In an open letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, VADM Norb Ryan pointed out some of the flaws in the rhetoric concerning military health care and retirement programs that are the focus of some on Capital hill who see them as areas “ripe” for budgetary savings.
Ryan states, “As a former soldier and senator….the hardest part will be separating fact from fiction to make the best decisions.”
He goes on by saying, “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.”
Ryan presents the facts, as follows:
• 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.
• Personnel costs comprise 61 percent of the budget for United Parcel Service, 43 percent for FedEx and 31 percent for Southwest Airlines.
• 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.
In short, Ryan notes, “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.”
Retired Vice Adm. Norb Ryan Jr. is president of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA).
Read the full text of VADM Ryan's letter by following the below link.
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