Advisory Panel Proposes Sweeping Personnel Changes
By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2001 The American public holds the military in high regard, but "the propensity to serve is very low," a high-level Pentagon adviser said June 13.
Retired Adm. David Jeremiah, a former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the military needs a personnel system designed for "changing demographics" and better pay for mid-grade enlisted members to deal with the issue.
Jeremiah led a far-reaching review of quality-of-life and morale issues at the request of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He briefly went over the panel's 60-some recommendations in the Pentagon briefing.
He said the military has a personnel system with "no real structure, no strategy that deals with human resources in the (Defense) Department across the board, not just military but civilians and contractors as well."
"What you have is a system that is basically 50 years old and has been 'Band-Aided' over the years to accommodate different stresses and strains on it," he said.
The current up-or-out system "works OK, … but doesn't necessarily recognize the individual needs of the services," Jeremiah said. He said more flexible retirement systems, including allowing certain career fields to get some retirement benefits before 20 years and not forcing others out at 30 years, might be smart ways to do business.
"We need to know what kinds of skills and experience we're going to need for our transformed force. … We may not want a 60-year-old infantryman … but I'd be happy to have a 60- year-old information warrior," Jeremiah said. "He or she has probably go 15 or 20 years of experience in the business, knows how to do it, (and) knows all the tricks of the trade.
"There are different needs out there," he said. "The one- size-fits-all (system) doesn't work any more." The admiral called a flexible retirement system "the most fundamental" recommendation to come out of his panel's review.
The QOL study is just one of what have come to be called "the Rumsfeld Reviews." It was begun the "stimulate the secretary's thinking" on the myriad issues relating to quality of life and morale.
Higher education levels in the enlisted force have made the pay gap for mid-level enlisted grades larger than the gap for other grades, Jeremiah said. He noted that nearly 80 percent of enlisted members have "some college" by the time they've been in the service 10 years.
"We find now many enlisted people with … more than one bachelor's degree or master's degrees," the admiral said. "So it's a different force than the high school graduates - - if we were lucky and ahead of the sheriff -- that we got 50 years ago."
He said the gap is results from DoD paying these ranks on the assumption they are high-school grads only, not individuals with some college or with college degrees. He recommended President Bush's recent pledge of $1.4 billion more in military pay raises be targeted to mid-grade enlisted service members.
Excess bases make upkeep nearly impossible. The solution: fewer bases and a commitment to maintain the ones we keep, Jeremiah said. He said old workspaces in disrepair hurt morale and make people in the military wonder what the country thinks of them.
The study also recognized the face of the military is changing. Jeremiah said some estimates see the military being much more heavily Hispanic in coming years and that DoD should work to recruit these individuals now so there can be more Hispanic leaders in future years.
High operations tempo and the increased use of Guard and Reserve forces were also noted as quality-of-life problem areas. "This is a world in which we're not at war and we're not at peace," Jeremiah said. "The peace that we're in is the absence of major war, but it isn't peace as we know it, and it demands an enormous amount of activity on the part of the military members in the force."
Housing is one area DoD can make significant improvements in a relatively short amount of time -- and the department should do just that, Jeremiah stressed. The military needs "better housing sooner," he said.