Armed Services Leaders Split over Military Compensation Reforms

Leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees negotiating a compromise fiscal 2015 defense authorization bill remain at an impasse over two DOD proposals intended to save billions of dollars in military benefit costs through FY 2019.

Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the outgoing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Wednesday it’s worth “fighting for” the reforms advocated by Pentagon leaders. One would slow the growth in the basic allowance for housing below the rate of inflation over the next three years so that the benefit only covers 95 percent of average rental costs. The other would increase pharmacy co-pays for prescriptions filled outside of military treatment facilities.

“They want very badly to take these small steps. They came in front of us, they argued very persuasively that we should do it,” Levin said, reported the Hill. “I’m going to keep arguing that we should listen to the Joints Chief on this.”

House Armed Services, however, has refused to include the two reforms in the compromise legislation.

Stripping out the two proposals from the annual policy bill would require defense officials to find about $16 billion to $18 billion in alternate savings over the next five years, reported CQ.

The split isn’t entirely partisan as Lindsey Graham (S.C.), a senior Republican on Senate Armed Services, endorsed Levin’s stance.

“You can’t reform the Pentagon without doing some things on the personnel side,” Graham said. “They’re working on it. I hope they can get there.”

Talks between the two panels had made significant progress on a final version of the annual policy bill before they bogged down earlier this week over the two cost-saving proposals.

Dan Cohen
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