MONEY FOR THE TROOPS

Bob Harris (a/k/a “Tom Tomorrow”) uses an editorial in the Army Times to criticize President Bush. The relevant editorial passage:

In recent months, President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress have missed no opportunity to heap richly deserved praise on the military. But talk is cheap — and getting cheaper by the day, judging from the nickel-and-dime treatment the troops are getting lately.
For example, the White House griped that various pay-and-benefits incentives added to the 2004 defense budget by Congress are wasteful and unnecessary — including a modest proposal to double the $6,000 gratuity paid to families of troops who die on active duty. This comes at a time when Americans continue to die in Iraq at a rate of about one a day.

Similarly, the administration announced that on Oct. 1 it wants to roll back recent modest increases in monthly imminent-danger pay (from $225 to $150) and family-separation allowance (from $250 to $100) for troops getting shot at in combat zones.

Bob’s response includes this:

Doing the math… Bush thinks not seeing your kids for a year and getting your ass shot at halfway around the world isn’t worth an extra $7.50 a day.

Let that sink in. The AWOL Lieutenant can dress up in a flight suit to Support Our Troops, but the guys wearing 35-pound packs in 100-degree heat aren’t worth an extra seven and a half dollars a day. And while billion-dollar contracts go to administration cronies, their deaths — their deaths — aren’t worth an extra six grand for the families they leave behind.

Well. . . no. For one thing, one has to understand that the Army Times is not a military publication but rather a publication for the military. It’s hardly surprising that any group of employees would be complaining about how little money they get.

More importantly, whatever the level of imminent danger pay or death benefit paid, they in no way constitute the entirety of the compensation package. Soldiers volunteer for service knowing they may face deployment to combat and face long separation from their families. Those things define the job. That’s what they’re paid for every day–regardless of whether they ever get deployed. Secondly, when deployed to a combat zone, enlisted soldiers are totally exempt from federal income taxes, which raises their net pay rather substantially. And, in the tragic event they are killed in action, their families draw Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance benefits of up to $200,000.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.