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2015 defense budget released ahead of compensation study

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As the Army looks to reduce costs and downsize the force, it’s no surprise the defense budget released last week slashes benefits to service members.

What did surprise some, was that these cuts are being proposed before the report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission is released in February 2015. Established by the National Defense Authorization Act of fiscal year 2013, the commission was created to conduct a review of military compensation and retirement systems and to make recommendations to modernize such systems, according to its website.

Pending a congressional vote, the benefits impacted in the 2015 budget proposal include a drop from 100 percent to 95 percent coverage of out-of-pocket housing allowances over a three-year period, limits to pay raises and a reduction in commissary savings.

“First and foremost, Congress will make the final determination on whether they accept DOD’s budget proposal — or reject some or all of DOD’s recommendations,” said retired Col. Bill Parry, executive director of the Killeen-based Heart of Texas Defense Alliance. “Many of DOD’s proposals are not new this year — and in the past, Congress has rejected them. Before becoming alarmed at the possible impacts, we will need to see what Congress does.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Paul Funk said when looking at making cuts to the military, he hopes someone is focused on the potential impacts to national security.

Quality people should be compensated on par with the civilian sector if the Army wants to retain its best, he said.

“The most dangerous thing for the country is a near-peer or peer competitor. It’s not the most likely, but it’s most dangerous,” he said. “Only way to win wars is to eventually put young men and women in the mud.”

To be ready for that possibility, Funk said it needs to be properly assessed and the Army trained accordingly.

“Wars are won eventually on the ground. If you’ve got a great army, nobody’s going to go to war with you. We do not (have a great army). We have great people. We have a great counterinsurgency army, but we need to look hard and listen to the chief of staff and leaders on how to rebuild it. We simply have to do that if we are the only superpower in the world,” he said.

Rose L. Thayer is the military editor for the Killeen Daily Herald. She joined the paper in February 2011 as a health and military reporter. View her complete profile Here. You can contact Rose L. Thayer at rthayer@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary.

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