Tom Philpott | June 04, 2009
Reserve and National Guard members today deserve a better “return on investment” for their frequent deployments and long family separations, and that should include improved health benefits and two ways to retire earlier than age 60, said Lt. Gen. Jack C. Stultz, chief of Army Reserve. In an interview in his Pentagon office Thursday, Stultz shared his thoughts on modernizing reserve compensation so it more suitably rewards members and families who are sacrificing so much during wartime operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He contrasted current missions for an “operational” reserve with those assigned to the Cold War-era “strategic” reserve.
“It was one weekend a month, two weeks in the summertime and we’re going to give you some retirement pay when you get to age 60. That’s a pretty good return on investment for me as a soldier,” Stultz said. But today “we want you to leave your job, leave your family and risk your life once every five years,” or even more frequently until the Army is sized properly for current missions. “So we have to rethink that [incentive] because I’m not sure if giving retirement at age 60 is an adequate return on investment,” Stultz said. Reservists and their families, he said, are right to ask if what they’re giving today isn’t out of balance with what they’re getting back. Stultz supports two concepts for improving reserve retirement. The first Congress already has adopted, lowering the age 60 start of reserve annuities by three months for every 90 consecutive days in a given fiscal year that a reservist is mobilized. But, for lack of funds, Congress applied this change only to deployment time after Jan. 28, 2008. Left out are thousands deployments by Reserve and Guard members since 9/11. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S. C.) has reintroduced a bill, HR 208, to extend this change to mobilizations since 9/11. “I applaud [those] who want to make it retroactive,” said Stultz.