US Forces remuneration and healthcare costs

#1
Many years since I wore green and then only at the weekends. However, this article does look interesting and I would like fellow arrsers to air their views:

The defence budget
In the firing line
The Pentagon starts to grapple with spiralling health-care costs

The defence budget: In the firing line | The Economist

Are current serving Brit Mil underpaid?
How do you feel about the free bus pass?
Medical care?
Injured in the line of duty but... need to be manned up at the front: are people supported in civi street properly?
How do you feel about loss of PARA pay - on another thread I know.

the comments section also invite reflection

Comments on The defence budget: In the firing line | The Economist

Are our enlisted men underpaid in comparison to their ability?
Is Brit Mil top heavy?

Look forward to replies
 

RP578

LE
Book Reviewer
#2
An interesting comment from your last link:
What we are really talking about here is a choice between the unlimited military commitments of the last 20 years and a sustainable approach to the military. Cutting pay will come at the expense of capability. If you think defending Libya is something wealthy democracies should do, you should look to the UK and France's inability to undertake that relatively simple mission on their own as a warning of the choices we'll need to make in the future.
Edited to add another interesting, and honest, quote:

The truth is... the military lifestyle is the best form of communism that capitalism can buy.
No communist society could ever generate the cash flow to pay the generally high guaranteed wages that people in the military make. There are plenty of stories of people leaving the service only to realize they made much more in it and trying to get back in. No country can afford people to work for 20 years and then pay them a retirement for the rest of their lives. Like everything else, this model of finance will come to an end. Either the finance package will be redone or, more realistically, the military will have to accept that only a small minority of folks in uniform do what can be considered military jobs. Like the massive contracting that took place to fight the wars in the desert, more and more military functions will be outsourced to where ultimately only fighter pilots, infantry, tank drivers, special ops, and the guys on the ships will wear rank. Everyone else may still have a uniform, but it'll be that of their company.
 
#4
Well done on a great find from the economist. War has always been a dammed expensive business" and the "War of the Flea" seeks to win by sapping the will to continue. But surely a wise leader would consider an overmanned military to be a good thing. By making military service very well paid you ensure that spaces are filled by competition amongst the best and brightest. Therefore your Freedom is guaranteed by winners.

Where the article dipped, by a commentator led the way, is to point out that not all military personnel are warriors. Not all MoD staff will be exposed the horriffic injury or a casualty rate of 20%. Maybe we can start to KBR the rear echelon? Starting with the RMP.
It does make you wonder though. Here we are fighting for other people's freedom on lands stuff will oil, unobtainiums etc and no one has had the wit to make a profit. Bring back John Company!
 
#5
I think this is but another aspect of the economic realities of setting up "benefit" programs that grow larger than the underlying source of funding for such benefits. While it is true there is the special aspect that military forces can be exposed to physical risks and also must undergo numerous deployments and other hardships, similar reasons have been used in the case of public safety employees to justify their benefit packages (health care, early retirement etc.).

In these situations, numerous local governments have had to radically change such programs (in spite of the incredible pressure from unions) or go insolvent as the tax base supporting such programs was overwhelmed by the geometrically increasing costs of such programs, especially as life expectancy has increased. More broadly, the issues raised in the Economist article cannot be viewed in isolation of the same dynamics (and inexorable economic nonsustainability) that are at work in virtually all government benefit programs.

The system will collapse under its own weight unless our political elite (both parties) has the courage to address these "sacred cows" (social security, medicare etc.) realistically in terms of their economic sustainability. Another important reason to deal with these programs is to break the negative cycle that most such benefit programs involve of increasing the recipients' dependence on the largess of government. This in turn causes a commensurate loss over time of their sense of self reliance and personal responsibility for their own welfare through work rather than hand-outs as long as they are physically and mentally capable of doing so.

Regrettably, I do not think this will happen since this elite prefers to have large segments of the population dependent on them for more and more since that results in more power and control. Clearly, such a "benefit society" is unworkable under capitalism (and for that matter any other economic model as we have seen with the collapse of the USSR etc.) and I think this is a part of the "fundamental transformation" that the current administration said it would do and is now implementing notwithstanding the Constitution.

In any event, I do think the government should cover treatment of military members for all injuries (physical and otherwise) incurred in training or operations and any disabilities that result. This should also be state of the art and not the sort of bureaucratic neglect that characterized the US Veterans Administration until recent years saw at least some improvement, probably due largely to Gen. Shinsecki's leadership.
 
#6
JJH:

I must respectfully disagree in some ways. Many in the military stayed in the military until retirement foregoing potentially more lucrative employment based on promises made by the military as to pensions, continued healthcare and other benefits. Many retirees retired to areas near military bases in order to be able to use military hospitals as well as Base Exchanges,Commissary Stores etc. This is not like the cases of overeager recruiters promising a kid duty in Hawaii and a barracks near Waikiki Beach. This was US military policies.

The TriCare program has grown greatly in cost but a major reason for the increase of costs has been the many military hospitals which have closed due to efforts by each service to cut costs. No sense getting into a laundry list of hospitals closed but there are many. Part of the reasoning for this was the major reduction in the numbers of military personnel during the Clinton administration.

The fall in personnel led to some degree of under utilization of military hospitals. The closing of these hospitals has however eliminated much "surge capacity" that would be of huge value to the country in case of natural disasters, major hazardous material incidents or CBRN terrorism. Back in 2004 the USN had a really excellent program called DVATEX designed to prepare Naval Hospitals to provide short notice surge capacity in emergencies, I was sent by Harvard to perform an evaluation of the implementation at the (now former) Great Lakes Naval Hospital and I assure you this program had great value to the country. I am sad to see the government essentially throw away valuable resources.

