Thursday, July 12, 2012

I'll "Reserve" Judgement...For Now.

As I finish gathering my equipment together for a day of "fun" doing Army weapons qualification tomorrow, I have been reflecting on the latest news from the Department of Defense, or "DoD" for short. I've been reading in a number of online and print articles about how the DoD is seriously considering a radical change to how drilling reservists (like yours truly) are paid, and receive drill points. Currently, and for as long as I've been a reservist (1983), drills consist of two full days of work, but we receive a total of four days pay (just base pay, no other allowances or benefits such as Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), leave accrual, or medical benefits.). We also accrue four "points" per drill (which is now called "Battle Assembly" because evidently that sounds significantly more awesome?). Reservists must accrue between 48-50 points per year in order for that year to count for reserve retirement, which is usually referred to as a "Good Year". We also receive 15 "membership points" annually, and if we go to Annual Training, or Active Duty for Training, (usually 14 days), or an Army school, we receive one point per day of training. Once a reservist has credit for 20 "Good Years", then he or she can retire, and start drawing retirement pay at age 60. (The more combat deployments a reservist has, the earlier he or she can start drawing that retired pay.) Reserve retirement pay is calculated by multiplying the number of total points accrued during service by a factor depending on the highest rank held. Unlike an active duty retirement, it's not enough to live on, but a reserve retirement provides a nice cushion to supplement our civilian retirement income.
This current method of points accrual helps us to balance our reserve obligation and our civilian jobs, by allowing us to skip some drills, especially when they conflict with important projects in our normal lives. The majority of us also contribute a significant amount of time preparing for Battle Assemblies on our off time. For example, I put in about 10 hours this month, writing the operations order, coordinating medical support, and setting up additional classes for our unit's rifle and pistol qualifications, which culminates on the firing range tomorrow. Some unit commanders and leaders, or staff folks average significantly more extra time every month. We do it (usually without complaint) because we are soldiers, and we are just as liable to be called up for combat duty as many of our active duty brothers and sisters.

So it came as a shock and disappointment when I read about the new proposal from a DoD committee tasked with cutting the budget. They proposed a radical change: Reservists would be paid one day's base pay and "one thirtieth" of the BAH per drill day, and receive half the points they do under the current system.  This plan is predicted to significantly reduce Reserve compensation, both while serving and upon retirement.
Without exception, every reservist I have heard commenting on this proposal is strongly against it. It'll potentially have the effect of mid-career reserve soldiers, most with at least one combat deployment, deciding that the continued sacrifice is no longer worth it. That's the consensus I've observed, anyway.

While this possible change would have little effect on me personally, I choose to comment because of the potential for gutting a major segment of our armed forces. If other proposals to restructure active duty military pay, benefits, and retirement also come to pass, we could very well see the best fighting force in the world slide into decline. This probably isn't the best time in our history to cause that decline to occur.


  1. Yeah, well we know how well THAT tactic worked! : ) By the way, an interesting sidebar to this discussion is the growing call by retired GEN McCrystal and others for a return to the draft and compulsory national service (military and non-military). It would probably have a major effect upon how often our Presidents could generate undeclared wars.

  2. aye. terrible outcome- to be avoided

    undeclared wars: especially if we all keep our service weapons at home a la Swiss Militia.

    Gen McCrystal: funny how the old guys are such fans of compulsory this or that when it comes to the whippersnappers.