Thursday, May 29, 2008

On the New GI Bill

An interesting debate has started over at Publius over a recent GI Bill/Bachmann post over there.

Some are using the John McCain talking point that the Webb-Hagel GI Bill would decrease re-enlistment rates.

The Congressional Budget Office confirms that estimate:

CBO estimates that S. 22 (as modified) would more than double the present value
of educational benefits for servicemembers at the first reenlistment point—from
about $40,000 to over $90,000—implying a 16 percent decline in the reenlistment
rate, from about 42 percent to about 36 percent.

The CBO also states that their would be a need to increase Selective Reenlistment Bonuses in order to assist in overall force management.

However, McCain and his supporters, the clowns commenting at Publius who have never applied for GI Bill benefits, fail to tell the other side of the story.

CBO estimates that a 10 percent increase in educational benefits would result in an increase of about 1 percent in high-quality recruits. On that basis, CBO calculates that raising the educational benefits as proposed in S. 22 would result in a 16 percent increase in recruits. To maintain the same force levels and thus the same number of recruits, enlistment bonuses and other recruiting costs could be reduced. (emphasis added)

In other words, it's actually a wash!

16% decrease in reenlistment.

16% increase in enlistment.

From my perspective, I was a rare breed in the military. Most people who serve over 10 years do not leave until their retirement date.

Retention control points had a lot to do with many service members leaving up to or around the 10 year mark. This was based on my experiences in 2001 and I wouldn't doubt this has changed a bit...but...

As your rank increased, so did your time until retirement. For example, a Sergeant First Class at 11 years would be able to retire at 24 years of service. After 10 years of service you are no longer eligible to "re-up" for a 2, 3, or 4 year contract that most soldiers get. You are considered a "career soldier" and your first enlistment after your 10 year mark is "indefinite".

29 years old. Senior enlisted. Do you sign a contract that says "indefinite" up to your retirement date based on your rank? Keep in mind, it would be at least 13 years of "indefinite" status. Get promoted again? Add at least 2 years. I chose to utilize my education benefits.

Over the past 7 years, we've seen an Operational Tempo for our forces that has been unparallelled in American Military history. Fighting wars on two fronts, soldiers, sailors, and Marines, are seeing more and longer deployments.

Taking care of soldiers keeps soldiers around. That's a big reason why I stuck around for as long as I did. I loved being an Infantryman. I loved leading soldiers. I made sure the men who served with me were highly trained and ready to go on a moments notice.

The expanded benefits on the new Webb-Hagel GI Bill takes care of soldiers. It takes care of Veterans. While some will leave the service earlier to use these great benefits, those who are career soldiers, and had every intention of being a career soldier will most likely stick it out.

I'd argue that retention policies similar to what I experienced in 2001 drive more soldiers out than having a "kick ass benefit".

On a side note, Vote Vets has an interesting story on GOP Senator Ted Stevens dislike for the Webb-Hagel GI Bill and VA Secretary, who deliberately covered up Veterans suicide figures, doesn't care too much for the "PTSD label".

So for Senator McCain and his merry followers, check the facts before you work to discredit a fair increase to Veterans benefits.

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