Friday, May 23, 2008

"So we’re not in much of a mood for retention lectures by people who downplayed those risks in the past."

The Military Officers Association of America weighs in on the GI Bill and the bullshit argument that Mc$ame and aWol are pushing that it would hurt retention, and as I can't say it any better than Col. Strobridge did, here is his editorial in full:

As I See It — Lecture Us Not on Retention

2008/05/19 00:00:00

By Col. Steve Strobridge, USAF-Ret. — May 19, 2008

The ongoing debate regarding potential retention impact of Montgomery GI Bill (MGIB) improvements has caused us to ponder what we do and don’t know about retention dynamics in the military.

No. 1: You have to provide a level of military pay that’s comparable with private-sector pay.

No. 2: You have to provide a system of special pays, bonuses, and other incentives that let the services compete for specific skills that are in high-demand in the civilian world or that undergo particularly high stress.

No. 3: You have to provide a system of institutional benefits that offset the unique, adverse conditions of service inherent in a two- or three-decade military career.

All of these components play key roles in the fundamental building of a common bond between the individual and the military institution — a commitment of servicemembers to their country and service matched by a reciprocal commitment of their country and service to protect their interests and those of their families and, in the worst case, their survivors.

In the late 1970s and again in the late 1990s, retention suffered when the country wasn’t keeping its end of the bargain. Since the turn of the century, Congress has acted in a number of ways to address a multitude of compensation and benefit shortfalls.

The current wartime atmosphere also has sparked a special warrior commitment among those in uniform. They’re employing all of their training on an important mission; they’re experiencing the psychic rewards of sacrificing for the common welfare; and they’re imbued with spirit, patriotism, and concern for their country, their mission, and their comrades in arms.

Recently, defense leaders have argued that rewarding this new “greatest generation” with a World War II-style MGIB (which would pay the full cost of a four-year college education at any state school) would undermine retention by encouraging troops to leave service.

We can’t buy either the principle of this argument or the retention projection behind it.

If any service manpower planner had been told in 2001 that combat troops would face a combat tour virtually every other year through 2008 — with no end in sight — they’d have uniformly predicted retention would be completely in the toilet by now.

The services are employing unprecedented retention bonuses, but even that doesn’t explain the current experience in the face of these extraordinary levels of sacrifice.

Further, for decades the Army has provided education “kickers” extending significantly larger MGIB benefits for soldiers in particularly critical skills. If the Army didn’t think that hurt retention in the most critical skills before, it’s hard to understand why it would now.

From the start of what Pentagon leaders acknowledged would be a “long war,” MOAA pushed for significant increases in ground forces to ease retention risks associated with excessive combat rotations. Until the past couple of years, the Pentagon adamantly denied any significant risk or any need for force increases. Now they can’t grow fast enough. So we’re not in much of a mood for retention lectures by people who downplayed those risks in the past.

MOAA strongly believes the current environment poses very real retention risks, but they stem from continuing oppressive deployment schedules, not from any proposed MGIB increase.

It’s now impossible to grow the force fast enough to quickly ease the terrible and repeated family separations and combat tours that are unprecedented since World War II, so we must demonstrate our reciprocal commitment in another way. And one good way is providing an MGIB benefit that’s more consistent with that offered the previous greatest generation.

Well said, Colonel. And with a lot-less profanity than I can manage when discussing this topic.

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