DoD: Make vets a minority on retired pay panel

from Army Times, By Rick Maze , Posted : Saturday Apr 14, 2012 – A Pentagon proposal to create an independent commission to overhaul military retired pay has three key requirements that indicate where the effort is headed.

First, none of the nine commissioners appointed by the president and Congress would belong to a military or veterans advocacy group, and no more than four commissioners could have active-duty military experience. These limitations may prevent those mostly likely to oppose retirement reform from forming a majority on the commission.

Second, one of the commission’s guiding principles will be to save money. While there are other goals — modernizing retirement benefits, helping with career management, and aiding recruiting and retention — the savings goal guarantees that the result will not be a more generous retirement plan.

Third, the commission is barred from cutting benefits for anyone who is now in the military or enters before a final proposal is enacted. Current service members might benefit from improvements in retired pay, if there are any, but could only volunteer for changes, not be forced to accept them.

The Military Retirement Modernization Commission would be a roughly two-year effort in which an independent commission would look at ways to overhaul retirement benefits. Under a process similar to that used for base closings and realignments, the retirement commission’s final recommendations would be passed first to the president for approval or disapproval, with no opportunity for modifications. If the president approves, the recommendations would be sent to Congress, which also would be limited to an up-or-down vote without amendments.

Given how the legislative process works, the earliest that the commission’s recommendations could become law would be in 2014.

For anything to happen, Congress has to authorize the commission. The Defense Department submitted a formal legislative proposal April 11 with hopes that it would be included in the 2013 defense authorization bill.

Fierce opposition has arisen on the House Armed Services Committee to the all-or-nothing process of considering the commission’s recommendations, making it unlikely that committee will approve the Pentagon’s plan when it passes its version of the annual defense policy bill in early May.

There is support for the basic concept in the Senate Armed Services Committee, where chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., was ready last year to include legislation creating the commission in the 2012 budget. The Senate panel won’t complete its version of the authorization bill until late May.

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