The “President Obama wants to cut military pay” meme.

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The “President Obama wants to cut military pay” meme.

Getting a ton of emails on this, and wanted to address it if only to give my conservative detractors an equal chance of attacking me as my liberal ones. 

The genesis of this latest batch of emails seems to be from a press release/fund raising letter from Move America Forward.  Somewhat interestingly, I couldn’t find it on their website, but I did find it at the Canada Free Press:

In the latest and most outrageous move, the Obama administration wants to cut pay and/or benefits for our troops and their families, even those deployed overseas fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, in order to reign in budgetary spending.

It’s the classic game that the liberals play whenever they are in power – they are always quick to claim they support the troops, but the military is always first on the chopping block. Yesterday Secretary of Defense Robert Gates revealed that the Obama Administration was considering cutting military paychecks when he said in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute.

“The defense secretary said the strategic review could require politicians to look at other uncomfortable choices, including pay levels for service members, new approaches for retirement and pensions, or higher healthcare costs for working-age retirees.” - David Alexander, Reuters 24 MAY 2011

Thanks to the Obama Administration, the gilded age where America supported it’s troops in times of war may be coming to an end, and this commander-in-chief may be asking our troops to fight two wars while at the same time GIVING UP pay, and benefits both for themselves, their spouses and their children!

It continues in that vein for a while, and then apocalyptically foreshadows:

Can you imagine what it would feel like to be serving overseas, fighting the war on terror in Iraq or Afghanistan, far away from your family, and then you receive a letter in from your own Government, saying that your paycheck is going to get cut and the prescription medicine for your kid’s ear infection that used to get covered by your military healthcare plan is now going to have to be paid out of pocket and there’s nothing you can do about it because you’re 6,700 miles away from home dodging bullets and trying to shoot back and kill these crazy radical Islamic terrorists!

Now, they are basing this on the speech by Secretary Gates at AEI.  You can read the entire speech here, and I encourage you to do so, rather than simply take the Reuters report at face value, you can see the context under which he made the statements that are being attributed to him.  Specifically, Gates noted that he had “launched a comprehensive review last week to ensure that future spending decisions are focused on priorities, strategy and risks, and are not simply a math and accounting exercise.”  That review he noted would:

Re-examining military compensation levels in light of the fact that – apart from the U.S. Army during the worst years of Iraq – all the services have consistently exceeded their recruiting and retention goals;

It could mean taking a look at the rigid, one-size-fits-all approach to retirement, pay and pensions left over from the last century.   A more tiered and targeted system – one that weights compensation towards the most high demand and dangerous specialties – could bring down costs while attracting and retaining the high quality personnel we need;  and

It will require doing something about spiraling health care costs – and in particular the health insurance benefit for working age retirees whose fees are one-tenth those of federal civil servants, and have not been raised since 1995.

Now, the main point of the MAF release seems to be that President Obama is behind this sudden perfidy to cut troops pay.  While certainly Gates was working in his capacity of spokesman for the Administration in this regard, what is not mentioned is that this is the exact same debate that the Pentagon has been pushing for over the course of the LAST FIVE YEARS.  It didn’t pop out this month from nowhere.  I was listening to the same arguments from DoD actuaries that the military pay and benefits increases were unsustainable from the time I got back from Afghanistan and returned to following Armed Services hearings on the hill.

Take for example the Defense Advisory Committee on Military Compensation from 2005-6, which advocated almost the exact same sorts of changes that are now being discussed by Gates.  Among other things, that Committee found:


  • “Cliff-vesting” retirement at twenty years limits force management options and fails to recognize service of less than 20 years (inflexible and inequitable)
  • No incentive to serve beyond 30 years
  • Immediate Lifetime retired pay was designed for another era and force
  • There is growing sentiment in the Department for “Pay for Performance,” but changes are necessary to address this sentiment
  • Compensation differences not related to mission demands or performance remain in today’s system


And crucially:

• TRICARE costs, especially for the pre-65 retiree population, are growing rapidly

• The premium and cost sharing provisions for TRICARE retiree pre-65 Prime beneficiaries should be restored to more competitive levels with premiums and cost sharing in civilian employer plans

