Leadership: August 6, 2003


The U.S. Army brass are hearing some old grievances from the troops, but with rather more bitterness. Problems that have been put up with for years are now rather less tolerable because of the strains of constant overseas deployment in the war on terror. The Army may have no choice but to ask Congress for some more money, actually a lot more money, to fix the problems or see the volunteer force lose it's volunteer spirit, and a lot of its troops. For the career troops, the biggest gripe is the health care for dependents and military retirees is constantly cut back. The bureaucracy and co-pays for dependent health care  a growing expense for the troops. The root problems here is that the Department of Defense never adapted, fiscally, to the fact that the all volunteer military would have more than twice as many married troops. With the troops out of the country so much, the spouse left behind has to deal with the military medial bureaucracy all alone. And it's not been pleasant at all.

Pay is a larger problem with the troops deployed overseas so much. While the all-volunteer force was based on the military competing in the labor market for people, the troops see the job as more than they bargained for if they are overseas a lot. Related to the money problem is the issue of retirement pay. It used to be half pay after 20 years service, now it is 35 percent. Attempts to restore the 50 percent retirement pay have failed. The main reason Congress is reluctant to go back to 50 percent is that because of the all volunteer force; a higher percentage of troops stay in for twenty years. But with 35 percent pay at retirement, a lot of the more able troops are not going for twenty. An additional reason for getting out is the housing situation. The military has never kept up with providing adequate housing for families on, or even near, bases. Again, the issue is cost. 

Now with all the money be thrown at defense, you'd think there would be enough to take care of these personnel issues. But the troops know why it is not happening. They see the brass as more dedicated to getting new, high tech, weapons they don't need. The defense budget is more political than military, always has been. Members of Congress expect some payback if they support increased defense spending. That means expensive new weapons, or maintaining bases that are no longer needed. The troops can do the math, and they have developed a low opinion of Congress and their own generals and admirals for not being honest about how this works. 

With the stress of the war on terror, a lot of troops are showing their disgust for all this by not staying in uniform. While new recruits are being brought in, a lot of more experienced people are getting restless, and gone. Lose enough of the career troops, and you lose the edge that has produced quick victories and low casualties.


Article Archive

Leadership: Current 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 



Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close