(Editor’s note: The following is a Letter to the Editor published in the Washington Post by Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., president of the Association of the United States Army, which challenges the erroneous assumptions made in a Post article regarding military pay and benefits.)
I read with dismay the December 26 article, "For Military, Benefits and Reform are Challenge," which demonizes our troops as unworthy of the benefits they receive while ignoring the challenges, sacrifices and hardships military personnel and their families face while providing the nation’s defense as volunteers.
Military personnel costs, described as "burgeoning" and making up nearly half the Pentagon’s budget, are in fact approximately 30 percent of the budget as they have been for the past 30 years.
The growth in those costs that "must be tamed" is in fact a ten-year catch up effort enacted by Congress to close a pay gap that had grown to 14 percent.
Parity has been achieved and that growth will level off.
Pay and benefits must be competitive because almost three of four recruitment-age Americans cannot qualify for military service, and those left have other career options.
If military pay and benefits are the same as those of civilians, there is little incentive to join an organization with the inherent risks of military life.
One of the world’s richest nations can afford a military compensation and benefits package that matches the dangers and hardships its defense personnel must endure.
Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret.
Association of the United States Army