Alexandria, VA – The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) spoke before the Senate Armed Services’ Personnel Subcommittee yesterday, sharing the concerns of its members and those represented by The Military Coalition (TMC). FRA’s National Executive Director Joe Barnes, who also co-chairs TMC, represented enlisted organizations as one of four panelists who also spoke on behalf of officer, family and survivor, and Guard and Reserve Coalition organizations. He addressed the impact of sequestration and other budget cuts on active duty personnel and military retirees.
Barnes thanked the subcommittee for the significant enhancements to military pay and benefits enacted since 2000, but reminded lawmakers that these improvements were put in place to address major challenges of the time – challenges that may recur if funding is cut too much.
“Discussions about these improvements usually focus only on costs and there’s usually no mention of the 13.5-percent gap that existed between military and civilian pay, major recruiting and retention challenges, concerns about a ‘hollow force,’ and the government’s failure to honor commitments to those who served in the past,” Barnes told the panel. “Military service is unlike any other occupation and continuing to ensure adequate pay and benefits for military personnel and fulfilling commitments to provide health care and other benefits for military retirees must be top priorities.”
He also expressed FRA and TMC’s strong support for military pay raises that reflect the full Employment Cost Index (ECI) that would garner a 1.8-percent increase for FY 2014, rather than the reduced increase (one percent) proposed in the Administration’s FY 2014 budget. Other priorities include the need for adequate end strengths to meet readiness requirements and longer periods of dwell time between deployments.
Retirement benefits are also a concern for FRA and TMC members. Anticipated proposals by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to “reform” military pay and retirement benefits are generating a great deal of anxiety among those currently serving and are a threat to retention. “The powerful pull of the 20-year retirement system is the main reason retention levels have not imploded as a result of unprecedented wartime strain on troops and their families,” said Barnes.
FRA’s advocacy for active duty and Reserve personnel is directly associated with the organization’s mission and part of the Association’s broader legislative agenda that also includes preserving and enhancing the quality of life for all current and former enlisted members of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. To read FRA’s full statement, visit www.fra.org/testimony.
FRA is a congressionally chartered, non-profit organization representing the interests of current and former enlisted personnel of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. As the collective voice for all Sea Service personnel since 1924, FRA speaks on behalf of its members on Capitol Hill. There is no law protecting military benefits, so FRA is here to stand guard. In addition to its advocacy work on Capitol Hill, FRA also sponsors a national Americanism Essay Contest and assists its members with disaster relief grants.
The Association additionally sponsors an Education Foundation that awards scholarships to deserving college students and was a 2012 recognized charity in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). For more information on the FRA Education Foundation, visit www.fra.org/foundation.