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Dempsey on compensation cuts: 'We're trying to do this once, get it right and then move out.'

Feb. 25, 2014 - 12:06PM   |  
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The chairman of the Joint Chiefs has turned to YouTube to explain proposed cuts to military compensation that are part of the Defense Department’s strategy to pay for advanced weaponry.

DoD’s proposed fiscal 2015 budget calls for raising Tricare fees for active-duty family members, rolling back service members’ Basic Allowance for Housing and slashing commissary subsidies.

In a video posted to YouTube on Monday, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey sought to reassure service members who may be worried about how the cuts will affect them.

“This discussion and this budget debate is just beginning, and I know that one of the things that will weigh heavily on your mind is that we’re proposing some changes to pay, compensation and health care — not retirement, that’s been deferred to a review board,” Dempsey says in the video. “If there are any changes to retirement, those will be grandfathered for those that are already serving.”

The changes to compensation are necessary to ensure the military has enough money to modernize, train and deploy, Dempsey said.

“Our commitment is: As we do this, we’ll stay in touch with you and listen to what you have to say,” Dempsey said. “I know what my view is: You always accept change, but you rebel against unpredictability, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to do this once, get it right and then move out.”

Pay and benefits are the third rail of defense spending, as lawmakers discovered last year when they passed a spending bill for fiscal 2014 that included reductions to the annual cost-of-living adjustment for military retirees under age 62. The backlash from veterans groups was so strong that Congress quickly reversed the cuts.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Military Times in a Jan. 31 interview that any changes to compensation should grandfather current service members.

“I believe we do have a contract with those who have served, and any changes to the retirement program should be grandfathered — whether it’s the [annual cost-of-living adjustment] or anything else,” Gates said.

“People have made their life plans based on certain assumptions of retirement that they were promised when they entered the service, and I think the American people and the government have an obligation to fulfill that,” Gates said.

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