Jo Ann Rooney, DOD:
Keep Faith on Military Retirement
October 27, 2011
Department has no proposals or recommendations on revamping military
retirement at this time, but any future proposal must not break faith
with those in the military today, senior Pentagon officials told
Jo Ann Rooney, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel
and readiness, and Vee Penrod, deputy assistant secretary of defense for
military personnel policy, testified on military retirement before the
House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel subcommittee.
The Defense Business Board has proposed making a military retirement
system more like private-sector systems. The military system has
remained fairly constant over time, Rooney said, while the private
sector has changed its retirement systems to cater to the increasingly
“Unlike [the private] sector, the military services must grow most of
their military workforce internally,” she said. “It generally takes 15
to 20 years to develop the next generation of infantry battalion
commanders and submarine captains. As a result, the military must ensure
compensation, promotions and personnel policies that all foster the
retention and longer careers necessary to create these experienced
The military, she said, needs greater longevity and continuity to
develop leaders, and a retirement system mirroring a private-sector
approach -- with contributions from individuals and transportable
benefits -- may not be the best way for the uniformed services to go.
This does not mean that the current system is sacrosanct, Rooney said.
The department should examine the retirement system in the context of a
total military compensation system, she added.
DOD officials, she told the panel, are examining all aspects of the
retirement system for all components. Rooney said the review has been
deliberate, careful and pragmatic, and that officials are reviewing
proposals and modeling them to determine the impact on recruiting and
Defense Department, she said, is working to strike the correct balance.
“This includes weighing the impact of a new system on recruiting and
retention, considering the welfare of the individual service members and
families -- which includes grandfathering our existing force who took
their oath under the current system -- and acknowledging our
responsibility to the American taxpayer,” she said.
The current military retirement system has supported the most-successful
volunteer force in the world, Penrod noted.
“The question now,” Penrod added, “is whether the current system is
still relevant in today’s environment. If not, should it be modified in
a manner more in line with the private sector?”
Officials are not looking at retirement in isolation, Penrod pointed
out, but rather at how personnel and pay policies affect decisions to
join the military and then to stay.