Slower Growth Needed in Pay, Benefits, Army Chief Says
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 6, 2014 Pay and benefit programs must remain competitive, yet balanced against strategic needs, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno told Congress today.
The seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff prepare for testimony in Washington before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Defense Department proposals relating to military compensation, May 6, 2014. They are, left to right: Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III and Chief of the National Guard Bureau Gen. Frank J. Grass. DOD photo by Army Staff Sgt. Sean K. Harp
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“The all-volunteer Army has performed phenomenally during the longest conflicts in our nation's history,” he said at a hearing of the Senate Armed Service Committee. “But, it's imperative we discuss and understand the appropriate level of compensation, not only to recognize the sacrifice of our soldiers and their families, but to ensure we sustain the premier all-volunteer force.”
The general was joined in his testimony by his fellow members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, and the vice chairman, Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr.
To recruit and retain the very best troops, Odierno said, pay and benefits need to remain competitive with the private sector. But, he added, they must be balanced along with end-strength, readiness and modernization of the force.
Odierno said he fully endorses Defense Department proposals that do not make direct cuts to military pay, but instead slow the rate of growth from “unsustainable” allowances.
“Additionally, it's essential that we gain more efficiencies in our commissaries, and our health care -- specifically TRICARE,” he continued.
The DOD proposals recognize the incredible service and sacrifice of service members and their families, while striking a better balance between future investments in readiness, modernization and compensation, the general said.
“These are difficult, but necessary, decisions,” Odierno noted. “Taking care of soldiers is not just about providing them competitive pay and compensation benefits. It's also about having the right capacity in order to sustain reasonable personnel tempo, invest in the most modern equipment and maintain the highest levels of training readiness.”
The Army is seeking $12 billion in compensation savings over the next six years, he said. If the service fails to achieve that level of savings, Odierno said, further reductions in end-strength and overall readiness posture and slower modernization programs are likely.
“It is my opinion that if Congress does not approve our compensation recommendations, then you must end sequestration now, and increase our top line,” the general told committee members.
It’s not a matter of if, but when, the joint force will next deploy to defend the nation, he said.
“We have bled in every decade since World War II,” Odierno said. “It is incumbent on all of us to ensure our soldiers are highly trained, equipped, and organized.
“We must balance our resources effectively to do that,” he continued. “If we do not, our soldiers will bear the heavy burden of our miscalculations on the battlefield.”
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)