• The premium and cost-sharing provisions once adjusted should grow at the same rate as the annual cost-of-living adjustment to the military retirement annuity

 There is a TON of information out there on how military health care delivery is taking a larger and larger share of the DoD pie.  I’m not going to include pie charts etc, because I don’t want to get too lost in the forest here, but if you actually want the info, you can find it.  (Perhaps starting here.)  The point of this is largely that MAF is focusing on this round of a recurring message, without acknowledging that it is the same message we’ve been hearing on Capitol Hill since long before President Obama was elected as Commander in Chief.  Although I empathize with any argument against lowering the pay and benefits of service-members, to lay this all at the feet of the President is to ignore the history of the preceding five years.

If any soldier, sailor, airman, marine or coast guardsmen serving overseas gets the letter prognosticated by MAF, it will be because the Congress did it, not because of President Obama.  In fact, the President’s budget was defeated in the Senate by a margin of 97-0.  Eventually the Congress is going to be forced to focus on the rising costs, or our national debt will go even higher.  But, it is entirely unlikely that Congress is going to go along with some scheme to lower military pay while we are engaged in combat, and especially not so simply because an out-going SecDef made a statement at the AEI.


(ON EDIT: I underestimated the amount of time this issue has been on the table.  In looking for art for this post, I found a study from 2003.  Go ahead and take a look and see if what they were predicting then has come to pass....  Also, for you Conservatives that want a conservative saying the same things as Gates, I give you no less an authority than the Heritage Foundation.)

 Regardless of who brings up any idea like this, our Legislative Staff will be knocking on Congressional doors making sure that the troops currently in harms way don't have their pay and benefits cut.  Granted we do need to balance the budget, something everyone agrees with, but you don't do it by shortchanging the people who signed up on promises which the gov't is potentially trying to retro-actively change.

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So out of one side of their mouths they spout that military pay is to generous and wish to cut it. From the other side of their mouths they spout that military health and retirement benefits are to high and should be brought in line with civilian levels. They can't have it both ways. If they wish to realign the latter they must also raise the former. I know I averaged 70 hr weeks when not engaged in training maneuvers or deployed. What is the civilian equivalent pay for such a work schedule? A damn bit more than what we got then or now!

As far as the generosity of retirement on half or less of previous "base" pay well now..... if single, living in a low cost area of the US and having no major bills and willing to simply get by then yes a single retiree can manage to scrimp by without working otherwise he'll have to get a job. A difficult transition at best.

If the obama administration and the pin head GS whatever bureaucrats in the pentagon wish to cut basic pay and benefits I'll wager that within two years the recruitment and retention rates will plummet dramatically. Lower enlisted with families and several children have for many years qualified for food stamps in some areas of the US. Pride in service counts for a lot but when the checkbook can't be balanced for the family's needs then hard decision have to be made. I saw it twice while I was still in service and I also remember the the nearly desperation levels of the pentagon to change the course of those policies when they realized they were missing recruiting and retention goals.

What the bean counters secretly wish for is a return to conscription. If you as a reader support this then petition your congress creature for a return to the draft and a modeling of our military after say the old Soviet style of personnel manning. It won't ever win another war but it will be cheaper.

There is no reason at all to desecrate the Stars and Stripes. That flag stands because of the sacrifice, bravery and will of the American people.

..Aloe vera & amla fruit extract

It's not the bravery of the American people.... It's the bravery of the 1.4 million service members. They make up 1/2 of a percent of the US population. Maybe, 20% of them will retire. So, is it fair to believe that scaleing back military retirement on 1/10th of a percent of Americans will fix our economy? Unlikely.

