San Diego Union-Tribune

June 14, 2001

Panel to Rumsfeld: Time for changes
  Morale study backs better pay, housing


WASHINGTON -- The military must make fundamental changes to improve the quality of life of its personnel, from revamping pay and retirement policies to improving housing, the leader of a Pentagon study said yesterday.

Retired Adm. David Jeremiah also urged Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to change how the armed services promotes, assigns and recruits its people.

Jeremiah's panel, which addressed morale and quality of life, is among more than a dozen Rumsfeld created to guide him in developing a strategy, force structure and personnel policies for the future. Although the findings are recommendations, Rumsfeld has indicated publicly that he favors many of them.

The panel concluded that the military needs a comprehensive plan that deals with active duty and reserve military personnel and civilian employees in a coordinated way.

"We have a 50-year-old system that we're trying to use in the 21st century, and that needs to change," Jeremiah said.

Among his key recommendations:

Pay personnel based on their skills as much as on their rank and time in

End the "up-or-out" policy that forces competent people out of uniform.

Permit retirement at less than 20 years and stop the rapid rotation of people through assignments, particularly unit commanders.

Jeremiah told a Pentagon news conference that the personnel management and pay system "tends to be somewhat inflexible." He said it does not recognize the different needs of the services or the nature of the current military members and the civilian population from which it must recruit.

He noted that the current all-volunteer force is more likely to be married and college educated than before. He said the military needs more skilled
technicians, yet it must recruit from a young population with little interest in military service.

Jeremiah said the services must recruit more Hispanics and from the ranks of college students. He said the services should not force people to retire at a relatively young age if they work in fields that require skill rather than physical stamina.

His panel urged Rumsfeld to give a larger pay raise to the mid-grade enlisted personnel and officers who are more likely to leave the service, rather than giving the same percentage increase to everyone. It also recommended pay policies to compete with civilian firms for highly skilled technicians.

The panel also called for a faster move to private production and operation of military family housing to eliminate worn out government homes and for large investments to improve on-base buildings. The committee advocated a new base closure round to shed excessive infrastructure.

Some of the panel's recommendations are likely to meet opposition from within the military and in Congress.

For example, the panel suggested training many more military pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers and allowing them to leave the military for high-paying civilian jobs at mid-career, treating them as "a national asset," Jeremiah said.

The Air Force and Navy have been fighting an uphill battle to keep their
experienced pilots and technicians in uniform and are likely to resist letting such expensively trained people leave early.