8 January 2003
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D. C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), representing 135,000 members of the U. S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard serving on active duty, in the reserves, or in a retired status, is extremely disappointed with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). According to news reports, OMB officials are proposing a radical cut in the 2004 basic pay raise for members of the uniformed services. If so, the result could bring one more challenge to the all-volunteer force.
Provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000 guarantee pay increases for members of the uniformed services pegged to the annual Employment Cost Index (ECI) figure, plus 0.5 percent for six (6) years, 2001-2006. The legislation's intent is to help eliminate the pay gap between private sector and military pay. The January 1, 2003 military pay raise, for example, closed the gap to 7.4 percent
The formula of ECI+0.5% bolstered the military's retention program. The Association's study on the inadequacy of basic pay for mid-grade noncommissioned officers also addressed this issue and led to a July 1, 2001 "targeted pay increase" for that group of enlisted personnel, and contributed to a steady climb in the retention rate. Apparently, the military's active forces are experiencing the highest in retention since the beginning of the all-volunteer force some 30 years ago.
Pay is the primary motivator with regard to the high retention rate. Again and again service members choose compensation as their most important retention factor. In an ongoing survey conducted on the FRA web site (firstname.lastname@example.org), the top quality of life concern is adequate compensation. Higher pay assures our service members that their families will have the necessary finances to carry them through deployments, long training sessions, and extended working hours.
Mr. President, it is counterproductive to halt the incremental progress achieved via improvements in pay and allowances over the past few years. The OMB proposals are contrary to the good order, discipline and morale of the men and women serving our Nation in the Armed Forces. These service members deserve the very best and the Association's members urge you to:
- Halt public statements by OMB (or the Office of the President) perceived by military personnel as reneging on previously enacted legislation and contributing to the decline of morale, discipline, and good order,
- Express support for continuing the pay increases (ECI+0.5%) at least through the year 2006.
With sincere appreciation for your consideration of this request, I am,
RALPH A. SCHMIDT
cc: Hon. John Warner
Hon. Carl Levin
Hon. Duncan Hunter
Hon. Ike Skelton
Hon. Donald Rumsfeld
Adm. Vern Clark, USN
Gen. James L. Jones, USMC
Adm. Thomas H. Collins, USCG