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DoD Leaders Discuss Budget Issues With Military Family Group

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

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ARLINGTON, Va., October 5, 2015 — Two DoD undersecretaries discussed the continuing resolution, military retirement changes and the Future Force during the National Military Family Association’s Leadership Dinner at the Army-Navy Club here Sept. 29.

Tina Jonas, a former DoD comptroller and member of the NMFA Board, led the discussion.

DoD has been very consistent over the past years in what it needs to protect the United States and its interests and budget requests have followed military strategy, said Undersecretary of Defense Mike McCord, DoD’s comptroller and chief financial officer.

The department must find the right balance among personnel, readiness, operations and acquisition accounts, McCord added.

Continuing Resolutions the ‘Norm’

The undersecretary said he is concerned about the possibility of another continuing resolution -- a limited period of funding in lieu of a full defense appropriations bill.

“Sadly, continuing resolutions have become the norm and we know what it’s like to work under them,” he said.

A continuing resolution means the department cannot implement new policies, procedures or acquisitions, McCord said. “We have to think short-term, act short-term; that’s just part of what a continuing resolution is,” he said. “It’s just not the right way to spend one-third of your time, and that’s the pattern we’ve been in.”

He added, “The military personnel accounts will be relatively protected under a continuing resolution.”

Proposed Retirement System Changes

Jonas asked Brad R. Carson, the acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, to describe the department’s proposed changes to the military retirement system.

Carson described a blended retirement system that will reduce the size of the fixed benefit plan while adding a 401(k) individual retirement benefit to the mix. This will keep the retirement benefit at about the same level it is now, he said, while also helping the vast majority of troops who do not stay on until retirement.

“Only 17 percent of military personnel stay for a 20-year career,” Carson said. “Most people serve one or two terms and leave with nothing in their retirement accounts.”

The retirement system changes would be used to give people a bit of a nest egg upon leaving the service, and could be used as an additional force-shaping tool, Carson said, adding that the changes would not affect anyone already in the military.

The undersecretary also gave an outline of the proposed Force of the Future that Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced earlier this year. Carter was concerned that perhaps the sense of mission born from the events of 9/11 and two wars might wane as the department entered a garrison environment, Carson said.

Force of the Future

He said the Force of the Future would mean fewer moves for families and increased flexibility in the military and civilian workforce. Essentially, Carson said, the defense secretary’s proposals would move the department away from a 20th century industrial workforce and into the 21st century.

The U.S. military is the best in the world because of its people, Carson said, and the services must continue to attract and retain the best personnel. This will mean different ways of managing, he said. It may mean service members can take breaks from military service at times in their careers when family circumstances require it, the undersecretary said, or it may mean the opportunity to time off to get advanced degrees.

“We need to give [people] a chance to craft their own careers and not feel they are on a one-speed treadmill,” Carson said.

Proposals look to minimize the moving around that personnel do now, he said.

There are about 80 proposals in the Force of the Future, Carson said, adding that they are still under consideration by Carter.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)