Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Of conservatives, veteran benefits and bullshit reasoning

Conservatives spent the Memorial Day weekend explaining why they are opposed to education benefits for veterans who have served since September 11, 2001. Speaking to a group of veterans on Monday, McCain repeated the debunked bullshit that improving the GI Bill would damage retention by as much as 16%. "Encouraging people to choose to not become noncommissioned officers would hurt the military and our country very badly," he said.

He is, to put it delicately, full of shit. But it isn't just me saying that - it is the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), too.

CBO expects that both enlistment and retention would be affected by the proposed improvement in education benefits. The net impact on DoD’s discretionary costs for those purposes would be an increase of $1.1 billion over the 2009-
2013 period. That net change reflects the expected cost of increased bonus payments for reenlistment ($6.7 billion), less the estimated savings for enlistment bonuses and other recruiting costs ($5.6 billion). (The net discretionary costs described above include this $1.1 billion, as well as offsetting savings to DoD from other aspects of the legislation.)

To maintain current levels of enlistment and retention, DoD incurs costs for advertising, recruiters, enlistment bonuses, and retention bonuses. An enhanced package of education benefits would make military service more attractive, and increasing those benefits would allow the services to reduce other enlistment incentives while still enlisting the same number of recruits. However, because the higher educational benefits would reduce the costs of attending college after military service, enacting S. 22 (as modified) also would increase the number of servicemembers who would separate from military service to take advantage of those benefits. Additional reenlistment incentives would then be required to keep the number of reenlistments, and the experience profile of the military force, constant.

Educational benefits have been shown to raise the number of military recruits. Based on an analysis of the existing literature, CBO estimates that a 10 percent increase in educational benefits would result in an increase of about 1 percent in high-quality recruits. On that basis, CBO calculates that raising the educational benefits as proposed in S. 22 would result in a 16 percent increase in recruits. To maintain the same force levels and thus the same number of recruits, enlistment bonuses and other recruiting costs could be reduced.

The marginal cost of enlistment bonuses and the other expenditures necessary to attract an additional enlistment is about $35,000. CBO estimates that reduced spending for those purposes would result in a savings of almost $5.6 billion over the 2009-2013 period.
Now, we all know that the military has never intended to retain every last recruit. What McCain proposes would totally screw over the vast majority of recruits who only serve one hitch. What McCain and the conservatives are proposing sounds very familiar to a lot of us who have been around the base a time or two - they are offering what we used to call bootstraps, and bootstraps are for lifers. Period. And if more than two freakin' percent of the country had any military connection, they would call these assholes on this crap.

The CBO found that increases in recruitment would offset retention losses - and not only that, the recruits motivated to serve by the promise of an education would inherently be of a better quality than many of the waivered Soldiers and Marines that those branches have been forced to take to make their recruiting quotas.

Spending on education benefits for those who serve return every dollar expended to the economy seven times over, and made the middle class not merely the envy of the world, but possible in the first place. And an overwhelming majority of those people who used it and improved their lives and communities were one-hitch draftees.

But these feckless Bravo Foxtrots would rather lie through their teeth and deny todays volunteers the benefits that some of them used themselves. (h/t VetVoice)

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