- Satanists petition for statue at Oklahoma Statehouse
- Deadly N.Y. train derailment leads to Senate call for cameras at tracks
- WWII vet, 90, en route to Pearl Harbor event booted from flight
- SWAT team at Phoenix hospital as armed man clears emergency room
- Kim Jong-un’s uncle dragged from political meeting, booted from party
- Big storm dumps snow on East Coast, travel dicey
- Thai prime minister dissolves Parliament, calls elections
- Hagel to meet with Pakistan’s prime minister
- Kiev: Riot police deployed near protest sites
- Elton John blasts Russia’s anti-gay laws during Moscow concert
RYAN: An open letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
The truth about military personnel costs
Dear Secretary Hagel,
As a former soldier and senator, you are well-prepared for what you might encounter as you begin your new job. It won’t be easy, and the hardest part will be separating fact from fiction to make the best decisions.
Here is some advice. The most important thing you can do is challenge the “experts” who use misleading rhetoric and statistics to sway you toward their conclusions.
You’ll hear that military personnel costs are “rising out of control” and will “consume future defense budgets.” Bean-counters use these bogus arguments – and pundits repeat them — to divert money from military people programs to hardware or non-defense programs.
Yet those arguments simply aren’t true.
Here are the facts:
The defense budget has consumed a progressively smaller share of federal outlays. Today, it’s at its smallest share in 50 years and will drop further – below 12.5 percent – by 2017. That share is projected to continue to decline for the foreseeable future.
Defense leaders complain military personnel and health costs are consuming roughly one-third of the defense budget – implying this is a dramatic increase from the past.
Yet personnel and health care costs have comprised that same budget share consistently for the last 30 years. They’re no more unaffordable now than in the past.
Moreover, this is a bargain when compared to the most similar corporations.
Your predecessors complained health care costs approach 10 percent of the non-war defense budget. However, health costs comprise 23 percent of the federal budget, 22 percent of the average state budget, 16 percent of household discretionary spending and 16 percent of U.S. Gross Domestic Product. By comparison, Defense’s 10 percent is modest.
Truth be told, the Pentagon has used the military health care account as a “cash cow” to fund other programs — $708 million was diverted from the fiscal 2012 account to other programs, and diversions totaled $2.8 billion over the last three years.
The fiscal 2012 Department of Defense reprogramming request acknowledged retiree health costs declined 2.5 percent. Budget projections have reduced outyear health cost estimates three years in a row, and fiscal 2013 Defense Authorization Act changes will reduce them further.
One trick often used by critics is to cite the percentage increase since 2001 – as if costs before 2001 represented a reasonable standard.
By Brahma Chellaney
Beijing's creeping aggression signals a challenge to U.S. presence in the Asian Pacific
Get Breaking Alerts
- CURL: Obama tells a whopper on IRS scandal
- Lawmakers see 'false narrative' of Obama as a terrorist fighter
- EDITORIAL: Health care hardball
- 'Dude, I'm dreading that I will have to go': Czech prime minister on Mandela funeral
- South Carolina sheriff refuses to lower American flag for Nelson Mandela
- Obamas call to close Vatican embassy is 'slap in the face' to Roman Catholics
- FENNO: Mike Shanahan's empty words no salve to free-falling Redskins
- POWELL: The Fed's scandalous monetary policy
- As the unemployed wait, lawmakers debate about extended benefits
- Sen. Rand Paul: Supreme Court needs to re-examine Fourth Amendment