JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON –
The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission made a stop at Joint Base San Antonio Jan. 6 and 7 to hear testimony from key military and civilian leaders regarding military compensation and quality of life programs offered to service members and their families.
"The purpose of the commission is to make sure we conduct a comprehensive review of compensation and retirement programs, then to make recommendations to Congress and the president next year as to how to modernize those programs," said Alphonso Maldon Jr., chairman of the MCRMC.
The commission is focusing on four key areas - paid compensation, health care, retirement and quality of life for military members and their families.
The MCRMC's goal is to make recommendations to ensure the long-term health of the all-volunteer force, provide for a high quality of life for service members and their families and to ensure that the compensation and retirement programs are fiscally sustainable.
Five of the nine member commission visited San Antonio, including Maldon, former Congressman Christopher Carney, retired Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, 32nd vice chief of staff, U.S. Army, Michael Higgins and former Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) Dov Zakheim.
Commission members spoke with the panel regarding recruiting, retention and programs offered to service members and their families.
Lt. Gen. Perry Wiggins, commander, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and senior Army commander, Fort Sam Houston and Camp Bullis asked the commission to take into account how the Army has evolved from the time it began recruiting an all-volunteer force to the present. He also asked them to consider the state of the economy.
"As the economy starts to pick up I think we need to have programs in place. We have to have benefits in place that maintain quality people joining our ranks because that's the strength of our Army," Wiggins said.
Maj. Gen. Margaret B. Poore, commander, Air Force Personnel Center, agreed adding that people join the military for many different reasons. "Protecting the benefits that entice people to come into the military is extremely important," she said.
"We also have to be just as concerned regarding retention," said Brig. Gen. Robert D. LaBrutta, commander, 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio.
"What we need to do is create a package that is going to be more competitive...because once the economy changes for our country, and it will change, we have got to be able to retain (service members with) the skill sets we need for the Department of Defense and for the security of this nation," LaBrutta said.
LaBrutta said he wasn't sure if the package offered today would be enough to sustain a quality force once the economy improves.
Military families are also concerned about medical, health, pay and retirement benefits, he added.
The panel agreed that even faced with fiscal challenges the military still needed to remain competitive when it came to recruiting and retention.
They also addressed quality of life issues asking the panel what challenges they faced within their organizations.
Terrye Haegerty, director of the 502nd Force Support Squadron, responded by saying one of the biggest challenges is budget cuts and how funds are managed.
Another challenge brought forth by Lynn McCollum, division chief, Family Programs, U.S. Army was the need for updated technology to deliver key programs to service members and their families.
The panel agreed that fitness, youth services and child care, and military and family readiness are critical to service members and their families, along with deployment readiness, transition assistance and financial readiness.
During discussion about health care, Maj. Gen. Jimmie Keenan, commander of South Regional Medical Command and director of the San Antonio Military Heath System and Maj. Gen. Byron Hepburn, 59th Medical Wing commander and SAMHS deputy director, addressed partnerships between the SAMHS and the South Texas Veterans Health Care System and surrounding area health care facilities.
Other topics of discussion were electronic records management, training, standardization of appointment systems, a combined formulary for prescription medications and TRICARE.
The MCRMC also met with members of the private health community which included representatives from Scott & White Health, BCBS of Texas, Cigna HealthSpring and Humana.
A town hall was also held Jan. 6 at the Audie L. Murphy Memorial VA Hospital.
MCRMC will present their recommendations to Congress and the president Feb. 1, 2015.
For more information about the commission, visit http://www.mcrmc.gov/.