National Guard August 2012 : Page 21

And while the proposed pay cut is clear, Duffy says, the proposed incen-tives to make up some of the differ-ence “are vague.” NGAUS members have overwhelm-ing echoed Duffy’s sentiment ( Chair-man’s Message, page 8 ). Their initial response to a July 5 association alert suggesting they contact Capitol Hill through the Write to Congress feature at nearly crashed the website. Mattock, who headed a study that guided the proposed reserve pay changes, says the proposals are mis-understood. “On the whole, the idea was to try to make people better off at the same cost to the government,” he says. “Unfortunately, there have been some people who looked just at the changes in RMC,” or regular military compen-sation. But Guard pay, Mattock says, is much more complex than that. The QRMC calls the current reserve pay system “byzantine, complicated, con-fusing and frustrating.” It dates back to 1916 when Con-gress first authorized drill pay. The compensation was first set at about 1.9 days of base military pay for each of 48 drills. At the time, Guardsmen drilled one evening a week for two to four hours. In 1920, lawmakers reduced pay to today’s standard of one-day’s pay per drill. Eventually, four four-hour drills over one weekend a month became the norm. Troops do receive four days of pay for the weekend, but no allow-ances for housing, food or travel. But Palazzo and other Guardsmen say they seldom work just eight-hour days during drill weekends. And many say they put in the equivalent of several additional days preparing for drill. When called up for combat or other active duty, Guardsmen receive regular military compensation, which is one day’s pay for each day on duty. “What this means,” the QRMC says, “is that reserve members are paid more for a day of weekend training than for a day serving in combat.” The QRMC recommends substitut-ing one day of regular military pay for each day of service, whether it’s train-ing, combat or other duty. That would “more closely align” reserve pay with active-duty pay, the report says. It would also mean a pay cut, the QRMC acknowledges. To compensate, it proposes new incentive pays, such as a payment for attending all required training, another for meeting readiness requirements, and others for volun-teering for challenging assignments. The review also calls for a big change in retirement pay. Guardsmen and Reservists would be able to begin collecting retirement pay after com-pleting 20 qualifying years of service and reaching the 30th anniversary of their service start date. That means some could begin receiving retirement pay before reach age 50. Under the current system, most troops must wait until age 60 to begin what they have seen is not generating enthusiasm. “Reducing reserve pay and allow-ing reserve retirement to begin earlier seems starkly out of step with most pension reforms going on in other sectors,” he says. And “lowering the age of retirement eligibility is a ques-tionable long-term savings proposal when people are living longer. “A pay change that [Guardsmen and Reservists] oppose and that doesn’t save the government money is the worst of all worlds.” To Korb, who spent five years as as-sistant defense secretary for manpow-er and reserve affairs, some reform of reserve pay “makes sense, particularly when we use the Guard as much as we have.” But “it’s going to be tough,” he says, to push any changes through Con-gress if the Guard opposes them. “We saw the power of the Guard “A pay change that [Guardsmen and Reservists] oppose and that doesn’t save the government money is the worst of all worlds.” —Senior Senate defense-policy aide collecting retirement pay. While considering reforms, QRMC participants sought to improve com-pensation for Guardsmen and Reserv-ists without increasing costs, Mattock says. They concluded that providing earlier access to retirement pay could do that. Duffy says letting Guardsmen start collecting retirement pay after 30 years “is a great idea,” but the draw-back is that they would earn fewer retirement points during drill week-ends, thus receive smaller retirement paychecks. The QRMC says the smaller checks would be made up over time because troops would begin collecting them earlier. So far, few details of the pay overhaul have been reviewed by lawmakers, the Senate aide says. But lobby” earlier this year when it op-posed Air Force plans to retire 139 Guard planes and cut 5,100 airmen in 2013. Amid an outcry by Guard officials and Guard organizations, including NGAUS, Congress blocked the cuts. So far, no pay change proposals have been sent to Congress, Palazzo says. Pay proposals could be included when the Pentagon proposes its 2014 budget. “We’ll scan it with a fine-tooth comb,” Palazzo says. Mattock is aware of the challenge the QRMC faces. “Changing reserve pay is not something people are in a rush to do,” he says. William Matthews is a Springfield, Va.-based freelance writer who specializes in military matters. He can be contacted via A ugust 2012 | 21

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