U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hegel pays a visit to Ft. Sam Houston today, after a commission he appointed wrapped up two days of testimony here on the extremely sensitive topic of whether military pay and retirement benefits should be cut, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Hegel says the military is facing the same problems that many cities, including San Antonio, are wrestling with, as so called 'legacy costs' eat up more and more of today's budget.
Now that the U.S. has withdrawn from Iraq and is preparing to leave Afghanistan, Hegel has asked the commission to look into trimming pay increases for active duty personnel, overhaul the TRICARE system of military health care, and 'review' retirement benefits.
All this will happen at a time when cuts in active duty personnel are also being recommended.
"Without serious attempts to achieve significant savings in this area, which consumes roughly half of the DoD budget and is increasing every year, we risk becoming an unbalanced force," Hegel said in a statement.
But talk like this bothers John Regni. The retired Air Force Lieutenant General and head of the Southwest Defense Alliance, told 1200 WOAI news that cuts like Hegel is suggesting are 'troubling.'
"It's not a typical career," Regni said of the military. "Any retirement system we have shouldn't look like a civilian retirement system. It is very important that we don't break faith for the military."
Regni said Hegel's proposal amounts to singling out one part of the Pentagon budget for cuts, while not touching other areas.
"You just don't take one sliver of it, and say we're going to decimate this area," the retired General said. "You have to look across the entire budget and operate smarter."
Regni is worried that the cuts suggested by Hegel will leave the military unable to attract the 'best and the brightest' into its ranks, at a time when the high tech military is more and more reliant on brains rather than brawn to fight wars which more and more are going to rely on high tech weapons systems and computer warfare.