FRA Testifies Before Senate Defense Panel

FRA spoke before the Senate Armed Services’ Personnel Subcommittee this week, sharing concerns of its members and those represented by the Military Coalition (TMC). NED Joe Barnes, who also co-chairs the TMC, represented enlisted organizations as one of four panelists. He addressed the impact of sequestration and other budget cuts on active duty personnel and military retirees.

Barnes thanked the subcommittee for the significant enhancements to military pay and benefits enacted since 2000, but reminded lawmakers that these improvements were put in place to address major challenges of the time – challenges that may recur if funding is cut too much.

“Discussion about these improvements usually focus only on costs and there’s usually no mention of the 13.5-percent gap that existed between military and civilian pay, major recruiting and retention challenges, concerns about the ‘hollow force,’ and the government’s failure to honor commitments to those who served in the past,” Barnes told the panel. “Military service is unlike any other occupation and continuing to ensure adequate pay and benefits for military personnel and fulfilling commitments to provide retirees must be top priorities.”

He also expressed FRA and TMC’s strong support for military pay raises that reflect the full Employment Cost Index (ECI) that would garner a 1.8-percent increase for FY 2014, rather than the reduced increase (one percent) proposed in the Administration’s FY 2014 budget.

Retirement benefits are also a concern for FRA and TMC members.  Anticipated proposals by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to “reform” military pay and retirement benefits are generating a great deal of anxiety among those currently serving and are a threat to retention. “The powerful pull of the 20-year retirement system is the main reason retention levels have not imploded as a result of unprecedented wartime strain on troops and their families,” said Barnes.

FRA’s statement also included opposition to the Administration’s proposed TRICARE fee increases, reductions to TRICARE Prime service areas (that take effect on October 1, 2013), as well as support for expansion of concurrent receipt and USFSPA reform.  Click here to read FRA’s full statement.