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(NAVY TIMES 03 FEB 14) … Editorial

A serious divide has emerged in the debate over planned cuts to working-age retirees’ annual cost of living adjustments. Retired generals on one side, retired enlisted leaders on the other.

The Bipartisan Budget Act, approved by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, arbitrarily calls for a 1-percentage point reduction in annual retirement pay increases for so-called working-age retirees, those between the ages of 38 and 62. Unless the law is amended, more than 840,000 people stand to lose out on tens of thousands of dollars once the change takes effect in 2016 – as will several million troops still in uniform now, once their careers end.

The move was welcomed by a group of retired generals, who call it “modest and reasonable,” and an important step toward reigning in the Defense Department’s soaring personnel costs. In response, six retired sergeants major, master chiefs and chief master sergeants have stepped forward with a message true to their roots as enlisted advisers: Sir, that’s not such a good idea.

They’re exactly right.

Few dispute the need for compensation reform, but there are umpteen other areas of the defense budget where lawmakers should look, starting with acquisition accounts, which in 2012 were more than $400 billion over initial budget estimates on 85 major projects.

As retired Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent reminds all of a key tenet of military leadership: Take care of your people first. You can’t make mission otherwise. As lawmakers work to untangle this mess, they would be wise to listen to these retired enlisted leaders.

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