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Obama Sends Pay, Retirement Commission Recommendations to Congress

By Jim Garamone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2015 - President Barack Obama sent the recommendations of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission to Congress yesterday.

In the letter accompanying the report, Obama thanked the commission members and said their recommendations "represent an important step forward in protecting the long-term viability of the all-volunteer force, improving quality of life for service members and their families and ensuring the fiscal sustainability of the military compensation and retirement systems."

The president is prepared to support specific proposals for 10 of the Commission's 15 recommendations.

Since the commission released its report to the president in January, DoD officials have been over the recommendations with a fine-toothed comb. The department and the White House want to move slowly on four of the commission's 15 recommendations and will begin executing the remaining 10.

Further Study Required

The four that require more study are: the proposal for a blended retirement system, reserve component duty statuses, exceptional family member support and commissary and exchange consolidation.

The 10 recommendations the president is prepared to support either in toto or with modifications are: the Survivor Benefit Plan, financial education, medical personnel readiness, DoD and Department of Veterans Affairs collaboration, child care, service member education, transition assistance, dependent space-available travel and the report on military-connected dependents.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter will submit proposals for legislation to Congress on some of the recommendations. For his part, Carter also praised the commission for its 18-month independent review. The commission looked at retirement and compensation programs administered both inside and outside DoD.

"Their work confirmed many positive changes that we're making to uphold our commitments to our people, and also pointed out areas where we can do better," Carter said in a Pentagon release.

The commission's last recommendation on the military TRICARE health benefit program needs more work, the secretary said.

"While we agree with the commission that reforms to the military health care system are needed, we also believe that the TRICARE proposals in President Obama's fiscal 2016 budget serve as a good first step by offering service members, military families and retirees greater choice and control over their health care decisions," Carter said in the release.

An Ongoing Process

The department will work with the commission, interagency partners and Congress this year to develop additional reform proposals for the fiscal year 2017 budget proposal.

Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management and Policy Alphonso Maldon Jr. chairs the commission. Other members are former U.S. Sen. Larry L. Pressler from South Dakota, former U.S. Rep. Stephen E. Buyer from Indiana, former DoD Comptroller Dov S. Zakheim, former Capitol Hill staffer Michael R. Higgins, retired Army Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, retired Navy Adm. Edmund P. Giambastiani Jr., former U.S. Sen. J. Robert [Bob] Kerrey from Nebraska, and former U.S. Rep. Christopher Carney from Pennsylvania.

The commission was chartered as part of the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act. The commission held public hearings at military posts across the country and solicited advice from veterans service organizations, think tanks and the general public.

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