Government wishing to save money at the expense of the American Hero Soldier is out of the question. Let's cut congress like John Behner who make $223.000 per year and bring it down to a figure that makes sense. obama makes $453.000 - I'm a lt.Col and don't come close to that. I think we should turn our attention on Washington D.C. and take it down. Throw everyone out and start a new - if they do the same - Throw them out. Everything is going to those that do not work and obama needs out money for them and his muslims. I would like to go after them and send them packing as they are taking over very fast. Send obama with them. I am on my sixth tour and am sick and tired of this muslim non-american obama. I cannot for the life of me understand why someone hasn't stopped him in his tracks. We all know that all of the hill is crooked and have no Conscious.

send our tax dollors,spend or tax dollors,give or tax dollors!!!!!!!!!! to thous who spend it better than we do!!!cut de-fence let them thru!!!we should not spend money that we die for to make!! give to those that say we are not worthy!!!!send your left oure money to me!!!!please!!!! I NEED to buy something!!!! thank you

Well said. We play cop to the world, help out other countries, give illegals benefits...but we turn our backs on our own. What about our poor, homeless, elderly, etc. We have billions of dollars to give to another country who doesn't give a rats butt about us...yet...we want to cut military pay & benefits to save billions? For what? we can give it to another country that could care less? Or cut Medicare so we can give money to another country...or better yet...give illegals benefits. RRRRRRRR! You're doesn't matter who is in office...they are all alike, they just state things differently. We need a miracle...and I for one don't see any of the upcoming canidates as being "the one" in any party...very bronchitis contagious

Just a simple comment;
Instead of cutting military pay and benefits, we need to demand pay cuts for our so called politicians. I guarantee our deficiet would not be so bad. The waste is from the politicians not the military...$400,000 a year for the president?? Why? This is truly sad!!!

walking pneumonia symptoms

Just a simple comment;
Instead of cutting military pay and benefits, we need to demand pay cuts for our so called politicians. I guarantee our deficiet would not be so bad. The waste is from the politicians not the military...$400,000 a year for the president?? Why? This is truly sad!!!

Easy for our politians to make cuts to everyone but themselves. They shouldn't have any better benefits than the public sector, nor should they have round the clock body guards, we don't! They will do anything they can to keep their status quo while ripping the country apart while beating us down further and further. Enough is enough!

He probably wants to cut their wages, so he and all the other polititions can give them selves another raise, and get even better health coverage than anybody else gets.

It's the same story all around the world buddy, the power of money can make people go insane and cross the limits of selfishness

Sarkari Naukri

I don't believe that $400,000 a year is enough for a sitting President. I do believe these Senators and Congressmen and Women receive way too much in retirement and health benefits when they leave office. The Congress should serve at least 10 years, 5 Terms before partial vestment and 20 years to be fully vested. If you really want to cut costs...get on the butts of the contractors and those approving $200 hammers, $700 toilet seats etc

I agree with many writers, because if you are going to continue to ask the brave men and women to serve and protect you will have to pay them accordingly.

The politicians should start cutting there salaries first and then work there way down, because they are paid way too much money to sit around and argue about this and that only to say that they are going to stick it to the VETERANS each and every time. First the pay raises are lower and lower each year for TROOPs, because of the politicians when is this CRAP going to STOP?

The government spends trillion of dollars or more on each and every war to help the people of foriegn countries to get back on their feets, but can't PROTECT those Brave Men and Women and their families only source of INCOME!!

What is this world coming too?

Here Here Chuck!!! Why don't they cut the the Senators & Congressmen's retirement and take away their health benefits...think of the billions they could save on that alone. But no...they have to pick on the people who they claim to support and reality is...they couldn't do the job of ANY military position themselves. They act big by picking on the little guys as usual...they need to take a look in the mirror. I do realize a good part of the people in office have not served their country...shouldn't they though? they understand the sacrifices? Whether in war our is always at our doorstep. The military is on duty 24/7/ the math on any rank...that ain't squat for pay. How can this even begin to equal the civilian sector? No civilian would put in 10, 12, 16, 20 hour days...not without overpay...oh...and of couree the military does not get that either as we know. The military is the first they call upon and the first the screw............this does not make any sense!!!

