 a year-better than a senior municipal firefighter or a police officer in a supervisory position and comparable to a chief engineer in a medium-sized broadcast market.
"Among the officers, a 22-year-old fresh out of college earns about $34,000 a year as an ensign in the Navy-about the same as the average starting pay of an accountant, mathematician, or a geologist with a bachelor's degree. A colonel with 26 years makes more than $108,000.
"In addition to these basic salaries, there are cash bonuses for officers and enlisted personnel with special skills. There are also fringe benefits: four weeks of paid vacation, comprehensive health care, discount groceries, tuition assistance during military service, and as much as $50,000 for college afterward. Enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses can run to $20,000 and more. ...
"Proponents of higher pay also note that military people put up with hardships such as long hours and family separations. Yet many civilian occupations make similar demands, and firefighters, police, and emergency medical personnel, like many in the military, risk their lives on the job.
Lt. Gen. Michael A. Nelson, USAF (Ret.), president of The Retired Officers Association, Jan. 21 statement.
"After years of pay caps and cuts in other benefits caused a retention crisis in the late 1970s, 'reasonable comparability' was restored with two double-digit raises in 1981 and 1982 that made up the cumulative military pay raise gap since the start of the all-volunteer force [in 1973].
"But the lesson of the 70s wasn't learned very well. Over the next 17 years, military raises matched private sector pay growth in three years, were capped below the [Employment Cost Index] in 12 [years], and fractionally exceeded the ECI in two years. With the cumulative gap having grown to 13.5 percent in 1999 and masses of service members voting with their feet, Congress approved a series of annual raises that will be one-half of a percentage point per year above the ECI through 2006. Not overly generous, but a very welcome change for the troops after years of short shrift. ...
"Her [Williams's] comparisons of pay levels also ignore other key factors. ... She fails to acknowledge how service members are asked to assume responsibility for vastly expensive resources and team leadership--sometimes with staggering life-or-death decision-making responsibilities--at an early age.
"Most important, Ms. Williams's discussion inadequately addresses the fundamental issue the military pay and benefits package must seek to offset--the extraordinary demands and sacrifices inherent in a career of uniformed service. She dismisses this by citing other civilian occupations that may entail relocation or danger. But such comparisons are superficial at best; there is no legitimate comparison with the working conditions of any private sector job.
"Service members work long hours ... without any overtime. Their business trips are to places like Bosnia and Iraq and Somalia where they live in tents and people shoot at them. They are subject to extended family separations, forced relocations every few years that disrupt spousal careers and children's education, and sacrifice personal freedoms (such as saying "no" to your boss without going to jail or being able to quit whenever you want) that other Americans take for granted. ...
"Roughly 95 percent are forced out of service in their 40s and must start second careers in midlife-often at the bottom, competing with youngsters who don't have children in college and are willing to work for less. ...
"Pay raise comparability isn't some esoteric analytical concept; it's a simple matter of fairness."
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