As sad as these developments have been for healthcare in the US the major impact has been shifting costs from the individual services to TriCare and much larger costs to the government.

JJH - Although I directed this comment to you I am sure you are aware of a lot of this. I included some details for the benefit of our British friends in case they have any interest in this. (Perhaps, due to the British love for rhyming slang I should refer to our "hominy friends" instead)

edited to add: Promised health care to the military is an entitlement the same as promised military pensions. Having promised pensions at certain rates after required amounts of service the government cannot suddenly decide to stop paying pensions to retired military.
 
#7
Somewhat different issue in the UK due to the NHS - the vast cost of health benefits are already met through taxation. Not that I want to kick off the Great US-UK Healthcare Marathon Debate again, just pointing out the different systems.
 
#8
Somewhat different issue in the UK due to the NHS - the vast cost of health benefits are already met through taxation. Not that I want to kick off the Great US-UK Healthcare Marathon Debate again, just pointing out the different systems.
Quite right - I just wanted to make a point re military care that would likely not be known to "hominy" sorts
 
#9
JJH:

I must respectfully disagree in some ways. Many in the military stayed in the military until retirement foregoing potentially more lucrative employment based on promises made by the military as to pensions, continued healthcare and other benefits. Many retirees retired to areas near military bases in order to be able to use military hospitals as well as Base Exchanges,Commissary Stores etc. This is not like the cases of overeager recruiters promising a kid duty in Hawaii and a barracks near Waikiki Beach. This was US military policies.

The TriCare program has grown greatly in cost but a major reason for the increase of costs has been the many military hospitals which have closed due to efforts by each service to cut costs. No sense getting into a laundry list of hospitals closed but there are many. Part of the reasoning for this was the major reduction in the numbers of military personnel during the Clinton administration.

The fall in personnel led to some degree of under utilization of military hospitals. The closing of these hospitals has however eliminated much "surge capacity" that would be of huge value to the country in case of natural disasters, major hazardous material incidents or CBRN terrorism. Back in 2004 the USN had a really excellent program called DVATEX designed to prepare Naval Hospitals to provide short notice surge capacity in emergencies, I was sent by Harvard to perform an evaluation of the implementation at the (now former) Great Lakes Naval Hospital and I assure you this program had great value to the country. I am sad to see the government essentially throw away valuable resources.

As sad as these developments have been for healthcare in the US the major impact has been shifting costs from the individual services to TriCare and much larger costs to the government.

JJH - Although I directed this comment to you I am sure you are aware of a lot of this. I included some details for the benefit of our British friends in case they have any interest in this. (Perhaps, due to the British love for rhyming slang I should refer to our "hominy friends" instead)

edited to add: Promised health care to the military is an entitlement the same as promised military pensions. Having promised pensions at certain rates after required amounts of service the government cannot suddenly decide to stop paying pensions to retired military.

I do not disagree with you I don't think--I was speaking as the Economist article was--prospectively--those who have contracted for existing benefits etc. have a right to them. It is just that I do not think we can continue the same model in the future.
 
#10
I do not disagree with you I don't think--I was speaking as the Economist article was--prospectively--those who have contracted for existing benefits etc. have a right to them. It is just that I do not think we can continue the same model in the future.
So question looms, are we entering the decline of empire where the military cost of empire is so great that the local economy can not afford it?

Britain has gone beyond trying to maintain a significant relationship with the US - staunch friends, who have shed blood together. Are we in the twilight now?
 
#11
Standby to see the US / UK far more reticent to send troops abroad, and still more likely to use PSCs than we are now. The world isn't getting any more stable or predictable but its certainly getting too expensive to man and equip 1st world armies. What enemy is our Army designed to beat when it simultaneously over-matches any likely conventional opponent, but can't defeat guerillas?

Add in the super-sensitivity around, and micro-managing of, soldiers and sending lightly armed, cash paid expendable contractors to do your dirty work looks still better. So long as you're happy to hold your nose, pull a face and wag your finger when things go wrong while claiming no responsibility. I think that's a price western governments would be happy to pay to save the cash, don't you?

Not that I think its a good idea but this trend is a reflection not just of the folly of committing to large wars which you haven't enough public support to conscript & suffer for, but also of the insistence that our troops have the best possible kit, support and chance of coming home.

The British Army hasn't as much fat to trim in terms of costs as the US - but I think we're moving to a period from 2015 onwards where the pay structure will combine low basic pay with a very heavy allowances high readiness units and for limited opportunities to go on ops.

Personally, I think this would be no bad thing. We're going to have a much smaller, much less capable, much more UK-based Army with a cadre of troops being used abroad. The former won't be so much troubled by deployments & overseas exercises, so will have to be content with less cash and benefits. The ambitious will be retained by competing for opportunities to get the pay / experience / benefits which roulement into / selection for the deployed elements will bring.

Beyond that, when we have a serious ruck we'll need medical support and we'll be grateful for tokens of gratitude from the public - as well as starting from scratch for nearly everything else we'll need to fight at a decent scale. But for a while after 2015 I reckon most blokes in the Army will be grateful for the job security. A good pension would be nice to have but - lets face it - the tide of economics isn't exactly with it...

Charlie
 

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