I am a veteran of both Vietnam and Desert Storm. All through my military career I always heard that military was first to set the example of private sector yet the private sector never noticed what the military was doing, so the military always set the example for nothing. Our so called polical representaives are always quick to blame others but take no blame themselves when they use money earmarked for another program and quick to complain about all the funds necessary to replace what they robbed from it. I would like to know what congress is going to do on their end. They ae quick to cut and cannibalize pay and programs for others but what about the highest paid jobs in the country - theirs? Apparently, they think they are the only ones working hard in America, yet the very basis of their income (taxes) is borne by the very people they take from. Personally, I think the raping of America should end. If you cut the amount of money it takes to buy drugs, hospitalization and doctor salaries, America would survive because medical is the biggest drain on the economy. Only the medical field truly knows how to rape America and remains unsurpassed by Congress. If congress truly wanted to cut costs, they reduce the amount it costs for medical in America. Its time America showed doctors they are normal people who need to sacrifce too.

I'm disabled American veteran- Vietnam. My thoughts are as follows: If it was'nt for the veterans (past & present) of this country, we would'nt have the freedoms that we do have. Please think about it period! I don't mind paying taxes for the right programs and etc.. if, there're within the spectrum of providing the right care for people, I'm with the people that we elected to be in office to serve our country.

David, I appreciate several of your points, but you are clearly misinformed when it comes to the medical field. Doctors are getting screwed by the insurance companies, just like everybody else. This article, although long, does an excellent job of breaking down the numbers:

And please keep in mind, most healthcare providers work 12-16 hour days, 5 days a week, and take call all night at least once a week...doing the math, that comes out to 80hrs/week ON A LIGHT WEEK. That's twice the amount of time the typically worker works.

If they want to cut the pay and benifits bring back the draft.

They will have to...who wants to join and put their life on the line for nothing?

Hate to tell people this, but neither party is a angel. Remember it was the GOP that sent troops into Iraq without proper equipment. It was the GOP that had bad conditions at Reed Hospital. At some point and time something is going to have to be done with the military budget. I can easily see the day of collecting a pension waiting until at least 55. If the gov wants to save money get rid of the pork. Decide what equipment and the requirements before releasing a bid and then hold the company to it. Get past the need for the latest and greatest bells and whistles and go with what is effective. Get rid of the fraud not only from the contractors but also at the bases. There are so many ways to go, but the US cannot keep on spending way more than the other countries on defense. The US cannot continue to afford to play cop while the rest of the countries stand on the sideline giving token contributions. If you are worried about $400 K for the president you would have a real shock at what a CEO of major corps get.

I would like to add the GOP are no angels either... After the first Gulf War Bush Senior was in office when the COLA was changed from CPI to CPI minus 1%... Chisel a little off the back of people who protected this country is disgraceful. A little unnoticed fact that everyone forgets. Also, the 13% pay raise the military received in early 1980's was passed while Carter was in office. Everyone always remembers Reagan being in office, because he was, but the bill was signed by Carter. Reagan got rid of all unemployment benefits for honorably discharged veterans, because he felt they quit their jobs. Veterans were homeless sitting with picket signs on city hall steps of their hometowns across the country... I know, because I was discharged and found myself in very bad shape trying to establish myself. Thanks to the GOP... I will never forget and always eye their agendas with scrutiny.

While our children are going to war in other countries and living under conditions that our government thinks are horrible for Americans living here in the good ole USA..... they cut their pay and benefits, but then they want to give and I say give people who never worked or have ever lifted a finger to contribute to society......... free homes, food, insurance. Come on America it is time for us to stand up and tell these people in government we are sick and tired of their giving our tax dollars away and getting us further in debt. Instead of fullfilling campaign promises and bailing the banks out of debt they should have given the working class the bailout monies and we could have paid off mortgages and credit card debt and the banks would have gotten their money and the economy would have picked up because these same people would have gone out and bought a new car, made updates on their homes, etc. And then maybe we would not be having to desperately save our political a$$, by cutting where we have no business cutting pay and benefits... I, for one am sick of our government. And the sad thing is I don't see it getting any better. I am praying God will have mercy and send us someone who can straighten this whole mess out... And we know it's not who is in office right now...

Well said. We play cop to the world, help out other countries, give illegals benefits...but we turn our backs on our own. What about our poor, homeless, elderly, etc. We have billions of dollars to give to another country who doesn't give a rats butt about us...yet...we want to cut military pay & benefits to save billions? For what? we can give it to another country that could care less? Or cut Medicare so we can give money to another country...or better yet...give illegals benefits. RRRRRRRR! You're doesn't matter who is in office...they are all alike, they just state things differently. We need a miracle...and I for one don't see any of the upcoming canidates as being "the one" in any party...very sad.

