Anxiety over Cost-Cutting Reforms Prevalent, Enlisted Leaders Testify

Questions about possible changes to compensation, benefits and support services are hurting the morale of service members and their families, the military services’ top enlisted leaders told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Soldiers “see the future. They see it on the news every day, and they see uncertainty and it bothers them,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey told the House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Subcommittee. “What I really need is them focused on the mission and saving their fellow soldiers’ lives,” Dailey said.

The hearing comes as stringent budget caps are forcing DOD to consider cost-cutting reforms to benefits, including housing allowances and commissary discounts, as well as programs supporting military families. The Army already is facing cuts to accounts funding training and the upkeep of installations, a reduction in access to support services and fewer opportunities for advancement due to a shrinking force, Dailey told the panel, reported Stars and Stripes.

The Navy’s senior enlisted member testified that sailors are most concerned about proposed changes to the military’s Tricare health insurance system, a move recommended by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission. But sailors and their families also are worried about proposals to revamp compensation and base support programs, stated Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens.

The debate over how DOD will cope with its budget constraints is raising the anxiety level for sailors — “just the wondering of what is going to be the future,” Stevens said.

Subcommittee members vowed to help shield military personnel and their families from budget cuts. “This is not the right way to go about supporting our military families,” said Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.). “I just want to make my position clear: We’ve got to fix this.”

To read the witnesses’ written testimony, visit the committee website.

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