Veterans of Foreign Wars leader Richard DeNover recently hinted that U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to reshape the military, cutting pay and benefits, could ultimately lead to a return of the military draft.
DeNoyer, a Vietnam combat veteran and retired Marine, believes that these changes could be the downfall of our nation’s all-volunteer force, causing recruiting and retention efforts to fall dramatically because of what he calls “employer” decisions. He blames the problem on those attempting to balance the budget, and that decisions to disrupt military programs should be met with harsh criticism. Military services are also going to be shrinking employment by more than 100,000 men and women over the new few years, causing further uproar in this tight-knit community.
Still, officials state that problems arose because of improved basic pay and housing allowances of the last few years, which has caused the Defense Department and the White House to target them as budget cuts given our current economic struggles. Along with proposed pay-raise caps, higher out-of-pocket medical and prescription drug costs, and a reformation of retired pay, the potential cut in compensation is a major concern among young and career soldiers, leaving many to fear the possibility of an increase in unemployment and homelessness.
Those that could be most affected by changes are those hoping to retire from the military. A reduction in health care benefits and retirement reform that is expected to affect future enlistees could severely hinder long-term retention.
Downplaying the cuts, White House officials say that current service members and their families would be largely exempt from upcoming changes, but that really depends on current military member contracts. Starting in 2015, the Pentagon is planning to limit military pay raises to 0.5 percent, as well as increase prescription drug fees as early as next year for active-duty and retiree families.
Talk of cutbacks has already had an effect on current service members and their families, leaving many to question operation tempo, dwell time and outside threats. These concerns will only grow as service members start to not only worry about the orders they receive, but whether or not the people in charge have veteran’s best interests in mind.
So far, the VFW is alone in their claim that the volunteer force will be replaced by a draft system, as other military and veterans groups have limited their focus to only the proposed cuts.
Photo thanks to Konabish under creative commons license on Flickr.