Need more money? Get it from the politician paycheck. There are things they don't pay for that the general public do. Example, Medical. That the biggest expense for the GP.

Am so tired of broken promises by every President that we have had. I wish they would learn and then teach Congress, that without the military, there would be no need for any of their current positions and therefore we would save lots of $$$$$. Survival of the fittest is truly a test to all who have served before me, with me and lay down their life today to protect my country. Some will never know what it is like to "truly" give all. God Bless our military members and their families and God Bless America.

So if we as soldiers have to pay for our health care it would seem that prisoners get better health care than us. So it would seem everyone should go to jail at least in there there are no cost medical coverage. I also know that the care they get such as kidney trans plants and sex offender reform... that stuff is real cheap right and who is paying for that???? Us the people fighting the war on terror... and now we are gonna have to pay for our own medical treatment... what's next pay for getting shot while in combat...

Of course the politicians want to attack the benefits of those serving or have VOLUNTEERED to defend the constituional rights of all citizens of this great land. This includes the politicians rights to exempt themselves from the laws they expect the rest of us to follow. It is time for the politicians to make themselves equal in the eyes of the law as the average citizen. Reduce their own pay, make them pay social security taxes, etc.

I would expect nothing less from a Liberal Socialist such as Obama from day one this loser has hated the military since it goes against all of his ideas on social restructuring. At the beginning of his administration he stated he felt military should be paying for their own health care. Well wing nut you got us into two more wars and in war people get injured and you have a responsibility to take care of them since you put them in harms way with your arrogance. Military health care and pay are not the reason for your out of control budget. Your excessive spending is!! The hugh amounts of fraud in medicare, the continued entitlements you and congress feel justified in bestowing upon yourselves. You people work for us not the other way around. If you look at what a military member puts on the line for the misserable pay they receive in actuality they should be making over 6 figures a year. All I ever hear is how teachers need more pay, auto workers need more pay. When was the last time a teacher or janitor in a auto plant had to dodge an IED. Hum let me guess try never!

You sir are an embarasement to all of those who have served and are serving and this country need hope and change they need to hope that your administration is changed as quickly as possible. Show some honor, show some integrity, if you really love this country then resign.

Lars, you are an idiot!

Lars, I'll second that you are an idiot.

Definitely an idiot. Half the people commenting on here are idiots.
-current airman
-Obama 2012

No Mike, Lars is not an idiot! You probrably have ever served this great country in a time of war. Lars has been there and had someone shooting at him or setting IED's off when he drove by. Go volunteer at a VA Hospital and see the young people with missing limbs and brain injuries from serving our country. Then tell us you think these guys need their pay cut. The president and congress got their cola this year and last so maybe they can afford to cut their pay say 10- 20%. They waiste more money in an hour than the most service men awomen get paid a month.

Well said, Rick! Agree with you 100%. Pay cuts should start with our president and lawmakers-they need to lead by example! To even suggest pay cuts for our troops and their families is an absolute outrage, they give so much and get so little in return. I know, I'm a Marine Corps veteran and very proud of my service.

Anybody who thinks Lars is not an idiot needs to raise their third arm. Exactly which two wars did President Obama get us into? Oh you mean Iraq and Afghanistan? Try Bush, please.

Lars, don't forget that our military comes from all walks of life. I know teachers, doctors (some who have lost their private practices) auto mechanics, who are serving our country. So don't get down on any specific person.... They should all be praised because they were not drafted they all volunteered.

I suggest that before you get on your high horse and rail against President Obama you read the article in full and not make a complete fool of yourself. What Sec Gates said has been said for the past 8 years by both republicans and Democrats. While you correctly point out that Medicare and entitlements consume a significant percentage of our nations budget and that fraud, while not as rampant as you allude, exists withing both areas you neglect to point out that fraud and waste exist within the DoD budget as well. How many billions are wasted on defense appropriations for weapons and equipment that the military neither wants nor needs. As a nation we currently spend as much on "defense" as the the next 50 nations on the list combined and quite frankly have damned little to show for it. If you want to rail then do so at the defense contractors who regularly bid low and then make up the difference in cost over-runs and delayed delivery times.

