- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 30, 2015

The president announced on Thursday that he does not support implementing a blended military retirement plan right now, saying instead that the retirement proposal recommended by a commission of experts earlier this year needs further consideration.

President Obama said that while he supports implementing 10 of the 15 recommendations from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission as soon as possible, he does not support making the change now to have troops contribute to a 401(k)-like savings plan that would be matched by the government in an effort to offer some retirement benefits to troops who don’t serve 20 years.

“I believe there is merit in all of these recommendations and that they deserve careful consideration and study. I will ensure that the Congress is kept apprised of this ongoing work,” the president said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter echoed the president’s remarks, saying that the department will continue to analyze the other five reforms, including the retirement changes, over the coming months.

“The choices we face about military compensation are both vexing and critically important,” Mr. Carter said in a statement. “DoD will continue to work closely with the Congress and the commission to achieve the goals we share: ensuring the long-term strength and vitality of our all-volunteer force, and honoring all our servicemembers.”

The president said he did support implementing the majority of proposals now, including better collaboration between the Defense Department and VA, improved child care and mandatory transition assistance.

The commission warned against implementing only certain pieces of their recommendations when they introduced their full report in January, noting that lawmakers should take the 15-package reform proposal in one piece as-is to avoid any unintended effects on the budget or on maintaining an all-volunteer force.

Members of the commission stressed that the retirement reform is needed to ensure that the vast majority of service members who leave the military before hitting the 20-year mark receive some type of retirement benefit.

On Wednesday night, Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee voted to include implementing the blended 401k-like retirement system by Oct. 1, 2017, in their version of the fiscal 2016 defense policy bill, which still needs to be approved by the full House and reconciled by Senate negotiators.

Rep. Chris Gibson, New York Republican, introduced an amendment to put off making the drastic change for another year, urging lawmakers to use that time to listen to veterans in their districts and get veterans service organizations, who are largely against the idea, on board.

He was overwhelmingly defeated by other members of the committee, who said now is the time to implement changes.

• Jacqueline Klimas can be reached at jklimas@washingtontimes.com.

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