In the 11th Quadrennial Review, the Obama Administration is asking Congress to cut the amount National Guard and Reserves are compensated for giving up their weekends and maintaining their military proficiency on a monthly basis. To be clear, this proposed cut in pay would affect only their monthly pay, not the 2 weeks Active Training or paychecks while mobilized. In a "transparent manner," the Administration did not come out and state that they wish to cut pay, but hid the proposal in a 4 year review of DoD policies. They did not say they wish to cut pay, but instead used the acronyms that most civilians and many Troops have no understanding of. In fact, when the issue was first made public at This Ain't Hell, even Veterans of the Reserve forces were confused with the acronyms used.
It is time to write your Congressmen, and ask all your friends to do so. Here's why:
Would you work 16 -24 hours in a weekend for as little as $100, $150, or $200? Would you dedicate 7 1/2 years of your life in 20, to get a monthly check of $800/month 10 years after you are done risking your life? Would you give up a month a year, for 20 years, for $321/month 10 years after you've finished your commitment? Obama is asking Congress to approve changes to the Reserve Force pay structure that would create these scenarios.
Hondo, at This Ain't Hell, has done as good a job as can be done explaining the Guard/Reserve retirement system. In summary, no two retirees are paid the same and retirees are paid a fraction of what their Active Duty counterparts are paid in retirement, up to 22 years later. What Hondo didn't do was demonstrate the actual dollar amounts effected by pay and retirement cuts, nor did he demonstrate the impact to those Reservists that meet the annual requirements, but do not go on year long deployments.
A Reservist had previously asked Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld about making the Retirement system more fair, and Rumsfeld had responded in a callous and uncaring manner. At task, is that not only is the Reserve retirement check very small in comparison, but that it is not paid until a person is 60 years old, several years after the individual is typically eligible for retirement. The Obama request offers to move that first check up by up to 13 years, in exchange for a severe cut in pay, and a cut in what they earn in retirement checks.
No one can live off the Guard/Reserve paycheck. An E4 makes about $300/month (currently) for giving up his weekend and maintaining his military proficiencies once a month. Under the Obama proposal, that will be cut to $150/month. I point to the E4 paycheck because there are more E4's than any other single rank.
The Administration has previously requested that Troops be given only inflation based payraises for the next few years, as the Administration requested and got in previous years, and that after that Military pay be frozen. Strategically, his request calls for the pay freeze to occur after the elections. He has also requested that Military Retirees be charged up to $2000 (plus inflation) for Health Insurance that was promised them for serving 20 years, and up to $60 per prescription for the drugs they need as a result of that service and old age.
Returning to our E4, he will typically have between 2 and 12 years of military service. I once met an E4 that had 20 years of service and had served in Viet Nam. A few years ago, I read a report of an E4 that was a Professor in the field of Agriculture in his civilian job. Many Reserve/Guard E4's have very good civilian jobs, but many are also blue collar workers. Some actually depend on their Guard paycheck to keep their households above water, financially. Few will make less than $10/hour that the $150/weekend would represent, if a Reserve weekend were only 16 hours.
That weekend includes transportation to and from the unit, time and fuel costs. Many, if not most, Guard and Reserve units are not as close as an individual's normal employment. It is not uncommon for a Soldier to live 30 or 40 miles away. And it is not uncommon for the civilian employer to want that Soldier to work his regular shift just before drill, right after it, or both. It is not uncommon for that Saturday to begin at 5AM or for the days to end at 7PM.
With increasing annual requirements for briefings on Suicide Awareness, PTSD, DADT repeal, and a myriad of other topics, Reserve Force units must squeeze every minute they can out of those weekends, and still have to fill in the training blanks when the unit is mobilized. When Troops go to Reserve Force training, they don't get weekends off like their Active component colleagues. Joining the National Guard or Reserves is signing your weekends away and DoD is constantly requiring more and more to be squeezed into those 24 hours.
And military duties don't end when that Soldier takes his uniform off on Sunday. It is the Soldier's responsibility to maintain physical fitness standards, which take more than 2 days a month. It is very normal for the unit to send out a message requiring Troops to conduct online training and certifications on their own time, prior to the next unit assembly.
Since the Soldier is not working for his regular employer and since the Reserve paycheck is not based on hours, but is "salary," he doesn't get overtime pay for working 60 hours in a 7 day period, or 12 days in a row between his Military and Civilian masters or working 15 straight 16 hour days during Annual Training.
When that E4 gets promoted to E5, his drill pay may be between $300 and $400. Obama would cut this to $150 to $200. On the bottom end of the scale, a number of Reservists will retire as an E5 while the bulk will retire as an E6 or E7. With 20 years of service, and responsibility for an average of 12 lives, an E6 would be paid $235 for that weekend and an E7, with an average responsibility for 30+ lives, would be paid $260. If the Platoon Sergeant (E7) works only 8 hours/day, which is highly unlikely, he'll earn less than $18/hour under the Obama request. If he works 12 hours/day on those weekends, which is far more likely, it goes down to under $12/hour. It's important to realize, we're not talking about an 18 year old Private fresh out of Basic Training, but someone with twenty years of experience who is responsible for the lives and training of 30 plus lives. We're talking about someone that has been in the civilian workforce for more than 20 years.
But what about that tradeoff? The proposal is to allow Guard/Reserve retirees get their retirement paychecks sooner. Some enlisted Troops will make E8/E9 before retirement, but not that many. A twenty year Veteran should find E7 attainable, though many will retire at a lower paygrade. The Obama proposal also cuts the number of points (days towards retirement) a Soldier earns for those weekends. That means that the retiree's pay would also be cut.
