COLA Cuts and Readiness

The House Armed Services Committee’s ranking member had sharp words for critics of the military pension cuts included in the two-year budget deal, saying without those savings military readiness will have to foot the bill. “I think it is a mistake to roll back that change … what are we going to do, if we can’t do that, in terms of cost?” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) in Washington, D.C., Thursday. The notion Congress shouldn’t adjust pay and benefits “puts us in a box,” Smith said. “How much is it going to hurt recruiting when you bring folks in and say, OK you’re a pilot? Once a month you get to fly. What’s that going to do?” he added. Smith conceded the one percent cut in annual cost-of-living increases for non-disabled veterans under the age of 62 is not “insubstantial.” However, he said personnel reforms must be tackled. “If we don’t do something on personnel, if we don’t do something on these more expensive programs… what you have is the hollow force that everyone says they don’t want, but then they make a series of decisions that put us in a place where that’s what we have.” If bases can’t be closed, and personnel costs can’t be touched, readiness is one of the only places to find money, he argued. “You buy less fuel, you train less, you don’t make repairs to installations. You put a force out there that isn’t trained to do the mission,” Smith argued.