An independent group is scheduled on Thursday to officially recommended an overhaul of how the military receives compensation and benefits, including regular and retirement payments. The panel, called the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, is scheduled to hold a press release in Arlington, Virginia, to announce its findings in a report and will include an overview of its recommendations. The MCRMC was created by the National Defense Authorization Act and charged with trying to update a 20-year-old benefit and retirement system that some have called obsolete. The MCRMC, comprised of nine commissioners, has been reviewing the existing system for the past year and a half.
In particular, the MCRMC is expected to present an updated retirement plan modeled after the traditional 401(k) plan, reported the Wall Street Journal. In its interim report, released this past June, the MCRMC indicated that part of its review process included meeting with service members, veterans, retirees and their family members to best determine how to bring the military “modern and relevant compensation tools to continue to recruit and retain the high-quality men and women needed to protect and defend our Nation into the future.”
According to USA Today, the recommendations in part will ask Congress to create a new system with a smaller defined-benefit pension that includes additional cash-based benefits, lump-sum payments, and call for service members to take part in the government's Thrift Savings Plan, which accrues savings that can be withdrawn at age 59 and a half. Similar to a traditional 401(k) retirement plan, withdrawls prior to age that will be subject to penalty. In contrast to the servicemen and women's pay, CEO compensation is now more than 200 times higher than the average worker, as illustrated by the recent announcement that Target's CEO has a $47 million retirement plan. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the average active duty service member receives an Army benefits and pay compensation package worth $99,000.
Service members received a 1 percent pay raise last year -- the lowest pay raise for the military in recent history -- when former U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel backed a proposal for smaller raises in an effort to reduce military compensation because of growing costs that the Pentagon cannot sustain. Top military brass, however, were exempted from that raise as part of the overall reduction effort, reported Military Times. Despite the plan to save funds on military pay, a new report shows that defense contractors are paid on par with or more than the average military serviceman's salary, according to Glassdoor.com, which examines employment data across multiple industries. Likewise, it was revealed on Thursday that President Barack Obama's proposed budget calls for increased military spending. The budget in its entirety is expected to be made public on Monday, Feb. 2.
The MCRMC report will likely not be universally well received and could spark political debate, considering the U.S. Department of Defense has already appointed its own panel of officials to review the report's findings and respond to the White House soon afterward, according to Military.com. “There is nothing that this administration is going to deliver with a Republican Congress that is going anywhere for two years that somehow curbs our pay, our compensation, our benefits for the military,” the Wall Street Journal quoted one senior defense official as saying in anticipation of the panel’s recommendations. However, none of the proposed changes, if accepted, would affect existing servicemen and women, veterans and retirees, and would only be applied to new enlistees.