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Questions About Allowances Spark Perry's Concern

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8, 1996 – DoD needs to examine why soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines get different allowances, said Defense Secretary William J. Perry.

During the secretary's recent visit to Aviano, Italy, Marines asked Perry why their rations allowances were cut when they deployed but airmen deployed to the base continue to receive theirs.

In response to this and similar questions from service members, Perry said DoD needs to "vigorously move toward much more standardization" of personal benefits throughout the services.

"We have tended to let the services set their own personnel policies for decentralization reasons that are good, but which we have carried too far," Perry said during a later interview.

"There is nothing that drives people up the wall more than the feeling that they're being unfairly treated," Perry said. "The Marines could have accepted the treatment they're getting if all of the other services are getting the same. What was bugging them was that they were not being treated as well as the other services."

During frequent trips to bases worldwide, Perry talks with many service members. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines generally tell him what's on their minds. He said this is not the first time he's been asked directly about what service members consider unequal treatment.

"It's the fourth or fifth time in the last couple of months I've seen how much it upsets people when they think there's an invidious comparison going on between what benefits they're getting and the benefits another service is getting for doing exactly the same thing," Perry said.

Perry takes service members' questions and concerns seriously. In this case, he said he would talk with Marine Corps officials about the allowances of the Marines in Aviano.

Service members' questions have also driven home the need for DoD to look at the recommendations of the Task Force on Quality of Life, he said. The task force report, published in December, recommends DoD evaluate the standardization of such personal benefits as tuition assistance.

Perry said he'll use the Marines' question about rations as "Exhibit A" in re-examining task force recommendations and making more progress toward standardization.

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