June 23, 2009:
Having an increasingly difficult time to maintain their military spending, Israel is planning to get rid of the twenty year retirement policy they have used for over half a century. This policy was implemented to keep the military leadership young, and enable professional military officers and NCOs to leave service while still in their 40s, and start a second career. The government is changing this so troops in combat jobs (20 percent of the force) would retire after 24 years, while non-combat troops would have to serve 35 years. This would save billions of dollars down the line, mainly because Israelis live so long, and currently collect those pensions for over 30 years.
In the U.S., most military personnel take advantage of the twenty year retirement system. This system was first introduced by the Romans two thousand years ago and used by many other nations since. But until recently, twenty years of military service left most men in no condition for further service. The 20th century changed that, with thousands of very experienced. highly trained and still physically fit soldiers retiring each year while still in their late 30s or early 40s. The pension isn't really enough to live on, so most retirees start a second career.
Israel has noticed that the U.S. actually encourages the most able officers and NCOs to stay in longer (to 30 years, when you qualify for a 75 percent of active duty pay pension, or 40 years and retire at full pay). Some NCOs make it to their 60s before finally getting out. But Israel may also want to note that U.S. attempts to lengthen the early (20 year) retirement period brought with it serious morale and recruitment problems. The 20 year retirement is seen as part of the deal, not some kind of bonus for the troops. Israel also wants active duty troops to contribute to their pension plan. Some Israeli politicians feel they might get away with lengthening the active service period for non-combat personnel, but would have to keep it where it is for combat troops.