An E7 retiring after 20 years would see that retirement check cut by up to 30%. And this is where I significantly alter my analysis from Hondo. He offers percentage differences based on a Reservist doing 5 years of Active Duty in those 20 years, and I'm looking at the money, as well as those that are most affected, along with those in his other categories. A day of Active duty (or retirement point) is worth 29.6 cents a month in today's pay schedule for an E7 with 20 years of service, in retirement pay. The Obama proposal would cut $1700/year in retirement pay.
Under the Obama request, an E7 retiring at 38 with 20 years that was able to collect his first check at age 48 (instead of 60) would qualify for $46,000 more in retirement pay for those 12 years or $321/month. (This assumes the retiree has conducted a year of active duty over the course of his career, and the normal weekend/month, two weeks a year.) During the first 10 years after age 60 he would make $38,500 (or $3,850/year) as opposed to $54,700 under the current system. No one thinks they'll live forever, but if this retiree lives to age 63, he'll have lost every bit of early retirement he received, and that scenario assumes he gets his first paycheck as young as possible. This doesn't even account for the lost pay he felt while going to drill. That E7 over 20 earned $3400/year less because of the paycut alone.
What about those scenarios that Hondo presented? If that E7 did 5 years of Active duty service during his 20 years, his retirement paycheck would be approximately $814/month, under the current system, or $708/month under the Obama request. Under this scenario, that Soldier would have served approximately 4 years in combat or other "contingencies."
Yes, Obama wants Reservists and Guardsman to be called to Active Duty service every 5 years, regardless of whether there's a war going on or not. At present, most units have done 2 combat mobilizations in Iraq and/or Afghanistan. The Guard and Reserve Troops did sign up to be ready in case of war, but the very premise of the Reserve forces is "Don't call me unless you need me," (i.e. a war). Even during wartime, this exhausts the Reserve Forces, and their civilian employers. It is a big factor in why unemployment is so high amongst their ranks. It wears out their civilian families, who did not sign on the dotted line. It is very likely a factor in why the Guard had not met recruiting goals until June, in 2012.
And what about the Soldier that did 4 years Active Military before embarking on his time in the Reserve Forces? If he completed the requirements, under the current system, he would get a check of $724/month, a check of $1083/month if he did 3 more years of Active Duty in the Reserves, as proposed by Obama, and calculated by Hondo (under the current system), or $611/month if he maintained the standard under the Obama pay cut, or $990/month under the Obama cut request and Obama plan to use Reserve Forces in an Active Capacity (i.e. 3 more years of combat/contingency). For this "Reserve" Soldier, he would have served the equivalent of nearly 10 years of Active Duty in 20 years of "part-time" service. He's not only going to take a hit in military pay, but also civilian career advancement and hence civilian income & retirement pay. It will be near impossible for him to develop a successful business of his own, and he will be almost guaranteed to have several periods of unemployment due to civilian employer fatigue of losing key employees so frequently.
The current Reserve/Guard retirement system is NOT fair or right, but this proposal makes it worse, not better.
If the goal is to convince Troops to leave the military, and there is evidence for that argument, this proposal, particularly when combined with other Obama proposals is on target. That E4 working for less than $10/hour during 12 day weeks (combined with civilian employment), as well as those E7's working for as little as $12/hour and tired from frequent deployments and family tired of them missing so many holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries, will get out.
Yes, there will be a few winners in the change. If an E7 that joined at 18, in 1993 gets to keep his retirement points, and to get his retirement checks at age 48, he will come out signficantly ahead, but the system generally doesn't work that way, and this Administration generally has a record of giving the big green weanie to as many Troops as possible. If an E8 joined at age 18 in 1983, he will be a big winner, assuming those loopholes are missed by the Administration proposal. In these two scenarios, they are likely to put in their retirement papers. The young bucks will applaud the new promotion opportunities. The Administration will applaud themselves for getting rid of those that remember the "old ways." The unit will suffer the loss of experience.
And there will be big losers, mostly those that have joined in the last few years, and mostly the State National Guard units, who the Governors rely on to step up in times of Natural Disasters. If recruiters think it's difficult to sign people up now, just think of the results they'll get when they tell High School kids that they'll get less than $100 (as a Private) for giving up their weekends!
And yeah, it appears that the current crop of politicians can take an unfair, complicated system of red tape, and make it even more complicated and more unfair, in such a way that can even more quickly reduce the number of people willing to serve the Nation, as needed.
This is not the only example of Obama asking Congress to let him screw the Troops, and the Troops won't feel the pain until after the election, but they need YOU to write your Congressmen, two Senators and a Representative in the House, and tell them once again to tell Obama "NO."
In relation to the National Guard and Reserves, Obama is asking that they be activated, war or no, one year out of five, that their pay be reduced, and that they get charged more for the retirement health insurance they were promised for giving so much to this Nation. While the amount of retirement can vary greatly from one E7 with 20 years to the next, the majority of Troops will get screwed by this combination of Obama proposals.
For example, if Obama's "Buffet Tax" is approved, and this pay and retirement cut is approved, a 65 year old retiree (with the lowest income bracket) will be charged an estimated $4456/year (in 2035) for health insurance, including 4 prescriptions and be paid as little as $3855/year in retirement pay (although under some scenarios used by Hondo, he'll get about $11,000/year, assuming he has been activated 4 times for contingencies and combat as well as done another year of Active Duty for training.) Whether we're charging a "meet the standards" Guard retiree $800/year to retire, or paying a Veteran of 4 years in combat a net of $656 before taxes, it is not right.