“We are in this fight until it is won.”
A joint statement by the Executive Directors of
The Reserve Officers Association of the United States
The Reserve Enlisted Association
Outrageous! That is the only word we can think of as we review the Conference Committee Report on this year’s Defense Authorization Act.
Despite a number of positive actions (which are outlined later in this report), the Conference Committee left 600,000 Citizen Warriors in the lurch. The Act will finally contain a provision to allow some Reservists to lower the age at which their retirement pay kicks in. But that provision has been made "prospective," Congress-speak meaning that the service of those mobilized up to now in the Global War on Terrorism does not count toward this earlier retirement eligibility. Outrageous!
Having been directly involved in the mobilization for the Global War on Terror since the day it began more than six years ago, we have heard a lot of speeches extolling the performance of our Citizen Warriors. We have heard just as many speeches about the important role they have played, and the fact that they will remain vital to the success of the All-Volunteer Force. In a very real sense, they have saved the country from a draft.
But this provision--which undoubtedly has the support of many in the DOD leadership-- will call all of that high sounding rhetoric into serious doubt.
Reducing the age at which career reservists can draw their retired pay has been a key objective for many years. It has been based on two essential facts: (1) Reserves are being employed in an entirely different way than they were when the present retirement system was designed; and (2), reduced retirement age was widely seen as a powerful incentive to convince reservists to stay in service for a longer period of time.
We have championed reduced retirement plans that acted as a “force management tool,” specifically rewarding those who served the longest (and the most) with an improved retirement plan. We continued to say: “If you just serve the minimum time, and leave service after 20 years, an age 60 retirement seems fair. But if you stay longer, and serve more, you should be rewarded with an earlier retirement eligibility.”
This year, that concept seemed to catch on. Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia sponsored a bill that emulated that philosophy. The bean-counter/budget guys tried to make the case that applying that philosophy to those who had served since 2001 would be too expensive, but Senator Chambliss fought back on the Senate floor, and the “prospective-only” provision was replaced with one that said that eligibility for earlier retirement would be based on service since 1 October 2001. Fair enough.
But somewhere in the murky in-fighting of the Conference Committee, the bean counters were able to re-assert themselves, and the final version now awaiting House and Senate approval is back to “prospective only.” OUTRAGEOUS!
We are not so na´ve as to believe that a thousand-page bill will be derailed at this late stage by one Reserve Retirement provision. And we expect that the President will feel compelled to sign it. The Authorization Act is important, and it does have a lot of good provisions. But it is not yet right on Reserve retirement, and ROA and REA will keep fighting to make it right.
We will seek to amend the law immediately in the next session of Congress to remove the “prospective only” provision, and to properly reflect the Nation’s gratitude and admiration for the service of our Citizen Warriors since 2001. Anything less would be a retention disincentive, the last thing we need now.
As a Nation, we must send a message to the men and women of our National Guard and Reserve that says: “We value your service. We want you to stay in service to your Country. We need you to do that so our All Volunteer Force can remain a reality. We don’t want to go back to the draft.”
ROA and REA will carry this message to every Congressional office. We are in this fight until it is won.
Dennis M. McCarthy
Lieutenant General, USMC (Ret.)
Executive Director, ROA
Chief Master Sergeant, USAF (Ret.)
Executive Director, REA
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