Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Martin Dempsey said on Thursday that the Pentagon will continue to review the military’s current pay, pension, and healthcare structure.
A provision in the recent budget agreement includes a $6-billion cut over 10 years to working-age military retirees cost-of-living adjustments, drawing criticism from both Democrats and Republicans.
But a push to keep the funding pitted the senators against leaders in the Defense Department — including Hagel and Dempsey, who reiterated their support for the deal on Thursday.
“We can no longer put off military compensation reform,” Hagel said, noting that he would work with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and other members of Congress to review changes next year.
“We all know that we need to slow cost growth in military compensation, otherwise we’ll have to make disproportionate cuts to military readiness and modernization,” Hagel said, while acknowledging that military leaders are aware that some of the proposals will likely be unpopular.
Dempsey added that the Defense Department will have to continue to look at institutional reform — including healthcare and pay compensation — going forward.
Though Dempsey said the budget deal allows the department to handle many of its near-term readiness challenges, Hagel noted that the department still faces huge long-term fiscal challenges.
Hagel and Dempsey declined to comment on where they would recommend cuts to the Defense Department’s budget be made when Congressional appropriators meet next year.