Thursday, February 9, 2012

Stars in the Navy

On Feb. 2, 2012, reported a change in federal law to provide higher retention rates for “top brass” with the purpose of keeping military leaders active longer.

Prior to the law change, an officer’s retirement pay was based on 26 years of service. Today, a four-star officer with 43 years of service can retire with more than double the $134,400 four-star officers received a year ago. Active-duty officers’ lifestyles are boosted further with housing allowances and other compensation.
Perhaps most officers deserve these remunerations; however if their rewards are at the expense of the morale of the enlisted personnel they lead, something is tragically wrong with the system.  Some believe the increased pension payment may not entice senior officers to remain in the military, but younger officers might choose to remain active longer, hoping to reap the payoff when they retire after more than 26 years.

The Project on Government Oversight, which looks at waste in government, suggests these pensions are extreme. Nearly 150 three-star officers and 44 four-star officers currently receive the higher pensions.
“At a time when the Pentagon is struggling to pay for the men and women who actually fight wars, and is shrinking the size of its fighting force and civilian employees, it doesn’t make sense to nearly double the size of a retired four-star’s pension,” said Nick Schwellenbach, director of investigations for the group.
The Facebook group, Sailors Against ERB  asks, “Did our sailors get fired so we could pay these guys more than double what their pension used to be?”
In November 2011, the Enlisted Retention Board informed nearly 3,000 sailors their active contracts will terminate on September 1, 2012. One tenth of those “ERB sailors” will take advantage of the early 15-year retirement option recently approved by Congress. Many of the remaining sailors are concerned with the quota game being played by “Big Navy.”

They want to know why they were selected to be involuntarily separated from their military careers, despite what their superiors called excellent work performance, especially when they know other sailors who had openly expressed regret at being retained.
They feel betrayed.
According to another NavyTimes article, “Some sailors who volunteered for early outs were turned down; others with less-than-stellar records were able to escape because their ratings and year groups were safe. Some of those losing their jobs will be eligible by a matter of days (to retire at 15 years) and miss out on as much as $950,000 over the course of their lifetimes.”
Meanwhile, high-ranking officers receive raises and incentives to remain on active duty. Our military requires strong leadership, but not at the expense of our enlisted personnel, the backbone of the military.