Is military retirement still third-rail issue

Wednesday - 10/26/2011, 7:36am EDT

Todd Harrison, senior fellow, CSBA

Download mp3

The government's promise of lifetime health care for the military may no longer be sacred. Lawmakers are signaling a willingness to make military retirees pay more for coverage — but resistance is fierce.

In fact, just this week at at a House subcommittee hearing on military retiree benefits, Pentagon officials countered that the system in place is affordable and is not the main driver of the department's quickly ballooning personnel costs.

That assessment stands in contrast to the findings of an advisory group, the Defense Business Board, which reported this summer that retirement costs could eventually crowd the department's warfighting capability. It recommended a pension system modeled on a traditional private-sector 401(k) style-plan.

Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris to discuss changes to military retirement.

Harrison recently co-authored a report, "Changing the Business of Defense," which called for DoD to really assess what its service members need in a retirement plan.

The current system, TRICARE for Life, only benefits about 17 military personnel because of the 20 years of military service required to qualify for the program.

"Instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach, options could be developed that allow service members to choose among benefits to improve their perceived value while reducing costs," Harrison wrote in the report.

RELATED STORIES:

Report: TRICARE changes should focus on maximizing value

Military retirement costs are affordable, DoD says

Lawmakers open to changes in military benefits

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.