The Defense Department must slow the growth of its manpower costs to avoid a crisis in the future, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said last week.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told NPR’s Tom Bowman that if military manpower and personnel costs continue growing at current levels there won’t be money for training or modernization.
Dempsey predicted that if nothing is done now, manpower costs “will become a crisis” in the early part of the next decade.
At the current rate of growth, the amount of money that the department has to spend to sustain the all-volunteer force will place the force out of balance, the chairman said. There will not be enough money for compensation, training, equipping and readiness.
If the department’s manpower costs stay at the current rate “we will be overinvested in manpower costs,” Dempsey said.
The Joint Chiefs are recommending the department slow the growth in such costs. “We think we should do it now, not just defer the problem to our successors,” the chairman said.
The manpower package the chiefs have proposed has not yet been presented to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, but in general Dempsey said service members should expect smaller pay raises, increases in medical co-pays and slowing increases in housing allowances.
“That’s where the money is,” he said.
The chairman emphasized this is not a cut, simply a slowing in the growth. None of these changes can happen until fiscal 2015 at the earliest.
Critics have said the Joint Chiefs of Staff are breaking faith with service members by even contemplating these changes.
“I have one sacred obligation to the young men and women who serve, and only one,” Dempsey said. “And that is, that if I ask them, on behalf of the president, to go to places like Afghanistan or some other conflict, they must be the best-trained, best-equipped and best-led force on the planet. And I don’t want to win, you know, 5-4. I want to win 50 to nothing.
“To do that, we’ve got to make the appropriate investments in training, readiness, leader development and modernization and manpower,” he continued. “But I can’t have the manpower account so out of proportion that it precludes me from making sure that if they go into harm’s way, they’re ready to go. That’s the sacred obligation.”