This article in today’s WaPo shows us Secdef Bob Gates as trying to raise the alarm regarding the ballooning of the costs for today’s overseas wars. Specifically, Gates is starting to raise questions about the pay/compensation packages being given to the 1.4 million members of the U.S. military.
A recent report– here in PDF— from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted that, if the value of health benefits, retirement benefits, and tax advantages are added in along with base pay, in 2006 enlisted personnel received on average $13,360 more in year than similarly qualified civilians, while officers received on average $24,870 more than civilian counterparts.
The WaPo article, which is by Craig Whitlock, says that,
- Congress has been so determined to take care of troops and their families that for several years running it has overruled the Pentagon and mandated more-generous pay raises than requested by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations. It has also rejected attempts by the Pentagon to slow soaring health-care costs — which Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has said are “eating us alive” — by raising co-pays or premiums.
Now, Pentagon officials see fiscal calamity.
In the midst of two long-running wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, defense officials are increasingly worried that the government’s generosity is unsustainable and that it will leave them with less money to buy weapons and take care of equipment.
This is a great illustration of the fact that maintaining such a huge military is a huge burden on U.S. taxpayers– especially at a time of such deep financial emergency at home. It also gives a window into the fact that Congress and the U.S. political elite in general have been wanting to fight the U.S.’s two big and numerous smaller wars overseas in a way that essentially feather-beds the members of the U.S. military and makes them into a very pampered group of fighting men (and women) by any historical standard.
It is really time to bring an end to this whole process of worshiping the military that has held the US public in its grip for so long now.
Let’s face it, the military posture the U.S. has been trying to sustain around the whole world since the end of the Cold War is not only counter-productive– from the point of view of it’s not having built or sustained a more stable and equitable world order– but it also itself quite unsustainable into the medium term.
Time to figure out how to cut back our military considerably and to cooperate with all the other nations of the world in designing and establishing a system that ensures “public security” for the whole global commons in a way other than having it all be dominated and decided on by one, decidedly minority member of the world community.