Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 102

put, on an unsustainable course.”14 Reinforcing Panetta’s remarks on personnel expenses, Gen. Martin Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a 2013 joint town hall forum stated, “But compensation … and health care costs are growing at rates that are unsustainable to the all-volunteer force.”15 As costly as recruiting and sustaining the AVF has become, reformers and policy makers must consider that young people in the talent market have already factored today’s military compensation into their decision making. Consider that today’s Marine or Army privates receive compensation that puts (Photo by Sgt. First Class Rebecca Doucette, Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center) them in the ninetieth percentile Sgt. Janiece Marquez, a Pashto linguist, engages members of the Afghan Local Police 1 February 2011 in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. The Army must compete for the 4 perof their societal peer group.16 Even cent of Americans who, like Marquez, are willing and qualified to serve. with ongoing uncertain economic conditions, especially those affectThe Political Challenges: Paying ing young adults, today’s relatively generous military for Talent compensation and benefits package already is priced into To support the military’s efforts to recruit talent, the talent market where the military competes each day Congress has not neglected compensating military service. with businesses and colleges.17 Since 2001 especially, America’s leaders in the executive However, even if the political will existed to approand legislative branches of government have recognized priate more money to increase military compensation, the challenging requirements of military service, with its benefits, or even enlistment bonuses, such incentives increased pace of operations on a global scale. Accordingly, would have to alter the market calculus in favor of Congress has enabled military recruiters to attract sufficient military enlistment. In terms of budget and relative talent in most years to fill the ranks, in part by increasing compensation, the AVF faces strong headwinds if it is pay and benefits for military members and families. to sustain its talent base, much less improve it, by addSteady improvements in compensation and benefits ing fiscal incentives. have sustained enlisted talent acquisition during very difTo complicate decisions in the current fiscal enficult years, especially for the Army. However, one result vironment, Congress, with the power of the purse, is that the AVF has become increasingly expensive over has little flexibility due to the Budget Control Act of the long term. Some would describe paying for the AVF 2011. Without action by both congressional chambers as an economic challenge rather than a political one. But, and the president to ease budget constraints, there because Congress is constitutionally required to raise and will be even less flexibility for spending on recruitsupport the Army and provide and maintain the Navy, ment. Consequently, while DOD is asking for controls these acts are inherently political.13 on compensation and benefits, it is also demanding In 2011, then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta improved quality of its enlistees in the future force— declared military personnel costs unsustainable in the which implies increased compensation. Thus, the politilong run: “The fiscal reality facing us means that we cal tensions with regard to quality versus quantity are have to look at the growth in personnel costs, which substantial. However, this is just one dimension of the are a major driver of budget growth and are, simply recruiting challenge. 96 November-December 2015  MILITARY REVIEW