As far as teachers, janitors and auto workers dodging IEDs I suggest that you ask some of the many National Guard who respond when called up leaving those jobs behind them, that may well not be there when they return, what it is like.

If anyone is an embarrassment to this country it's people like you that have, at best, any sort of understanding of the issues.

Before they start chiseling off patriots who defended this nation... they should look at the wasteful spending across all agencies of the federal government. They can start by cancelling all the expostiions, conferences, and similar events that they have every year. Essentially, vacations on the taxpayer dime. There are literally thousands of these networking events. At a cost of $10M+, and that's a low estimate, multiplied by 1000+ we're looking at a serious chunk of change that would reduce the need to chisel benefits from our warriors that have earned them.

Lars, I want to thank you for lowering the level of consious thought into a serious discussion. If you would study history (person in power during beginning of two wars), and the government power authority (congress sets budget, President approves or vetos after voted upon by congress) you would understand the crisis at hand. Please get off the couch, away from Rush and learn some facts.

Right on Lars, only the die hard Obama Lovers are upset with Lars comment.

If we were to cut back 25% of a politicians pay, it would be more money than most of those Soldier make all year. Don't look to hurt the little man by cutting his pay, look for ways you as a politican can help (give up some of your pay), not hurt. That is just one way the the greedy politican screws over the Soldier!

Excuse my negativity, but the president doesn't have a clue! They are the most underpaid people in this country for the job they do. They should be paid at least the equivlant of Firefighters and Policeman in Major cities, sad state of affairs. The politicians are the most over paid in both salary and retirement benifits of anybody in this country for what they do. They live by the lies they tell which is, as my dad would say " promise them anything, just don't put it in writing."

Obama has not had the privilage of serving in the military, nor have many of our current law makers. Therefore, they have no real understanding of the sacrifices our military members make to insure the freedoms we enjoy. Yet, they gladly accept all the benefits that they are given (most granted based on their own votes), that far exceed those in the military, and the vast majority of this country's citizens. The very idea that Obama and his co-hearts would even consider pay-cuts and lowering of benefits going to those who have, or will serve to protect this country and its citizens is just another example of their stupidity and is further proof of self-serving attitudes. Since Obama's real work experience has been so limited, and the fact he has made few (if any) sacrifices during his lifetime, it is not difficult to understand his lack of compassion for those who have.

How 'bout the government lead by example - starting at the very top, cut ALL federal salaries - You can not put the military in a war and then cut their pay - how stupid is that???? Why should someone that wears a suit and spends their days running their mouths make more money than the people we routinely put in harms way - the military, police officers, fireman and let's not forget the people directly responsible for shaping our future - teachers. Something is seriously wrong with our country and politicians are not capable of solving it!!!!

Instead of cutting the pay and benefits of those brave folks who sign a blank check to the USA, lets look at paring down the cost of maintaining the vermin who slither around the halls of congress & the white House.

I agree with Chuck. Cut the pay for our politicians, especially their retirement.

If the President wants to make cuts in the budget, cut the Supreme Court. It seems that only one of the Justices is not braindead.

While I certainly am not in favor of all that this president is doing, I am very tired of him being blamed for all the things he has not done. First of all, the VA services have improved remarkably since he and Shinseki have been in charge. They are dealing with a catastrophe of PTSD and other issues which had nothing to do with him or his "lack of active duty service". It would be nice if people would not take so much of what they hear as gospel and actually do some research. Between Jim Webb Eric Shinseki, and yes, President Obama, they are trying their best to solve issues created by the National Guard President and the "deferment" vice president of past. There is no substantial proof that the president's position is to reduce military pay, yet everyone jumps on that tiered old bandwagon with no proof, just rhetoric.

This is another example of "lynch mob" media reporting. Report the facts and let us make up our own minds please! I am concerned that the AL puts stuff out there like this.

OK Jim, what part of what I wrote is innaccurate?

Well put.


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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.