Allen B. West

Obama digs up officers to defend military COLA cuts

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In typical fashion, Washington DC politicians found several retired generals and one admiral to offer their consent to the one percent Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) budget cut to military retirees and disabled retirees under the age of 62.

My first response is simple: “who are these four gentlemen to speak for me?” According to a report in the Marine Corps Times,

Four retired general and flag officers with a collective 14 stars among them — including an outspoken advocate for military compensation reform — have expressed support for the one percent reductions in annual military retired pay increases approved by Congress. In a statement released by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, retired Marines General James L. Jones and Major General Arnold Punaro, Air Force General Chuck Wald and Navy Admiral Greg Johnson said the planned reduction to the annual cost-of-living adjustment for working-age military retirees is “an important first step in tackling” rising military personnel costs.

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My second question is whether or not any of these senior officers would be affected — in other words are they past the age of 62?

One of the esteemed general officers served as the Obama administration National Security Advisor, General James L. Jones, who was also Commandant of the Marine Corps. I must tell you, based on a perusal of military internet chat forums today, the natives are not happy about this “support.”

First of all, do these officers truly believe the small percentage of US citizens who actually are military retirees (having served a minimum of 20 years) and service disabled retirees are bankrupting our federal budget?

These officers displayed their asinine understanding when they said the change, which will go into effect in 2015 for military retirees younger than age 62, is “much needed.” According to the Marine Corps Times,

Although the bill is not perfect, its passage will bring stability and predictability to a budget process that has been without it for too long.

Oh please. What is much needed is an end to the wasteful spending in Washington DC. As presented by Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla) in his annual government waste book, there was $33 billion in wasted government spending for 2013 alone. You have to wonder, why not cut back on Department of Defense civilian retirements and their COLA?

And anyone who believes this bill — which increases government spending — and this cut to retiree COLA will “bring stability and predictability to a budget process that has been without it for too long” is delusional.

The Bipartisan Budget Act signed by President Obama on December 26 allows for $1.012 trillion in discretionary spending for fiscal 2014, including $520.5 billion for defense. Savings are expected to total $85 billion, with the retiree COLA reductions contributing $6 billion of that. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions offered an amendment to cut tax loopholes to illegal immigrants but was blocked by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. What, pray tell, is the general’s assessment on that decision? We are also seeing a push for the eleventh emergency extension of unemployment benefits. Is that an emergency or the beginning of a permanent entitlement?

These retirees and those who are currently serving have lived up to their end of the contract. Changing the back end of the contract after the front end has been performed and delivered is reprehensible,” retired Marine Lt. Gen. Jack Klimp, president of the National Association for Uniformed Services, wrote to Obama on December 18.

I know and concur with Lt. Gen Klimp. And in a December 22 editorial in USA Today, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc) offered a weak and disappointing defense of the reductions saying, “responsible military compensation reform is needed to ensure readiness.”

No sir. That trade off is not necessary. Instead, let’s have a line by line analysis of the federal budget. In the first 100 days of my tenure in Congress we found three wasteful programs in the Department of Defense budget which had no adverse affect on readiness. Others can and must do the same.

Ryan says the reform doesn’t take effect until the end of 2015, giving Congress time to consider alternatives. But if it was written and intended never to be enacted, why was it written in the first place?

Perhaps this entire budget endeavor is a waste but one thing is for certain, when America calls upon our men and women to serve and protect, they answer the call without question. Sadly Capitol Hill, and some complicit military cronies, do not live by the same code of honor.

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