By Kristina Wong
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned members of the armed forces on Wednesday that changes to military pay and benefits are likely coming soon.
Hagel said that the Pentagon would likely move forward on recommendations for changes by a congressionally appointed commission that will be issued next month, the Military Times reported.
“I think this year will be the beginning with those commission recommendations of where we start moving forward on making some of these calls,” Hagel told several hundred sailors during a visit to the amphibious assault ship USS America just off the coast of San Diego.
Congress created the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission in 2013 to study potential changes to military pay and benefits. It is due to issue its recommendations to the White House and Congress on Feb. 1.
The commission will likely recommend changes to the 20-year cliff-vesting retirement pension that the military has offered for decades, the Times said.
However, Hagel said any changes would apply to future troops, not those currently serving.
“This country cannot afford you all, each of you, being worried about your future retirement, your future benefits, your future pay,” he told sailors.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said this week that he was open to changes on military pay and compensation.
McCain told reporters on Tuesday that he “can probably support a number of changes that need to be made.”
But he cautioned those changes would only apply to troops joining in the future.
“In other words, anybody who has already joined the military is eligible for those pay and benefits, but as of a certain date, people joining may be subject to changes in those benefits,” he said.
“We know that it has to be reformed, everybody knows it has to be reformed,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “There’s nobody I know that says you can continue as we’ve been going.”