[Rushtalk] The ruinously expensive American military

Carl Spitzer cwsiv at juno.com
Tue May 15 18:17:23 MDT 2018

Published: May 15, 2018
Author: Philip Giraldi

Pay and benefits are out of control

America’s Republican politicians complain that “entitlements,” by which
they mean pensions and medical care, are leading the country to
bankruptcy even as they fatten the spending on the Pentagon, which now
takes 12 percent of the overall budget. And it should be noted that
while workers contribute to the social programs during all their years
of employment, the money that goes to the military comes straight out of
the pockets of taxpayers before being wasted in ways that scarcely
benefit the average citizen unless one seriously thinks that folks over
in Syria, Iran and Afghanistan actually do threaten the survival of the
United States of America.

I was in a Virginia supermarket the other day checking out when the
woman behind the cash register in a perky voice asked me “Will you give
$5 to support our troops?” I responded “No. Our troops already get way
too much of our money.” She replied, “Hee, hee that’s a funny joke” and
I said “It’s not a joke.” Her face dropped and she signaled to her boss
over in customer service and asked her to take over, saying that I had
been rude.

If there is any group in the United States that exceeds the sheer greed
of our politicians it is the military, which believes itself to be
“entitled” as a consequence of its role in the global war on terror. I
am a veteran who began service in a largely draftee army in which we
were paid “twenty-one dollars a day once a month” as the old World War 2
song goes. When we got out, the GI Bill gave us $175 a month to go back
to college, which did not cover much.

Today’s United States has 2,083,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and
airmen on active duty plus reserves. Now that the military is an
all-volunteer rather than a conscript force, it is understandable that
pay and benefits should be close to or equivalent to civilian pay
scales. Currently, a sergeant first class with 10 years in service gets
paid $3968 a month. A captain with ten years gets $6271. That amounts to
$47,616 and $75,252 a year respectively plus healthcare, food, housing,
cost of living increases and bonuses to include combat pay.

Though there are several options for retirement, generally speaking a
soldier, sailor Marine or airman can retire after 20 years with half of
his or her final “high three” pay as a pension, which means an
18-year-old who enlists right out of high school will be 38 and if he or
she makes sergeant first class (E-7) he or she will be collecting $2338
a month or more for a rest of his or her life adjusted for cost of

Many Americans would be astonished at the pensions that general officers
and admirals receive, particularly since 80% of them also land in
“retirement” generously remunerated positions with defense contractors
either in active positions soliciting new contracts from their former
peers or sitting on boards. General David Petraeus, whom The Nation
describes as the “general who lost two wars,” pulls in a pension of
$220,000 even though he was forced to resign as CIA Director due to
passing classified information to his mistress. He is also chairman of a
New York City based company KKR Global, which is part of a private
equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis Roberts. He reportedly is paid in six
figures plus bonuses for “oversee[ing] the institute’s thought
leadership platform focused on geopolitical and macro-economic trends,
as well as environmental, social, and governance issues.”

It apparently is difficult to take money away from general and flag
officers. An Air Force four-star general named Arthur Lichte was reduced
in rank to a two-star in 2017 after he was found guilty of having raped
a lower ranking woman officer. His pension went down from $216,000 to
$156,000 due to the reduction. Normally, however, America’s 1,000
general and flag officers can look forward to comfortable retirements.

But on top of that rather generous bit of cash there are the
considerable other benefits, as the old recruiting sergeants would put
it, the “bennies.” Military retirees can receive full tuition and
expenses at a college or technical school if they choose to go back to
school. This is why one sees so many ads for online universities on
television – they are trolling for soldier dollars knowing that it’s
free money. The retiree will also have access to heavily subsidized
medical care for him or herself plus family. The medical care is a
significant bonus under the Tricare system, which describes itself on
its website as “the gold standard for medical coverage, [that] is
government managed health insurance.” A friend who is retired recently
had a hip replacement operation that would have cost $39,000 for only a
few hundred dollars through Tricare.

What is significant is that even enlisted military personnel can start a
second career on top of their pension, given that many of them are still
in their thirties. Some that have security clearances can jump into
highly paid jobs with defense contractors immediately while others also
find places in the bureaucracy with the Department of Homeland Security.
Working for the government twice is called “double dipping.”

Some would argue that military personnel deserve what they get because
the jobs are by their very nature dangerous, sometimes fatal. Indeed,
the number of maimed and PTSD-afflicted soldiers returning from the
endless wars is a national tragedy and caring for them should be a top
priority. But the truth is that only a very small fraction, by some
estimates far less than 20% of Army and Marine personnel in so-called
“combat arms,” ever are in danger. Air Force and Navy personnel rarely
experience combat at all apart from bombing targets far below or
launching cruise missiles against Syrians. It is true that given the
volatile nature of war against insurgents in places like Afghanistan
many soldiers in support roles can come under fire, but it is far from
normal and most men and women in service never experience a gun fired in

Some numbers-crunchers in the Pentagon have already raised the alarm
that the current pay, benefits and retirement levels for military
personnel is unsustainable if the United States continues its worldwide
mission against terrorists and allegedly rogue regimes. And it is also
unsustainable if the U.S. seeks to return to a constitutional
arrangement whereby the nation is actually defended by its military, not
subordinated to it and being bankrupted by its costs.  

http://www.unz.com/pgiraldi/the-ruinously-expensive-american -military/


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