Yesterday, I attempted to clear up a couple of points I found to be misconceptions in a recent article posted to the Huffington Post. One thing that I think may have been lost in my novel of a post is the fact that I believe cuts to military spending need to happen. Even the quickest of glances at our Defense budget indicates that we are unable to sustain the status quo. I do not think that the government is out to get us (‘us’ meaning the military community), nor do I think that the military community lacks support from the general population. But when an article is published with the name of a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist on the by-line, I expect the information to be accurate. And I felt the need to say something. So I did.
Something that may alienate me from some within the military community is that while I recognize the hardships of the military lifestyle, I don’t believe that service members are ‘better’ than any other hard-working functioning member of society. At the end of the day, my husband’s involvement with the military is simply a means to provide for his family and contribute to society in a meaningful and honorable manner (although, I am sure there are some that would argue otherwise). Yes, he deploys to less-than-desirable locations but he is also additionally compensated for such endeavors. As mentioned in my previous post, I do not believe the military is underpaid – especially when additional benefits are factored into the big picture of compensation. But we’re also not living a lifestyle that is far beyond our civilian counterparts with similar education levels and job responsibilities. And lump me in with the group of tax-paying American citizens who believe there is fat to be trimmed from the Defense budget. Yes, one could argue that our earning potential may be greater in the civilian world, but we are choosing to remain in the military. As this current point in time, the experiences and benefits of our military lifestyle outweigh the drawbacks. It isn’t always easy, but honestly, what lifestyle is 100% of the time?
Where do we go from here?
I am by no means an economist. But even as a lowly military spouse, I am well-aware of the overlap that occurs among programs funded by the Department of Defense to ‘help’ military families. And while free healthcare is a terrific benefit offered to the military, I do think we need to explore a co-pay system and/or the existence of a monthly premium to help offset medical costs. Such discussion couldn’t hurt. And while I don’t advocate trimming the military down to the bare-bones, I do think there are unnecessary positions and programs in existence that have little to no impact on the running of the military. Such cuts will likely draw debate from both sides of the aisle but as mentioned by many – our county cannot simply continue to spend, spend, spend. But in order for meaningful debate to take place, we must ensure that we’re validating our arguments with cold hard facts.
As my friend Jill points out, our current all-volunteer military force is perhaps the most lavish benefit provided to American citizens, myself included. When members of our society make the choice to serve in exchange for compensation (pay + benefits), it prevents other citizens from being drafted – a luxury that those of us born after the Vietnam War probably don’t fully grasp. In order for our military to remain a functional and all-volunteer force, meaningful budget cuts need to happen. And that will not happen without a valid and honest discussion about the role our society wants the military to play in our current world climate.