- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A survey of military members shows a shocking drop in morale — a downswing that seems directly tied to the change in commander-in-chief from George W. Bush to Barack Obama.

The Military Times survey shows that between 2009 and now, active-duty troops experienced a dramatic decrease in quality of life, at least in their perception. Only 56 percent now say their quality of life is good or excellent. Seventy percent believe their quality of life in the military will continue to decline as the years go by.

By comparison, 91 percent rated their quality of life as good or excellent in 2009, when Mr. Bush’s military policies were still largely in effect, the Times reported.

The survey, conducted July 8-Aug. 7, included the voluntary participation of active-duty, National Guard and reserve troops, as well as military veterans, retirees and spouses. Of the 70,000 who received the survey, about 10,000 took part, the Times reported.

The survey also showed that currently, about 73 percent of active-duty members would recommend the military life to others, down from 85 percent in 2009. Moreover, only 63 percent now say they’ll reenlist, compared to 72 percent in 2009.

The Military Times reported that “today’s service members say they feel underpaid, under-equipped and under-appreciated,” in a summary of the data. Budget cuts and troop drawdowns are direct contributing factors, the survey said.

In 2009, 87 percent of active-duty troops gave high marks for their pay and benefits, including allowance. Currently, only 44 percent rated their pay and allowances as similar “good” or “excellent,” the survey showed.

And the financial insecurity is breeding low morale, some survey respondents said.

“If sailors are worried about not getting paid, how am I supposed to do my job?” said a Navy fire control man chief with 10 deployments. “I’m not an effective warfighter if I don’t have the backing of my government at home.”

Another in the Navy based in El Centro, California, told the Times that less-than-adequate equipment isn’t helping.

“We are on the bare necessities and sometimes not even that,” he said. “For example, I need new boots but they’ll ask me, ‘How long can you stretch that?’”

At the same time, the survey found that all branches of the military, minus the Army Reserve, were meeting 100 percent of their recruiting goals. But that success isn’t attributable to the leadership ranks of the military.

In 2009, fully 78 percent rated their officers as “good” or “excellent,” versus 49 percent in 2014. And in 2009, the number of those who believed senior military leadership held their best interests at heart stood at 53 percent, compared to now, when only 27 percent feel similarly.

The Times also reported that troops are suffering from burnout and a failure to grasp their overall mission, given the U.S. pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Most people [in the Marine Corps] are in because of the wars,” Marine Sgt. Zack Cantu told the Times. “Now everyone’s coming to the realization, ‘It’s probably not going to happen for me.’”

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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